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Three Doors, Singing Bowls, and Drums
My first appointment with an Integrative medicine and acupuncture physician
The writing continues.
I made the mistake of not writing down what happened during my journeying sessions right away, and have already found that fullness of the experiences fade with time. I want to capture the details of my first visit with an integrative medicine physician and acupuncturist right away. So here is my quick and dirty overview of the appointment my for my own future reference.
First impressions: I get lost heading to the practice, which is run from his home. The home office is a little barn looking structure on a property with other outbuildings, an abandoned stable, and lots of green space. A man is waiting for me on the porch as he had to come outside and wave me in the right direction. He’s shorter than me, slender, with a mid-length brown beard and clear eyes. Younger than me too, I think.
Preparations: He takes an extensive history and is kind and warm, listening to me recount the whole ordeal of the past 2.5 years with my arrhythmias and panic, sleep issues, and death anxiety. I tell him about my son’s allergies, my daughter’s heart issues, my mom’s heart issues and my dad’s stroke. I tell him about the entanglement of myself in the suffering of other people I love and my clients. I tell him I had knee surgery in 1997 and that I’ve been sober for 11 years (+2 other years). He asks about my spiritual orientation. I tell him that I definitely believe in something but I don’t know what to call that something. I say energy, the one breath, love - a wavelength with which I can sense my alignment or misalignment. I talk about how the issues with my heart have led to pulling back from lots of things, mostly the advocacy work I had done on behalf of others or with others to center causes and issues outside myself. That a lot of that work had felt like fighting. I told him how when I was recently pulled back into the work, to meet with a police & community relations commission I had helped form, my heart went wild. That fighting had started to feel like violence, even when I believed what I was fighting for.
He talks to me about acupuncture and how he practices. He will examine my chakras and see where they are blocked and work with patterns to open up energy and support my body healing itself; which is what my body knows how to do and wants to do. He says I will start on my stomach and he will lead me through some visualization and then I will move to my back. He said he would end by either using some sound bowls or drumming. He says I can anticipate a dream-like state.
Prior to getting on the table, I feel skeptical and scared. I tell him about my fear. “There’s this really persistent and concerned part of me that always thinks everything is going to be dangerous.” He reassured me that the intervention was not dangerous.
Assessment: Dr. Jack takes a little metal pyramid looking thing on a chain and holds it over 7 points on my body that represent my chakras. As he moves from place to place, the device spins clockwise or counterclockwise to indicate that chakra being open or blocked. According to Dr. Jack, my Root, Heart, and Third Eye are blocked.
Intervention: Lying face down, I listen to him while he places the needles. He asks me to look into the back of my eyelids and go further back to understand that seeing comes from deep within me. Then hearing, how it originates inside the brain. Then smell. Then touch. That all sensations are actually felt inside the skin, deep within. And taste. He asks me to sense the place from which the experience of the outer world originates. Again, fear. What if I retreat so far into my mind that I lose it? Staying with my breath, I imagine what he asks me to imagine.
As he begins placing the needles, he asks me to imagine a pyramid over my body, to invite white light in to the space, to release responsibility, fear, worry, and to allow peace, healing, compassion. I really struggle here. My chest is fiery, feels concerned. As I ask myself to relax, it comes on line to keep me vigilant. I try to sense a higher power that I might trust to divvy out this light. I feel a moment of surrender followed by heart sensations and resistance. Stay here. Stay grounded. Stay safe. Stay a little fearful, my heart roars. He’s asking me to connect points with light and let him know when I have. I can’t quite do it but I’m kind of doing it and tell him I’ve done it so that I can keep things moving along and not waste his time with my inability to connect light along points of my back. As he moves to my low back, he creates a triangle. He asks me to move the triangle from the “waterfall of willpower” or “well of willpower,” to my tailbone. I can sort of feel something moving down. I think of my tailbone, permanently displaced after the birth of my twins, it kind of pokes out now. He asks me to imagine a seed there, being watered from the triangle and being planted and nourished in reach soil. From the place he asks me to envision a tree growing and when it reaches the points on my lower back, he asks me to imagine a door. Within the door is a lotus with 12 petals. He asks me to invite the flower to open and to notice that inside I will see fire or a stone/jewel. I start visualizing 12 flowers and get myself to focus on one. I start struggling to imagine how a lotus would open. The image is dull, dark. Something opens and I see a little bluish black stone, the size of a quarter.
He then asks me to imagine the tree growing up my spine, carrying the stone with it, until I arrive at my heart to find another door, another flower. I invite the flower to open and everything is fire. He asks what I see, flame or stone, and I say, “it’s more like a raging fire across a landscape.” He asks me to invite the stone to mix with the fire and I literally can’t make it happen. I start having these visuals of Vikings fighting with swords, so much fighting, and images of armor and shields. I feel my heart and it lets me know it’s nature is human, passionate, attached. I am now able to see the stone, it’s larger, it turns into a pool of dark blue water and consumes the flames. This doesn’t feel right, so the water recedes and the flame is there, but smaller.
I have an awareness of letting go of the fight. I see an older version of myself with long grey hair doing tai chi in a beautiful garden. I’ve never done tai chi but it looks lovely. Old lady me looks at whatever the looking is coming from and lets me know that I’m not supposed to fight in that way anymore. Not supposed to force or cling or coerce or convince anymore. The strength I need comes not from the warrior but from the Wise Mother - patient, measured, trusting deeply in self, non-violent toward self and others. We keep growing the tree up my spine to my third eye. I see a branch extend out into the universe, into space. Another door appears. Before he can catch up with me, I’ve opened the door and the flower and I see a beautiful little baby, happy and calm and naked. The I see a long fingertip, almost alien, and it’s directing light from outside time and space down onto this baby. He asks if I see a flame or stone, to which I don’t reply. I look again and the baby is holding the stone but it’s now larger, crystalline, and transparent vibrant blue. He leaves me with the needles placed and I spend the next 20 minutes alone. I return to the root, the seed, and start all over growing the tree up my spine. The stone is now the same stone the baby was holding. It feels like my imprint, my core energy. It was covered before with a coating. It was hiding deep in the soil. As it grows into my heart, I experience compassion toward the heart fire that’s always guarded the stone. It wants to protect my human experience and the experiences of others. It wants to end suffering with such intensity it threatens to consume the space that exists for peace and rest. Moving up some more, I connect with the third eye and feel invited into the truth of everlasting energy and reincarnation. I recognize my chest contains all the tension and conflict between the matter of my flesh and the stardust, alien energy residing in the the spaces between, beneath, above, and beyond.
And Dr. Jack returns, removes the needles, and I flip over so he can work on the front. He places needles in a line down my face. The only needle that hurts the entire appointment is the one above my lip. With the needles placed he takes something and sets it under my breastbone and moves it a couple times. He says it’s a crystal sword. And I feel like something literally lifts my heart space off the table and then something the size of a beachball just leaves me - up and out, energy moving again and again. And I feel this absence of sensation in my chest. It feels like an empty bowl or a calm pool. I honestly can’t remember ever feeling nothing in my chest. The squeeze has been with me my entire life. This wonderful feeling accompanied by the singing bowls, all ethereal and high vibration, makes me think of some of the visions I’ve had while journeying. I feel so peaceful and free and, dare I say, safe?
The bowls cease and I feel Dr. Jack shifting about the room. I can’t make out what the new sound is. It reminds me of a rainstick, maybe? This shifts into the beginning of some drumming. I am used to drumming from journeying but the running is a little different. I’m struck by the shift from ethereal to earthy that occurs within. Dr. Jack is moving around my body, walking and drumming, and pretty soon he starts doing some exhales with the drumming. My entire body tightens and fear returns. My heart quickens, I feel a mixture of fear and disappointment, that my peace could be so easily supplanted by male breath.
And then I recognize that it probably isn’t possible to live a life without fear. Can I use the opportunity of this fear to practice something different? I listen to his breath and recognize the fire and the warrior, hypervigilance, tension, self-protection rise up, shields and swords in place. I consult the Wise Woman. He has given me no reason to feel unsafe or think he’s a creep. I understand it is trauma advising my body, not presence in the moment. The Wise Woman has boundaries and a voice and is deeply committed to honoring self and others. She would get off this table and put this mother fucker on the ground if the circumstances dictated, but she doesn’t live in fear of the possible, she deals with the actual. I trust that the Wise Woman can keep me safe here. And I settle. I never like the breathing, but I settle. Then Dr. Jack starts singing/chanting and safety returns. His voice is sweet and boyish - his name the same as my father’s first name and son’s middle name - two humans who I love and trust.
And then he removes the needles and invites me to sit when I feel ready.
Debrief: We sit in the same seats we did when the appointment began but I feel markedly different toward myself and Dr. Jack. I feel compassion, acceptance, and love for myself and for him. I describe bits and pieces of what happened in the process. I remark that I felt so different being on my back with the bowls vs. my stomach with the guided meditation. He talked about our fronts being our feminine energy. He talked about how masculine energy has dominated our world and spirituality that we have lost so much of the balancing power of the feminine. I feel connected to my feminine energy, revere my feminine energy, and so this nugget fits. I spontaneously cry talking about the absence of sensation in my chest, how foreign this feeling is to me, and how good and peaceful it feels. I remark that I’m tired. He says I may feel a little “acu-stoned.”
I know that I will definitely be back.