Why Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine?

As many of you now know, I’ve left Mule and embarked on a new journey. I’m taking the summer off to figure out the big changes in my life, travel and see friends, and enjoy simply being a person before I become a student (label alert!) again. Starting in the fall, I’ll be studying integrative medicine, specifically Japanese and Chinese medicine. Many, many different things brought me to this decision. For simplicity’s sake, I’m using as a reference and explanation my admissions essay:

The final lines from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day have stuck with me through the years, challenging me to answer them: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” Until deciding to pursue Oriental Medicine, I felt I was not living up to the possibility of a happy and meaningful life. I’ve learned much from my professional life so far, but have found that while I may gain satisfaction from knowing that my clients’ work and the overall mission of my company may be positive forces in the world, I am not making an impact directly nor am I doing something I love. I believe integrative medicine is the profession that will allow me to make that direct, personal impact in the world while also bringing me joy in the everyday work.

My career to date has been as a communications professional, most recently in the world of web design project management where my approach to client relations is based in empathy and translation. The part of my role I’ve most enjoyed is understanding where the client is coming from and what their needs are in order to advise them on how best we can help them. This requires the daily practice of empathy, a vital state of being to me, as a person and as a professional. Over the past several months I’ve noticed and considered these parts of myself I need to express and I’m setting out on this path now in order to give voice to them.

Many aspects of Oriental medicine appeal to me, but I have several specific goals in mind as I start out. First, as a patient I have experienced the incredible change a caring and empathetic healer can make; I want to have that kind of effect on my patients. Second, I appreciate and want to learn more about the distinction Traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine make for the treatment of women’s bodies since women’s health is a possible area of specialization for me. As a dancer myself, focusing on dancers’ health needs and movement-related healing is another interest I’d like to pursue. Finally, from an intellectual curiosity standpoint, I’ve always been fascinated by science so being a medical expert in my own right rather than observing from the outside is appealing. All these things together led me to the conclusion that being a practitioner of Oriental medicine would be a rewarding lifelong career.

Still other parts of myself could be fulfilled on this path. I’ve always enjoyed research and history and here is a field with a rich past that I can continue to delve into even beyond the required schooling. And I have family based in Japan so I can tap into my roots there and use this as an excuse to brush up my language skills, both for myself and to the benefit of my career. I’m incredibly excited about setting out on this new path that connects so much more deeply to the person I realize I am and want to continue to become.

I’ve explained this decision so many times and I’m still amazed at how concisely I was able to convey it for the application. This will be a touchstone for me over the next few years so that when I’m stressed and low I can remind myself why I did this. I’m on a path for a lifetime and I’m really, really excited about it. I feel like a whole person again. Of course, it’s still a process since I’m still in a period of transition, but it’s getting better.

That Jungian thing of noticing in the world what you’re focused on has been in high gear. Watching Source Code* and seeing Best Exotic Marigold Hotel recently, I was struck by this idea of changing your life and accepting however that ends up happening. It’s out in the world right now. I’m not the only one – rather, I feel I’m just one of many, many people I know well going through an incredible period of transition. There’s this line from Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that keeps ringing in my ears: “Everything will be all right in the end, so if it’s not all right, it is not the end.”

In brief, I’m still me. I’m still dancing. Still in the Bay Area. Still care about all the things I cared about. Just a whole bunch of changes that needed to happen for me to move forward and lay the foundation for a continuously happy life.

*Highly recommended, if only because we don’t get much quality original sci-fi material these days. This one builds on all the greats, especially the classic time travel tropes from J’taime, J’taime (1968), the screening of which is still one of the worst experiences I’ve had (despite how influential the film is, you don’t have to make yourself sit through it since it’s really long, unbearably repetitive, and the surviving film print is of abysmal quality) with some really nice new additions to the genre. Great acting and clever twists.

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One thought on “Why Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine?

  1. Katie says:

    Shawna dear, would you consent to being interviewed by me for a class writing assignment? We are to interview someone we want to learn more about, and I confess I am deeply intrigued to find out more about what drew you to eastern medicine. I could skype you sometime over the next few days. Hit me back by email! ❤

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