I was on a spiritual journey to heal myself of the depression I’d experienced from the age of fourteen. It was so painful that during my college years in California, I would debate whether I should jump off the Golden Gate or the Bay Bridge. Post college, I got through the army and a year in Viet Nam with remarkable alacrity. A year in Los Angeles and a decade in Florida lead to some years in Washington, D.C. where my healing began in earnest.
I had survived life by trying harder, working more and clinging to life with my fingernails.
I was in a weekend meditation retreat in an ashram in Washington, taught by a Presbyterian minister from Harlem. He had a glow about him that told me he had experienced great healing and spiritual growth from his meditation. I liked him and trusted him. I sat next to a guy who, like me, was from a small town in Kansas. He had a squashed look to him as if his spirit had been wounded at an early age. With enthusiasm, he told me about his acupuncture treatments.
I thought, “What a weird thing to do,” but listened intently as I knew he was very sincere. On subsequent visits to this particular ashram, I would see him and hear more enthusiastic accounts of his acupuncture. Then for some reason unknown to me, he quit coming and I didn’t see him.
Then about 18 months later, I ran into him on the hot sidewalks one summer evening in the DuPont Circle area of Washington. The squashed look was gone. Before me stood a man with dancing eyes, radiant round cheeks and a happy smile. As we visited, I said to myself, “I don’t need to know any more about acupuncture, I’m trying it.”
I’d also met an acupuncturist at the ashram, though not the one my friend was going to. I’d misplaced his number, but a few days later he called. “Paul, have you thought anymore about doing acupuncture.”
“Yes, let’s make an appointment,” I replied. He had got the vibes that I was thinking about him and took the initiative to call me.
At his office, I was just sure his eyes had become slanted, even though he was Caucasian. It was my own fear of this very Oriental medicine.
After my first treatment, I looked in the mirror. I liked myself more, and thought I looked better. My self-esteem had not been any too high, so this was a welcome event.
Each visit, Dan, my acupuncturist would read the multiple pulses on my wrists, look at my tongue and ask me a host of questions about my life and how I felt. Then he would go to work with my lying on his table in the supine position. He would read my pulses again after the treatment to make sure he got the intended result.
I saw him once a week, and as the months rolled by, I felt so much better, looked better and liked myself better. That summer I had my picture made on plexiglass by a computer etching method while I was on vacation in Estes Park, Colorado. I didn’t wear my glasses and scrunched up my cheeks while smiling. I wore a cowboy hat I’d just bought in a western store and a jacket with epaulets. The result looked like some cowboy movie star.
I gave the photos etched on plexiglass away as Christmas presents. The woman who had changed my diapers when I was a baby, and who had known and loved me all my life, wrote back. “Thanks for the picture. It is very nice, but who is it?” Love, Norma
Next month: I decide to become an acupuncturist, and begin treating patients in Asia.
by Paul Peter Finney