The Balancing Act

Yin and Yang in Harmony


Linda Pendleton

Bernie Siegel, M.D. once wrote that we must remember that one generation's miracle may be another's scientific fact and that we should not close our eyes to acts or events that are not always measurable. That idea covers a wide area.

For me it brings to mind such things as the power of meditation to relieve stress, the use of acupuncture, the existence of consciousness beyond death of the physical body, near-death experiences, communication with those on the other side, cellular memory, to name a few.

Chinese Medicine has gained favor in recent years in the Western world but it still has resistance from many in mainstream medicine although it has been in use for thousands of generations.

I was one who had some resistance to Chinese herbal medicine but always had a curiosity about acupuncture and the benefits derived from it. A few years ago, after experiencing chronic digestive and back problems and not finding satisfaction in traditional medicine I decided to try acupuncture.

I looked in the local phone book and called a Chinese doctor. I spoke with him briefly and decided he was not the one for me. I was uncomfortable with his personal questions and the fact that he worked out of his home and wanted me to come over immediately. So on to the next one. I scheduled an appointment for the following week.

What am I doing here?

I recall asking myself that same question the first time I chugged along the tracks sitting on that roller coaster. Yeah, I asked that question as it crested the highest point, a split second before it began the breathtakingly, accelerated descent toward the Pacific Ocean.

Am I really going to let this man stick needles in me? A Doctor of Chinese Medicine--Acupuncturist--that's who I made the appointment with. After all, I, myself, did make that appointment--I can't leave now.

But I am apprehensive--got to relax. Nothing to worry about. He won't be using acupuncture for surgical anesthetic. No, nothing to worry about. After all my husband is right here with me, I wasn't about to come alone. He won't let this guy do anything to hurt me, I can count on that!

But I see in my mind's eye an old dark, dreary three-story building that we used to drive by when I was a little girl. The sign that hung over the door said, Chinese Medicine - Herbs. It always seemed mysterious to me and every time we passed I wondered (and fantasized!) what dark secrets went on behind that door.

Now I'm not so sure I want to find out. Of course this office looks nothing like the one out of the pages of my memory.

About that time the doctor enters the room and I am relieved that he looks like a kind, gentle soul. He speaks softly with a definite Chinese accent and I strain my ears a little to understand him.

He takes my wrist and feels my pulse. I've done research and I know that by feeling the state of the pulse that he can tell where my body may be blocked. Oriental medicine asserts that health depends on the harmonious balance of the yin and yang. If the flow of one of these principles is blocked or obstructed, disharmony or disease can result.
Oriental medicine holds that everything in creation is composed of and pervaded with a universal energy called the chi. The chi contains two polar forces, the yin and the yang. Yin is the passive, negative, feminine force or principle in the universe, represented by dark and the earth, while yang is the active, positive, masculine force, and is represented by light and the heavens. Their theory is that all matter, including the human body, is made up of five elements or aspects of the universe: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The organs of our bodies correspond to these elements. The hollow organs are thought to be yang, and the solid organs, yin.

The chi, or universal energy, flows through the twelve channels of the body, called the meridians. These meridians have been measured and mapped by modern technological methods, electronically, thermaticly, and radioactively. The hundreds of acupuncture points are along these meridians and they are used in a definite sequence depending on the desired result.

So my doctor has read my pulse and now he asks me to stick out my tongue. He looks at it, says "hmmm." Then he asks what my complaint is. I tell him of digestive problems and back problems.

He nods and says the needles will help--my liver and gall bladder are weak, we need to get everything strong and in balance. I assume he means my yin and yang. I'm for that-can't have it out of balance.

Acupuncture is an ancient art. The Chinese have used it for over 5,000 years. And this doctor is a fifth generation acupuncturist, so I can only hope that he paid attention to his father and grandfather. I did see his CA state certificate hanging on the wall out front so I guess he learned his lessons well.

The only way I would even consider this is with disposable needles but I cannot even see the needles as he begins on my backside. I have to admit that I can hardly feel them going in, though there is a little tenderness at some points as he turns the needles. He places about eighteen or twenty in me, and then wraps the top of some of the needles with the crushed leaves of mugwort, a moss-like substance, and lights it with a match. This is called moxibustion. The needles get hot and about the time I decide I can't stand the heat anymore they cool down. I'm told the smoke of the burning mugwort is good for the circulation too, and of course the heating needles stimulate the acupuncture point. He repeats this three times.

Then he does my front side. I have to admit I don't like those needles in my feet at all. He sort of braces my foot against him as he sticks the needle in the top of my foot and I wonder how many times he has been kicked across the room! And I know he has to do the other foot now--he usually balances the needles in each side of the body. Boy, I sure didn't know that needles in my ears would sting so.

He wraps and lights some of the needles on this side and I raise up to see the ones in my abdomen and I gasp as I see how far in they are. Maybe all the layers of fat across my tummy has helped, because I would never have dreamed that they went in that far. It looks like a half inch to me, though it may not be.

My husband is watching me and laughing. He asks if feel like a birthday cake with candles. Yeah, I guess I do, but where's the chocolate icing and ice cream?

The whole treatment takes about an hour. I believe that I am aware of a subtle flow of energy throughout my body, going from needle to needle. And when the needles come out I am surprised how much better my body feels. My aches are gone, and I feel refreshed and renewed.

Do I want to try this again? Yeah, I think I do, it feels kind of nice to have my yin and yang in perfect harmony!

Well, this first experience with acupuncture was a few years ago and I did go back, again and again. The results were amazing. My digestion regulated, many of my chronic aches and pains, some arthritic, went away, and I soon learned to work with my chi as the needles encouraged the flow throughout my body; and that hour was a perfect time for meditative thought and healing.

I hope you've had the opportunity at some time to see Bill Moyers' series "Healing and the Mind" on PBS, or to read his book. I found the sections on "The Mystery of Chi" and "The Mind/Body Connection" to be especially intriguing. Dr. Deepak Chopra's books have also given new understanding in recent years. It is a hopeful sign that, finally, Western medicine is beginning to acknowledge and appreciate the role that our minds do play in our physical well-being, and that much can be done to encourage that role--and just maybe someday, alternative medicine and healing will no longer be so labeled.


The needles in, around about,
They'll do me good, I have no doubt.
Though buried deep within my skin,
More sticking out than sticking in;
Remove the blocks so yang can flow,
In harmony, the yin will show;
And just in case you think I'm nuts,
I'm feeling great--no if's or but's.

--Linda Pendleton

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