I still remember my first experience sitting in a group room watching individuals in recovery having tiny acupuncture needles gently placed in their ears. After, they spent 45 minutes quietly and peacefully seated with their fellow peers. I recall how beautiful and profound this was, for just this moment, these individuals were free of pain. It was almost palpable in the room, the soothing hum of people together, collectively healing. This was my experience at Vancouver Daytox in 2006.
Later that summer I was inspired to create a small, drop-in community clinic at Fernwood Community Centre. From the summer of 2006 to the summer of 2008, I ran a small community drop-in service offering ear acupuncture upon donation. I took this opportunity to educate the public about the benefits of acupuncture and for students like myself to build relationships in the community. I felt empowered and amazed to have created the same calming and peaceful setting that I enjoyed so much during my practicum at Daytox. Since then, I have recreated this phenomenon countless times in numerous places in the community serving anyone from newcomers and immigrants to marginalized, HIV-positive drug users. It then occurred to me how powerful acupuncture was when shared in a group setting with others. I was witnessing how, when the service becomes more accessible, it can help people from all walks of life.
What’s more, there is something rarefied and precious about that momentary stillness and rest that so many of us lack in our daily lives. And to share that universal pause with a group of strangers is uniquely safe, welcoming and lovely. This isn’t a privilege or a luxury, this is a necessity that needs to take a greater priority in our society, that there is more to life than busy-ness and we could be experiencing life differently if we took more time to pause.
It is these experiences that paved the way to becoming a Community Acupuncturist, in which I am part of a growing network of practitioners committed to serving our communities by providing high quality treatments in a group setting at sliding scale rates. More people can afford to come. This makes it possible to get better and stay better. This allows acupuncture to do what it was meant to do, help people. As a holistic practitioner, I am able to make a sustainable living serving the community that builds and supports me. It’s a beautiful thing to share your energy in a collective healing space with others. And since October 2010, I do this every week at my space, Heart & Hands Health Collective, in the heart of downtown Victoria.
Heart & Hands is a community-based, shared space for the practice of holistic therapies. Small in stature, but big in heart, it was created out of the need to serve members of the community that mattered most to us. As well, through the realization that operating a clinic did not need to be an isolated act, our clinic is also consists collective of like-minded practitioners. Our sense of togetherness extends from one modality to another, as we acknowledge that people need more than a single medium for health and wellness.
Quoting Larry Gatti, L.Ac. and acupuncturist at Tucson Community Acupuncture:
“So, with a partner I opened Tucson Community Acupuncture. I have decided my own hours and helped decide my wage. I never have anyone checking my work, looking over my shoulder or telling me what to do. The work is stable and sustainable. I have no boss. The clinic and the community are my boss and I serve them. But they give out what I put in: love.”
So in honour of both my Victoria community, I simply do what I do, offer high-quality treatments at affordable rates. I truly believe that in order to create a healthy community, you need to start with its people. For those who live together, I’d also love to see them heal together too.
~Christina Chan, R.Ac.