When I stumbled upon an invitation to the "world's largest shared acupuncture experience," held last weekend in a Miami hotel ballroom, and realized it was sponsored by a top medical school, I thought attending would be physically healing. Only as I was lying on the floor next to 185 other participants -- needles stuck in all of our arms and legs -- did I understand it was actually more of a spiritual happening.
I knew I was in for something deep the minute I walked into the room. The dim lights, herbal tea, neck massages, drumming, and the gong ceremony that preceded the needling brought me to a deep, relaxing place. Then, as nearly 200 people lay on yoga mats in rows across the floor, some two dozen licensed acupuncturists began ripping needles from their sterilized packages. Walking around the room, they carefully inserted them.
In truth, neither the acupuncturist who led the massive session, Daniel Atchison-Nevel, nor the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, where Atchison-Nevel is an instructor in the Integrative Complementary Academic Medicine Program, can actually say it was the "world's largest." Guinness apparently wanted several thousand dollars to certify it as such. But Atchison-Nevel had held a similar group event a year earlier, attracting some 166 participants, and hadn't heard from anyone that they'd done it bigger, so he figured breaking his old record would keep him in the lead.
Everyone got their pinpricks in the same places: one in each wrist and ankle. The points, Atchison-Nevel explained to me, called "Lu.7" and "K.6," were selected because in Chinese philosophy they are the master points for opening the mothering energy inside our bodies. "Engaging the primordial Mother energy in this way allows us to reach a place of deep reflection, and an interconnectedness to ourselves, others and the cosmos," he said. Did it ever!
I'd had acupuncture before, most recently a few years ago when I had problems with my adrenal glands. Then it was just the acupuncturist and me in a small room, and after several sessions my physical symptoms greatly improved. But being with all those other people in a massive room, needles sticking out of each of us, was something entirely different.
Lying on the floor, my mat coincidentally placed under an eight-point-star-shaped chandelier, I began to feel a vibrant pulsing pouring out of the people around me -- people I did not know. Their energy seemed to mingle with mine until, corny as it is to say, some part of me didn't know where I ended and they began. After a while, I actually felt myself also merging with the light of the chandelier above me, then spreading around the room in all the directions of the points on the star.
Like any powerful meditation, I have no idea how long we stayed there. I could have stayed for hours. When it was over, probably a half hour later, I had trouble bringing myself back into my 5'4" frame. I felt too small to contain all the energy swirling around me.
"Historically, Chinese traditional medicine did not divide the mind, body and spirit as separate but rather viewed it as one undivided, whole," Atchison-Nevel had told me beforehand. "In this model, mind, body and spirit don't interact but are simultaneous manifestations of the same human experience." Now I know exactly what he was talking about.
I'd heard Chinese medicine described as the web that has no weaver. Experiencing such a massive energy release in a room with so many others, I felt myself plugging into that web, although to my mind all those other people there were clearly some of the weavers.
Acupuncture in a little room with a single practitioner can be wonderful. But partaking of acupuncture en mass, even if it likely was not the "world's largest" experience (wouldn't you think they do massive sessions in China?) was much more than a medical event. Several days later, I still feel I'm connected to something profound. If you ever get the chance to get needled in a group, I suggest you grab it.
Meryl Davids Landau is the author of the spiritual women's novel Downward Dog, Upward Fog, which was recommended by the Yoga Journal, YogaDork and Elephant Journal blogs. ForeWord Reviews calls the novel "an inspirational gem that will appeal to introspective, evolving women." Read excerpts at www.DownwardDogUpwardFog.com. Meryl also writes for O: the Oprah Magazine, Whole Living, Reader's Digest and other national magazines.
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