The Ego and Acupuncture Practice

Whilst it seems that acupuncturists do become more present/conscious with experience I am going to suggest that ultimately acupuncture is an obstruction to conscious development. When we say conscious in this context we mean exactly the opposite of what I was conditioned to think it means. I thought to be conscious was to be “compos mentis” and know who I was as an individual person and that my thoughts were real. Now I understand that consciousness means to be conscious of the whole and that nothing perceived by thoughts is real including all the things that I identify with as being me. Even if we choose not to acknowledge it the main reason we come to study acupuncture is because we are interested in ourselves. In fact that is the main thing all humans are interested in. But this does run the risk of taking us on a narcissistic journey via acupuncture theories where we can end up further deluded. We have all kinds of ideas about things like our past lives, our energy fields, the chakras and more. Five Element Acupuncture is particularly prone to this because it is such a good story that it’s easy to get sucked in. People love finding out what their element is so they can indulge in even more naval gazing. One chap I remember did this through three of four elements before settling for Earth, which kind of confirmed it.  Another seemed to think that declaring himself Fire would make him the life and soul of the party. It didn’t, it made him an embarrassment and showed up more of another element. If you accept the idea that who we think we are is a composite created out of influences throughout our life experience you can see the risk in this. Once we, or our practitioner have decided what our element is and we start to talk about it, read about it and attend workshops where we act into it and indulge ourselves. There is a genuine risk that we are going to start to create something out of that. Especially when we put ourselves into a like-minded peer group with charismatic teachers. Life is a creative process and we cannot help doing this, but we need to stay aware of the monster we are creating as we do.

The emphasis on individuality is endemic within our culture and arguably this is the route of many problems. Every other TV show seems to re-enforce the message as we admire and venerate the ego. We celebrate our uniqueness, our talent and all that makes us so special. Although at one level this may well be true it runs the risk of imprisoning us in a dream state of separation. Sometimes we even celebrate those who are psychopathic or able to dominate others and accumulate vast quantities of wealth or power. This mind-set tends to re-enforce the ego and convince us that separation is normal rather than draw us to experience the truth of unity. If you can see that this delusion is the madness that is gripping humanity you are getting somewhere (although that is obviously an opinion advanced from a position of separation). The best healers show us there can be an ending of this perceived separation. They see themselves as equal to their patients, not as superior or more knowledgeable but only as more consciously aware. What they do for you they do for themselves and it is actually quite a simple thing, its no thing. They don’t do they just are and when you see this too is when healing occurs. The more you are healed the less you see yourself as an individual or care about your ego and the less you see your healer as healing you. Do you see that since there is no separation the very best thing you could ever do for others is to do the best for yourself? What you do for yourself you do for everyone so long us you understand that yourself is everyone. Next time a cynic asks why you bother with recycling, buying fair-trade food, preying for peace or whatever you choose to do you could point out that everything matters. Every thought carries energy and every emotion and action will influence everything and everyone. Life is not happening to us, it is being created by us. This is the very essence of holism and it goes beyond the individual experience to the ultimate realisation of oneness.

The point about individuality verses separation is very relevant to how acupuncture works. I heard a programme on Radio 4 recently where they were discussing memory. It was suggested that some of our memory may not be within us but outside. As if our brains were like a computer that could link in and out of an external network. Many of us would not be surprised by this idea just as we are not surprised by the evidence that every cell has memory. Any idea we have that we are independent individuals separate from every other living thing is an illusion. We are not only stardust we are the same stardust and we are part of the same interconnected energetic field. Acupuncture works precisely because we are connected in this way and conscious practice is how we encourage and use that connection therapeutically. The connection is always there so we are actually never disconnected but our level of awareness of that connection is variable.

So why not see if you can suspend unconscious thinking for a while and start to be an acupuncturist now. You will need to have faith in the process and to understand that this is not about scientific methodology or evidence gathered in the usual ways. Supposing you treated six patients using a simple points combination and got good results would that help? Some people might need a fancy title or a brass plaque in Harley Street before they were convinced and this wont work for them. But for others some simple theory and practice with patients can be enough. It is simply a question of how easy you find it to accept that acupuncture is what you are rather than what you think you know. Once that moment of stopping is felt you can become more present with your practice.

If the best way to benefit yourself and everyone else alive is to raise the level of your consciousness the question must be how do we do it? In simple terms we emphasise presence over thoughts and pay more attention to feelings. We probably also need to have a conversation with ourselves about the things or circumstances we desire and what we hope they will bring us. I am putting forward various observations and ideas that may help but that is all they are because this is essentially a very personal journey. As I have said, unfortunately there is no guarantee that the study and development of acupuncture skills will help. On the contrary, an over emphasis on the story of acupuncture may engage us in too much thinking and do the opposite.

Many of us are familiar with the phenomenon whereby we find ourselves thinking about someone and then the next minute they phone us. But this is not something you can force. Its no good thinking that by wanting someone to phone you can make them do so, they either will or they wont. In fact it seems that it is when you stop wanting them to phone and just accept the situation it is more likely. This is because what you have done by accepting is to take your desire, need, thoughts and mind out of the equation. You are still ready and responsive if they do, there is still an energetic connection between you, but you are no longer blocking that connection. I think this gives a clue as to how we bring consciousness to our acupuncture. We don’t try too hard but we make it possible by our awareness of the potential. We are not hoping or wanting because those things are about us, but we are allowing by being aware. We need to open up to the part of ourselves that knows things that can only be accessed by being. Sometimes I have found that it is when I give up on my ability to do any good with acupuncture that it starts working. I think this is because by doing so I have taken myself out of the equation and this allows for healing.

There is unconscious behaviour around us all the time so we can learn from that too. We can look at what people are doing everywhere and choose not to join in. Forming views of good and evil and killing those who disagree is an example of unconscious behaviour. Thinking that your name, class, race, beliefs, status or other delusions mean anything at all is also unconscious. Emphasising yourself and your specialness or your greatness are things that will perpetuate the dream of a separate ego. Even an apparently positive thought such as to hope for the best for someone else is unconscious because it is about your hope for a future that does not exist. It may also be about your desire to be the great acupuncturist who cured them. The most effective form of any therapy is that performed by a practitioner who has some of this conscious awareness. Some acupuncturists do have a bit of which explains why they are sometimes so good. But even being on the phone with a more conscious person is potentially an experience of awakening and healing. This is because their presence recognises itself in another and the barriers to perception are relaxed. If you are fortunate enough to look into the eyes of such a person what you see is yourself. The result is some growing realisation that there is only one and that you and they are one. We can only give someone else what we already have and some insight into conscious presence is the greatest gift of all.

I said in an earlier story that the resolution of the issue for the friend with joint problems was another story and this is that story. He found someone to help him raise the level of his conscious awareness. It helped him to accept, relax and allow the pain to just be there. Gradually pain became less of a problem as he began to see it for what it was, just pain. He could see that what he had always thought was his body, his identity and his life was ultimately unreal. Somewhere in that story was the cause of the pain that no intervention had yet been able to find or transform. Slowly he became more aware of the moment he was in and of what was happening but with less desire for a particular outcome. He was a little more like an observer of life and a little less invested in participation in a separate life story. His joints are almost normal now although occasionally pain will return. If it does he simply accepts, observes and allows it to be. As he sits with it and does not try to do or expect anything at all it goes away again. He knows that if it does not it is because he is allowing desire for a future change to block his present moment awareness. This is the only way to resolve those deeply rooted problems that no amount of ordinary unconscious treatment is able to touch. Sometimes practitioners can get depressed about cases like this and start thinking that they don’t know enough or that they have not worked hard enough to understand them. They try all kinds of things like reading more books, consulting their peers or referring people on to “experts”. This may work but when it does not its because the person can only get better if they make the core change my friend made for themselves. The healer gave conscious guidance but letting go of the story of his pain was something that he had to do for himself. It has to be seen that pain is only real when we identify with it as our pain. I am convinced that without this help and transformation he would have spent the remainder of his life in a spiral of drugs, side effects and then stronger drugs until he died. Obviously what he did is a lot easier said than done, but most practitioners will have met with people it appears nobody can help. In such cases some version of the transformation he made is the only way through. The good news is that it tells us there is no human condition that cannot be helped. There is nothing to prevent you doing what that healer did as you develop your own conscious awareness. If you have decided to do it through the medium of acupuncture then Id suggest you stick to easy acupuncture.



Acupuncture almost always works no matter what method you use and most practitioners do help their patients. We can explain how and why it works in terms of Qi and various CM theories or in terms of science or even the placebo. All explanations are valid if people value them and use them. However, if you think that being an acupuncturist is all about the rational mind you will end up chasing your tail. Some of acupunctures effectiveness cannot be analysed or explained unless we embrace consciousness. As we practice we may find that sometimes changes we can’t explain in conventional terms will occur. If we wish to help people with apparently incurable conditions we may need to embrace this and move beyond acupuncture as we know it. Keeping it easy is the first step because a complex hypothesis is more likely to engage the mind and the ego and these are the very things we need to let go of. Healers sometimes describe a hologram where time and matter do not exist and everything can therefore be seen and accessed simultaneously. Maybe this is what we could all see if our thoughts were not creating their own story to distract us. It is ironic that the most profound thing to say in a book about acupuncture is that you need to know it does not exist, but ultimately this is the case. The trend to professionalise acupuncture may have positive aspects to it but the downside is that its more of the same thing we have too much of already. It is more indoctrination into a belief that healing is about knowledge and systems rather than consciousness and presence. In fact that indoctrination is so engrained that we think these methods are the only way to acquire something we cannot understand. The best thing we can do with acupuncture is to use it to get to a point where we can stop. Because although it may be a method that gets us started on a road to consciousness at some point it will get in the way because it is still a story.

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