A few days ago I received a call from a woman who told me this: "I have just been to see my GP, and she told me that for what I was suffering I should consult an acupuncturist, but not any kind of acupuncturist. It must be somebody dealing with energetic Chinese acupuncture, which is a kind of higher level of practice. Do you practice energetic acupuncture?"
I do get this kind of question from time to time. Depending on my state of mind or my mood the answers I give can be quite different. I might be quite curt because actually the question could be interpreted as having some rude implications (if I don't do energetic acupuncture I am not good enough). But usually I just say that the acupuncture I apply is efficient, modern, adapted to our world, and based (partly) on a scientific understanding of what is happening in the body when I treat patients with acupuncture. Depending on my disposition of the moment I could eventually explain that I have been practicing for forty years, that I teach, write, promote and defend quality acupuncture, that actually my life IS acupuncture.
The people who ask me this kind of question about acupuncture can be quite persistent. "Yes, but what about the energies? Do you control them enough to treat this or that disorder?" What can I say? The term "energies" (yes, plural) has got so many meanings, people understand it in so many different ways that it is a little bit discouraging to try to explain anything. From the Chinese Qi, a beautiful concept to express what is happening in the body, a very dynamic and adaptable notion, to the theories of Einstein on the relation between mass and energy, landing nowadays in an understanding that everything in the body is moved by energies.
Every culture has its acupuncture courses of this term: Tibetan, ayurvedic, maya or Aztec, Egyptian or shaman, related to a specific religion or not. But each time it weaves around life a more or less complex network of beliefs. I know of course that the persons asking me candidly this question are talking about the Chinese idea of energy and not the Australians aborigines or the First inhabitants in Canada or in the US. But even then, to translate the idea of Qi by energy is in itself an anachronism and a kind of betrayal. So whatever the answer I give to the question I feel uncomfortable, even though I have to defend my position and what I believe in.
So to the last person who asked me the question this is what I said: "Madam, whether we want it or not, as soon as we put a needle in the body, we interfere with the stability of energies in the body, whatever significance you give to the term. When I treat patients I know that I trigger some kind of electrical or chemical movement within the neurological web which can result in harmonizing the general state of the body or some specific and localized disorder. In other words the body itself will change its balance because its natural tendency is to strive for the best possible existential equilibrium, physical, mental, emotional. Practicing acupuncture always implies that one deals with the energies of the body, whatever the meaning we give to that term.
But it is true that, while I am thinking as a western trained doctor in treating patients, simultaneously I reason in terms of Qi, meridians, points, needles of course." Obviously this person appreciated what I said because I have already treated her twice for recent headaches, and her condition has already improved. Next time I see my students in my "how to do acupuncture" courses, I will tell them that story. It is an interesting topic with never ending discussions and exchanges, but I find it personally very stimulating. And in a near future I will write more on the subject. Or maybe I will insert it in one of the chapters of my next acupuncture book.
Francois Beyens, medical acupuncturist, Studied 3 years in the Far East. Has been treating, teaching, writing books and articles. Active in congresses and seminars, Constantly thinking and adapting the technique. Life dedicated to acupuncture, of which he is a lucid defender.