Students at the end of their clinical internship in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at Maryland University of Integrative Health are asked to reflect upon their time in the program, what they’ve learned, and what they believe they have to teach others. What follows is my reflection:

I think of myself as building a bridge to healing for my patients. I can’t get them there, they have to walk themselves, but with my unyielding faith in them and careful, whole-hearted, well-informed treatment planning, I can offer them a bridge. I have to be a reliable bridge. No one wants to cross a rickety bridge. This means I have to have that same unyielding faith in myself as I do in my patients. Sometimes I trip; sometimes I freeze; sometimes I stumble. I have learned tools that help me stand up again, thaw, regain my balance. I have been blessed by so many teachers and guides along the path of my life– they have held my hands, they have cared for me, they have shown deep, unyielding faith in me even when I did not have it, not at all, in myself. Sometimes they have picked me up after I’ve fallen down. I have a bottomless, endless fountain of gratitude for my life and for the people in my life. It fills my core and at times brings me to tears. It always makes me smile.

On the subject of healing: A very wise teacher of mine told me– she had to tell me this many times, by the way, because I continually refused to believe her– “This one time,” I would say, “this ONE time, I think YOU are wrong and I am right!” (She was always right.) Anyway, she told me this: When you put up a hard wall– when you put up a hard edge– that means there is something deeper to explore. When you find yourself saying emphatically, or with frustration, “DONE! I have already dealt with this, and there is NOTHING more to explore,” that means exactly the opposite. She would encourage me to soften. Soften into the pain, soften into the fear, soften into the walls I erected, one after another, year after year. And, because she was a wise teacher, I trusted her, and I did, again and again, until I learned not to throw up walls.

These days, I might throw up a small fence post, or stomp my feet a few times, but when I become aware of that inner rigidity, I pretty quickly recognize that it’s not the whole picture. I know there is something to explore, and compassion is warranted, and gentleness is called for. I know that to maintain my health– to be like the bamboo– I must soften, go within, accept what I find, learn the lessons that are offered, and keep walking.

Allow yourself to be challenged. Allow yourself to trust. Toss your fear to the winds. And have faith that you will learn, and you will heal. I did these things, and I continue to do them. And I know that you can, too!!!