By Susie Ekberg
Waterskiing, tubing on the Ottertail, rollerblading, biking and skateboarding. All fun, right? But what’s the creaking sound I hear? Could it be your sore knees? Instead of reaching for the ibuprofen, there’s something else to consider, and it doesn’t have any side effects, and is, well, cool!
I had heard about acupuncture and read about it for around 20 years before I ever tried it. Let’s be honest - it just doesn’t sound too appealing, does it? If we hated getting shots as a child, having several needles poked into our skin isn’t exactly the pinnacle of fun.
But one winter I had just gotten over the stomach flu, and although I felt better, the nausea remained. A friend suggested acupuncture, and it was one of those, “well, I’ve tried everything else, so why not?” moments, so I agreed to try it.
As the needles were placed the needles quickly and (relatively) painlessly into the strategic spots, my queasiness instantly vanished. I was shocked. It worked! That started it all.
As with everything I offer, or write about, I strongly urge you to seek out QUALIFIED acupuncturists if you’re going to try it. You just don’t want to mess around with needles, potential faulty placement, or just energy in general. There are several fine acupuncturists in the area, but the one I’d like to introduce the one who also incorporates body, mind and spirit into one beautiful business: Robert Angotti and Red River Health
Since Robert’s got such a way with words, I’ll let him speak for himself, helping him along only with my questions. Here’s what Angotti has to say for acupuncture, Aikido, Chinese herbs, and some overall great suggestions for a living a healthy, balanced life.
High Plains Reader: How did you get started in acupuncture? What inspired you?
Robert Angotti: Acupuncture was part of a set of disciplines that I embraced in my twenties under the inspiration of Eastern philosophy. Ideas such as those expressed in the ancient Chinese text the Tao Te Ching were and still are fascinating to me. Phrases such as “Practice not doing, and nothing will be left undone”, which comes from that several thousand year old text, mystify me and yet speak to an intuitive sense of how the universe works. Acupuncture represents this kind of thinking in that it merely facilitates the innate healing wisdom of the body. Although it involves the insertion of needles, its real power comes from what already exists but simply lies dormant or obstructed in some way.
HPR: You also sell Chinese herbs and teach Aikido. How are these three components of your Work related?
RA: Herbal therapy is an extremely powerful adjunct to acupuncture. Both of these medical techniques have been around for thousands of years and are based on the understanding that each person requires a state of balance for optimum health.
I find herbal therapy attractive because it connects me to some of nature’s secrets for healing, it expands my understanding of the breadth and scope of the Chinese medicine, and it dramatically enhances my ability to facilitate others in their healing process.
Aikido has been my personal practice for centering and balance. I was attracted to it around the same time I began to study Eastern medicine. Aikido was a nice match for me because the principles of harmony and non-resistance at the heart of aikido are developed through intense physical training. Sitting still in meditation was not very appealing to me. We practiced zazen (Zen style) meditation along with aikido and I often grumbled about the pain and general displeasure of it. The art of moving dynamically, throwing and being thrown, while remaining still inside, provided a more compelling challenge. Over the years, I have grown increasingly attracted to sitting in stillness and silence however. It must have something to do with aging and having young boisterous kids.
HPR: What kind of success have you seen over the years?
RA: Success is a hard word for me. It gives me too much credit and it implies that there is more of a destination in these practices than may be the case. Nevertheless, I suppose I would measure success by the degree to which I have helped to positively impact another’s life. Seeing families have a child when doctors have said they could not is an immense joy. Seeing someone suffering suddenly feel enough relief to smile, laugh and make eye contact after days of grimacing through pain is a real honor. Seeing people grow centered, confident and connected to something greater than themselves through the practice of Aikido is quite joyous. Having students come back to the area just to practice Aikido with us is very special. Just being a part of a shift in someone’s life, be it an epic shift or a minor one, is what draws me to teaching and practicing medicine. I will let others decide what of these things amounts to success. I still have a lot of not-doing to do.
HPR: What can you say to people who may be leery of the whole needle concept?
RA: Acupuncture needles aren’t what most people think of when the think “needle”. They are small and thin and are not used to inject anything. Often people will feel nothing when the needle is inserted. The needles are often stimulated to produce some sensations for the therapeutic value. It is my job to keep you comfortable so that your body accepts the treatment. A good majority of my clients fall asleep with the needles in place. Some people need more sensation on the needles and some need very little. Moving the energy is the point and the needles are just tools for doing that. It is the skill and technique of the practitioner that really initiates the change.
HPR: How does acupuncture work?
RA: I don’t know! There are all kinds of ways western medicine has analyzed acupuncture and demonstrated acupuncture’s effect. When people ask that question they are usually looking for in answer within the context of western medicine—western anatomy, and physiology. When my patients ask me that, I ask them to let me do my treatment. When they feel better they don’t care how it works.
In the end the best answer for me has been the answer rooted in the tradition. There is an energy (probably best understood as the sum of several western physiological processes i.e., circulation, hormones, nerves, etc.) and that energy is described as qi. It permeates our bodies and flows freely through it. There are places and pathways where the concentration of this energy is greater, and along those pathways there are higher or lower concentrations of that energy. Since these pathways connect to each other and permeate the rest of the body there is not one point on the body that cannot affect another part of the body.
The Tao Te Ching asks us, “Do you really think you can improve the natural world”. Acupuncture accepts that we can’t. It is built on the understanding that disease arises from disharmony and that inherent in our bodies cellular knowledge is a preference for balance and wellness. Acupuncture is simply a means of harnessing that power.
HPR: What kinds of ‘ailments’ does acupuncture work for?
RA: I see all kinds of things. Some I have never heard of or treated before. For some people, acupuncture comes when all else fails or when western methods have wreaked havoc on someone’s body, mind and spirit. Generally however, I see people with fertility problems, pain problems, stress related disorders, digestive troubles, allergies, and more. Nevertheless, I can’t separate a person’s symptoms from who they are.
In Chinese medicine we say “treat the individual not the disease”. The patterns that lead to illness will be unique for everyone. My job is to distinguish those patterns and bring them back into balance. The symptoms will improve and go away when balance is restored. It may be acupuncture that facilitates that, or herbs, or exercises, or changes in the diet, or being heard for the first time, or a combination of several of these things.
If you’re feeling adventurous, or your usual ways of treating your aches and pains just aren’t cutting it anymore, acupuncture may be just what the doctor ordered. I continue this column next week with a reading on Robert and his business, Red River Health, along with more information.
If You Go
What: Red River Health
Where: 824 Main Ave
When: By appointment
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