The Power of the Pulse

After three weeks of waiting, this morning was my thirty-minute herbology consultation with Cissy, one of the most respected Chinese medicine specialists in the region. I discovered her by way of Margot and Jo and have bitten the financial bullet to cover this appointment.

“She’s worth it,” Margot said. “Just go, you’ve got to go.” Margot, a graceful Italian woman whose calming, youthful vibe is charming even on a bad day, is one of the most powerful healers I have ever met. I respect her immensely and to me, her advice is worth its weight in gold. And Jo, well, he’s like some ancient, absent-minded version of an Edward Abbey character.

At the clinic, I wait for thirty-five minutes in a stuffy room that smells like Marijuana. By now I am accustomed to this; acupuncturists have to keep their patients especially warm during needle treatments. The smell comes from Moxa, a type of incense that is burned on the skin at certain points to produce healing effects (the flesh does not actually burn). I meditate because experience has taught me that the more receptive I can be to treatment and advice at the time it’s given, the more receptive my body is to the healing. When Cissy enters, she does not seem surprised by my pose, and I stand up to greet her with a handshake.

The first few minutes my mind races. The woman didn’t make eye contact with me when she walked in. She was late and didn’t apologize. As I glanced at her short grey hair and sleek black coat hunching over my charts, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the first time she was reviewing them. Even the thought insulted me a little, but I calmed myself down and began answering her questions.

“And what else,” she said, leaning in to take hold of my wrist, glasses slipping down her nose. I knew this was her way of calming me down so she could take my pulse so I let her questions distract me and remained obedient.

“I have a repeated vision of myself throwing Mason jars against the wall and shattering them everywhere. It’s that bad. On the first day, I find it difficult to breathe normally,” I explained.

“Have you done it yet?”

“Well no, I mean, I can coach myself through the breathing, it’s the-“

“Have you thrown Mason jars against the wall yet?” she clarified.

“Oh,” I smile now, easing into her personality, and our eyes finally meet for real. “Well, no.” And then she began to tell me a story about being in her twenties and deciding once and for all to get her anger out.

“And the best part was, after all the mugs were broken, I had a friend come clean up the pieces so I could just have my catharsis and not deal with going back through it all piece by piece.” Her hand clamped down intensely on my wrist, and I could feel my own pulse under the pressure of her fingers. Then she paused, looked at me, and sighed.

“Are you anemic?” she asked. (I failed to write this on my charts.)


Another minute.

“Do you obsess?”

“You mean mentally? Oh yeah.” I blushed. She nodded. Then, “Can you help me with that?” I hedged.

She looked up from my wrist and smiled, “Of course. Do you have digestive problems?”

“Uh-huh.” She was hitting the nail on the head again and again – all by reading my pulse. I’ve had enough acupuncture to know this is part of the practice, but by now this woman had me under her spell. Her grip was pulling me into some deep healing space where I had no shields, nor any need for them. There was a deep wisdom brewing in this woman, like the accumulation of lifetimes of merit all surfacing through her touch, her diagnosis, her entire presence.

“Ok. Are you an only child?” she asked. I nodded. “Ooooh, sweetie, sweetie, sweetie, I’m so sorry!”

To be continued tomorrow……

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