Thank you all for your patience as you waited for the next installment of our blog! It’s been a busy couple of months, coinciding with my maternity leave. That’s right, there’s a new Five Element acupuncturist in training who just entered the world.

It’s officially summer, the season of the Fire element, and the time of year where we cultivate our social communities. It’s a time of warmth, joy, and closeness. It’s a time for love and togetherness, and being away has made me realize a number of important things about our program and our clinic that I thought I would share with you.

For those of us who call AFEA Home, we tend to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t view life through the perspective of the Five Elements. It’s clear to us that nature’s rhythms manifest in the events of our lives and in the health of our bodies. We seek to live our lives in harmony with the Elements, organizing our professional and personal lives in such a way as to promote our health and well-being, as well as the health and well-being of those around us. There’s a scent of compassion in the air that you just can’t find in other administrations or businesses (or schools). We’re lucky to be a part of this community.

A few years ago, I was privy to a conversation among several graduating members of Class 23. This was  back when I was still discovering the beauty of the elements and was finally learning NOT to rank them in terms of which CF I wanted to be (we are who we are after all, and there are equal virtues to each of the elements’ pathologies). The students were talking about people in their lives just like any group of friends does when hanging out, but they were talking about people and events in light of the CF’s of those individuals. They had a deep, sympathetic understanding of those people’s motivations. But at one point, someone interrupted and asked, “What do you think it’s going to be like after graduation when we can’t all sit together and debate a person’s CF? Do other people talk like this?”

The conversation stopped for a moment. With their graduation only a couple of weeks away, they were all starting to realize that their immersion in the language and world of Five Element acupuncture was coming to an end. Their three years of training had provided them with a lens to view the world and their clinical residencies had given them the opportunity to put that perspective into actual practice. They had been living the dedicated life of a healer, side-by-side with their classmates and supervisors who all spoke the same language. But clinical year was over, and they were now faced with leaving their cocoon.

Clinical year provides a full 12 months of living and breathing the medicine. I’ve talked about the realities of clinical year and its intensity, but there’s more to it than just the schedule. As an intern in the clinic, you’re surrounded by fellow travelers who are sharing your journey: classmates, faculty, supervisors, and patients. They’re all there supporting you in this phase. So, you have to ask yourself, what happens after graduation when you’re on your own?

I raise this question because I know Class 28 is counting the days until graduation. Some can’t wait to go home, some can. Some may stay a little longer to figure out where their path is taking them. But I know graduation is on everyone’s minds, because I can hear Class 29 chomping at Class 28’s heels. They’re counting down to the start of clinic.

My point here is that graduation will come unbidden. You don’t have to wish for it. It’s just going to come as time moves forward. It’s not enough to say that it’s important to relish the time in the AFEA cocoon while you’re in it. That you won’t have the same collegial support, or get to debate CF and treatment plans with your roommates, or at parties. You’ll go back to the world at large that doesn’t see things in quite the same way.

After graduation, you’ll have to embody the spirit of the Five Elements on your own and share it with those who have not yet felt its touch. Banghan Nabi Kim, a member of Class 29 recently spoke of her acupuncture needles as “symbols of love.” She spoke of “offering the gifts of points.” It’s a message of love, in keeping with the element of Fire and its corresponding season of summer. Let’s gather around each other to enjoy the present moment. And at the same time, when you look ahead, think beyond board exams and graduation to all the ways you can spread this medicine.

Much love and summer joy to you all!