With current students, faculty, and staff on hand, AFEA welcomed the Class of 2015 yesterday. The last nine months have been dedicated to this moment of bringing together the newest group of Five Element acupuncture initiates. They were a classroom of strangers when they arrived in the morning, and they will leave their first intensive at the end of August as fast friends and colleagues (they’re already planning outings for their first day off together). For me, the best part of the day is when they hear each other’s journey up to this point. There’s a common thread through each journey that creates a moment of recognition among the new students. It’s the moment they recognize that these people are not strangers, but actually kin, and that they have all been brought together for the same purpose. It’s pretty awesome to behold.

As always, each  Opening Circle develops its own theme. A specific commonality- anything from similarity in location, to similar backgrounds-  finds its way into the introductions. This year, the commonality came from the advice that current students and interns gave, as well as in the stories that the new students told of how they came to be here. This year’s theme was two-fold: nourishment and being able to change the direction of your life in an instant.  Or, in abbreviated terms, get a crock pot and a bike.

The advice that the upperclassmen give to new students always intrigues me in how simple and obvious it is (and therefore easy to overlook). Advice on finding ways to nourish one’s self while in school was the over-arching theme yesterday.  The basics of getting enough sleep and finding time for activity were covered, but several students also talked about being able to find your place in your class and not worrying if you don’t seem to fit the acupuncturist mold. To paraphrase one intern, “I’m a biker chick, not a hippie, and I don’t like granola.  I’ve still found my place here.” As she said it, amidst the laughter, several other biker chicks spoke up and voiced their solidarity. Staying true to who you are and finding comfort in that place is just as important as getting enough sleep!

Other advice included remembering to get regular Five Element acupuncture treatments to stay healthy and supported throughout the program; to take advantage of all of the offered resources from the faculty and staff; to embrace each moment because it goes too fast; to get a bike when you’re in town.  I think the overall favorite piece of advice was to get a crock pot. That way you can continue to make nourishing food even when intensives and clinic get hectic. So simple, so straight-forward, and yet, we all forget to eat well when we’re stressed. It’s something you’d probably never think about without someone else’s suggestion.

On a deeper level, several current and new students spoke about their first day of class as a new direction in their lives. How easy it was to apply and go to school. One day you’re at home, the next you’re in Florida embarking on a fantastic journey of nature and healing. It was easier to do than they thought, and exhilarating in the beginning.  But what the upperclassmen stressed was that while it was easy  to change directions, it wasn’t always easy to continue in that direction.  You’ve shifted your life, and other things have to shift as well in order to keep up. Staying on point tests your commitment. It’s important to be aware of the fact that the real change comes from within, and it comes later. It helps you prepare. But this is where another succinct piece of advice comes into play: show up. Show up every day, even when you’re tired, because you’ll be amazed at what you find at the end of it.

So many of the prospective students that I talk to voice this need to change the direction of their lives. They know where they want to go, but it can be hard to figure out the steps to get there. And it’s scary to change your life.  Looking out at the new students, it’s goose-bump inducing to see them all in the same place, excited and ready to go. They’ve made that commitment to themselves and to this beautiful medicine. I can’t wait to see them, and how they transformed in two years when they start clinic, just as Class 28 is doing right now. And then to see them at the end of clinic, where Class 27 will be in just three, short weeks. I hope that wherever you are, you’re in the middle of your own transformation.