Image from an art installation at the Braunschweig Welfenakademie, a 3 year business school. The artist, Ingolf Keiner creates works based on extreme states of the physical body. Apparently, the acupuncture model inspired him.
Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to take a quick 5 day trip to Berlin. While I was expecting a fast-paced urban center, what I found was a slow moving, gentle town filled with flowering trees, songbirds and surprisingly, acupuncture centers every few blocks or so.
I stayed in a sweet part of town, Prenzlauer Berg, an area of Berlin previously in East German territory. In the 1990's it was an freewheeling low income area, where artists took over vacant buildings for living and working, with small hole-in-the wall restaurants, drinking spots and not much else. In the past decade, Prenzlauer Berg has been subjected to the same gentrification phenomenon that a lot of american cities are going through. But this gentrification has been a much more laid back, european style gentrification. Buildings have been renovated but not turned into luxury condos, small hand decorated gourmet restaurants opened, but not with outlandish prices, small markets and health food stores on every other block. And, exciting for me to see, the "Akupunktur" sign showed up on every third or fourth block!
In Germany, there is one general licensing exam for all alternative medicine, including massage, physiotherapy, reiki, herbalism, homeopathy, acupuncture etc. The exam is heavy on the western sciences, ensuring that everyone hanging a shingle to practice some form of healthcare is familiar with in-depth anatomy and physiology. After passing this demanding exam, practitioners are free to design their own modality of healing. My partner's long term friend frequented an acupuncture center which combined acupuncture with a postural therapy called "The Dorn Method". Another friend received both acupuncture and massage from a single practitioner. Another friend saw the acupuncturist a block away from her house for a variety of physical and stress complaints and received homeopathic formulations from them. In short, maybe I was in a very particular circle of people, but most people I spoke in Berlin to had received acupuncture regularly at some point in the recent past. This is a far cry from the New York public, where 10 people will have 10 different responses to "what is acupuncture" ranging from - 'yes, I love it and I love my acupuncturist' to 'what is it, that thing with needles/pins' to 'does it hurt' or the vehement 'I don't believe in stuff like that'. This was eye opening to me, an implicit acceptance and creativity of healthcare and wellness exploration in a culture that we associate with precision, rigidity and historical conservatism.
Farewell for Berlin, 'till next time! Until then I'll miss your peaceful, nature filled streets, and your love of healing.