Our job in clinic is to help people both through knowing what treatment to provide and having the ability to discern how to help when the signs are not clear. We constantly dance with both knowing and not-knowing.

In this conversation with Ben Hawes we discuss how the alignment of the vertebra on the spine tells a story and helps to guide an acupuncture treatment. And beyond that how we tease apart ways of knowing, and how our perception both gives us information and blinds us to where our attention does not flow.

Listen in to this discussion of perception, attention and how keeping an open and skeptical mind is essential in seeing more clearly how we can be helpful to our patients.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • Ben’s circuitous path to acupuncture
  • Where authenticity resides
  • Maximum attention and holding things lightly
  • Beginner’s mind and presence in the clinic
  • The liminal space between attention and knowing
  • On ambiguity and doubt
  • How perception works
  • A challenge in working with with Worker’s Compensation cases
  • Don’t take control of people’s health
  • Intention and attention
  • Working with the Mind and distance treatment

Let the channels tell you where your needle is necessary. The texts call acupuncture points holes for a reason; find the empty spaces the body has available, don't just impose your own idea.


I began my journey into the world of alternative medicine in college. I had chronic sinusitis and back pain and western biomedicine offered little but temporary relief; it was only Chinese medicine that gave me what I wanted — to feel better. It impressed me so much, in fact, that I decided to make it my career. In practice, I spent more time doing acupuncture than herbs, and I became curious about what was happening to the palpable structures of the body when I inserted needles. Through careful palpation of the spine, I realized that distal points mapped to specific vertebrae; I found I could instantly realign the spine, and this became Backupuncture.

More recently, as a long-time Zen practitioner and student of shamanism, I’ve found myself drawn to do more than fix discrete issues, but to engage people in a dialogue with the mystery of suffering itself.



Links and Resources

Visit Ben’s blog for some unique insights into medicine, practice and healing.

He also has a Facebook page, Acupuncture Critical Theory that is a place for meta-musings on acupuncture, mysticism, political theory and memes


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