Second of a two-part series.
The first, Cynthia Ligenza and Ron Hershey Combine Eastern and Western Medicine, may be found here.
By Alison Rooney
Chinese medicine and acupuncture practitioner Ron Hershey has been educating Haldane freshmen about these two fields for the past 7 years or so. Philipstown.info attended this year’s talk and demonstration. Hershey began the talk by stating that Chinese medicine was the longest continuously practiced medicine in the history of the world, with needles found dating from 4,000 years ago. By comparison, he noted that modern Western-type medicine has only been in existence for about 100 years.
At the heart of Chinese medicine is the concept of “chi” or “vital energy” described by Hershey as “a part of Chinese life so familiar to the Chinese that a common greeting is ‘how’s your chi’?” Hershey called chi “the very pulse of life, everything that happens, from fidgeting with your hair to blinking, seeing the steam rising out of your cup: what is true in your bodies and true in nature as well. Chi is also the wind blowing and flowers blooming. Each organ has its own chi. In Chinese medicine we work with chi. Calligraphy was originally based on pictures, and the pictogram from chi was a bowl of rice with steam rising, the steam being the essence of chi.”
Hershey then directed the kids, who packed the technology room, to stand with their hands separated and parallel, and asked them to feel the space between, which is bio-magnetic energy actually measureable, using scientific tools. Continuing to an explanation of yin and yang, and the need for a healthy balance in the body, Hershey called his first obligation “to find out where the imbalance is” between the “nourishing, moistening, rejuvenating calmness” of the yin and the “movement, transformation, energy” of the yang. He described his practice as “not just using herbs and acupuncture, but figuring out how someone lives their life. In modern life there is way too much yang happening. Balance is way more important than herbs or acupuncture. We have it in our brains that it is a way to achieve, yet per Chinese medicine it is a major source of illness.”
Hershey asked the students to consider “How pertinent is this to us?” and “How can we combine the two forms of medicine?” Describing Western medicine as increasingly high-tech and focused on serious illnesses, Hershey noted that Chinese medicine specialized more on the “day-to-day stuff, if you feel just not right, or you’re getting sick all the time. It’s holistic, meaning it doesn’t just look at one symptom in isolation. All symptoms are like brush strokes forming a painting. A lot of times people have complex problems which don’t make sense in Western medicine.” Hershey described himself as originally skeptical: “in ninth grade I didn’t know what acupuncture was. I’ve gradually seen all that it can be, and it can be amazing.”
The talk culminated in a demonstration of acupuncture, performed on special education teacher Andrea McCue. Thin needles were inserted at points in her ears and forehead, and Hershey said that treatment in these areas was often effective in calming the nervous system, for stress reduction, smoking cessation and in alleviating post-traumatic stress syndrome; the forehead point also helps clear sinus problems. He said that people often described the feeling of the insertions (the chi reactions) as like “tingling muscle twitches, neither good nor bad” — and McCue concurred. Finally, social studies teacher Dennis Cairl, a veteran of many of these presentations as well, was the subject for a demonstration of acupuncture and moxibustion, the latter of which involves the burning of an herb —mugwort — to transmit heat through the shaft of the needle to the acupuncture point to enhance the point stimulation. This can be used for injuries, pain, immune problems and a host of other issues.
A question and answer session followed, with students asking questions ranging from “How do you measure chi?” to “How much does a treatment cost?” Throughout, most of the students seemed fascinated by the presentation.
Photos by A. Rooney, except Ron Hershey (courtesy of R. Hershey)
Hershey’s comprehensive website can be explored at www.eastmtnacupuncture.com