The Four Elements of Mastery for Acupuncturists and Holistic Practitioners

By Darren Starwynn, O.M.D.

The word mastery is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “possession or display of great skill or technique”.

We all know holistic practitioners who stand out from their peers by creating extraordinary patient results with a high degree of consistency.  I have done everything I can to learn from these people and understand what makes them so effective.  After decades of investigation I now believe that there are four vital elements of mastery for acupuncturists and holistic practitioners.  Practitioners must develop these elements in a balanced manner in order to bring about the highest level of effectiveness while maintaining personal and financial well-being.

Here are brief descriptions of each of the four elements of mastery.  Those of you reading this article could use this as an exercise in consciousness by reflecting on where you are in relation to each of these elements.

The first element of mastery is the one most universally understood, and that is mastering treatment techniques.  This is what fulfills the dictionary definition given above and is what we get tested on to pass our licensing exams.  For acupuncturists this includes demonstrating high competency in energetic diagnosis, point selection, needling, cupping and other techniques.  Each profession has its own set of competencies that must be learned.  True mastery of our art, however requires more than just these.  The following elements may be just as important.

The second element of mastery is one that many of us do instinctively, yet it is not often spoken about openly.  That is developing our ability to channel, or direct healing energy to our patients.  Qi Gong masters have developed the ability to direct Qi for beneficial purposes, and many holistic practitioners practice various forms of energy cultivation exercises.  Mastery of this element is not limited to working with Qi, however.  According to the excellent definition by Ted Kaptchuk, Qi is “energy on the verge of becoming matter, and matter on the verge of becoming energy”.  This indicates that the energy vibration of Qi is similar in density to that of the physical body.

Transmuting the complex psycho-emotional complexes our modern patients bring to us usually requires higher vibrational energies than Qi alone.  The process of true healing involves elevating dense energies of fear, pain and blockage into higher vibratory levels of health, love and vitality.  Therefore the second element of mastery is cultivating the ability to be a clear channel for higher frequency healing energies.  This is a skill than can be taught and learned.  A practitioner’s likeliness to gain this ability is based on the next element of mastery.

The third element of mastery is one of the most neglected ones.  It is the process of  cultivating self-love and self-healing.  Most holistic doctors and healers tend to take pretty good care of themselves through diet, exercise and meditation or Qi Gong.  But it is not common to find people, including health care professionals who are deeply loving themselves and enjoying peace of mind.

One of the biggest impediments to self-love is trauma.  As I have explained in my previous blog posts people who have been through pervasive trauma often have a hard time allowing themselves to experience intimacy with self or others.  This happens because trauma tends to limit or even shut down many of the brain centers dealing with these experiences.  The diagram on this page shows brains in two states.  The top picture shows the major brain centers that govern intimacy, empathy and self-connection being active, as is the case with people with decent psychological health.  The lower picture shows a “brain on trauma” in which all of these centers except one have become shut down.   This picture is reproduced with permission from the book The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

I have observed so many health professionals who radiate kindness, calm and caring to their clients but find it hard to enjoy those qualities within themselves.  This detracts from their quality of life, limits their healing abilities and usually results in lower income.

While many people inhibited by trauma can trace it back to adverse childhood experiences the rabbit hole of trauma may go deeper than that.  Based on decades of in-depth work with clients and myself I believe that a majority of medical professionals who identify themselves as “healers” are carrying deep imprints of persecution.  Where does this come from?  While some may have had this experience earlier in their lives most of these imprints come from ancestral memories and trauma experienced in previous lifetimes.  For those who do not believe in the existence of past lives this carry-over of trauma could be explained in other ways.  One could be through the existence of shared “pain bodies” written about by Eckhart Tolle in his book The New Earth.  Whatever you believe the origin is, this subconscious, cellular memory of ancient trauma creates pervasive feelings of low self-worth and lack of safety in fully being seen as the powerful healer one truly is.

It takes a sustained commitment to self-healing and self-love to release our brains and nervous systems from the ravages of past trauma.  It is easier for many people to just “play small” in their lives rather than do the often challenging inner work required.  Master healers are those who are willingly in touch with their vulnerability and learn to tap into their past hurts to help them develop their compassion and healing power.

The final element of mastery is mastering our relationship with money.  The natural outcome of developing high technical skills, being a clear channel for higher healing energies and being committed to self-love is enjoying an abundant flow of money.  Those who settle for low income or frequently struggle with money would do well to investigate their beliefs and attitudes about it, and devote themselves to developing balanced mastery.

Because of the demands of preparing students to pass licensing exams acupuncture and other medical schools focus almost exclusively on the first element of mastery, demonstrating technical skills.  In order to attain mastery of our healing art we need to find ways to develop the other three elements described above.  As we commit to developing balanced mastery the quality of our lives elevate and we instinctively find our unique way to be a powerful part of the solution to the challenges facing the human race and our Earth.