February 2, 2022
One of the gifts of becoming an Acupuncturist is the capacity to build your dream practice, and in Erin Langley’s case, she’s done that quite literally. Dreams, the spirits of the body and the lands, and ancestral connections are all fundamental pieces of how she practices and connects with East Asian medicine.
Becoming an Acupuncturist
Erin has a foundational childhood memory of watching TV with her Grandma and seeing people flock to a young woman, ill & lying in bed, who seemed to provide spontaneous healings and miracles for others. Erin became enamored with the idea that one person “could have a magically positive impact on the world” and wondered how one might cultivate such an impact over the course of their life. At the same time, she was profoundly helped by Acupuncture for her own childhood suffering with severe allergies, asthma, and depression. She approached each session with her characteristic curiosity, and her practitioner’s answers were always the same: she should go to Acupuncture school if she really wanted to know.
Embedded in a community of like-minded folks through her time at Naropa University, Erin was offered an introduction to the Oakland-based Daoist priest & teacher Liu Ming in the early 2000s. She studied intensively with him, and his teachings offered her a deep understanding of Daoist Cosmology & Astrology, two of the more esoteric branches of East Asian Medicine. Eventually, steeped in Liu Ming’s teachings, she felt the pull to round out her understanding by formally going to Acupuncture school to study the Medical traditions.
The Meaning of Ancestral Acupuncture
The name of Erin’s Acupuncture practice is “Ancestral Acupuncture” and early in her professional bio she introduces her many cultures of origin. We asked her why it was important to her to frame her practice so strongly around ancestral relationships. She shared, “We used to know each other based on our relationships– with people and with lands; it’s a new phenomenon not to center these things in introductions and interactions.” She shares her own ancestry as an invitation to others to be curious about their own clans and lands and to bring a relational quality back to our interactions. Often it incites curiosity in her patients and they come to know themselves and their best practices for health and wellness through this exploration.
There is wisdom in many ways of the past that Erin is eager to usher back into common practice. As a child she was inundated with dreams and visions, but found little guidance for these gifts. She recognizes now that in a different age, and in her own ancestor’s traditions, her gifts would have been recognized & she would have been offered guidance for them. Now, through her own Acupuncture practice, she’s able to normalize the spiritual experiences that her patients have and offer the guidance she lacked.
How She Practices
Erin says that a theme in her practice is to help patients re-establish trust with their own experiences.
“I love to invite people to trust themselves. The person on the table should have the power, and feel equal in the conversation with their healthcare provider.”
What arises out of the conversation she has with her patients, their bodies, and their guides is often unexpected and transformational. She says, “we as Acupuncturists can just avail ourselves to what’s happening in the present moment. That’s where the medicine is, in the present.” She thinks of treatments like playing jazz: you have to know your theory to be able to riff. Often her choice of Acupuncture points isn’t coming from the logical or rational mind, but when she looks back on her treatments they make perfect sense within the theory.
The Import of Dreaming
Sleep and dreaming, Erin thinks, are undervalued in our modern world. She has learned from her indigenous elders & from her teacher, Liu Ming, that nighttime experiences are just as important as daytime experiences. In sleep and in dreaming we enter into the Yin, a space of receptivity and connectivity, which is vital for the life, vitality, and direction of the Yang that expresses through our daytime waking selves.
“Dreaming is a community phenomenon that recalibrates us toward health. Some traditional communities even re-enact bad dreams in order to avoid impending disasters. Most of the time, the conversation is more subtle. It’s a form of divination that keeps us in balance with our seen and unseen ecosystems. Dreaming is extremely practical. But this is just one way of looking at it. Day and night are really continuous. I’m interested in that continuity, in how we are dreaming right now.”
Dreaming, she insists, is an egalitarian opportunity. “Everyone has the capacity to work with their dreams and flourish; there’s no hierarchy or goal, it’s about playing with the ball where it lands.” This is one of the reasons she agreed to co-teach a course, The Dao of Night: Liu Ming’s Dream Series through the Integrative Healing Institute. The course will “present all the profound potentials found in our natural need to sleep,” and the material is accessible to all (no matter their dream recall).
Advice for Future Acupuncturists
Ground yourself in your traditions, and bring your heritage to the table. As Erin has a strong relationship with her own ancestry, she encourages all Acupuncturists to be respectful about entering another culture’s indigenous healing traditions. “You wouldn’t show up to someone’s house empty-handed; you want to make sure you’re bringing something to the table. We don’t want to be the hungry ghost at the banquet. We want to bring the ample gifts our ancestors have given us.”
As East Asian Medical school is a rigorous and transformative experience, we asked Erin what messages she would transmit to our students in the thick of it, and she offered a list of gems for how to stay grounded, inspired, & quell anxieties through the process.
- A Grounding Meditative Practice for the challenging moments: Call upon your future patients and ask them for support. Call upon everyone that you have ever helped and will ever help, and ask them for their support in getting you to the place where you can support them.
- Words of wisdom: “Don’t try to be someone else. Find your place in the conversation and be that voice without fear. Occupy your own place in the medicine because that’s your strength, that’s what no one else is saying.”
- A Teaching from Liu Ming: Synchronicity is a sign of success. When we’re in a place of trust, and we’re receptive to the living world, synchronicity can guide us in unexpected ways toward success.
- Advice for CALE: Team up with the test! Practice making the test your friend, a literal being who is on your side, instead of your enemy or challenger.
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Connect with Erin
Erin is an acupuncturist, multimedia artist, and educator. You can read her “Weekly Weather” Chinese astrology forecasts on Facebook, Instagram, and Ancestral Acupuncture. Opportunities to learn with her include her two upcoming courses: Ancestor Series: Origins, Dreams and the Poetics of Medicine and The Dao of the Night – Liu Ming’s Dream Series with Erin Langley, LAc and Clarissa Gunawan (registration currently full).