Notes on Integration, Pluralism, and Liberation

Spring has sprung, as they say. I can feel it in every sinew and tendon. Growth is on the horizon as the macro + microcosmic forces of nature urge us toward opening. Emerging is not an easy thing to do. I imagine we (all of us, that is) could share stories for hours about how challenging it is to become and bloom.  The lushness of this green and glorious season has already offered more than a handful of lessons. And this is just the beginning.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on a lecture given by Dr. Doreen Chen on strategies for integrating Chinese medicine and Western medicine. Dr. Chen will be 85 years young this month, and has been fighting for the field of acupuncture of over 50 years. She claims her energy is waning, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. After her lecture she admitted to aspirations of translating two integral integrative medical texts “before she goes”, as she put it. Her passion and dedication to sustaining the legacy of Chinese medicine is evident in the way she speaks about her work and advocacy.

Dr. Chen also reminded me to think about, and appreciate the resource at my fingertips. Attending an institution that touts an ‘integrative’ approach, I often consider its inherent possibilities and limitations. The term itself bears much weight within the context and history of the Civil Rights Movement. One might argue that integration, as a solution to oppression, only gets us so far.  Another strategy that came into play alongside the integrative model was the separatism. This approach is deliberately exclusive of certain communities, and intentionally inclusive of others, as witnessed during the late 60’s with the the Black Power Movement and into the 90’s with the Million Man March.

While movements of the past have much to teach us about the processes, differences, and co-existence between separatism (opposition), and integration, the current pulse reveals the need to create new strategies. This is true in every part of the globe. It is on the hearts and minds of many, What does a truly sustainable model look like?  

In the field of Acupuncture, this question has been asked for at least as long as Dr. Chen began her practice in NYC in the early 1980’s. An intriguing viewpoint comparing ethical models for the relationship between mainstream and alternative medicine offers insight into a pluralistic approach which may prove to preserve the autonomy of both patient and attending practitioners. Again, movements for justice can offer something to those of us in the medical field. Pluralism is a step in the right direction, and there is more beyond the horizon. Liberation is the next step; a collective process that ties us all together. It is this stage of enlightenment that we find ourselves in as humans. As a strategy, it holds accountability as the highest priority, for there is no liberation of one without the liberation of all. It is the silent spring dripping at the tips of our fingers.

In solidarity,





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