My heart is currently so full of both grief and overwhelming awe/gratitude after the passing this week of one of my most influential mentors. Bob Duggan was an embodied advocate of living life to the fullest and his impact on me, my friends, family, patients, and fellow acupuncturists is indelible. Really he’s touched the lives of countless people and I am feeling so grateful for what’s been made possible by this man.
Bob Duggan was the co-founder of The Traditional Acupuncture Institute (later Tai Sophia, and now The Maryland University of Integrative Health), the first accredited acupuncture school in the United States. He helped to legalize acupuncture across the US and paved the way for so many of us who can now freely practice this beautiful healing art.
Like so many of my colleagues, I first met Bob in 1999 when I visited the Traditional Acupuncture Institute. At the time I had become intrigued with Taoist Philosophy and 5 Element Theory. I sat in on a clinical observation class the students called "Bobservation". It was an opportunity to watch this amazing teacher do what he did best, transform a person instantly with the power of his words. After class, I was so blown away by Bob, his perspective, and the power of his words that I went to the registration office and immediately signed up for a 3 year Masters in Acupuncture program. I hadn’t even experienced acupuncture yet and at the time, honestly, had no intention to stick needles in people. I truly wanted to embody this philosophy I had just witnessed.
Over the next 3 years, I gained so much wisdom from Bob. He gave me new eyes to see the world through. He offered me a grand, liberating perspective: the freedom to choose. He would say "upset is optional” and “you can choose to not live in the drama."
I saw miracles happen around Bob. Once, when shadowing him in the treatment room, I saw him talk with a patient in severe pain going through drug detox. Bob read his pulses, said a few words and put one needle in his wrist. Immediately color returned to the patient's face, his smile grew and his eyes, before dull and absent came present and fully alive. Bob turned to me and said “See, miracles are possible."
In the spirit of a perspective and legacy that cannot be bound by the physical body, here are 10 things I learned directly from Bob that make my life, and the lives of those around me, better every day. Enjoy - and I invite you to continue his legacy by listening to his advice and sharing it with those you love.
1. Upset is optional: Choose not to live in the drama. We have a choice in how we relate to what’s happening and the perspective we take on it. The idea that we have a choice with how we respond to life's circumstances brings freedom.
2. Allow yourself to be a beginner: It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, that’s how we learn. At any stage of life, allowing oneself to be a beginner opens up a bigger world of possibility, progress, and change.
3. Is it a problem or an opportunity?: This question provides a simple shift in perspective that gives you power to grow and learn rather than suffer.
4. Your symptom is your teacher: What if the body is wise? When it's out of balance it sends a signal, or symptom. When we learn to listen to our symptoms we can truly heal. Understanding why you have a headache, for example, can lead you to empowered self awareness and healing. Often taking a medication masks the symptom but doesn’t grow your soul.
5. Will this serve the future generations?: This question reminds us to think big and remember that we matter. When speaking or acting, ask yourself "would this word or act make my ancestors proud?" and "will my words or act serve the future generations?”
6. Where do you feel it in your body? When you have an upset, ask yourself "where do I feel this in my body?" and allow the feeling. This is a simple and effective way to foster the connection between your mind and body and listen to it’s wisdom.
7. Listen: To truly listen means to pay more attention to the speaker than the thoughts in your own head.
8. Acknowledge others and be acknowledged. If someone said something nice to Bob, he would say, "I am practicing taking in acknowledgement, would you say that again so i can really take it in?” This is a powerful and challenging practice that creates so much beauty in the world - try it!
9. Word as Needle: Bob taught that the right words can have the same power of any acupuncture needle, medicine, herb, or drug.
10. Be who you are: How dare you not share the gifts you have with the world?
Thank you, Bob - we are all brighter for your presence in our lives.
Lots of love,