Learning to Let Go: Why I Don’t Bother Memorizing the Actions Anymore

At CCNM we have an quarterly exam in Point Location, or acupuncture.  The exam consists of memorizing all of the points on two or more acupuncture channels (usually around 60-70 different points), along with the underlying anatomy, contraindications and the depth and angle at each point. 

For each exam we draw 5 points (3 to needle and 2 to only locate) and must state the relevant anatomy and contraindications for each of them.  Since we don’t know which points we’ll pull, it is necessary to know them all.  Marks are also obtained for using proper Clean Needle Technique; opening up a clean and dirty field, discarding used needles properly, not contaminating the clean field and swabbing the area that will be needled with disinfectant.  In addition to all of this, we have a list of “actions” (sometimes 30 different actions or more) that the points exert on the body when needled.  In the exam we pull one action and state three points that perform the action – something like “benefits the eyes”.  During the exam we pull an action and if we get one correct we get 3 marks, 2 correct equals 6 marks and all three correct?  You get 10 full marks.  The entire exam is out of 100 marks.

The exam is performed on a partner and we each have 15 minutes in which to complete the tasks at hand.  For my first point location exam in first year, I meticulously memorized all of the points and the actions.  My brain contained a tangle of random associations and acronyms.  I felt I was almost stupider because of it; my precious neurons forming useless synapses just so that I could quickly remember the points and all the relevant information about them in order to perform well for my 15 minutes of fame.

For my first exam I pulled an action (I don’t remember which one) and, even though I had gone over the lists, with doodles and various colour schemes, of all the points that went along with that action, when I searched the dark storage crate of my brain, I found it was full of random junk and the points for my action were nowhere to be found.  “Uhhh… large intestine…11… large intestine…..1?  And large intestine 3,”  I sputtered.  My partner, who had been previously sitting silently and poker faced, allowed a fleeting painful expression flicker across her face that quite clearly told me I’d muddled it up.  With this initial failure on my shoulders, I spent the rest of the exam with a wounded ego and high anxiety.

Over the last few point location exams (of which there have been exactly 6), I have decided not to bother with memorizing the actions, choosing instead to focus on learning the points and their anatomy.  The exam is pass/fail, and most students who perform well walk out with an 80% or higher (a pass is 65%), therefore the extra 10% for the actions hardly seem worth it when one considers the brain gymnastics involved.  At times I breeze through the actions, giving them a quick once-over, but lately I’ve refrained from even looking at them, facing them for the first time during the actual examination.

Funnily enough, I’ve noticed a recurring phenomenon over the last few point location exams.  I find that the less effort I put into learning the actions, the more I miraculously come up with the correct ones.  Today marks my 6th Point Location exam.  It also represents the first exam in two years in which I’ve least paid heed to the list of actions and, paradoxically, gotten all three correct.

My N-of-1 study tells me that there is a clear inverse relationship between time spent learning actions and exam outcomes regarding the actions.  Interesting.

While it may seem like I’m boasting, I can only chalk this phenomenon up to chance or dumb luck, of course.  However, experience tells me that there is something to be said about letting go.  Sometimes, when we let go and let life take its course, I believe that the things we need and truly desire gravitate to us on their own.  This phenomenon doesn’t just apply to acupuncture exams: think of the women who try to conceive for years without success.  When they finally give up, lo and behold, they become pregnant!

In our culture we’re told to go out and grab what we need most!  Be assertive, get out there! Make things happen! However, what if, by letting go of the things we want and instead focusing on the present, on balancing ourselves and on appreciating the things we have, we end up manifesting the very things we so desire?

Sometimes attachment can be counter-productive and, in learning to let go, we give the things we love a chance to find their way to us.

So, drop those actions lists now, people!


3 thoughts on “Learning to Let Go: Why I Don’t Bother Memorizing the Actions Anymore

  1. Haha Already with you on That one my friend!!! This was like my third go of no action memorizing yet I never check if I got any right or wrong, probably should!! Anyway ain’t it the truth? Over-focusing can be such a prob!

    1. Yeah I think in not bothering with memorizing them or worrying about them, I was a) attracting easy actions (dampness, helps the lower back, etc.) and b) had a calm mind that could actually logically work out what points might exert that action. I’m struggling right now with OSCE because I find with this one I’m unable to let go. I feel the need to strive for perfection and know it will probably only hurt me in the end. There IS such a thing as over studying and trying too hard!

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