Creative acupuncture


Dear Artist,

In the Thought Garden outside the Acupuncture Center, I strike up a conversation. Marie tells me she’s in for “calmness, nicotine and fertility.” She’s a sinewy Hollywood type who looks like she could make herself into a pretzel. “I do it in combination with yoga, colon hydrotherapy and rolfing,” she tells me. “Looks like you’re a bit out of line yourself,” she adds. She speaks gently, thoughtfully. I tell her I’m trying to find out if acupuncture might help in creativity. “For sure,” she says. “You’re a painter — I can tell by your nails.” It was my time for the inner workings of the Center.


“Girl with Purple Accoutrements”
acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 inches
Malibu, California, 2008
by Robert Genn

Ms. Chang could have been a heroine in a Kung Fu movie. Her smooth consultation was over in minutes. She spoke with the matter-of-fact certainty of a religious convert or an anaesthetist about to administer gas. “You may need to book several times,” she said as she delicately laid her needles on a white towel. I told her I was only in Malibu for a few days. “Even one visit will help,” she assured me. Her needles went in with nary a whimper from me. I admired a hanging basket of shiny foliage. I thought it could use a dusting. A chart on the wall reiterated the benefits I had read before. My needles stayed in for a while with an occasional wiggle or wag. Ms. Chang hummed a bit, left, came back. Then she systematically removed my needles and I was released to the new me.

I tore back to the beachside condo and squeezed out. There were ample subjects on the beach below, but I was into my head. The cries of delighted children catching the Frisbees thrown by their fathers made me think of the blessing of good health and the wisdom of family life. But I was alone, an outsider in these parts. Anyway, I seldom have much trouble concentrating in strange places. My efforts were more casual than usual, more laid back. I had the distinct feeling that this 11″ x 14″ was an extra. Do you know what I mean? This one didn’t count because it was outside the regular pattern. It felt good, perhaps because it went a bit brighter, fresher, and, like my recent treatment, faster.

The next morning the painting didn’t look so hot. But maybe that’s just me. Maybe it’s my out-of-line posture. I wondered if I might ever see Marie again so I could ask her where she does her Rolfing. Anything is possible in California.

Best regards,


PS: “Movie directors come to me before going on the set so they can be more centered and clearer in the way they want their films to evolve.” (Carlotta Chang, L.Ac.)

Esoterica: Acupuncturists here in California claim results in cases of “high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, chronic and acute pain, fatigue, headaches, menopausal symptoms, pregnancy, infertility, weight and immune system issues.” They also claim value in general health maintenance, stress relief, clarity of thought and decision making. Many practitioners also offer a variety of “holistic modalities.” These include herbal medicine, nutritional counselling, aroma therapy, flower remedies, moxybustion and emotional clearing.

I saw some fine abstracts by Richard Diebenkorn and Sam Francis at the Norton Simon Gallery in Pasadena. The abandoned and casual use of colour and the jumpy, juicy stuff cast its spell. It seems to me that part of the value of going to museums, for artists anyway, is to let the stuff cast its spell. One lesson learned is to “start anywhere.” The “girl” [painting above]  is a figment of the imagination, a vehicle for the “stuff.”


Value and dangers of yoga
by Lisa Chakrabarti, Los Angeles, CA, USA


“Fly By”
chinese ink and watercolour
18 x 24.5 inches
by Lisa Chakrabarti

Maybe my own situation is clouding my vision here, but acupuncture for creativity? Fahgeddaboutit! This artist is going three times a week for acupuncture and physical therapy (legalized torture) due to having stupidly torn her rotator cuff. The cuff healed — but with some nasty adhesions. One of the dangers of yoga — as a 30-year practitioner myself — is overdoing. That’s partly how I tore the rotator cuff. But it’s a far more viable way than acupuncture to ‘get in touch with your inner whatever.’ Acupuncture is meant for pain and healing. Try some gentle stretches and practice deep breathing.

(RG note) Thanks, Lisa. And thanks to all you Angelinos who wrote to give advice and the names and addresses of LA Rolfers, Moxybustioners and Yoga practitioners. Though I have now left the City of Angels, the widespread and generous offers of herbal tea and other items was much appreciated.


All the world’s an easel
by Astrid Lee, West Vancouver, BC, Canada


acrylic on unstretched canvas, 12 x 12 inches
by Astrid Lee

Your readers should try Reiki! I used to live in California and have lots of friends there who are in the healing arts and who could give a quality session. I already wrote you how Reiki helped my creativity tremendously — and my sales for that matter. I use it all the time. Various treatments have cumulative benefits. As in painting, the second stroke of the brush takes you to the next level. All the world’s an easel.





Acupuncture study
by Jim Cowan, New Westminster, BC, Canada
Regarding your experience with acupuncture, I heard recently of a study that came up with the following findings: Patients suffering back pain who had needles inserted at random fared slightly better than those who had them strategically placed by qualified acupuncturists. Both groups fared better than those who resorted to more conventional treatments.


People need ecstasy
by David Lauterstein, Austin, TX, USA


by Robert Johnson

People, when left to their own devices, will consistently choose ecstasy as their goal. Robert Johnson, in his brilliant book, Ecstasy, reminds us that, however disguised, the hunger for ecstasy, for experiences of connection with the world around us, is one of the deepest needs of human nature. People long for a sense of acting in unity and in community in the world beyond our narrow everyday range of experiences, for self-transcendent pleasure and joy, for the Dionysian. However, our society mostly offers debased contexts for ecstasy, mostly consumer-oriented – alcohol and other addictive substances, television, pre-digested concepts, sexual titillation, food, and credit. One might call them secular versions of ecstasy since they derive power from their promise of self-transcendence, but they don’t truly nourish the spirit – that’s why they’re addictive. They don’t build a more fulfilled energetic base. Therefore there is a nearly continuous need for the next drink, more TV, more food, more spending, more things. Addiction arises then from the inherently unfulfilling nature of our society’s approved versions of ecstasy.

(RG note) Thanks, David. David Lauterstein is a partner in the Lauterstein-Conway Massage School of Austin, Texas. He has written an insightful study on the Art of Massage and the expectations of people when they come in for one.


An acupuncture high?
by Helen Opie, Granville Ferry, NS, Canada


“Five Skiffs at Float”
oil painting, 8 x 10 inches
by Helen Opie

Acupuncturists DO help with health problems. The Chinese have been using it for centuries. I suspect the creativity increases are more due to the body’s not having to deal with its health problems without the acupuncture support. People who get high claim their creativity is increased — though often they don’t think so when they come down again and usually others don’t think so at all. So you might have been on an acupuncture high? No matter. It is an experience and every experience enriches us, even if it is to know that is not what we want any more of… which is not to cast aspersions on acupuncture!


Brain constructs its own reality
by Wes Giesbrecht, Mission, BC, Canada


“Heavenly Sunshine”
original painting
by Wes Giesbrecht

Over the years I’ve read literally hundreds of books on religion, spirituality, occultism, mysticism, shamanism, angels, near death experiences, mediums, and every other imaginable form of ESP and extra terrestrial ‘evidence’ as well as alternative medicines. Hey… I was searching, what can I say? I’ve gone from deep, firmly held belief, or ‘faith’ if you will, in almost everything, to being highly skeptical. I’ve reached a point where I now say, show me the evidence. Show me genuine, verifiable, repeatable experiments and research that support the practice, whatever it may be, and then I’ll believe. That shouldn’t be too much to ask. I now suspect that our awareness of our own mortality causes us to seek proof that there’s something more. Something supernatural that can intervene on our behalf and ease our minds and cure diseases. Not to mention, survive physical death. So far I’ve found no hard evidence to support this notion. On the other hand, this world, this universe, is infinitely, incredibly awesome and fills me with wonder. And that’s enough. We’re only beginning to understand how powerful the human brain is in terms of being able to construct and reconstruct its own reality. I like my world better now that I’ve discarded the woo woo stuff.


Massage brings fresh painting
by Lillian M Wu
You are not alone in trying acupuncture. The circulation is better after having been treated thus. Your renewed energy or ‘chi’ will affect your creative senses. I use a monthly massage therapy for continual relief from stiff necks, shoulders and arms. As a result of this treatment, mental clarity and hand control often bring along a fresh painting.


Danger in creative muses
by Edna Hildebrandt, Toronto, ON, Canada
Perhaps these so called cures or ‘creative muses’ are self-esteem boosters. In the person’s mind who indulges in them, they get that sense of uplift for that time frame, especially if they are strong believers; it makes them feel as if a miracle has happened. I had a classmate once who was diagnosed with cancer and didn’t go for modern medical treatment or “western medicine” and went rather for the alternative cures. For a time she felt in great shape but six months later she died. Beware of them.


Need for maturity
by Dar Hosta, Flemington, NJ, USA


“Lake Angelica, Bay 1”
acrylic painting on illustration board
by Jim Tadych

This morning on the phone, my dad Jim Tadych and I looked at the landscapes of Wolf Kahn. My father is a former illustrator who now paints both abstract landscapes and figurative work. He says quality can happen when an artist matures. He feels many of the greatest artists produced their best and most inspired works during the winters of their lives. Together, on the Wolf Kahn web site, we marveled at his use of color and subject distillation. For me, as a viewer, less is often more and I really struggle with this concept in my own work where, often, if only for me, more tends to be more. I’m working on it, though. Perhaps I just need to be older.


Value of ‘the extra’
by Lorelle Miller, CA, USA


pastel painting, 6 x 8 inches
by Lorelle Miller

The fact that you felt your “after acupuncture” painting was an extra was of interest to me as I have found myself taking that sort of casual approach at times when I am finding myself in the throws of creative procrastination or avoidance. Sometimes I just do not have that attack with clarity and confidence thing going on in my head. I have to sort of sneak up on myself. With that in mind I approach my canvas with the casualness of someone you may never see again. Keeping it light, keeping the expectations from growing so big I become intimidated, allows me to relax and get into it without trepidation. The idea that “This one doesn’t count, this one is just for fun and play” takes the shackles off, like being in vacation mode.


Value of Rolfing
by Anonymous
I’ve gone through the ten-session Rolfing cycle twice in the past seven years. It is intense but beyond description rewarding. Let alone for all the physical improvements you’ll notice, the emotional ones may be even more profound. I can remember it like it was yesterday getting off the table after one of the sessions in the 2001 cycle of Rolfing: I could just feel that my parents weren’t divorced inside me any more — after 25 or more years of this condition. I don’t mean that I needed or envisioned them married; but I was a product of their union, and I never saw them work out the differences I carry inside me. To not carry that rift; to not have that rift conflicting my actions and decisions was a grace beyond measure. And, that is just one of the seeming innumerable transformations that Rolfing has enabled for me. You’ll hear about pain. There’s no pain unless you aren’t being honest with yourself or your practitioner. There is as much intensity as you and your practitioner find is productive for you. And, there are moments, like everyday massage, that are wonderful. However, Rolfing is a more engaged and purposeful massage form on the part of the client than any of the others I’ve experienced. Here’s the main URL for Rolfing: ( There is a link to “Find a Rolfer.” I have nothing but grateful things to offer about my experience with Rolfing. For me, it let out the artist who had been encapsulated for over 20 years.


An insult to California
by Anonymous
I normally enjoy your emails, but that was a cheap shot at California, and you should be ashamed. Your choice to go to a fringe acupuncture site in LA, recount a conversation with a “for sure” Californian, and to pin that experience on California, is reprehensible. You can find odd people everywhere. But your little story is hardly representative of this state. California also drives an extraordinary amount of the world’s scientific and commercial innovation, has a large artist community, and contrary to your slanted personification, is home to many millions of fine people; people without the prejudice you exhibited in your email. You should be ashamed of yourself, and you owe your readership, and Californians, an apology. Please do not use my name. Until you redeem yourself, I do not wish to be subjected to the same prejudicial treatment you provided other Californians.


Another circus leaves the tent
by Beaman Cole, NH, USA


oil on canvas, 19 x 19 inches
by Beaman Cole

I live in New Hampshire, the first in the nation primary state. We just had our vote on Tuesday. The politicians swarmed the state and 2 of them visited my wife’s workplace. It occurred to me that politics are like art. Most, when questioned away from the cameras, give generalizations and obscure answers leaving the meat and potatoes off the table. Others are clearer; they have a solid response to everything with little left to the imagination. You might say some are Fechin and some are Sheeler. I wonder if the common art quote about “obscurity leaving room for the imagination” applies to politics? While I’m thrilled to live in a democracy, I’m darned thankful my phone has stopped ringing every hour and the circus has left the tent.

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Creative acupuncture



From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jan 15, 2008

Robert, I liked this figure study much better than last week’s demo. Sorry, but last week’s bore too much similarity to the calendar art my old small town mechanic had tacked to the back wall, though perhaps more technically proficient. It seemed less to me a study of a figure against a landscape background than the juxtaposition of two cliches. You could make it ironic by entitling it “Middle-age Male Fantasy”. The “extra” you did after your acupuncture session may have less to do with the acupuncture itself than the frame of mind you were in– giving you permission to experiment outside your normal comfort zone. I found the figure interesting and artistically evocative. Perhaps you should give yourself permission to explore more along these lines. By the way, I do agree with the observation that acupuncture is a healing method, not an awareness tool. An interesting study found that acupuncturists who trained in the orient are more effective than those who train in the US, and those with Asian heritage more effective than non-Asian. Having had sessions with both (for healing purposes), I agree. The Asian-trained seemed more attuned to how my body was responding and adjusted accordingly. The others seemed more mechanistic and less observant. I’d say acupuncture itself has some things in common with art.

From: Sharon McKenna — Jan 15, 2008

I believe that the mind is full of ‘stuff’ that only a few of us know how to access. Creativity and the placebo effect are example of powers that only some of us seem able to use. Anything that gets us in touch with what we already hold inside of ourselves is great as long as the door to this power is not self-destructive. Alcohol and drugs as creativity enhancers have a negative effect on the body and social relationships but if you ‘like’ any of the harmless ‘fringe’ routes, I say – go for them. Self-induced trances or vision quests are ancient routes into our brains. I try to be open to all of these things but am able to get my own ‘high’ painting out of doors. I feel very privileged.

From: B. J. Adams — Jan 15, 2008

Concerning the anonymous letter that is called an Insult to California. I am a Californian and wish I still lived there. We used to welcome any sort of weird, unusual, or insulting adjectives about us as we hoped it would stop people from moving there. It’s always nice to be known for something and don’t we all like to be considered unusual, different, and not boring.

From: Janet L Sellers — Jan 15, 2008

Sorry you didn’t get your Nirvana genius with your attempt. Happens to a lot of people when they go to California. They put their hopes on the place and become disappointed when they find out they are still the same person as when they left home, warts and all. I’d love for them to leave my home state when they find that out. More room for us locals to just “be”. Then again, we do feed many of the people on Earth from our harvests; can’t they just eat and stay home?! We have enough to take care of in CA without more people coming in and complaining… but yet they still come, still hope, still whine… hope I am not angering you… but think of those of us who are the host Californians getting bashed by those showing up and expecting us to offer them the answers to their dreams. We are seekers, too, but at HOME.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jan 15, 2008

Robert- I guess I have to respond to Wes… You spent all that time seeking- and you didn’t find what you were looking for? How is that possible? Because- in this time we are in- where ages are ending and new ages are beginning- finding what you were looking for is easier than it has ever been- at least in recorded history. Why? Because the age we are entering is all about all people gaining that understanding- that KNOWING you were seeking. So sorry- but folks who use the term woo woo stuff just need a good slap up side the head as far as I’m concerned. So- here’s the deal… The human body was designed to be RADIANT. It has 7 major energy centers that all radiate- but the body is literally filled with energy points that all have the ability to radiate. The easiest way to get connected to the full energy of the Universe is not to look up- but it is in fact- to go down. Allow your consciousness to go down into the center of the Earth and then learn how to draw UP the feminine/negative/magnetic/dark energy polarity of the Earth into your Self. Once connected to this energy/force it will open your energy system and clear out all the blocks that YOU are holding in place that are preventing you from becoming a KNOWER. Once this understanding exists in your mind/body system- through continued experiencing of said energy movement UP- your system will OPEN to the masculine/positive/electric/light energy of the Universe flowing down into you- opening you further still- until you become PHYSICALLY ENLIGHTENED- or Radiant. And Ecstatic. And Blissful. Now the main problem for heterosexual males is this: They are unwilling to give up their perceived maleness in order to fully connect to the feminine/negative/magnetic/dark energy polarity that is flowing UP out of the Earth. We not/heterosexual males- who are already more connected to our inner feminine- have less difficulty opening up to this immediate and direct source of energy/power. But it really is the necessary reality that unfolds the ultimate possibility of the Human Being becoming its fully expanded Radiant Being of Light/Love Self. The KNOWER. The ONE Awakened and having a DIRECT EXPERIENCE. And really- it ends up being just so simple. Maybe you read too much and/or are too intellectual and just stuck in your head. Your being filled with wonder is great- but for all your studies- you obviously missed the most important points. Now- Wes- please understand me. I can activate your Light Body. In other words- I can explain all of this in about 20 minutes of common sense dialogue- and then I can PROVE IT. So please Wes- do me a favor and don’t even think of trying to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. You will lose that argument.

From: Chris Everest — Jan 15, 2008

woo woo whoa wow whoops Chill out guys

From: Judy Gosz — Jan 15, 2008

Good Grief!!! It seemed to me to be a rather light-hearted, creative exploration shared with the educational curiosity and experimentation we’ve all come to look forward to in these letters!!! Apologies to the state of California?. . . Please!!! Thanks for your inspiration, Robert!

From: Rick Rotante — Jan 16, 2008

Robert- I’m disappointed that you would think acupuncture would lead you to an artistic nirvana. The secrets are within. I personally don’t feel that mood altering procedures, acupuncture or cliff diving for that matter will get you any closer to your inner self than some simple contemplation about the work in front of you. One respondent hit the nail on the head when they said acupuncture is for healing the self, not finding the inner road to successful painting. (sic) I do believe that once relaxed from the treatment you would be more able to create. And I might add the work you did was good with some wonderful qualities. As for the California references, I didn’t feel as offended as most. I felt you were being playful and taking the same cheap shots most do who come here for short spurts and can’t find anything good about the place. I chalk it up to closet envy. As with any city, it takes time and effort to get a feel for a place. Sort of like Canada ah? At first glance the comers and goes only see the shake and bake aspect of California. But I wonder why most people from around the world want to come here? Hmm! Food for thought.

From: Dave W — Jan 16, 2008

Why would anyone go outside the studio to enhance their ‘creativity’. Creativity is a response to inspiration, and if that isn’t with you, don’t paint! Why would anyone want to paint if they don’t feel like it? Why would anyone want to feel like it, when they don’t? I don’t aspire to self-realization/ecstacy so I can paint better, or faster or more lucratively! Art and the ‘kingdom of Heaven’ are within, and ‘within’ is wherever you are.

From: Cyndie Katz — Jan 17, 2008

Didn’t more people say they loved the painting? I think it’s lovely — the colors and the shapes — and it’s not overworked. That’s key. I wish you’d do a letter about how to avoid overworking a painting. You probably have, but you can’t do it too often for my needs! Thanks!







Sky’s the limit

oil painting on canvas, 36 x 48 inches
by Jean Ives, Victoria, BC, Canada


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Tomm Fennell who wrote, “Psychosomatic illnesses need psychosomatic cures.”

And also Adan Lerma who wrote, “Your next morning’s painter’s remorse is just slippage back into your more comfortable pattern of doing/seeing things, which I don’t think has to mean anything other than you had a new boost, and were then re-evaluating its fit with your regular everyday self.”

And also David Blanchard who wrote, “Ahh, furshur, nothing like the afterglow from a little creative quackery to brighten your day.”

And also Dave Brown who wrote, “Most of today’s health problems seem to have some relationship to stress. In that vein of thought, it seems to me that making art could be pretty powerful therapy in itself — i.e. the method rather than the result. The joy of creating art is no more restricted to the “talented” than yoga is to the acrobat and contortionist.”

And also Pene Horton who wrote, “This made me laugh. However, if you haven’t read the book by Dr. Mark Hyman, Ultrametabolism, you might like to check it out. His ‘plan’ works like magic — I’ve painlessly lost 22 lb, thrown out my blood pressure medication, and feel lots more energy.”

And also Theresa Bayer who wrote,”You might enjoy Acupressure’s Potent Points by Michael Reed Gach. Acupressure is based on the same principles as acupuncture, only you can do it yourself at home. It’s good for all sorts of complaints, and it keeps me painting.”

And also Dorey Schmidt of Lubbock, TX, USA who wrote, “Get punctured some more, Robert, and let us follow along in a video as you pull paintings like this from your head.”

And also Janet Toney who wrote, “People like you are just as creative if you never tried any of these self-improvements. The best way to increase our creativity is to use it!”

And also Judi Birnberg of Sherman Oaks, CA, USA who wrote, “Welcome to Hellay, the land of Granola: nuts, fruits and flakes.”

And also more than two dozen artists and others who asked, “What the heck is moxybustion?”

(RG note) In traditional Chinese medicine, a cone or cylinder of dried herbs is burned on or near the skin at acupuncture points to strengthen blood, stimulate qi and maintain general health. The herbs involved often contain mugwort. Personally, I’ve never been moxybustioned.




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