Highlighting Black Contemporary Pioneers in the Mindfulness Community
Neanta Parnell – Feb 28, 2023
Budding acupuncturist, Aliya Stimpson shares what acupuncture means to her and how she intends to share the benefits with the Black and BIPOC community. Drawing parallels between Caribbean medicine and Chinese herbalism, Stimpson reveals the Black body, history, and experience reflected in mindful, alternative medicine practices.
Parnell: What role does alternative medicine play in our lives as Black people and do you have any familial or ancestral roots in alternative medicine?
Stimpson: Yes, Black people, African people, and people of the diaspora, have had this – it’s always been in our lives, it’s always been in our culture. My family is from the Caribbean, so we have certain tips that my grandmother has picked up from her mother, and her grandmother that have been passed down for generations to aid with certain illnesses. For instance [in the Caribbean], when you have a stomach ache, you have some orange peel and cinnamon tea. I found out later that this is the formula for Chinese medicine too. You have this herbal legacy that has been passed down from generation after generation. Herbalists have always existed in ancient cultures. Herbalists have always been a part of our heritage as people of color and I can speak for Caribbean people in particular because that’s where my family is from. It has been a big portion of my life, so it’s very natural, even though we don’t necessarily know why these things work, we just know it does. It’s always been around us. It’s just that what I’m learning is a different lens on the same thing, which is ancient medicine.
Parnell: What role do you think mindfulness plays in alternative medicine, if at all, and how is mindfulness defined in alternative medicine and how does it show up in acupuncture?
Stimpson: Mindfulness is a big part of our medicine. We [acupuncturists] are the facilitators of helping your body heal itself. So, you have to be aware of yourself! How are you feeling? How is your breath? Do you feel your blood flowing through you? What about your thoughts? Do you feel like you’re able to silence your thoughts for a moment, to be quiet, so that you can recenter? Just being aware of your body, knowing where parts of your body hurt [and how they hurt]. [..]
Parnell: Is there a specific concept, or term related to mindfulness in acupuncture?
Stimpson: Not that I know of, but they do use language rooted in mindfulness: “being centered”, “being present”, those words are used – and I think that’s me making that connection to mindfulness. Though, nobody has told me that, it is kind of the same idea of being able to be aware of your body, be aware of your surroundings, aware of your thoughts. Awareness in general. You gotta know yourself in order for us to effectively be able to help you.
Parnell: And that’s it. Those are all my questions. You did so well!
Stimpson: Thank you!
Mindfulness is embedded in acupuncture as a facet of alternative medicine and alternative medicine is a modern name for ancient practices passed down from generation to generation. Although Stimpson is working toward becoming an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine herbalist, much of what she is learning is as she says, a different “lens” in understanding practices that have long since been established in the culture of the Caribbean people – where her familial roots stem. She holds Caribbean medicinal practices that have been passed down to her through generations of mothers and grandmothers, that are being applied in a way that allows the Black diaspora to be reconnected with practices unnamed or devalued in a pseudo post-colonial Western society, but deeply familiar – encoded into the DNA of the Black body. It is this natural connection to each other and awareness of self that manifests in the mindfulness inclusive language of Black diasporic medicine, Chinese medicine, acupuncture – alternative medicine more generally.