As her business moves into the new space on South Street, Lauren Buckley reflects on her nearly 20 years of traditional Chinese medicine practice.
As a college student, Lauren Buckley embarked on spiritual Native American journeys throughout the mammoth red mountains of Arizona deserts.
Although she was studying allopathic medicine, the Media native found herself marveled by majestic and mystical wonders like the Sedona and Grand Canyon, gradually unearthing her aptitude for alternative medicine.
“Arizona is such a spiritual place. There’s no way to deny it. You just feel so moved by the energy,” she said. “It draws a real traditional healership — spiritual realm — more than other places. And, so, it felt like that was really a big part of where I got my interest in acupuncture.”
Surroundings would come to be a recurring stimulus for Buckley.
Over the next several years, the now-Newbold resident collected more than 20 years of traditional Chinese medical training across the world. From skills acquired in San Diego to Sichuan province, Buckley has brought her scope of healing practices to South Philly.
Although Buckley continues to run the main South Philly Community Acupuncture on East Passyunk Avenue, which opened in 2010, the business expanded to Media this year, as well as recently joined the breadth of therapeutic modalities at Healing Arts Collective, located at 9th and South streets.
“(Healing Arts Collective) is great, because I can really complement healership with all the other therapists, because there’s such a wide collective of therapists here,” she said.
South Philly Community Acupuncture, originally located in Queen Village and founded by Buckley in 2007, strives to make acupuncture not only accessible but affordable to local residents.
Buckley was introduced to this approach toward acupuncture while performing post-grad work at Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Sichuan province in Mainland China. Following her husband to Asia before they were married, Buckley spent a year not only immersing in firsthand traditional Chinese medicine, but also traveling around southeast Asia, China, Tibet, Nepal and India.
Differing from a private practice with one-on-one sessions, South Philly Community Acupuncture encourages therapy in group settings, as a few people will receive the treatment at once. Although patients retain their privacy, as the room is divided with full-length curtains, Buckley says this idea of shared spaces induces positive effects on the body.
“It’s a more profound feeling of realization and healing. … Feeling the peace of others might even bring you peace. We learn so much from just being around each other,” Buckley said. “It’s holistic, and it’s not compartmentalized — and that’s not how medicine and healing should be, because we don’t heal in parts. We heal in whole.”
Seeing more patients at once allows lower prices, as she explains that, to gain the benefits entirely, acupuncture needs to be performed more often when beginning treatment.
Buckley, who graduated from the University of Arizona in 1997 with a bachelor’s of science degree in community health education, gradually gravitated from Western to Eastern medicine even prior to earning a master’s of science degree in oriental medicine from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, where she also became licensed in acupuncture.
Along with being introduced to holistic medicine by her uncle in the medical field, while studying in the Copper State, she took on many mindfulness-based classes where she was exposed to healing techniques like massage and meditation. Dr. Andrew Weil, a prolific doctor in alternative medicine, was also teaching at the school during that time, as in 1994, he founded University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
Continuingly moved by the desert terrain, Buckley recalls even feeling inspired by the urban regions of Arizona.
“Tusan is a really healing-oriented city,” Buckley said.
Following graduation, she made her way back to the East Coast, working at a coat check job in Manhattan while saving up money toward her master’s. Living in Brooklyn for a year, she was ready to seek new adventure, deciding to earn a degree in the field she felt most passionate toward.
Constantly craving a change of atmosphere, Buckley bounced back toward the Pacific for graduate school.
“(The school) was right by the ocean — another really powerfully energetic, healthy place,” she said.
Once graduating with a MSOM degree in 2002, she, once again, ventured cross-country to the Philadelphia area, reconnecting and eventually falling in love with a friend from high school — her now-husband.
The following year, when the couple journeyed to Asia, Buckley was not solely exposed to community acupuncture, but she also dabbled in an assortment of blended allopathic and alternative medicine in fields, including special in pediatrics, gynecology, cardiology, interology and pain management, furthering her study of healing through a mindful lens.
“The spiritual part really comes from connecting with other people and just realizing how important it is to know oneself in order to help treat others,” she said.
Honing in on skills in various departments, Buckley says she felt validation in that lessons she learned in the U.S. aligned with the practices taught in China.
When the couple moved back to the United States, they lived in Florida where Buckley opened a private practice for two years.
After becoming pregnant with her first son, they settled in the Philly area where Buckley revisited her acupuncture business. Seeing a majority of higher socioeconomic classes in private practices, this time, she then wanted to approach the treatment from a community perspective.
“Since I’ve lived here since 2007, the way our communities have grown and integrated and come together … it’s really bringing more neighborhoods together and I like to be a part of that,” she said. “….(South Philly is) really becoming such a melting pot, and there’s a big push for building the community, making it better, connecting with each other, and I feel like this business model allows me to do that.”
Even though she has five sons now, Buckley has not lost her zeal for the practice or her patients, sometimes seeing nearly 200 people a week with a growing staff.
South Philly Community Acupuncture’s ability to mend is not confined to needles, as the group conducts silent auction donations to schools, animal welfare societies, civil servant organizations, like the police and fire departments libraries, community centers, LGTBQ associations and charities that benefit underserved population.
“There’s a real spirituality for me in people telling me their life story and holding that sacred space for them and being a trusted individual for someone coming for help and then I can help them,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing being in the moment — in people’s joy and sadness. I think that’s been the most spiritual part of the medicine for me.”