Magic and the Art of Trust

By Keith Varnum

“You go in ocean, you study with me. You no go in ocean, you no study with me.”

My first lesson in the art of trust was from a wily Japanese macrobiotics teacher named Noboru Muramoto. Picture the free spirit martial arts instructor in the movie “Karate Kid” with a wacky sense of humor.

I’d gone to Muramoto’s house by Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to have my very first lesson in the ancient Eastern art of acupuncture. About forty aspiring souls showed up that cold winter’s night for this beginner class in Chinese acupuncture. None of us knew Muramoto or each other.

The slight, middle-aged Muramoto greets us with the prophetic words, “You want to study acupuncture with me, you follow me now.”

Like lemmings marching to their fate in the sea, we followed him into the frigid February fog on Ocean Beach by the park. Then he spoke only the second sentence we’d heard from his mouth,

“You go in ocean, you study with me. You no go in ocean, you no study with me.”

He then quickly shed all his clothes and dove into the next wave!

Only half of the twentysome-year-olds dropped their threads and followed suit (birthday suit).

Being zany by nature and desperate for change in my life, I was one of the “Fools for God” –as such folk are affectionately called in India.

The air was fifty degrees and the water felt twice that cold. I never felt such instant contraction in my body. To survive, all my bodily systems tightened up to conserve as much warmth as possible against the icy onslaught of the water.

When we threw on our clothes and scampered back to Muramoto’s house after our group swim, we strangers spontaneously huddled together on the floor to create a kind of human heat combustion to warm us up.

Then the third statement from our wild mentor came forth, “Here are ten acupuncture needles for each of you. Choose a partner. Intuitively stick the needles in your partner to build their chi energy and warm them up.”

I took my needles, turned to the closest victim, and plunged my first acupuncture needles into a human body. My young partner immediately said he felt more warm, calm … yet also more alert and alive than he’d felt for years. He was the first of thousands of satisfied patients that I would treat over the next thirty years of my successful career as a professional acupuncturist!

I noticed with astonishment that everyone in the class that night enjoyed their spontaneous acupuncture treatments by their greenhorn doctors! No one winced with pain or shouted in shock from a misguided needle. I was astonished!

For years I asked myself, “Was Muramoto reckless? Nuts? … or ‘crazy like a fox?’”

Radical or Natural Trust?

Was Muramoto coming from radical trust? How radical was it really? After all, no one was hurt in the slightest by all the novice needlers.

Or was he coming from natural trust? … In himself? In the Universe? In his natural connection to Universal Knowing? In our natural connection to our Universal Knowing?

After years of experimenting with healing similar to his style, I’ve concluded that Muramoto was demonstrating to us the magic of the art of trust:

He allowed natural (divine) selection to separate the wheat from the chaff, the people ready to open their intuitive skills and those not yet ripe.

Within his invitation to dive into the cold, dark sea was an opportunity to trust the moment, to trust our bodies to the ocean, and to trust our heartfelt desire for growth.

Those who chose to trust that moment of opportunity and empowerment received a second invitation: Muramoto offered each of us a chance to trust our instincts to needle another person’s body in just the right places. And, as patients, we each had to drop into that same space of trust to allow a novice to play doctor sticking their needles in our bodies

(In the standard acupuncture schools, students must study anatomy, physiology and needle theory for months—often years—before they are given needles to treat someone.)

In that class Muramoto taught us natural trust. Trust in our own knowing nature.

On that night I learned from this wise, modern-day samurai that I can trust my inner guidance. Ever since I’ve put my intuition to good use with every client—and with every challenging life situation that’s come down my path.