Bob Duggan, acupuncturist, teacher, and visionary, died a little over a year ago. In the time since, the world has changed by his absence. We are all deprived of his wisdom and his leadership. Acupuncturists, patients, SOPHIA students (School of Philosophy and Healing in Action), the community at Penn North Neighborhood Center, to name a few, have lost a mentor. I learned a different way of being in this world when I worked with Bob for many years at Tai Sophia Institute (now MUIH).
Bob’s accomplishments were many, but his impact was in how he changed the world for the better, one person at a time. His promise to all of us was that in his presence, “life will show up as a warm, creative, vision of the future.” Here is a small glimpse of that vision, a selection of Bob’s writings and speakings, and a couple stories about him.
Bob Duggan, Founder and President Emeritus, Maryland University of Integrative Health [EXCERPT]
Bob was a true pioneer in the field of integrative health and an assertive voice for wellness in America. He served as an educator, acupuncture practitioner, author, thought leader, and advocate, as well as an advisor to policymakers and organizations. . . .
Bob earned a master’s degree in human relations and community studies from New York University and a master’s degree in moral theology from St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York. His master’s qualification in acupuncture was from the College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in the United Kingdom. Before focusing on health as a profession and a calling, Bob served as a priest in the U.S. and abroad.
Mentored from an early age by Ivan Illich, Bob often attributed his ability to challenge common assumptions and remain curious to Illich’s influence. This quote from Illich was highlighted in one of Bob’s books and was evidenced in much of Bob’s work: “In every society the dominant image of death determines the prevalent concept of health.”
Throughout his career, Bob advocated for patients and for the shifts necessary to create a wellness model of health. He testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, spoke at the National Institutes of Health and the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and presented at the first TEDx MidAtlantic Conference. He also served as chairman of the Maryland State Board of Acupuncture and as a board member for Howard County’s Horizon Foundation. He pioneered relationships with universities and health systems including Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania.
A trailblazer for the acupuncture profession, in 1974, Bob and Dianne Connelly co-founded one of the first acupuncture clinics in the country, The Centre for Traditional Acupuncture in Columbia, Maryland. Joining them in this ambitious venture were their esteemed colleagues J. R. Worsley, Jack Daniel, Haig Ignatius, Erica Lazaro, and Warren Ross. From this early beginning, the Centre evolved into the Traditional Acupuncture Institute (TAI). TAI launched the nation’s second master’s degree in acupuncture in 1981, which then became the first to be accredited in 1985.
Bob went on to practice traditional acupuncture for 44 years. Over that time, he provided tens of thousands of treatments for patients who came to see him from around the nation. Bob also worked with Tai Sophia’s Community Health Initiative (CHI), which began by treating people with addictions at the Baltimore Detention Center and expanded to additional sites, including Penn North Neighborhood Center in inner-city Baltimore. Bob continued his work with Penn North until he became unable to do so. The work lives on through his family, alumni of Tai Sophia/MUIH, and others.
10 things I learned directly from Bob that make my life, and the lives of those around me, better every day.
by Lance David Isakov, M.Ac., L.Ac., (Village Wellness) October 7, 2016
1. Upset is optional: Choose not to live in the drama. We have a choice in how we relate to what’s happening and the perspective we take on it. The idea that we have a choice with how we respond to life’s circumstances brings freedom.
2. Allow yourself to be a beginner: It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, that’s how we learn. At any stage of life, allowing oneself to be a beginner opens up a bigger world of possibility, progress, and change.
3. Is it a problem or an opportunity?: This question provides a simple shift in perspective that gives you power to grow and learn rather than suffer.
4. Your symptom is your teacher: What if the body is wise? When it’s out of balance it sends a signal, or symptom. When we learn to listen to our symptoms we can truly heal. Understanding why you have a headache, for example, can lead you to empowered self awareness and healing. Often taking a medication masks the symptom but doesn’t grow your soul.
5. Will this serve the future generations?: This question reminds us to think big and remember that we matter. When speaking or acting, ask yourself “would this word or act make my ancestors proud?” and “will my words or act serve the future generations?”
6. Where do you feel it in your body? When you have an upset, ask yourself “where do I feel this in my body?” and allow the feeling. This is a simple and effective way to foster the connection between your mind and body and listen to it’s wisdom.
7. Listen: To truly listen means to pay more attention to the speaker than the thoughts in your own head.
8. Acknowledge others and be acknowledged. If someone said something nice to Bob, he would say, “I am practicing taking in acknowledgement, would you say that again so i can really take it in?” This is a powerful and challenging practice that creates so much beauty in the world – try it!
9. Word as Needle: Bob taught that the right words can have the same power of any acupuncture needle, medicine, herb, or drug.
10. Be who you are: How dare you not share the gifts you have with the world?
Common Sense for the Healing Arts, Essays by Robert M. Duggan (2003) [Selections]
I write this book to share the thought that our main task as we move between our birth and our death is to learn to live peacefully day-by-day. . . Living peacefully day-by-day demands common sense: eat moderately, breathe deeply, drink wisely, get plenty of sleep, accept life as it comes. And as we move through life, we have a marvelous resource — our symptoms, which remind us to slow down, be peaceful, to care for ourselves. It’s wondrous to me to think of the symptoms my body creates as my teachers. What especially keeps me going is knowing that life is about love, family, friends, community; about reaping the wisdom of the ancestors, then passing it on to our children and grandchildren.
Being an Observer
I have written and spoken frequently about the importance of being an observer, of seeing life exactly as it is and then bowing to it, accepting life fully, just as it is. The Tao, the Oneness of life, calls us to accept life, to live in the presence of life living us. It affirms that life is perfectly okay just as we find it. . . Living fully may simply be the the act of balancing two side of what seems a paradox, of balancing effort and effortlessness, being and doing, action and inaction, giving and receiving.
As I write, our nation in in the midst of a conflict in Kosovo. We are in opposition. Us versus Them. The people of our tradition versus people of another tradition, of one language versus those of another. . . Wonderful possibilities emerge as we begin to see the oneness. Most of the time, though, we dwell in an illusion of separateness . . . It’s generally accepted in our culture that we separate out who’s wrong and who’s right, who’s bad and who’s good. It’s hard for us to imagine how we would behave in a world where we didn’t place blame. What would it mean if we began looking for how one action begat another action begat another action? In such a world, how would we view the guns and addictions in the inner city? Would we see them as a call to the oneness?
Our nation’s founders . . based our democracy on respect for life as it appears, in diverse faiths and ideas, on compromise, and on service of the future. Now, however, more and more politicians ignore this heritage; they use oppositional tactics; they govern with an either/or, win/lose mentality in which those with the most power win. Many excellent leaders are recognizing this shift and are leaving the political arena in disgust or despair. Democracy is diminished when we become impervious about our own ideas and fail to accept life as it presents itself in others.
Evolving as Healers — An Interview with Bob Duggan of Tai Sophia Institute [EXCERPT]
. . . Everyone is a healer. Because every word we speak . . . everything I say to Tim is either going to inspire Tim and open Tim up, or, if I get mean with Tim, Tim will contract and feel tight. But if he feels open and inspired, I think it is well-documented that his immune system is going to be stronger. If he’s upset and tight, he’s going to be much more vulnerable to closing down and to disease.
So, I think of the obligation of everyone to be a healer . . . everyone. The parents, the people in your office, and you with the people in your office. Yes, there are sometimes when a specific technique can be helpful. When I tore the quadriceps muscles on my knee, it was important that there was a surgeon to put it back together, and an anesthesiologist to keep me quiet while he did. But I did look to see that those individuals had healing qualities before I went to the surgery.
So that’s point number one, we all have to be healers. The technique is secondary to the healing. I take the tools, the acupuncture needle or the surgical scalpel, as an extension of the doctor. I take the herb given by Rebecca as an extension of Rebecca’s words and life force. I take the homeopathic preparation given by my daughter to my grandchild as empowered by her healing presence.
Breaking the Iron Triangle: Reducing Health-Care Costs in Corporate America
by Janene Holzberg (Baltimore Sun), December 30, 2012 [ABRIDGED]
Bob Duggan frequently refers to “our national disease-care system” when he talks about his new book, employing a term he has used across his 40-plus years as a healing-arts clinician and educator.
“We are spending fortunes and still not giving quality health care, and 40 million people have no access [to care] at all,” he said. “There would be no ‘fiscal cliff’ if unnecessary health-care expenses were eliminated.”
To bolster that argument, he quotes estimates that $1.2 trillion of the country’s annual health-care expenditures could be avoided if individuals made common-sense lifestyle changes.
Life expectancy in the United States is ranked 50th in the world, below most developed nations and some developing nations,” he said, attributing his statement to data published on the CIA World Factbook website.
Yet in 2009, U.S. federal, state and local governments, corporations and individuals together spent $2.5 trillion, or $8,047 per person, on health care, he writes, quoting National Health Expenditures 2009 Highlights.
“We must turn the medical conversation away from a war on disease and fear of our bodies, and expand our focus on learning and understanding ways of living well,” he writes.
“Moving from abstraction to embodied consciousness” with Robert Duggan
From the Audio Set: “Mysteries of Consciousness” Teleseminar Series, by Institute of Noetic Sciences, June 22, 2011
Abstraction may be our Original Sin. And “Consciousness” may be one of our most destructive abstractions. It seems odd to me to discuss consciousness when most individuals whom I encounter do not have an embodied sensory conscious awareness of their own body. A “headache” automatically becomes a problem to be tended with a pill rather than a moment of conscious awakening in which to remember that we have a “head” and that the complaint that it makes to us when we have our Observer awake may be teaching us to get more sleep, or water, or better quality food or less judgment about our neighbor or whatever. Is sensory awareness of the daily phenomena of life the only real consciousness . . . and when we are awake to that, we are awake to the whole?