Carolyn Barron is one of the most poetic, original, and nourishing acupuncturists and East Asian Medicine (EAM) practitioners that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Before she began her career as a physician, she was a writer and deeply entrenched in the Riot Grrrl movement. In her own words, Carolyn explains that it was an experience that “oriented her compass towards a feminist model of healthcare that respects and reveres the sacredness of life, without a reliance upon medicines and institutions that are exploitive of natural resources and the body en masse.” Like we said, the lady beautifully and poignantly puts the meta in the metaphysical.
Therefore, it was no surprise that her newest home, the AcuTemple, also echoes a similar otherworldly essence. Nestled in a bungalow behind a Hollywood storefront, Carolyn has given the space the same meticulous care and elemental attention that she generously offers all of her patients. Intrigued to learn more about the process that goes into creating an intentional portal of healing and restoration, we sat down with Carolyn and listened to her lyrically take us through her newest home of healing.
Q. You’ve recently moved your clinic into a gorgeous new space AKA the AcuTemple. What was the intention behind creating the new space?
Thank you for the kind words! I practice what I call eco-sensual healthcare, and a key tenant of my work is engaging my patients in the full spectrum of sensation in order to break out of holding patterns and to ‘rewild’ the body. As a poet first and a doctor second, I have always been interested in arresting the senses, in using verbal and physical forms to lull people into liminal spaces that transcend place and time. I love spaces that remind people of the sacred, spaces that coax forth visions, spaces that surprise and assault with wonder and show us that magic can be languishing casually behind any corner, even an alleyway in Hollywood with no visible signage (intentionally confounding). A better poet than I (Yeats, if you’re asking) once said that ‘the world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper,’ which I think about often as I try on different ways of helping my patients awaken to the sensorial splendors of being in a body, the resplendent banquet of life upon this earth.
Q. As a practitioner of East Asian Medicine, you clearly have a close relationship with the elements. How did the elements play into the design of the space?
Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal are the soul of East Asian Medicine and the fundamental universal schema that governs all processes upon our planet. I am in communion with the elements all day, and I think they influence me in ways both subtle and profound. Without having literal personifications in the space à la placing a chalice of water in my water corner, I have tried to find a way that all of their energies can roam free and be ripe for the picking. The dank earthen plaster on the walls hearkens to the fecundity of Earth, and emits the most erotic perfume on hot days that reminds me of clay pots and wine cellars. The flow of the space from archway to archway makes you feel like you are water flowing through an underground cave. Occasionally a rogue sunbeam will waltz into the room and liberate all the brilliance from a hunk of amethyst or a metal surface. I spend obscene amounts at the 99 Cents Only Store buying prayer candles to illuminate the space by candlelight, why even have a temple if there are no pyrotechnics? And the tendrils of the infamous Botanarchy pothos plants often find their way into my patient’s hair with a woody salute.
Then there are the room names. I have two treatment rooms in the space with distinct personalities that I named after my favorite acupuncture points. The front treatment room has been christened ‘Cloud Gate’ after a beloved Metal element point, because it feels like you are being lulled out of the depths of sorrow in the bosom of an amethyst cloud. I named the second treatment room after my most cherished Earth element point, Abundant Splendor, because something about the cavernous vibes and dried plants makes me feel like I am living inside of a gourd, exalting in security, stability, satiety, serenity.
Q. How long did the build and fit out process take? Did you work with like-minded partners?
The temple was finessed, like all great things, through blood, guts, and friendship. My fiancé Gabriel Garcia is a therapist who woodworks out of our garage to alchemize his ennui (it works!). He made or restored every single piece of wood furniture in the AcuTemple, even going so far as to weave the caned rocking chair himself (a Hans Wegner pilfered from the trash, of all places). My friend Katherine Waronker (the chic-est person I know) wove her design spells through and through, and her partner Amy Morgenstern of Kamp Studios plastered the walls by hand like an old school Venetian artisan. My BFF hooked me up with his set design crew to build out the temple (always hire set designers, they know a thing or two about visual poetry), the gallery wall was hung by the hands of an oldest friend, the signs were painted by the resplendent @mollysmagickglass, and my mom posed as general contractor from her post in the heavens (she lived to finesse a DIY and savored a homespun renovation). In a matter of months, we wrested a curvy, babelicious temple out of a linear fluorescent box. There is hope for us all!
Q. Do you feel the in-clinic experience has changed since moving to the new temple? Whether for yourself or your patients?
I have a full practice, and I used to go home every night feeling zorched like I gave everything I had inside of me. The new space has a totally negentropic quality to it, somehow defying all odds and making me more energetic at the end of the day. Now I go home and do yoga for two hours to vintage goth jams and have time to jauntily run errands or drink wine on the floor of Botanarchy with friends. I think it has the same effect on my patients, operating like some sort of qi restoration portal.
Q. How do you think our external environments affect our inner world?
The temple within and the temple throughout are inextricably linked in all ways! This is a core tenant of Traditional East Asian Medicine, and of course, alchemy. We are embedded in an ecosystem, both influenced by the forces of nature and an embodiment of Her cycles and patterns. ‘As above so below,’ declares the sacred maxim of alchemy, reminding us that the stirring of wind, the rushing of water, the condensation of clouds…each of these processes has its imprint in the body and psyche. We are embedded in a qi matrix with all of creation. How energy — or climatic factors like wind, water, and fire — moves through a space is going to have profound implications on our inner world, our health, our feelings. Strong Fire energy will impart an air of danger and transgression. Metal in deficit can make us feel vulnerable, like we are lacking barrier systems and protective shields. It goes on and on!
Q. How do you find creating a space for your family or business different from creating a space solely for yourself?
I think of space as an altar to carry forth will and purpose. In placing and arranging the sacred artifacts, we have to consider: Who is this space dedicated to? What kind of magic are you weaving? What tools do you need to carry forth your will? How clear is your statement of intent? Are you willing to get rid of everything that does not uphold your vision?
My mission has always been to make medicine sacred and accessible, to offer a communion with your body in an approachable environment that doesn’t skimp on beauty and magic. At home we can fill shelves with books and records and things with psychical weight, but an AcuTemple is a space for worship and a business should exist for the benefit of others, so it needs to be blank enough for them to imprint with their own magic, have empty space to invite the numinous to flow through.
Carolyn is a licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Physician of East Asian Medicine, and emissary of the Taoist Alchemical Arts whose work is an exploration of Nature’s intelligence as it manifests in the body, rewilding healthcare for the refinement & restoration of all beings. Her AcuTemple resides within Botanarchy Herbs + Acupuncture in Hollywood, CA. You can read more about her offering and book a consultation with her at www.botanarchy.com or follow her on social here.