About the Nèijīng Institute

The Nèijīng (內經) Institute aspires to transform both the process and content of all aspects of Chinese Medicine education. Our focus ranges from public education for individuals wanting to know more about supporting their own lives with its enduring wisdom to students and practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. We’ve integrated several important principles into our educational initiative, and welcome comments and questions from interested parties.

Our educational offerings will all include substantial experiential learning, even those for general audiences. We believe the best way for contemporary people to learn the wisdom of Chinese medicine is for them to engage small pieces of it in their experience. Many classes will begin with some standing qìgōng (氣功) exercise, which suspends the individual’s qì (氣) between Heaven and Earth, and challenges them to sōng (鬆). Who can’t use a little more of that in their lives? And, experiential learning will help participants recognize these ideas within our lives, rather than leaving them as abstract phenomena.

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Language expresses a strong influence on an individual’s perception and thought. The Nèijīng Institute is committed to exploring and learning from classical and (pre-modern) historical usages and meanings of various Chinese medicine terms. Our interactive lexicon is already stimulating a transformation in my writing style, and perhaps will gradually influence others in their writing about Chinese medicine. I am already using more Chinese terminology; using pīnyīn (拼音) with the character in parentheses as reference, because even with tones, pīnyīn is far from unique. There are many characters with the same pīnyīn. I trust that using accurate terminology will allows me to be more precise in my meaning, and eventually readers will deepen their knowledge and understanding. I hope many will use the lexicon to support their learning pre-modern ideas about Chinese medicine, and gradually improve their ability to read technical material with an increasing amount of the terminology in Chinese.

We believe that acupuncture training has grown tragically abstract and disembodied. We aspire to restore its nature as an embodied craft (shù (術)) to the practice of acupuncture, and theory based on the various and complex movements of qì (氣) that sustain individual life. The memorization of large amounts of disjointed information simply creates stagnation within an individual’s mind. On the other hand, learning how to perceive the wonders and mysteries of human life through the small group of ‘theories’ (shù (數)), each of which consists of a few symbolic images, can allow one gradually to see and understand the jīngmài (經脈) as a complex though integrated system that supports human life.

We begin our analysis of the craft with the very act of inserting a needle. Rather than thinking of needle insertion as an assertive (yáng (陽)) act, which is now generally done with the aid of an insertion tube to keep the needle from bending when it is pushed to pierce the closure at the skin, we treat acupuncture as an interaction with the patient’s qì (氣) from the very beginning of the process. We gently place the needle tip on the skin and hold it there, while practicing sōng (鬆) in standing meditation. When the patient’s wèiqì (衛氣) unblocks at the tip of the needle, it will begin cycling through its opening and closing functions, rather than being locked in closure, as is quite common in people. If the practitioner is already sōng (鬆) when their wèiqì (衛氣) opens, the needle slips in, without the patient experiencing substantial pain at the skin.

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About Steve

Steven Alpern practices acupuncture and Chinese medicine as applied clinical philosophy. He opened the Nèijīng (內經) Institute to share his vision of transformational healing with the acupuncture profession and contemporary society. The Nèijīng Institute is engaged in several educational initiatives. We offer ‘retreat style’ continuing education programs for acupuncturists, as well as more broadly focused classes for anyone interested in learning some ancient Chinese wisdom concerning the nature of life in health and disease. We have also developed an interactive lexicon of classical Chinese terminology to support contemporary practitioners, students, and others to use the language and concepts of Chinese medicine more accurately and incisively.

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Practicing acupuncture is a sacred trust, as it allows the practitioner to communicate directly with the embodied spirit of a patient. Many acupuncturists aspire to stimulate profound and transformational healing by supporting the individual’s intrinsic healing process. The conceptual framework of acupuncture is based on identifying, and thus differentiating between, directional movements. The so-called ‘channels and vessels’ (jīngmài (經脈)) are symbolic representations of directional movements, rather than being the ‘tubes,’ like so much plumbing, in which the qì (氣) and blood flow to manage and nourish those movements. While this distinction may seem rather technical (and even a bit petty) on the surface, it has profound implications for one’s understanding of the art (shù (術)) of acupuncture.

Steven’s quest to learn, share, and restore ancient Chinese wisdom has led him to begin studying Nèijīng (內經) directly in the classical Chinese language. To that end, he has worked with Sabine Wilms on selected chapters since 2012. He has learned much from this process, including enriching his understanding of why studying Nèijīng (內經) requires both a very high degree of literacy in classical Chinese language and direct experiential knowledge of the principles of acupuncture, based on transmission of its teachings. His work with the text reflects the sensibilities of a practitioner, rather than those of an academic; he highlights topics based on his experiential understanding of the art of acupuncture, rather than more typical academic criteria. Yet, his is a personal study, so readers should use it for inspiration in studying the classical arts of acupuncture and Chinese medicine (where it is helpful for them), rather than as reference.

Steven began his studies of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in 1982 as a private student of Tseui Wei in Oakland, CA. He later attended the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, completing those formal studies in January 1986. He later studied with Kiko Matsumoto for a few years, and was inspired to learn and use her empirical methods to test the effectiveness of specific treatment strategies in individuals, before doing a treatment. This degree of diagnostic acuity has always been the ‘gold standard’ for him, and he has continued finding ways to pursue it.

Since 1994 he has focused his studies on the inspired teachings of Jeffrey Yuen, and is recognized for his work applying the wisdom of the channel complexes (aka five systems of channels and vessels) in clinical practice. Steven’s efforts to develop a working knowledge of Jeffrey Yuen’s rich classical teachings led him to develop unique contributions to the medicine. One of these, the feedback-pulse method, is an empirical system for confirming diagnostic impressions gathered from the pulse. He also developed the embodied spirit process work he calls “Neo-natal Dǎoyǐn (導引),” which focuses on identifying and probing release of deeply habituated holding patterns in an individual’s sinew activation.

From Jeffrey Yuen: “Steve Alpern continues the rich tradition of Chinese Medicine through his inquisitive mind from which he brings out the essence, subtleties, and beauty inherent in this healing art. Mr. Alpern challenges clinicians to be medical thinkers rather than technicians, and thus preserves the integrity within the depths of Chinese medicine.”

Steven has published several short essays on topics such as “Zen and the Art of Chinese Medicine”, “Discovering the Alchemy of Healing” and “Beware the Rampaging Hun.” Those essays and other writings can be found in the Nèijīng Institute membership area. Blog posts and other shorter writings are available on the Nèijīng Institute Blog.

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