Contemporary practitioners and students of Chinese medicine face an enormous educational challenge, which has shifted somewhat over the past few decades. When I began my studies of Chinese medicine nearly three decades ago, it was difficult to find adequate information in English. Now there is A LOT of information available, and a quickly increasing number of translations of historical texts into English. One could easily read constantly for many years and barely scratch the surface.
Yet, I’ve always thought that emphasis on information suppresses insight. I think the problem with Chinese medicine at this point isn’t a lack of information, even info about the true nature of the modern version, but the lack of insight about how to practice it. Yet, so few people seem to get that we are drowning in a sea of information that practitioners are TAUGHT to STAGNATE in their minds. Such is the nature of modern TCM, which provides fixed interpretations of symptoms and signs as the MANIFESTATIONS of a dysfunction and disease, rather than learning to sort out the dynamic process of how each individual develops and embodies their health challenges.
Classical Chinese Medicine is a thinking process, rather than just a great collection of information
I believe that learning Chinese medicine should be the quest to master the process of differentiating. Classifying the manifestations of distress into patterns is only the beginning of diagnosis. We do our best diagnostic work when we look into the manifest distress to see how/why it is develops and is being perpetuated or sustained. When the person’s condition is chronic or degenerative, we ask ourselves what factors have accumulated and why. Learning that degree of differentiation can inform the practitioner how to stimulate each individual to facilitate healing, rather than simply how to effectively control the expression of distress.
The wealth of wisdom in Chinese medicine is based on the practitioners ability to understand the embodied spirit as a responsive being focused on surviving and protecting itself. We must learn to “sort out” symptoms — to differentiate pathogenic factors from the embodied spirit’s response, and learn to support that intrinsic response without suppressing it. We have SO MUCH to learn about Chinese medicine in modern America, and almost all of it is based on first unlearning how we think we understand the nature of the world and the quest to engage it to facilitate healing.