onsdag 20 april 2011

The core of Chinese medicine: diagnostics, Ents, and one-needle doctors

I try to think quite a lot about bigger questions in Chinese medicine. Such as the core principles, the overriding concepts, the keys to open the deeper doors of being a good Classical Chinese Medicine practitioner.

First of all, there´s intent. The intent of the practitioner is not everything, but it is a lot. Hence the classical practitioners who practice a lot of qigong and meditation, as both these gives you more energy, cleaner energy, and a cleaner mind that has the ability to affect patients with clearer, greater levels of intent. Within Daoism, there are many specific practices done in becoming aware of the intent we have, how we manifest it out into the world, how we clean it up and start growing up as human beings when we take responsibility for it, and how intent is specifically used with the patient in Chinese medicine.

Next would be diagnosis. This starts as soon as the practitioner sees the patient in front of him or her, and is the looking part of diagnosis. The more skilled and experienced the practitioner, the more instantly they can see and diagnose while looking. The other diagnostic techniques are then added to deepen the initial diagnosis or correct it.

There are many diagnostic techniques, but next of the main ones would be feeling the pulse. Chinese medicine takes the pulse along three places off the radial bone, and train in how to feel all three as a unit as well as separately, and then at different depths, followed by how they weave together and with ever more precise skills in what they show from inside the patient. Usually, about 28 different standardized pulses are listed. Each pulse is linked to different organs, functions or depths in the person. This training is seen as standard in good Chinese medicine, and with time truly exceptional diagnostics can be done through the subtle skill of feeling the pulse.

The third main one is looking at the tounge. In Chinese medicine, diagnostics exist for how the tounge looks and what this is linked to inside the body. The changes of the tounge indicate the deeper, more long-time disturbances in body and mind.

Weaving these together, with huge amounts of information in how they interact and what they show, is the beginning of putting together a diagnosis. All these are done each time a patient turns up, as the state of the person changes from time to time – from hour to hour, really. Treatment is then adapted after the changes and improvements in the patient´s body, mind, and energy-system.

But now, let´s talk about trees. Or Ents, if you prefer.
Classical Chinese Medicine talks about leaf – branch – trunk – root. In this simple phrase lies a whole art and a science. Chinese thinking and Daoism often use simple phrases – like the classical ones, often with four characters, called four-character phrases – to both summarize and hide information in. When it comes to practical application and training, many of these phrases can take a whole lifetime to learn in depth and the amount of information inside them is huge.
Leaf means the very outskirts of the patient´s system and illness or imbalance. Western medicine treats leaf quite a lot, as it sees this part as important. Often, unfortunately, this mean medication becoming permanent in treating a leaf, instead of solving the problem itself, with added wear-and-tear on the system.
Branch is deeper in the patient and their illness, but not by much. Trunk is becoming deep in, and here many problems and illnesses can be solved so well that they actually give up and go away for a long time.
Root is the deepest aspect of the patient and problem. If a practitioner is skilled enough to solve things here, it will often also mean a significant effect on the patient´s life and view of reality too, not just their physical health.

So, most people would say, let´s solve this problem at the root and I won´t be ill, right?

Yes. Well. Life doesn´t work quite like that.
Part of skilled Chinese medicine diagnostics is judging where the treatment can start. With some patients, you have to start at the level of leaf, maybe even remain treating there for quite some time, if the illness or imbalance in their system has gone on for a very long time and gone very deep, or if they are old and the system is less stable.
Then, with each treatment, it becomes more and more clear how that patient´s particular system and mind functions, and the treatment can slowly go deeper. Treating root issues is sometimes never done at all, as it is so deep that it could trigger a lot of side-effects – the soil, as it were, can´t support working at that level, and needs to be nourished first.

The rumoured one-needle doctors are legends in this. They are said to be so skilled in diagnostics and treament from three-four decades of experience, that they diagnose well enough to only need very few needles to create an incredible effect. At best, at the very apex of skill, this is done with only one needle in the exact right place for everything else to unravel and open like dominoes falling or a forest rising in spring.

These are the things I am thinking of, a Westerner learning acupuncture in the West in the 21st century.


Daniel Skyle © 2010