tisdag 31 maj 2011

Chinese medicine and awareness: the demand for good presence if you work with acupuncture

Chinese medicine demands a high level of presence and awareness. The more relaxed awareness the practitioner has, the better they will be able to treat a patient. The less they have, the less the treatments will work as the full version of classical chinese medicine can work to increase health and balance in the patient.

Chinese medicine has a close relationship with spiritual training. The oldest versions of it from 2500+ years ago is simply Daoism and the daoist medicine. Then this seems to have shifted about 2500 years ago to slowly become a separate chinese medicine, Classical Chinese Medicine, CCM. This in turn shifted into a new version from the 1950´s and onwards with what is called Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM. From TCM, fragments have been created into various versions of Western acupuncture in the West. For each step, the skills in awareness and the precise training-techniques that builds it has been lost.

All these versions still exist today, but Daoist medicine and Classical Chinese Medicine are rare, and only few practitioners know them. However, there´s a surge of interest among Western acupuncturists for the original, old skills, so maybe they will be kept alive still (see another post for the Guild of Classical Chinese Medicine). The most common to find is TCM, while the more watered down versions of Western acupuncture are spreading inside the Western healthcare system.

The amount of information that a skilled acupuncturist uses while diagnosing a patient is stunningly big. But even once learned and seamlessly used, this can easily become a filter between the practitioner and the patient, and good awareness-skills are crucial to actually see the patient in front of you. The more relaxed and clear presence the practitioner has, the easier it will be to do a deeper diagnosis and create a more effective treatment plan.

In Daoism, a key phrase is bianhua, change. It is part of the core teachings of Daoism. Since millenia back, it has become an equal key factor in Chinese medicine, completely permeating Chinese medical thought and treatments. Daoism uses specific meditation-techniques and qigong to build up a stable, healthy body with a growing awareness and balance in the practitioner. The more relaxed awareness a practitioner has, the more clearly they can see how change arises in waves, culminates, and then flows into the next change. With time, with training, you start to perceive the how change weaves together in the long run, in the larger space. This is part of the Daoist training to slowly clean up and see through the red dust, hongchen, referred to in the phrase from the Daodejing, the Classic of the Way and the Power, ”Who can make the muddy clear? Let it be still, and it will become clearer.”

Experience with patients will increase the awareness somewhat, but to really train relaxed awareness to the precise tool it can be, a combination of sitting meditation and qigong is usually needed.

Qigong gives good physical health and builds more energy in the system, which is something that supports awareness. Just the sitting practice without qigong will be a help, but also lack the stability and support that qigong gives. It´s like an acupuncture clinic or an acupuncturist: they both have to stand on the earth to work.
A safe, stable practice of meditation and qigong helps to keep the practitioner´s awareness polished and clean as the years and patients go by. Like in many other fields, it´s not a question of being able to do it in the short run, the difficulty lies in keeping or increasing that skill over time. Buddhism says that we are like mirrors where dust has gathered, making us unable to see the light inside the mirror itself. Meditation gently brushes away the dust and lets us see the light that was there all the time. Awareness for good Chinese medical skill is the same: it has to be polished and gently cleaned each day to keep it bright.

A trained, relaxed awareness will make the treatments have a stronger and much more precise effect. This becomes even more important as treatments go on and the initial change has been set in motion. To accurately see the patient´s system – energy, mind, body, and all the diagnostic information as well as what weave that can be made in that pattern – demands very good awareness, otherwise the changes shifting in it might be missed, and the chance to tailor the treatment for better effect quite easily be lost. The treatment will still help; the question becomes how much more it could have been adapated for that patient and how much deeper the balance could have gone in their system.

For every needling, the method is above all not to miss the rooting in the spirit.”
Larre and Rochat, Rooted in Spirit, a translation of Chapter 8 of
the Neijing Suwen

This sentence illustrates Classical Chinese Medicine and its views on treatment. With a stable and relaxed awareness that is highly trained, the acupuncturist will be more able to diagnose the spirit and the emotional and mental states of the patient, and with rather more clarity choose which treatments will balance them and weave together with their health and surroundings. Without good awareness skills, these levels of Chinese medicine will remain locked to the practitioner. (The quote also goes into the use of intent in Chinese medicine, a basic skill of Classical Chinese Medicine and something we will look deeper at in future posts.)
The ability to diagnose through higher energetic sensitivity and awareness is echoed by the author of Shang Han Lun, the herbal text from 200 AD on how cold-related illnessess are treated. Zhang Zhongjing says, in his famous quote:

"The skilful doctor knows by observation, the mediocre doctor by interrogation, the ordinary doctor by palpation."
Zhang Zhongjing, 200 AD, author of Shang Han Lun

(A view recently echoed by Jeffrey Yuan during his conference. A post reporting on his conference about the Divergent Channels is coming soon). A skilled practitioner of Chinese medicine will, to quote Jason Robertson from his and Dr Wang´s book, of course use and have clinical skill in all three. But in the long run and the more skilled you get, the more you can diagnose just from the techniques of awareness, and through more clearly seeing the diagnostic signs in the patient.

You can become aware of and notice so much, even before that first touch.


Daniel Skyle © 2011