I have completed my first week of Chinese Medicine. I am reflecting on some of the points of parallel and the points of divergence to my first Masters degree which was boldly called ‘Divinity’.
There is room for what I call magical thinking in Chinese Medical school when studied from the Classical tradition. As we learned about I Ching and practices of Taoism, we cast lots through coins (tossing them) and reading the symbols and then reading from the I Ching the oracle for our class in this semester. Frankly, it seemed not much further fetched than dropping the Bible open and pointing to a randomly selected page for one’s devotion and direction. This impression may be no more than a grossly simplistic understanding. But I suspect that as Toaism is as old as the Judeo Christian history at least, and probably about 2,000 years older, they both have rather primitive inclinations toward magical thinking.
By primitive I do not mean insignificant and I do not mean naive or unsophisticated. I mean this more in terms of a time of the iron age — or in Chinese medicine and Taoism, the Stone Age during which ancestral worship was prioritized.
Lineage matters a great deal in Chinese Medicine and I am coming to learn that I am studying in a school that takes its lineage seriously. The lineage reaches back to the years Constantine nationalized Christianity.
Here are some things I heard in class this week that really resonated with me — they made sense in a deep way and I felt a relief that I was no longer in a Scientific Method model. This may change as I get further into the internal medicine of herbalism and the mysteries of needling points along meridian lines.
Chinese Medicine is by its nature metaphorical. You can not see the meridians, you simply come to the conclusion in your judgment that they are there.
Qi (chi) is better translated as life source than as ‘energy’. Energy is related to work and qi is related to far more than the capacity to work. I am still pondering the heretical instincts within me that want to consider the possiblity that qi as life source might be a useful metaphor for my theological leanings toward embodiment theology. As we hold something of the divine within us, we also hold qi. Qi connects our entire body on multiple levels in the theory I am studying. Emotional, constitutional, superficial. Skin deep, muscle deep, spirit deep, emotional deep, DNA deep. I’m not ready to commit here, but I am enjoying the sifting of the metaphors as they float through my traditional Christian teachings.
I am studying classical Chinese medicine as compared to Traditional Chinese medicine. Lineage matters more concretely in Classically trained acupuncturists and I will learn different emphases and information that traditionally trained acupuncturists. I will be learning and practicing Qi Gong every week and I will learn how Taoism influences Chinese medicine.
There is an emphasis on competency in this program that I find challenging and a huge relief after my massage therapy school experience where showing up was the sole criteria for success. I will demonstrate my knowlege through numerous tests and projects. So far not too many papers have been assigned, but there are very very large books I am required to read and ingest (rather like Ezekiel eating the scroll).
What I am learning is all about balance between extremes that contain one another. We are encouraged to choose our path and to refrain from fundamentalism on any score. We drink teas to learn herbs and grow the herbs we study in our school garden. My class is very experiential and kinesthetic and I’m enjoying watching the extroverts at play in the fields of this education.
I look forward to finding my path of study and exercise and family time. I’ve made it to the dog park a few times this week and we made it to the movies last night. I realize some things I highly praise will have to back burner for a while with this new intriguing course of study, about which I feel the fires of curiosity. I have yet to decide what I am willing to drop. I am hoping to find time for cooking and relaxing and will develop a higher efficiency of learning.
My 23 classmates and I make up the largest class ever at Daoist Traditions. I am grateful for the spirit of encouragement, support, and energy our group brings. There is nary a soul who wishes another harm and there is a willingness to support, help, and encourage one another. Many of us are body workers and massage therapists, social workers, international travelers.
The main principle of Chinese Medical theory is that everything is changing all the time. That is certainly true for our life. Allen has been incredibly supportive, making sure that I have what I need in terms of time, food, water, dog care, work out time, and a sounding board. I am so fortunate to be in partnership with such a loving, generous, and willing man. I do not take this for granted… at all.
One of the sayings at the school is ‘be still and wait for the qi’. it reminds me of the psalm: be still and know that I am God.
My body is still more often than not of late. But my mind does scurry like the rabbit who lives behind our yard. Perhaps you have srambled about with me through these words…. I wanted to get something posted to get this blog on a roll.
I will try to be more with the flow on the next post, but I will also let what is, be.
I am learning patience with myself and am most gratefully sponging up all the wisdom in my midst.
Does Qi = Spirit?