I am coming off of a full weekend of seminars by Jeffery Yuen. Jeffery Yuen is the guru of sorts for my school. I don’t mean guru in the mascot sense, but in the foundational sense. He is an 88th generation Doaist monk who is also a clinician of medicine. He lectures for hours without a break. At points when my brain sizzles and by body whimpers with biological needs I consider he may be a machine.
He is one I am eager to follow not because of the extraordinary precision and detail contained in his mind, but because all of that detail is grounded by a very clear story line, a belief structure, and a philosophy rooted in lineage and in experience.
I filled two notebooks of notes in 4 days. What I am holding at the forefront of my mind at present has to do with changes.
He talked about the importance of changing the mind in order to change experience. I have heard others talk in Buddhist terms about creating our reality with our mind, or healing ourselves with our mind. I was left unimpressed. But he had a way of stating his argument that won me over to the Buddhist side.
He claimed that some people who live with multiple personalities contained within their one body experience insulin dependent diabetes in one personality and it is not at all present in another personality. This is the power of the mind to create the condition of health.
I have long believed that we can create illness in our mind and manifest it in our body. But he argued from a Chinese medical perspective that our bodily imbalances can also create imbalances in our mind. In other words, taking the inverse, we can heal negative thought patterns, ‘autoimmune thoughts’ as it were, by treating the body.
He mentioned that we may see patients that present with a lengthy history of why they are ill. Our work as healing practitioners can be to present reasons why they might be well. This is a narrative I can get on board with.
I think about Jesus saying things like, “physician, heal thyself”.
I am encouraged that I am presented with these notions I encountered as a youngster through Bernie Siegel and the power of positive thinking, and other notions that we should heal the mind-spirit-body splits. But this weekend I encountered an physiological explanation as to why this works. And it made sense to me. Chinese medicine makes sense to my narrative mind.
In Chinese medicine (as comprehended by one woman who has completed 3 nigh weeks of classes), there is a concept of essence, life source, and mind/spirit. Essence is the densest concept, qi (life source) is less dense, and is that which quickens the blood and gives spark and motion to our existence, and the mind/spirit is the most ethereal part. These parts are treated by different channels or ‘meridians’ and are affected differently by diet, practice, beliefs, and the stuff we encounter in the world like germs and viruses.
Our essence comes in part from our parents at conception, and in part it comes from the cosmos. He did a great theological explanation of the choices we have to make about how we will see the world — as a cosmic predetermined plan (in which case, who is in charge and how much power do we have?) or agreements in which we exercise a lot of free will. He made the point repeatedly that in Chinese culture the notion of free will is part of the understanding, so it is not up for religious debate like it is in this culture.
He deftly handled this explanation in a rather factual way, and shared a bit of his own belief system. What I most liked was his explanation that how we believe will determine a lot of how we treat, and how our patients will heal or not heal.
My mind is tired. It is also changing on a lot of things. We finally got our home together enough to invite friends over last night. I spent an hour at the dog park on this perfect fall leaning day in the mountains. I have missed being outdoors and walking downtown during this rigorous schedule.
Karma, our new little cattle dog is chewing on the rug and wanting my attention, Allen is off playing with his college friends, and Louie is chewing his rawhide bone on the bed. It’s time to roast some butternut squash to make soup for lunches for the day ahead.
I suppose the most powerful lesson I’m remembering and relearning so far is that the stories we tell ourselves are the stories we will incarnate. I believe this was my mission as a Presbyterian clergywoman. I wanted to tell the story differently – bigger somehow, open-er. Chinese medicine tells the story of our life in very broad brush strokes, even though it seems obsessed with very tiny points all over the body.
The story we tell ourselves is the reality we create. Sometimes it’s good to acknowledge our reality. But it is also wise to be prudent about projecting our challenges deeply or far into the future. I am choosing rich stories, stories of fullness and playful delight to tell myself as I roll toward sleep. It is changing my mind. But I still love my morning cup of coffee. They haven’t pried that away from me. Quite yet.