I am a reasonably successful person on a number of fronts. I have a beautiful family that thrives on open and honest communication, shared fun and mutual support. I have many close friends with whom I can discuss nearly everything. I get excellent grades in school and feel I am beginning to get a grasp on some of the fundamental tenets of Chinese medicine.
I am rewarded for this with the knowledge itself, of course, but also numerous scholarships and other honors. I have become integrally involved in my school through student government and, most recently, the NCNM Presidential Ambassadors Leadership Society. My life was not always this way, but that’s certainly a story for another time. Chinese medicine – especially my educational experience with it – has changed my life. For the better.
I wanted to share with you seven of the most important habits or practices I have learned in my time as a patient and student of Chinese medicine. Hopefully they will be useful for you as well. These habits help me to be a more effective student, a better parent and partner, a generally happier person and able to do more productive work with a better attitude. They are listed in no particular order.
- Frequent consumption of Ju Hua (chrysanthemum flower) + Gou Qi Zi (goji/wolf berry, lycium) + Dang Gui (angelica sinensis) tea: This is a slight variation of a tea that one of our professors repeatedly urged us to drink so that our “ears and eyes will be bright” and we can be great students. You should be able to pick up all of these herbs at your local Chinese formulary without a prescription. You can also find them at most well stocked natural foods stores and Chinese groceries. Look for organic sources if you can and make sure the herbs themselves seem vital – deep colors and not too dry. Put equal parts in a teapot or generously sized teaball. I use a glass teapot that’s actually meant for the brewing of french press coffee – that way I can make plenty and the herbs can sit in there for a while, really steeping. I drink this tea several times a week – in the winter term I drank it every day.
- Use of the Yijing for contemplation and guidance: I take my self-cultivation seriously. That being said, I know that many people are highly suspicious of divination like the Yijing and the Tarot. Personally, I have found it a highly effective way to break through mental muddiness. If I find myself feeling a bit lost or confused, I just sit down with the Yijing, focus on my question and just let the meditative process of throwing the oracle (I use sticks fashioned from bamboo skewers) do its work on me. I don’t need to make any fantastic claims of communing with the Spirits to tell you that it has been a life-changing way for me to work through seemingly intractable problems. I can recommend very highly Total I Ching: Myths for Change written by the incredible Stephen Karcher.
- Daily Qigong: I don’t always have the time, energy, or desire to do a full form – but every day I at least do some practice that is part of the lineage I am fortunate to have been brought into. Sometimes that’s a walking meditation, sometimes a practice of full body shaking with visualization, sometimes sitting meditation, sometimes repeated execution of some part of a form – generally I just let my body be my guide. You could do this with any physical practice you have been introduced to – my partner prefers Yoga, a close friend enjoys walking meditation in the Zen tradition. But it’s about consistent practice. It WILL transform you.
- Stimulation of “panacea” points: There are acupuncture points which are widely regarded as preventative for a wide variety of conditions. These points, when stimulated on a regular basis, boost the Qi and Blood of the entire body and help to keep the channels flowing freely. Because most of you probably don’t know how to use acupuncture needles safely, you can use acupressure to stimulate the points. Just use the location guides below if you don’t know where the points are, feel around in the area indicated until you find something pretty tender. Apply pressure – it should feel pretty tender as you do it – for 15-30 seconds at a time, repeat 9 times on each side. I do sometimes use needles, but more often use indirect moxibustion.The points that I use most often in this way follow:
- *Stomach-36 (Zu San Li): The mother of all preventative points. Find Stomach-36 here.
- *Large Intestine-4 (He Gu): Often used by the general public for headaches – but great for so much more. Find Large Intestine-4 here.
- *Governing Vessel-20 (Bai Hui): Not normally considered a “panacea,” but great for students and other people who are trapped too often in their heads (that means you, bloggers). Find Governing Vessel-20 here.
- Demonstrate respect for myself and others: Learning Chinese medicine has made me a more compassionate and respectful human being. I think the study of medicine tends to make anyone more capable of feeling empathy for the suffering of other people – it certainly has had that effect on me. But the respect part I learned through my study of medical classics and Confucian literature. The more respect I show for my teachers and fellow students – even to the point of seeming a little quaint – the more abundance I experience flowing back to me.
- Study diligently and consistently: ( Edit: I have recently written a post about 8 Scholarship Winning Habits I Learned through Chinese medicine study that readers of this post may be interested in. ) School has always been very easy for me. I was bored stiff all through primary school and didn’t even bother going to high school. In college and my first graduate degree I began to step up to the plate, but often did only as much as I felt like doing at any moment – that was usually enough to keep me in the upper levels of the class. When I got to NCNM I suddenly had a reason to study – what I learned or failed to learn was going (IS going) to mean the difference between my being able to help someone or not. Add to that the deep work ethic embedded in the medical classics and demonstrated by my esteemed professors and you have a recipe for my conversion to dutiful student. I do my very best to study something Chinese medicine related every single day. During school I usually study 5-6 hours a day – not counting classes. I expect this to continue.
- Be in awe of the complexity of the universe: Although I have a tendency to get maybe a little too Confucian with all my respect this and study that, I have also learned from the Daoist roots of this medicine. I have learned to often stand back from the sometimes meticulous detail involved in learning Chinese medicine and just laugh out loud at the absurd and overwhelming complexity of human beings and the universe they live in. I find myself bowing my head humbly in awe of this place and time and always keep in mind that as much as I learn, there will always be much more to learn.
Implementing these habits was a pretty organic process – but some parts (diligent study, daily Qigong) have taken some… uh… gentle encouragement on the part of my Will. I credit the nearly religious adherence to these habits with my success in school and life in general.
About Eric Grey
Hi - I'm the founder of this site and the primary master of all functions here. When I'm not writing, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.