Still learning Chinese medicine : through the birth canal

chinese medicine student

I’ve been thinking about writing for about two weeks – I looked back at a couple of posts I wrote recently and realized that I had resolved to write more frequently.  The idea was to just put out there what I was learning.  A noble goal – and one to which I am still committed.  The fact of the matter is that I’ve been learning a lot, a whole lot.  But something happened to me during the summer term – sometime around August, I think.  It was a combination of several things:



  1. My clinic adventures dealt a mighty blow to my self-confidence.
  2. Various personal explorations and experiences left me in a very introspective frame of mind.
  3. I got tired of being on the computer so much.
  4. I started several seminar/discipleship series that commanded a huge amount of attention and time (they’re still doing that).

As I thought about writing on Chinese Medicine Central, I began to have this curious sensation of looking over my last 6 months or so and seeing the time for what it has been.  It took me a while to fully render the image and be able to put it into words.  It’s nothing short of being born again. No part of my life has been immune to the birthing process.

It’s been a squirming, squalling, squishy, endorphin-heavy mess.  I can only imagine this is part of many folks’ education process in Chinese medicine.  This may be particularly true in programs that have discipleship components or choose to teach in a more Classical manner.  I imagine that for some more TCM oriented students, the final year might feel different.

Why do I say this?

At NCNM, when engaged with whole-heartedly, nothing short of a total rearrangement of the Self takes place.  Now, there are plenty of little nagging problems at the school.  It’s a relatively new program with lofty ideals, and institutions often take a long… long time to work out kinks.  Still, the overall structure of the thing is sound, and I think it’s making a decent practitioner out of me.  However, it’s been a hell of a ride.  The first year, my entire sense of the universe and myself was shattered. Swallowed whole, partially digested, regurgitated and reconstituted.  Yes, my friends, my entire experience of life became something like an owl pellet.  There’s no prettying that one up.

The second year was about finding my way. I found myself strongly attracted to herbal medicine and found that I had a natural affinity for learning herbs and their personalities.  Then I met Arnaud Versluys, which ignited my love for the TEXTS of Classical Chinese Medicine.  It’s important to say that, during the year before, Heiner Fruehauf had already enflamed my passion for the medicine, for imaginative thinking and for the core principles and ethos of the Classical Chinese way of doing things.  These two streams of thought converged, and with my fragile confidence with the herbs, I became aware that I actually COULD do this with the rest of my life.

The third year was nothing short of a blitzkrieg of information – my self-confidence increased as I came to understand formulas. In Clinical Observation, I felt I was finally able to get some kind of diagnosis from a patient before the doctor spoke.  My spiritual and personal development began to shift, however, and this started to destabilize my already fragile sense of who I am in this medicine.  This destabilization continued through the summer between my third and fourth years, with the added stress of actually being IN CLINIC with patients.  This is when the long slow push through the birth canal began in earnest.chinese medicine school

I truly have had the sensation of being squeezed, almost to the point where I can’t really think.  My ability to drum up any meta commentary about anything has been dramatically reduced.  I haven’t had the time or energy to do much but just experience what’s in front of me.  I haven’t been studying as deeply or as broadly as I was before.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the departure from NCNM of my most active mentor, Arnaud Versluys, shook me in ways that took me a while to recover from.  In fact, that experience made me question pretty much everything – in a similar way to my first year adventures.  But there is the sensation of increased pressure and urgency due to my impending graduation (June 2009).

All of this has resulted, only in the last couple of days, in a completely reordered list of priorities and best practices. I have been in personal development and spiritual flux for about ten years, and I have the curious sensation of having found a set of practices that I’m going to be sticking with for a while.  This has coincided with a similar stabilization in the realm of Chinese medicine practice.  Over the coming days, I’d like to share these things with my readers.  I hope it will be of some help to those of you who might be undergoing a similar experience.

The summary is this, my friends:  It’s been a rough one, I’m stepping out of the long dark and I’m happy to be back.  Thanks for your encouragement and patience.


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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.

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