Year of Sagely Living : Scholarship and study as a category of practice

Be sure to check out the original introduction to the Year of Sagely Living. You can read other articles on the project by choosing the “Year of Sagely Living” category in the dropdown menu to your right.

This is an important category for me, as I am in my third year of Classical Chinese medicine study. I think it is very important to become a scholar in this medicine, both to increase my clinical effectiveness and to help develop the contemporary understanding of ancient medical science. I’ve listed below my initial thoughts for practices. I’d love to hear your ideas, both comments on what I’ve written and practices you are considering. Because January is just around the corner, I will announce my practice choices tomorrow. After that, I will post a brief entry each day that touches on my experience with the practice as well as revealing substantive content related to what I learned.

  • For students: Study each course subject every day for at least half an hour. EVERY class. For me, next term – this would mean doing half an hour of the following subjects every day:
    • Advanced cosmology and symbolism
    • Medicinary practicum
    • Qigong
    • Business seminar
    • Formulas
    • Pharmacology
    • Acu-moxa point lecture
    • Acu-moxa point techniques
    • Internal medicine

That’s 4.5 hours a day!!! In the interest of maintaining sanity, I could reduce a few of these – combining some of the less intense courses. If you have fewer classes you may not need to do this. Further, to make this more realistic and participants more likely to succeed, I suggest the following nuances :

  • No study of a given subject on the day one is in class for it – just a quick review of notes at the end of that day.
  • Utilize “in between times” for half an hour of flashcard study, for instance. For me, I’m often on the bus for at least an hour a day. That hour could take care of two subjects. The idea is simply to engage the material each day for enough time to actually learn, re-learn, memorize or come to some conclusion about something. This will substantially reduce the amount of time needed to study for any tests and should increase overall comprehension.
  • Daily writing: One of the best ways to learn something is to explain it to others – or attempt to. Writing, whether in an online or offline form, can really help solidify your concepts. Ask yourself questions about the material. For instance, let’s say you’re studying herbs. Take five herbs you’ve learned and ask yourself basic questions about those herbs such as: how does this herb work? what are its properties? what qualities does it share with other herbs you’ve learned? where does it grow and how? how long has it been used in Chinese herbal medicine? what conditions is it used to treat? what does the Shennong Bencao Jing say about it (if anything?). The same can be done with formulas, similar questions could be asked of points. Write out these answers in a narrative form, read it over and write anything else you can think of about the herb. If you are currently working on a major paper, project or thesis/dissertation, try writing for half an hour a day. Just sit down and write from your last stopping point.
  • Reading the classics: Study, and even memorization, of the Classic texts of Chinese medicine should be a basic practice of any scholar in this field. Choose one classic you would like to come into greater relationship with – this could be a non CM classic for folks who prefer that, but it should be an ancient text. If you can read the original language, do that. If not, find a highly recommended English translation. Read a chapter or two each day, seeking to understand all you can. Write for 5-10 minutes about what you’ve learned. Alternatively, simply memorize the lines of text. It would be best to do this in the original language. You might get through less using this method, but it could be quite valuable. You could also combine the two techniques as follows: (a) choose 15 lines of text from a Classic, (b) on the first day, memorize the first line in the original and with a translation, (c) on the second day, study that line carefully – writing a page about what you’ve learned, (d) repeat b and c with the second line and so on.
  • Take a subject you have a basic grasp of to the next level. Produce an in depth article about this subject that reflects the deeper understanding. Spend the first half of the month studying and the second half writing.
  • Memorize an essential set of facts that you work with on a regular basis, but that you don’t have ready at hand. This is especially good for students and new practitioners. For instance, I do not have all of the points and point names memorized yet. I might take the month to well and truly memorize as many point names as I can. To get through most of them, I could take ten points a day – create flashcards for them, and study them whenever possible throughout the day.
  • Dive deeply into a basic principle of Chinese medicine – such as Yin/Yang, the 5 Elements or the 6 Qi. Pick a book each day and find every elaboration of these principles in that book, record them, consider that grouping. Or you could do a Chant database search for that term or set of terms. You could look through lecture notes, as well. Write each day about your evolving understanding of that concept several times a week. You could clean this up in the last days of the month and produce an article for publication on your own blog or website or that of someone else. Just ask!
  • Learn Chinese (or another language) using self-study and report progress each day. I wrote a post recently of some great free resources to help with a practice like this. You could also buy a proven product like Rosetta Stone. Obviously you won’t be able to learn the language in a month, but you could make significant progress.


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.

View all posts by Eric Grey - Website: