7 Ways to Keep Focused on a Lifelong Journey

classical chinese medicine shiftToday, I truly start my experience as a practitioner of Classical Chinese Medicine.  It’s my first shift at Pettygrove Classical Chinese Medicine clinic in Portland.  I have the honor of learning from David Berkshire, LAc – a local practitioner who specializes in a variation of Worsley style five element acupuncture.  I have been excited about this for a long time.  At the same time, I’ve been anxious about my abilities and worried that I’ll do something horribly wrong!

Also, as I enter Year 4 of this medical training, I am beginning to feel a little fatigued.

My situation is familiar to many of you.  Anything worth doing takes time.  This medicine is complex and worth working on for a while.  Nonetheless, I have a family and a life and hopes and aspirations and sometimes I’d like to just get on with it.  🙂  Regardless of your profession or stage in life, I think you can appreciate this sentiment and the situation that inspired it.  Consider this got me thinking about how to keep energized when the road before one is long and potentially bumpy.  I figured I’d share my thoughts with you.  Please share your reactions and your own words of wisdom in the comments.

1.  Inspiring literature : One of the easiest ways I have found to stay focused is to maintain a small library of books that easily inspire me.  For my part, I choose writing that is closely related to Classical Chinese Medicine.  A partial list of my “inspiration library” reveals:

  1. Dao De Jing(Star Version)
  2. Huangdi Neijing
  3. Learning to be a Sage
  4. Notes from classes taught by Arnaud Versluys, Heiner Fruehauf and others
  5. The Web of Life
  6. Wholeness of Nature

2.  Old journals/writing : I’m not super reliable in my journal writing, but it is consistent enough that I can read back through and get a sense for where I was in the recent and distant past.  It is helpful for two reasons.  First, I can see how far I’ve come and become energized by my progress.  Second, I can sample my youthful (!) enthusiasm and use that to propel me through.

3.  Go back to the source : Everyone came to their profession/topic for a different reason.  When I get a little distant from my passion, I just think back to what motivated me in the first place.  For me, the essence is twofold.  First, I love the Classical Chinese way of thinking about human beings and the natural environment we live in.  Also, a deep desire to be part of a profession that demands of me total integrity and closeness to nature has always been part of my driving force.  To revisit these, I need to simply sit in a beautiful place (Portland abounds with them) and consider those things.  I might spend 20 minutes considering the interplay of Yin and Yang in everything around me.  Alternatively, I might vision the kind of practitioner I see myself being.

4.  Talk to people further along on the path : Talking to experienced Chinese medicine physicians goes a long way in keeping me energized.  When I am privileged to hear someone like Heiner Fruehauf talk about his method of treating patients and the beauty of those interactions, I feel renewed.  When I make time to talk with my friend Abdallah B. Stickley about his prolific and inspired practice, I am buoyed.  It’s also been helpful shadowing with some of the recently graduated interns during their rotations – watching the effortless way they interact with patients and wield the needles helps calm my fears and excite me about my future.

5.  Talk to people further back on the path : Nothing gets me going quicker than talking to folks new to the field of Classical Chinese Medicine.  It’s one of the reasons I love being associated with an institution of higher education.  Every year, new students come in – full of enthusiasm and wonder.  It lightens the heart and makes me forget my worries about my future or my irritation with the present.  At NCNM, we have a mentoring program where older students take on the responsibility for helping out new students.  That has certainly been a good experience.

6.  Brainstorming : Sometimes none of the above seems to work.  So, I start mindmapping.  I’ll put my central concern or question in the center of the page and just start working from there.  For instance, I might put the question, “Why become a physician?” in the center of my page.  From there I let the ideas flow.  “To have the privilege of accompanying fellow human beings on their path through life,” “To alleviate suffering in those who need it,” “To get paid to consciously work with my own energy,” and the list goes on.  From there I often get sparked to think of my chosen profession in new ways.  In fact, many of my blog articles come from brainstorming sessions like that one.

7.  Spiritual practice : Certainly there is nothing better to align me with my purpose as a student of Classical Chinese Medicine than my spiritual practice.  Whatever tradition (or no-tradition) you come from, simply dwelling in that place of spirit can deeply nourish every part of your life.  I find that when I am doing meditation, prayer, Qigong and reading sacred texts, peacefulness about my path comes without my forcing it.  If I sat down to meditate with worries on my mind or heaviness in my heart, I scarcely remember it when I stand back up.

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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