Another scholar reviews his first month of Sagely Living

chinese_medicine_scholarshipThis is an article that Michael Givens, author of the recent article “Why does Chinese Medicine seem so complicated?” sent to me last night. He was one of the first on board for the Year of Sagely Living, but doesn’t have an online home – so he’s posting his insights here.


Since this is the last day of January and near the new moon (and new seasonal node), I thought it would be fitting to write up a review of the month for me in this “Year of Sagely Living.” I have been participating, but have not shared my experience in the discussion, so perhaps I’ll try to continue to after this with more monthly reviews. I am very appreciative of all of your efforts, Eric, and inspiration. This project could not have come at a better time.

At the beginning of the month I made the following personal commitment:
1. School work

I committed myself to study for each class on one day a week for two hours, as well as a 30 minute formulas review each day. I also choose one other subject each day to research further and deeper than was taught to me. I have 8 classes, so I needed to combine two classes to one day (one hour for each). This may seem like not a lot of studying for classes, but I have to keep in balance a family (I have two children) and my wife is also a Naturopathic Physician who is beginning to open her own practice. So, I have to keep my study time focused and efficient.

2. Classical Texts Personal Study

I am enrolled in two classical texts courses at NCNM (one on the Shanghan Lun and the other on the 19 lines of Pathology in the Neijing), but they are focused on exploring the texts in Chinese, so much of the work is in improving my continuous study of classical Chinese as well as deeply engaging specific aspects of the essential classical texts. In my personal study, I am committed to not only familiarize myself with the classical cannon of Chinese medicine, but to know as much of it by heart as I can. So, I practice memorizing lines or specific information from the texts. In this project, I committed my self to continue to study the Ling Shu (of the Neijing), the Shanghan Lun, the NanJing, the Jia YiJing and the Shennong Bencao Jing. I have been studying these texts for a while now, so I chose specific chapters to focus on, or specific texts to complete (if I hadn’t read it through completely yet). I committed myself to focusing on this study at least two hours a day, two days a week. This is as much as I am able to fit into my schedule.

3. Writing

I also committed myself to writing for a half an hour a day, every day. I wanted to choose a topic and explore it in depth. I also committed myself to writing one article per week to be submitted somewhere or saved for a later submission.

So, how successful was I with this project?

Terribly unsuccessful, I’m sad to say. Yet, it has been a great lesson for me, and by continuing to simply view it as a lesson and an experiment, I did not beat myself up about it, but rather, kept reminding myself of my goal. In the first week (prior to school beginning) I was very successful in my study and classical text reading, yet could not get myself to sit down to write. By the time school began, I was able to maintain only my classical text study. This may seem strange, for it means that I neglected my school studies and chose my personal studies, but it shows me that when I do not have my life in balance, I uphold only what I truly want and put off what I need to do, but can do later.

I feel that I put a lot of intention into my plan that was really quite intense and in doing so I believe that I sabotaged myself. It was as if since I couldn’t wait to get started, I jumped in too quickly, planning on doing too much, and the energy I put into my plan carried too much weight; I simply couldn’t find a rhythm with it. By the third week though, I felt much more detached from the outcome and the plan itself, and simply tried every day to participate as much as I could in my commitment, and soon I found myself much more on track than the weeks before. This last week, I have even written an article which Eric graciously posted. Thus, I’ve greatly benefited from this project already, but I have also learned to return to following more of a middle path in life, to keep the extremes and the intensity to a more harmonious central rhythmic flow.

I enjoyed focusing on the Scholar aspect of this time, though I see that it is the time of the Gall Bladder moving toward the Liver. Though I think this has been a perfect time of year (especially for students) to focus on strengthening the Scholar, another perspective of the twelve archetypes of the seasons is that it is the Ram who is the true scholar, the Small Intestine (the sixth month), the King Wen archetype, who, locked away, worked out the scholarly mapping of the energy of the Bagua. The Gall Bladder, who is the Rat (this first month), is much more of the King Wu archetype, who, seeing the eclipse at noon (much like transition from the old year to the new year) initiated the great battle and marched his troops to attack the Shang by “crossing the great water.”

Thus, perhaps I was more taken away with my Gall Bladder intensity of initiating this project, and unable to maintain the scholar’s rhythm and cultivation. I am hoping that as the Wood energy rises in this node of “Li Chun” or “Spring Standing Up” time of the Liver, I will be able to sustain my plan and continue to flow with it. In harmonizing with the Qi of the seasons, I believe I will be able to do so. I’ll let you know how it went.

Michael Givens

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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