Chinese medicine and professional development

liver_chinese_organ_network_generalI have been thinking quite a bit about my February Year of Sagely Living goal. Before I reveal what I’d like to do this month, I want to look at the symbolism of this month in a little more detail. Let’s revisit the original explanation in the inagural post of this project.

February – Liver, Chou 丑 (Ox): Strategy/Business: This category will contain practices in the realm of business development and strategic planning in the professional world. Why this pairing? The Liver is the general of the body, so has a natural affinity for this kind of activity.

Liver as the General

In the Neijing (Chapter 8), it is said:


gān zhě jiáng jùn zhī guān móu lù chū yān

Translations vary, of course. Here are my favorites: “The liver is the official of managing the horsepower, planning and strategizing emerge from it.” “The liver is the general who is valiant and resourceful”

I think a lot of people who are interested in Chinese medicine tend to shy away from the old General. We don’t like to hear that we have a Wood voice, we shy away from the concept of an organ as associated with war. We look down on people who express their anger, even in appropriate ways. I don’t feel this way. I embrace the General. The wood is the motivating and moving force in nature, in our bodies, and in our organizations. I reckon that my school and our profession in general could use a little invigoration. Certainly it must be kept in balance – but a focus on this powerful force can only be a boon for me and mine.

When I think about the General, I think of so many of the personal development gurus I’ve known and learned from over the years. David Allen. Steven Covey. Anthony Robbins. Many others. I’m not implying that these folks are constitutionally Wood (though certainly a couple of them are) but simply that what they do resonates with the principle we’re trying to invoke this month. A focus on developing ourselves into the kinds of people that effortlessly and courageously interact with the world in some of its more difficult and potentially conflict-ridden arenas – business being one of those. So, resonant activities for the Year of Sagely Living should take the General as their inspiration. They should involve managing the horsepower (resources), planning, strategizing and valiant effort.

February – the end of Winter

About now in Oregon, everyone is complaining about the weather. Constitutionally damp and cold people have finally become saturated and get depressed. Even folks with strong Spleen energy start to long for the easy warmth and beauty of spring and summer. But I’m smiling. Because I feel the energy on the upswing. In fact, the winter is as good as gone! My bulbs are sprouting vigorously. Buds are growing fat on the Japanese maple. My dog is shedding. I am strangely compelled to play frisbee in the rain. February for me is all about opening myself to the increased activity of the spring season. In that way – a focus on the strongly outward realm of business is certainly warranted. It will help shake out the cobwebs. 🙂

I do recognize that the weather is still quite cold most places in the Northern hemisphere. In fact, the agricultural nodes for Liver time all relate to intense cold. Further, the time associated with the Liver (1-3am) is certainly a deep and dark time of the day. This is why we didn’t choose to put a type of activity here that was strongly physical, demanding lots of opening of pores or outdoor activity. Do keep this limitation in mind when crafting your goals for February.

Many realms of professional development :my interpretation of February’s category

A variety of activities could fit in this category. On the more low-key end of things, you might think about reading a book on small business, leadership development or the history of some great leader in your religious or cultural tradition. On the more intensive side of things, you might consider developing a business plan (if you don’t already have one), setting some new goals for your (already existing) business, or taking a professional development course. On a more subtle level, you could consider doing a series of meditations on Liver, general, and the wood element in general and how those forces are functioning in your life.

This category is a little challenging for me because I’m already engaged in so many streams of habit that would fit in it.  For instance, I’m working my GTD system.  I’m the President AND Vice President of my class.  I’m engaged in a variety of leadership development groups in Portland and at NCNM.  My partner and I are working through our own business plan while we are both taking formal classes about business! Because of all of this, I think I will take one of the more low-key options.  I’m going to be reading one of two books (or their audiobook versions) – either Principle Centered Leadership by Steven Covey or Personal Power II by Anthony Robbins.  Along with this, I will be doing daily meditations concerning my future business – simply stilling my mind and letting myself be guided.  Simple, but I think powerful.

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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