I have been actively working on creating the clinic I want to work in for about two solid years. Because I started so early, I had the chance to go through a lot of different stages of development before my income was on the line. I entertained different options. A Chinese medicine and massage based retreat center? An inpatient facility on the edge of town providing top of the line holistic medical care to low-income seniors? A more spa-oriented facility, attempting to bring classical principles into the high-end relaxation industry? Weaving my own concepts into the clinical focus of another business? Running away screaming into the mountains, never to be seen again?
Believe me, I considered a lot of possibilities.
Fortunately, I’ve had a partner in all of this madness – who happens also to be my life partner. Amanda Barp, a licensed massage therapist in Portland, has been in business for herself and in a variety of clinical settings, for a couple of years. She has had the opportunity to test, in the real world, some of the concepts that I could only run through in my mind. We knew from the beginning that we would want to work together, the only question was what that was really going to look like.
The preparation really kicked into high gear over the last twelve months. We settled on a business name (Watershed Community Wellness) and decided we wanted to create a clinic of our own, pulling together like-minded partners if the chance arose. I started to do some of the heavy lifting, thinking about processes and procedures, parts of town and building types, legal structures and financial details. We were also fortunate to be joined in our efforts by Brandt Stickley, new professor at NCNM and a dear friend. This, along with a fertile relationship with our graphic and web designer, Angus Maguire of Outside the Lines, really accelerated the visioning process of our fledgling clinic.
However, somewhere along the way, things got stuck. There was progress being made, for sure, we even secured an ideal starting space in March 2009. We began to have clinic meetings, working out details and trying to figure out the purpose and principles we wanted to use as we developed as a business. Purchases were made. Phone lines were secured. Business cards were designed. By most external measures, real forward momentum was building. It was beautiful! It was inspiring!
But, I was stuck. I couldn’t see forward into the future of Watershed Community Wellness. I couldn’t imagine us establishing ourselves as a vital member of the Portland health care scene. I couldn’t get excited about our potential. I didn’t want to focus on projects. I can’t speak for the others, but I do believe that we were all feeling something similar. Bright spots of illumination (particularly around certain concepts or subsets of the overall functioning of the clinic) in an otherwise muddy and stagnant whole.
I began to panic. See, this clinic and the work I personally want to do within it, means a lot to me. I’ve deferred a lot of other dreams, invested seemingly endless energy and assumed a lot of responsibility in order to get here. While I know I would be just fine were the clinic to fail (I’m not SO fragile a creature) I want to give it every possibility of succeeding. Succeeding wildly. So, given the simultaneous onset of NCCAOM board exams, labrynthine graduation requirements, family visits, garden emergencies and the general tumult of summer’s power – panic was probably inevitable.
That’s why it’s really, really good that I responded to the invitation to become an Intern with Mark Silver and Heart of Business. I had already been reading Mark’s fine work, subscribing to his blog, even interviewing him and asking him to come to the NCNM campus for a talk. But, it was really entering into a deeper level of engagement with all of the Heart of Business folks that saved me, and maybe, my business.
Let’s back up just a bit. I realized things were stuck by observing a few simple facts.
- Projects, both mine and others’ in the clinic, were not moving. We would have meetings and conversations about the same project multiple times with no significant movement.
- Meetings were often postponed, shortened, or otherwise messed with.
- Relationships among the people involved in the clinic became a little strained.
- I started to avoid working on the business, which is strange, because I love business.
- As I mentioned before, I stopped being able to see the business in the future. This is pretty important for me. To provide another example of this – I knew I needed to change my lifestyle when I was in my mid-twenties because I stopped being able to imagine myself as a living person in the future. It may be unique to me, but if I cannot imagine a future for whatever I’m considering, I know that its survival is, in some way, jeopardized. It may not make sense to you, but it’s a viscerally important yardstick for me.
I came up with a lot of reasons why things weren’t working. I was graduating and going through a lot, as I’ve already discussed. The same was true of the other folks in the clinic. We were starting something new, with some really interestingly non-conventional features, which is always difficult. Summer is traditionally a difficult time for me to start ambitious projects because there’s just SO MUCH GOING ON. We’re in a recession. I have to sheepishly admit that I sometimes engaged in a little blaming of my dear friends, suspicious that they were derailing the projects. I wondered if I was drinking too much caffeine, or not enough. I looked into astrological portents, thought about Mercury retrograde, solar eclipse coming up, what, what what? “It must be something!”
Well, it was something. It just wasn’t anything like that. Or, maybe more accurately, many of the factors I listed above may have been at play, but they were the 標 biao (branches) and I needed to locate the 本 ben (root). That’s where Heart of Business comes in.
If you don’t know Mark’s work, I suggest you head over to his website and check out the free resources he has available. I was working through some of the exercises in Heart of Businesss for the second or third time. Mark suggests that, when working on crucial and complex parts of your business, you enter into a sort of meditative, receptive state before moving forward. This state is used in order to contact Source – the wellspring of life. He uses a method specific to his spiritual tradition, but I have used and know others have used other methods. For instance, I’ve found great success doing the shaking practice from the Jinjing Gong lineage of Qigong. Others use prayer, meditation and even chanting. While Mark’s language can be pretty specific, if you read his work with an open mind you can very easily adapt it to whatever belief system you currently live within. I believe you can even do this work from an entirely non-theistic perspective, though he may argue with me on that point.
Anyway, I was in this meditative, receptive state while also preparing to leave for a well-deserved vacation to the Oregon coast. The particular exercise I was doing has to do with contacting my business almost as a separate entity. Along with other benefits, this brings into stark relief the fact that you are, in fact IN RELATIONSHIP with your business. Or, at least, I am with mine. I can’t really explain with clarity what happened – I only know that in a flash, a number of things became crystal clear deep, deep inside my heart. There is no way I could have used language to identify what had changed, or what I was going to do about it. I only know that I suddenly felt a great weight lift and had the sense that something was about to break and flow forth.
Indeed, during my trip at the coast things really broke loose and became manifest. The details are really and truly unimportant for this article. But what really happened is that I came into right relationship with Watershed Community Wellness. My position within the clinic became obvious, clear, and defined both internally and externally. It feels a little like when you finally acknowledge to yourself that you really do love the person that you are dating, and that you might want to ask them to marry you. That may sound weird. Ok, it does sound weird. But, having gone through both experiences I would have to say there is a definite family resemblance. When this relationship is rectified, the give and take necessary becomes clearer – projects are easier to define, easier to commit to, and easier to complete.
How can this be helpful for you? Are you planning your future clinic? Do you already have a plan but feel stuck, unsure which way to turn? Have you been in business for a while, but suddenly everything seems stagnant and strange? It may be time to get out of your head and into your heart. Out of the world of manifestation and into the world of inspiration. Away from the biao, and neck deep in the ben. Using Mark’s material may be a great help for you. Of course, just engaging in whatever centering, spiritual practice you have and doing some time thinking about your business from that perspective will be helpful even without Mark’s guidance. Whatever you do, start to realize that this thing between you and your business – it’s a relationship. Get right with it.
Does this resonate with anyone? Had a similar experience? Let us know in the comments!
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.