Spirituality and the practice of Chinese medicine

I want to start this post with a question.  What role does your spiritual life play in your practice of Chinese medicine?

For those of you who do not acknowledge having a “spiritual life,” what role does your “inner life” play in your practice of Chinese medicine?  To say it another way, how does the development of yourself as a person, as a body, as a qi sensing individual in the contemporary world play into your practice of Chinese medicine?

The answers I seek will focus on active practice, not just belief or interest.  I’ve asked this question of many people, and those whom I’ve not asked I’ve tried to “ask” by observing them carefully.  Many times, particularly when “asking” happens – the person will say something quite vague and usually related to what they BELIEVE and how this allows them to hold a particular intention, or something similar.

That’s fine as far as it goes.  But, just as I expect my practice of medicine to become an integral part of my entire life, I expect my spiritual development to become an integral part of my entire life. As such – they will influence eachother.  In my experience of working with patients, the more grounded I am in my own development and centeredness, the better listener I become.  But, there’s more.  I notice very distinct changes in my practice when I make overt attempts to – say – meditate during acupuncture treatment.

It is, of course, a different kind of meditation – being there with a person, focusing on their physical needs, focusing on the sounds and space around me.  This isn’t Zazen or anything.  But, going into a meditative place very clearly helps me to perceive, to respond, and to treat.  This isn’t a popular notion in all circles.  In those circles where it is popular, I think it frequently goes a little far.

I want to be clear.  Because I am grounded in my own spiritual and personal development does not mean that I am talking about this with patients, actively seeking to help them do the same, or anything else.  I’m not necessarily talking about “spiritual medicine” or even something like Worsley style five-element acupuncture as a model.  I’m just talking about your own effort to develop yourself and its influence on your practice of medicine.

I simply see my meditation practice, my Qigong practice, my efforts to actively root out my own insufficiencies and remedy them, and all the rest as the ground from which study of medicine and practice of medicine is possible.  But, I want to hear from others.  Have you had a difficult time integrating these parts of yourself?  On the other hand, have these parts of your life never seemed to be “parts” but instead seamless parts of a whole?

Comment away, my friends.  Note well that language is always, always tricky when discussing these things and if you are thinking with some degree of indignation that I’m not “getting” something – interrogate the language first.

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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