Studying Chinese Medicine – the tenth year

The latest group of students just graduated from my alma mater, and sometimes employer, NCNM.  (Congrats – you crazy kids!)  This means around this time, three years ago, I was ecstatic to be starting my own Chinese medicine practitioner journey, and ready to recuperate after a long four years.

Truth be told, I started studying Chinese medicine in earnest a couple of years before starting school.  So, in my mind, I’m entering my tenth year of study of this medicine – almost a third of my life.

Early in that study, things were haphazard. I read those books and websites meant for laypeople or, perhaps, first year students. My eyes were being opened, I was searching for resonance, building Chinese medicine vocabulary.


When I started school, I did what any student does – I let the flood gates fling wide and let it all pour in.

I engaged with teachers, historical and contemporary, and I dug into what it meant to be entering a whole new profession. I focused on Chinese herbs, but also let myself be steeped in the world of acupuncture. I felt like I was moving through a birth canal.

After graduation, things changed. I was, and am, assumed to have a certain level of understanding of the medicine. Honestly, though, the knowledge I’m expected to know is not that vast, even by pretty lax standards. As a profession, I would say that we don’t tend to have very high expectations of one another’s knowledgebase. Perhaps that’s for the best, I don’t know.

For better or for worse, I have much higher expectations for myself than others may. This may be because I teach, both online and off, and I want to be worthy of my students’ trust.  Every day is a chance to learn something better, so I can explain it a little bit more concisely, and help somebody else understand something important.  What a gift!

But, more than that, I set high expectations for my own learning because I consider that process to be the foundation of a life well lived.

Studying has always been important to me.  However, as I said, after graduation – things changed a bit.  Those relatively lower expectations, the lack of testing, the pressures of running a clinic, the reality of raising a teenager in the US – many things conspired to keep me from my natural and preferred activity – study. Growing Chinese Medicine Central had its own impacts. Teaching the Shennong Relational Herb Learning Method course gave me some space to sit down and learn, the technological and administrative side of a project like this does take its toll.

So, for the last three years, I’m afraid that studying Chinese medicine has been less the rule and more the exception. Of course, I’m learning from my patients, I’m learning from my students and, again, being a teacher does force me to be positively engaged with my subject matter more often than average.

However, entering this tenth year of study of Chinese medicine asks me to do something more.

To that end, for the remainder of this tenth year, and probably for some time after, I will be engaging in a structured study program centered on the formulas of the Shanghan lun and Jin gui yao lue. The goal will be to have memorized and understood all of the formulas as completely as possible. The method will be complex, and pulling information from diverse sources.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these are formulas I know fairly well. But, like all practitioners, I use a pretty small subset of all available formulas and probably have restricted my ability to help most effectively because of this. Instead of going off on some tangent, my desire is to continually reengage the basics – the fundamental units of treatment – Chinese herbal formulas.

However, along the way I will obviously do more than just read lists of herbs and dosages. I’ll be reading lines in the classical texts, and thus having to engage with Chinese language. I’ll be diving deeper into the single herbs using the Shennong method, various types of research, and talking to my teachers and colleagues. I’ll undoubtedly reach roadblocks along the way and so have to dig my claws into aspects of channel and organ theory, even biomedicine, and certainly the philosophy and history of science and medicine.

When I do this, I do it all the way.

This will be great fodder for the blog. I’ll share some of the meat of what I’m digging into, of course. Like I did a little in my post about one of the Guizhi tang lines in the Shanghan lun. But, I’ll also share my study techniques, the software and other implements I’m using to do this most efficiently, and any tips I come across or remember as I’m working.  Sounds fun, right?

Maybe you’ll even want to join me as I study. I’ll make that an option by using our almost ready Chinese medicine forums.

Yep, that’s right, they’re being reborn.

My hope is to make them an ever more powerful source of interaction and inspiration, so I’m taking my time to create them correctly.  I’ll announce their creation both here and in the newsletter (here’s my daily plug – if you’re not a member of the main Chinese Medicine Central newsletter – become one – click this link!)

I’ll be starting right away with the next post. I’m excited to share this with you. It feels like old times!

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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