Foundations of Chinese Medicine is a first-year acupuncture class that teaches the basics of Chinese Medical Theory. In it, we learn the theory behind the clinical application of such widely-used, cliche ideas as Yin/Yang and Qi, as well as other theoretical models like 5 Element theory; zang fu theory; Meridians, channels, and point categories; and now in our second semester, we are learning pathology and diagnosis.
Some things are much easier to grasp — pulse and tongue for instance are simple observation and feeling (palpation) skills which require us to memorize information that allows us to “read” anatomy and glean medically relevant information from it. With practice will come understanding. Simple. Similar to observation and listening. These are sense-based receiving skills I am just starting to develop. With practice, it will come.
Last night we started getting more in depth with deconstructing pathology based on “wind” and warm-disease theory. Wind – like everything in CM – is both a metaphor and the actual referent, wind. It’s a four-hour class. And I have no idea what I just learned. It was full of information, but since we’re not practicing yet, and only learning theory, no where to put it aka no clinical application to organize and make sense of all the wind-heat or Shao Yang or Ying level pathologies we were learning about, I’m completely lost. Just a lot of words swimming in my head.
This is an ongoing cycle in learning CM – the first step is always utter confusion. The next couple steps are memorization. Then you move on. Then you go back to the idea at a later time, in connection with some other theoretical clinical framework and you understand a little more. It’s a spiral moving around and around slowly circularly coming forward, peaking, and returning. It requires much faith that the material will ultimately a) fit into a larger framework and b) work!
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagoner (1999)