IVAS Rocks!

Thank you all for a wonderful 37th annual conference!

A special thank you to Vikki Weber, executive director of IVAS (International Veterinary Acupuncture Society). It appears that I’ve finally been discovered for my unique contributions to the field of Chinese medicine. Is it strange that these enthusiastic doctors are Veterinarians, and that I’ve never treated a non-human animal? I thought so, and so did my sister-in-law! What do I know about treating canines, felines, equine, or other non-human patients? Very little, yet I was asked to give two four-hour Keynote presentations at the IVAS annual conference in San Diego in September. Why, you may ask?

Well… the local reason is that Vikki read an essay published by Golden Flower Chinese Herbs, who have sponsored my CEU classes for several years. That particular essay introduced the five systems of channels and vessels, and was re-published on this site. It discusses what I used to refer to as “the five systems of channels and  vessels,” and now call “channel complexes,” technically 經 絡 (jingluo). These jingluo provide a conceptual framework that differs from the much simpler modern clinical doctrine of zangfu (viscera and bowels) and primary channels. These channel complexes provide both theoretical and practical advantages, compared to the “standard” doctrine, and Vikki was willing to invite me as an honored guest to the IVAS conference, so her members could learn more about my thinking on Chinese medicine. Filled with enthusiasm about her invitation, I proposed another idea in addition to reworking that essay into a presentation. When I received the contract to officially secure this opportunity, I learned that I’d have to submit essays of at least 6,000 words for each topic. GULP! Well, of course, I ‘bit the bullet’ and committed to writing those essays. It was a great process, and a lot of work!

The larger reason may be that many Veterinary acupuncturist are very cool people, who have “gone to the mountain, scaled it, and seen it’s limitations.”  They’ve all been trained in (western) medicine, yet they also recognize certain systematic weaknesses of that worldview and thinking process for health care. I knew I was among “my people” after I mentioned as back ground my education before I went to acupuncture school. I told them that I’d been in a PhD program at UC Berkeley for two years, where I studied how (western) science prejudices its understanding of the world based on how it asks questions and what it takes as evidence; there was a smattering of applause and a couple hoots. Imagine! They wanted to learn about the ‘weird’ worldview I’ve cultivated during nearly two decades of learning and practicing the Neijing-style of medicine as taught by Jeffrey Yuen.

So, find an acupuncturist for your pets, and you’ll find a doctor who is working to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both western and Chinese medicine. Actually, IVAS is even somewhat broader than that, as many of its members have interests in other approaches, such as osteopathy, Ayurveda, etc. What could be better?

Yeh, so why the delay in posting this blog piece?

It’s a funny thing about the internet — once we publish something, it’s PUBLISHED. I admit, I really don’t know how to think about this opportunity. Will people download a big essay, and engage me about the ideas discussed? Will they respect my attempt to discuss challenging ideas, or simply pick at my choice of language to my target my ideas as “not Chinese,” because they’re not discussed in the TCM they learned. Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of flack for “embodied spirit,” though it’s my translation for 精 神 (jingshen), which is used extensively in Neijing. So, my ideas differ from the currently dominant doctrine. Are we going to be slaves to the historical forces that created the contemporary doctrine, assuming that newer must be better, or seek theory that is more coherent and incisive?

I’ve devoted many hundreds of hours to writing those papers, during seven months of very hard work — on top of my practice and teaching schedule early this year. They represent one attempt to discuss what I’ve learned over many years.  Am I likely to benefit by giving away that work, or am I simply forsaking the opportunity to publish those essay in some “better” venue? What is a better venue? How democratic has information become? How willing are individuals to evaluate information for themselves? For some odd reason, it didn’t make a lot of sense (to me) to post an announcement of that great event, without posting links to the papers I presented. Perhaps that’s really stupid, but it led me to on it. Instead, I focused my attention toward my primary interest, seeking  to articulate the wondrous world of classical Chinese medicine. I still don’t know the right answer to the question of how best to use this opportunity to publish my work, but I’ve decided to try something different. I’d REALLY like to hear thoughtful comments or questions from people who read these essays. Anyone interested in an Introduction to this approach to acupuncture?

Keynote Papers for the IVAS Conference (2011):

Living Systems of Acupuncture Channels

The World of Dao: Movement in Chinese Medicine

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The Cost of Scientific Medicine

Many patients faced with serious illnesses seek the assurance that their practitioners are using proven healing methods. Many practitioners also seek the security that the therapies they use have been proven by scientific research. Yet, few ask the question:

What is this proof that so many seek, and what are its limitations?

In modern “scientific” medicine, the nearly ubiquitous standard of proof uses the methodology of “randomized, controlled and double-blind” experiments. While each of these features of medical research serves a clear and understandable role, they also limit researchers to studying substances and procedures that act on the mechanisms of life, rather than those that work with the individual blocks of the embodied spirit. Such remedies can’t cure disease; they can only manage and control it. Yet, in our modern society’s urgency for the security of proof, we’ve played this semantic game with our lives and convinced ourselves only experiments that conform to that methodology are “scientific.”

Classical Chinese medicine is actually MORE scientific than modern so-called “scientific” medicine. I make that bold assertion based on its willingness to investigate the true nature of life, rather than reducing it to a mechanistic model of the individual as a very complicated biochemical machine. Yet, few seem to recognize the severe limitations of the physical model of modern western medicine, perhaps because they’re distracted by its empirical form and the impressive technologies that serve it. Though medical researchers have developed:

  • sophisticated knowledge of the physical expression of disease, modern science frequently over-simplifies the issue of causation.
  • many pharmaceutical therapies that control the expression of disease, there are few that promote resolution.

The simple fact is that medical research seeks to serve the personality rather than the embodied spirit.

The efficacy of most therapies is measured by their ability to temporarily control symptoms and clinical signs. Little progress can be made by modern medical science toward reversing conditions that are considered progressive and degenerative, because that would require practitioners to discriminate  individual challenges and process. Helping patients reverse most chronic diseases requires that one treat the individual rather than the disease. In addition to the massive financial toll of modern scientific medicine, it has another greater cost. The true cost of scientific medicine is that it limits our efforts to:

controlling the expression of pathology, rather than individually probing its resolution.

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Focus Health & Wellness Educational Symposium

While my domicile remains in Sonora, I haven’t been focused on the local community since closing the Healing Center of the Sierra several years ago. I’ve cut back my practice quite dramatically, so I could focus more intensively on my researches into classical Chinese medicine, and work on various writing projects. Some of those writings are archived on this site, others provide the foundation for seminars I’ve taught and am preparing. I’m working toward drafting a series of monographs; my current focus is the five systems of acupuncture channels, which provide the conceptual foundation for Neijing (Inner Classic) style acupuncture. Of course, it’s convenient that I’m also in the process of writing the handouts that I’ll provide for a four weekend seminar series that I’ll be teaching on the clinical application of those systems.

During the past couple years, a few friends suggested I join another in a long line of local groups aimed at gathering “like-minded people” to provide mutual support and focus attempts toward social change, either local and global. Often the groups I’ve gravitated toward have gathered around healing work or sustainability and green politics; in this case it seems to focus equally on both. Yet, I’m generally much more interested in my own philosophical and clinical investigations of Chinese medicine than I am in group process, so I continued in blissful ignorance of the progress of:

FoCuS — Foothill Collaborative for Sustainability

Yet, about a month ago Sheila Gradison asked me to participate in an Educational Symposium on March 19, 2010. I went to my first meeting about that event on Wed. (12/2), and found engaged and interesting people involved in various aspects of the “holistic health” field. We had a discussion about the topics each of us would like to address during that brief symposium, which touched on the topic of quantum physics (of all things!). I’m reminded that group process has its virtues, including stimulating clarification. After many years of reflecting on my work, that meeting stimulated me to write a few pages of comments on the foundations of Chinese medicine, which even leads many enthusiasts to invoke the results of experiments in quantum physics! My interest in this topic dates back to the beginning of my interest in Chinese medicine; I’m curious to see how others will connect with those ideas.

While quantum physics can be a valuable topic for holistic health practitioners who are attempting to engage (particularly “scientific”) members of the public, I believe it is ultimately a distraction. It can help pry open the minds of people set in their allegiance to mechanistic conceptual models of reality, but it also tends to invite people to enroll in it as the “right” conceptual model that explains how things work. People want so badly to feel in control of their world…

I believe the key point that most holistic health practitioners are trying to make in referring to quantum physics is that mechanistic “scientific” models do not provide the ultimate explanation of the world — that the world, especially the human world,  is much more complex and magical than most imagine. Some people believe quantum physics suggests that there is a consciousness expressed through the “physical” universe. Indeed, they’ve given one type of quark (subatomic particles) a suggestive name like “charm.” While such speculations may amuse us, why do we seek support for the idea that consciousness be included in our descriptions of individual human life from the outset?

Each individual is an embodied spirit. The first task of that embodied spirit is to survive in this world of constant polar interactions. The highest healing work facilitates that process, rather than controlling the expression of distress when there is something awry. We need to study that, and how to support it in disentangling from its blockages and stagnation. Natural medicine is far more (and less!) than the use of naturally occurring products. It is the process of facilitating an individual’s return to his or her own nature — to optimize it’s ability to live.

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