Martial Arts Training with a Master

Sometimes it’s hard to keep your feet firmly on the ground, especially when you’re  a student approaching a Master, and think you know your stuff. Certainly, that is true for the ‘physical’ martial arts. It is no less true for martial art of the spirit.

What is “martial arts of the spirit?”

Martial artists of the spirit, like their physical martial arts ‘cousins,’ train their awareness to be awake and alert. Further, both types of martial arts use their awareness to grow strong and secure in their own ground. Yet, while a usual martial artist directs that awareness to some physical acts, the martial artist of the spirit devotes his or her awareness specifically toward rooting out unconscious identification with his or her own projections of static point of view. Wow that’s a mouthful! I’ve written at some length about the process of transcending one’s ‘usual’ perception through symbolic thinking; that is a long journey, which requires considerable attention. Yet, only liberation from one’s automatically projected interpretations allows one to begin perceiving phenomena as they are, and thereby begin to discern the subtle dynamics of Dao.

In our initial training, all acupuncturists learn to categorize a patient’s overt expressions of distress into zàngfǔ syndromes, which differentiate excesses and deficiencies of various humors (blood, , fluids, and eventually yīn and yáng). While this is a start, it is far from the perfect differentiation for most patients. Let us say, for instance, that a person has many signs of dampness with overt stagnation in the abdomen, such as fatigue, a sense of heaviness, bloating after eating, digestive irregularities, etc. Does that necessarily mean this patient has spleen  deficiency with  stagnation of the middle jiāo leading to dampness (possibly secondary to food stagnation, so ask about the patient’s eating habits)? Well, it might mean that, though there are myriad other causes for blockage of an individual’s fluid system, which can then ‘back up’ into the spleen and stomach — the individual’s ongoing source of fluids through the ingestion and digestion of water and foods. One might primarily have:

  • a lung  deficiency, which inadequately disseminates  and fluids, and might specifically
    • descend inadequate fluids to the kidney and urinary bladder to differentiate and eventually eliminate waste
  • a blockage of wèi qì in:
    • the còulǐ — I’ve found this is VERY common among contemporary people, probably secondary to our local climate control and sedentary lifestyles
    • the sinews  — of course this is also fairly common, and it’s not always easy to differentiate whether the sinew blockage is primary or secondary to some internal imbalance
  • a blockage of the urinary bladder by damp-heat or cold, or
    • other blockages of the lower jiāo, such as the liver by cold

And, this is only a partial list!

But, wouldn’t these other causes overtly express themselves? They certainly might, though the expression of those ‘primary causes’ may not be any more clear than the symptoms mentioned above. In that case, the clinical doctrine of modern Chinese medicine teaches us to simply add suitable ‘imbalances’ of physiological distress registering in manifest symptoms or signs to the diagnosis. Of course, those added syndromes may or may not capture the dynamics that create that patient’s clinical expression.

But, why doesn’t the primary cause show the strongest? There are many reasons for that peculiarity, though perhaps the primary one is that the ‘primary cause’ has been (or may still be) relatively well maintained. What the heck does that mean?

Let us say, for instance, that our patient is a middle aged woman, who had a history of several urinary tract infections during her teens. She took anti-biotics for those infections, and each promptly went away. She learned to drink a lot of water, and she drinks tea, but not many other drinks. Whenever she feels mild symptoms in her lower abdomen near her urinary bladder, she drinks cranberry juice and an herbal product originally give by a practitioner whom she consulted ten years ago when she had a rare infection. Now, she doesn’t get urinary tract infections, perhaps mostly due to her care in preventing them — drinking lots of water generally helps people with a tendency toward urinary tract infections, and tea is somewhat diuretic, so at the very least drinking it helps her manage a slight excess of fluids. One may or may not believe the other remedies allow her to treat incipient infections; it doesn’t really matter, because patients who have learned to manage their ‘primary’ pathological processes abound, and this woman’s mild fluid excess was apparently managed until:

  • it has simply overwhelmed the spleen and stomach, or
  • some other factor, such as a blockage in the còulǐ, precipitates the eventual manifest stagnation

There is almost always a process, and I believe our job is to clarify it. When a practitioner can identify a patient’s specific block(s) clearly enough, then he or she can develop a treatment strategy according to the principle of ‘moving a thousand pounds with four ounces of force’ to stimulate profound transformation of the patient’s physiological process. Thereby, one can stimulate the resolution of pathology, rather than simply learning to classify the expression of distress, and working to find ways to control it. While one may find effective management for a chronic pathology, we limit our potential to participate in the profound healing of our patients when we conflate effective management with ‘cure.’ True cure entails resolution.

How do practitioners learn to discern key blocks, so they can develop strategies to stimulate their patients to resolve their diseases rather than maintaining them?

It’s a process, though it begins by setting aside the projections we all learned from the contemporary clinical doctrine of Chinese medicine. Those ideas aren’t ‘wrong,’ though the diagnostic process of differentiating the (already) manifest expression of distress is inherently limited. Pathologies grow and develop; the first thing to remember is that each human life is tasked with survival, and they find many different ways to fulfill that imperative. Each individual compensates and adapts to various challenges, adjusting to circumstances and events to secure the basic requirements of life. While a person with the manifest symptoms listed above appears to have a spleen  deficiency with  stagnation in the middle jiāo, that is only where their distress manifests. Although it is certainly overwhelmed, the spleen may not even be deficient; when the ‘core’ block is cleared, the spleen’s adequate function may be restored without any further attention.

If the manifesting channel (or zàngfǔ) is not the source of one’s pathology, as for the spleen in this example, treating it will become an ongoing process of management. Sometimes, such strategies don’t work at all, and at best they provide temporary relief, until they stop working. This is the most common scenario when one treats the manifesting expression of an individual’s pathology, rather than identifying and addressing its roots (etiology) and pathological process.

So, this process of differentiating an individual’s dynamics comes down to letting go of projections, and that brings us back to ‘martial arts of the spirit.’ When one brings fixed projections, based in modern TCM, any other Chinese medical doctrine, or most especially modern ‘scientific worldview’ to the study of Neijing, one either:

  • misses many of the classic’s most subtle and profound teachings, or
  • simply gets confused — tumbled and disoriented, like being thrown for a triple somersault with two twists.

Most often, people experience a combination of both, when confronted with the ‘jumble’ of ideas and concepts in Neijing. As the clinical science of Chinese medicine grew and developed, there was a massive proliferation of information, but the breadth and depth of its classical source faded. Each school of thought chose to emphasize those portions of doctrine from “the classic” that support their approach, regardless of the context of those ideas. Thus, Neijing became the source of many contrary doctrines, and its deeper stream of coherent inquiry was largely lost in the confusion.

How might we ‘reclaim’ the classic texts of Neijing? Well, that process certainly starts with considerable study. Neijing study presents many challenges, because their tapestries of chapters were sacred texts rather than textbooks. They were intended as poetic inspiration for those who had already received teachings through personal instruction; the texts by themselves were never meant to provide systematic instruction. Perhaps seeking lineage instruction could help one decipher the texts of Neijing, and thereby uncover more of their practical application.

But, how can we evaluate the legitimacy of a purported ‘lineage’? This is a BIG challenge, though there may be several clues:

  • cogency and philosophical depth, especially concerning the nature of life in health and disease, which may be challenging to find due to:
  • an element of ‘martial arts of the spirit’ to stimulate one to transform one’s point of view, rather than just adding new doctrine
  • clinical efficacy
  • finding one’s teachings in the texts, especially being able to identify some of the many ‘conundrums’ in Neijing

Unfortunately, one cannot evaluate a purported lineage based on doctrine alone, as the classic includes so many contrary ideas. Very different schools of thought could develop with different emphasis, yet still both be based on Neijing. However, one distinctive feature of Neijing-style Chinese medicine is the use of the entire channel complexes, beyond the primary channels as conduits to the zàngfǔ. Perhaps the best measure of a lineage is to work diligently with its teachings, and then study Neijing. If one’s experience informs and elucidates the texts in ways that provide practical value for practitioners, then at least that individual has found value in his or her lineage.

A Key Question: Why aren’t there more people at Jeffrey Yuen’s classes?

Lilly Moon, M.D. posed that question, when I met her a few weeks ago at Jeffrey Yuen’s class in the Bay Area. She has been his student for a few years, is very stimulated by his teachings, and seems to wonder why they haven’t taken over the entire profession. While Jeffrey is well known and widely respected, he doesn’t draw large crowds like some teachers, especially ones who give very specific instructions on how to treat, either for specific conditions or more general instruction that is easy to apply clinically. So, it might be that other teachers just make their instruction easier to apply, so they attract more participants, but I think it’s more than that.

Jeffrey Yuen teaches Chinese medicine as martial arts of the spirit, and he does it so smoothly that many participants aren’t completely aware they’ve been sent reeling many times during a lecture, until they emerge feeling somewhat overwhelmed and confused. Everyone responds differently to his classes. Some participants are very stimulated, follow him avidly, and each receives surprisingly individual teachings within the context of his seminars. Jeffrey teaches broad principles of many historical ideas and approaches to Chinese medicine, and generally doesn’t explain how it all fits together. He teaches how to develop strategies for treating patients, based on identifying their personal blocks, rather than protocols for treating patients with particularly disease expressions. While this may seem a subtle difference, his classes leave his students A LOT of work learning to apply them clinically. Doing that work to integrate and apply the teachings is how to make them one’s own.

A few practitioners become agitated and upset by Jeffrey Yuen’s teachings, and many of these question the legitimacy of his lineage and teachings. After all there is now such a vast literature of Chinese medicine to study, including both exhaustive textbooks and myriad case studies to illustrate various theories and key differentiations. Why should we even consider a lineage important? Some people, imbued with our contemporary egalitarian standards, demean the idea of personal transmission of lineage teachings in learning Chinese medicine; instead, they seem to believe all teachings are available simply by buying and studying books (or even watching DVDs). Many others come to a few of his classes, and seem to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the teachings; they simply don’t choose to devote the time and energy to work with them.

So Lilly, I guess that after finishing professional school and passing licensing exams, most practitioners just want to practice. They want specific tools that will help them practice more effectively, rather than a life long journey of martial arts of the spirit. I suppose most practitioners are satisfied with the modern clinical doctrine, based on differentiating syndromes of the zàngfǔ and then treating them with the primary channels. Why not? It’s what we’ve all been taught.

The Archeology of Disease

People develop progressive and degenerative diseases from stagnations that accumulate within the embodied spirit. We can tolerate those accumulations for some time, but eventually they impede or obstruct “normal” physiological process. Each embodied spirit is provided with an amazingly effective collection of “storage reservoirs” that allow them to adapt and adjust to pathogenic stagnations. (Technically, those reservoirs are called luo vessels, channel divergences, and several of the eight extraordinary vessels). They allow people to “move on” with life by storing pathogenic factors, when they are unable or unwilling to resolve them. However,

This process of storing unresolved pathogenic factors is a double-edged sword.

While storing unresolved pathogenic factors facilitates the individual’s personality in going on with life in the short-term, it also renders the diseases that eventually emerge more difficult to resolve. If we can resist the temptation to suspend the challenges and discomfort our unresolved pathogenic factors present, we can avoid burdening ourselves with such an immense project in the future, because

We can’t simply balance or control those diseases into resolution!

Instead, resolving most chronic progressive and degenerative diseases requires the willingness to dig through the layers of “unfinished business,” and unravel the entangled accumulations we’ve stored away. Healing is very much like Archeology, though in addition to digging through the layers (and documenting them), we are faced with the challenge of resolving the pathogenic factors stored in those layers. There are no “short-cuts” for the embodied spirit — if it hasn’t finished with some aspect of life process, it’s stored away to pile up. So, if we want to heal, we may as well get out our (metaphorical) shovels and start digging!

Some Treatments Are Plain as Day

Stagnant blood is the somatic version of unresolved emotional conflicts.

Who doesn’t have any of those? No attachment to having your way? Don’t think your way is the right way? Well, I don’t believe contemporary people come close to that stringent standard of spiritual liberation. We have too much apparent (temporal) power, and generally fail to differentiate clearly between what we can and can’t control. Yet, our embodied spirits also know they have to put those unresolved issues aside, so we can get on with life. Ever wonder where those finished issues go?

The embodied spirit uses its key function of embodiment to displace unresolved spiritual issues into the body.

Among a broader range of unresolved spiritual conflicts, emotional conflicts have specific “targets,” and are displaced into the blood. Chapter 10 of the Lingshu (Spiritual Axis) instructs that the embodied spirit stores such blood stagnation in the luo vessels, which that important chapter notes are the only visible acupuncture channels. Learning to diagnose and treat luo vessels is among the simplest ways to begin working with the channels (in contrast to the modern acupuncture approach, which focuses on specific points and point combinations).

[Note: Other spiritual conflicts (without clear targets) are often displaced into one or more vital fluids, and are stored in the channel divergences. These are not visible, and learning to treat them requires considerably more study. Learn more about the theory and clinical application of the channels and vessels.]

Treating luo vessels can assist the embodied spirit in moving blood stagnation out of the system

Often blood stagnation accumulates for years, before it eventually progresses into overt disease. While venting out that accumulation doesn’t actually change the underlying pathogenic process (of accumulating unresolved emotional conflict), it can substantially reduce the load. Since most luo vessels flow into the chest, their filling frequently compromises the axis of qi – in the chest. Thus, releasing stagnant blood facilitates the flow of all post-natal qi — the vital functions of life.

Each of the five systems of channels and vessels fills a key role in sustaining individual life

Each system of channels and vessels exhibits distinctive pathological processes, and responds to specific clinical procedures. The luo fill with stagnant blood (unfulfilled and somatized emotional conflict), until they overflow to empty back into the primary channels, which leads to a progression of pathology. A one-day study of the luo is included in the four weekend series of seminars on the systems of channels, which introduces Neijing style acupuncture.

Human Life: It’s NOT Just Physical

Each person is an embodied spirit, who lives through interacting with the world. Those interactions are polar, as individuals take in various influences from the world and release byproducts of their life process back out to the world. Breathing is one such interaction; it provides the source of Being. Each individual’s Quest for food and drink motivate the other key physical interaction. [For more on the Chinese medical framework for understanding the vital transactions of life, see my essay “Managing the Internal Economy.”]

In addition to these physical interactions, individuals internalize and digest their experiences in life. Classical Chinese medical theory suggests that these experiential interactions are even more fundamental than physical ones in the development of each individual’s eventual challenges with disease.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Except When it Comes to Human Health.

Modern medical technologies are truly amazing! MRIs and CT scans generate accurate and detailed visual images of the inside of an individual patient’s body. What could be better for helping a medical practitioner diagnose a patient’s ailment and discern what treatment(s) are necessary? It’s SO obvious; it must be true. Mustn’t it?

During the past twenty years, medical researchers have done several research studies using MRIs or CT scans on the relationship between physical lesions around the spine and clinical back pain, including pains that “radiate” from the spine into the extremities. That research has uniformly shown there is AMAZINGLY poor correlation between those “obviously” related issues. That is:

  • A fairly large portion of people with apparently serious lesions (including disc bulges or herniations) had mild back pain or dysfunction.
  • Another fairly large portion of people with small lesions had severe pain, which was sometimes debilitating.
  • It’s also fairly common that people have physical lesions in one location, and pain in another. That might be on the other side, or even a different level of the spine.

What’s up with that? I don’t believe modern (western) medicine has an explanation, yet my work with classical Chinese medicine is not affected by such anomalies. Indeed, CCM theory provides a simple explanation, which involves the embodied spirit’s ability (and willingness) to adapt to various individual physical challenges. My job as a practitioner is to find ways to stimulate and facilitate that natural process. Surgeons change the physical “picture,” and they have an irresolvable problem when that physical picture doesn’t match the patient’s experience.

Please note: I’m NOT denying that physical “reality” has SOME impact on human health, I’m just saying it’s not the ENTIRE story. We can’t predict the nature of a patient’s experience, nor can we determine what therapies will prove necessary, from a physical picture alone.

I’ve used acupuncture and Chinese herbs to help LOTS of individuals avoid surgeries that their medical doctors had thought necessary. Many of my patients try Chinese medicine BEFORE submitting to various modern medical treatments, because the ancient therapies seek to stimulate the patient’s own healing process rather than controlling its expression of distress. It turns out that physical pictures are just that, and the embodied spirit has its own potential for healing. Perhaps medical scientists should research optimizing THAT, rather than demeaning it as placebo.

Is it a Fairy Tale?

The conceptual model of physical “reality” articulated by modern scientific medicine is powerful and compelling. It appeals to our naïve experience of living in, and learning to manipulate, a mechanistic physical world that submits to our control according to fixed “laws of nature.” The ideas of scientific medicine are deeply satisfying to many, especially relative to their fear of suffering and/or untimely demise. Yet, we KNOW from our experience that the universe is not entirely physical and mechanistic, especially the universe of human experience. [My essay on the Sengai Scroll discusses the limitations of physical models of “reality” relative to the clinical practice of Chinese medicine.]

Each individual is a complex transducer between physical and spiritual “realities.” Physical and spiritual factors influence each other in myriad ways. The study of that relationship lay at the core of the classic text Lingshu (The Spiritual Pivot); the title refers to the deepest link between an individuated spirit and its physical embodiment. Lingshu and Suwen (Simple Questions) together comprise the fundamental Chinese medical classic Neijing (Inner Classic). My practice of Chinese medicine and the story of healing discussed on this site are primarily based on Neijing, as I’ve learned the key principles from Jeffrey Yuen.

I find the story inspired by my practice of classical Chinese medicine compelling, even when it differs dramatically from the more widely held scientific story about the “physical realities” of life. Yet, I’m also clear that it’s just my STORY.

From my classical Chinese perspective, modern (western) medicine focuses on:

  • descriptions of the physical nature of disease
  • the search for the proximal and precipitating cause
  • dramatic rescues through (externally) controlling a “broken” body

In contrast, classical Chinese medicine focuses on:

  • descriptions of the individual’s experience of disease
  • the search for multiple contributing causes, both external and internal
  • finding ways to stimulate and facilitate the embodied spirit to realize its natural potential to heal

The CCM Story, based on the Neijing (Inner Classic), Consists of a Few Key Principles:

  • The apparent decline of aging is due to accumulations that block the free expression of an individual’s vitality.
  • Those accumulations primarily consist of external and internal pathogenic factors, which have been suspended and stored in the body:
    • External pathogenic factors arise from the individual’s failure to adapt and effectively respond to changes presented by the environment. Neijing refers to this as “perverse wind.”
    • Internal pathogenic factors consist of the individual’s failure to resolve emotional conflicts.
  • Unresolved pathogenic factors stagnate, and thereby impede the free flow of vital physiological function (qi) and blood.
  • When the embodied spirit is no longer willing or able to suspend unresolved pathogenic factors, they are overtly expressed in symptoms or signs of disease.
  • True healing comes from the inside, and is available to ANYONE (regardless of disease manifestation) who resolves previously suspended pathogenic factors. That resolution generally involves both transformation and release or expulsion of previously accumulated pathogenic factors.
  • Suppressing or controlling the embodied spirit’s expression of distress doesn’t facilitate healing; those efforts simply displace distress from one place to another.

Which story is true and which is a fairy tale, intended to keep one’s inner child from being frightened in the middle of the night? Who among us knows for sure? While we’re discerning the truth among these stories, I’ll keep sharing mine on this site — its different and hopeful, by asking individuals to take responsibility (physiologically) for their lives. I believe that a free exchange of ideas will help us find truth.

When is a “Cold” not Just a Cold?

Ms. C. is a thirty-seven year old woman, who called me about four months ago seeking relief from persistent pain and dysfunction of her right hand, which made her work difficult. She came for an appointment, and reported having received treatment for neck pain and nerve root impingement causing pain and dysfunction of the arm (radiculopathy). Her neck and arm symptoms had improved after three months of physical therapy and chiropractic treatments, yet her hand stiffness and pain remained. Ms. C. worked as an R.N., and said that she considered her hand symptoms residual from her neck ailment because they had started at the same time.

I examined Ms. C’s hand and neck, and inquired about other pains. I learned that she had knee and hip pain — especially on the left, which had grown rather severe during the past several months. I read her pulses and palpated some points. I looked up at her from where I sat at her feet, and told her that I didn’t think her current hand pain came from her recent history of neck pain. My diagnostic efforts led me to suspect arthritis of inflammatory cause, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Ms. C. finally allowed that her physician had done a special blood test (rheumatoid factor) that showed a mild positive. Was this a test?

The tests practitioners get from the Dao are much larger than any we may get from people!

What were her embodied spirit’s blocks that had allowed the accumulation of pathogenic factors, which had eventually emerged in this condition? Practitioners of classical Chinese medicine ask this question of the Dao as it works within the microcosm of an individual’s physiology, and probe the embodied spirit to stimulate transformation. After more examination, I discerned accumulation in the yangming zone channel divergence, and devised an acupuncture treatment to address that blockage.

Two weeks later Ms. C. returned for a follow-up session, and reported only mild “nuisance” pain in her right hand. Indeed, she noted that all of her joint pains were much improved. I questioned her more carefully, and learned that she’d had what she considered a “bad flu” a couple days after her first treatment. She noted, “It was strange because my joints didn’t hurt at all when I was sick.”

Strange, indeed. Ms. C. received a total of five treatments during a period of slightly more than two months. Each treatment was conceived to probe and stimulate her embodied spirit to address a slightly different aspect of her physiological blocks, and I suggested she make some changes in her relationship with food based on my evaluation. To her credit, Ms. C. recognized the exacerbating influence of certain foods after I pointed out what to look out for, and she made the necessary changes. By the time of her last treatment nearly two months ago, Ms. C. felt no pain.

We discussed her indicator symptoms, how they could help her maintain this degree of wellness, and she discontinued coming for acupuncture treatments. Easy as I’ve grown with the familiarity of such results, even I found the following synchronicity a little surprising:

The day after I started writing this posting, and completely out of the blue other than my  curiosity about how she was doing, Ms. C. called me to report on her good fortune. She reported being completely pain-free without taking any anti-inflammatory medicines or pain relievers. She even rejoiced in being able to run around playing soccer with her children. We briefly discussed her indicator symptoms, and she reported have no difficulty maintaining the lifestyle (dietary) changes she had made while she was receiving treatments.

Passive Health Care Breeds Dependence

Passive care is ANY form of health care where the patient is a passive consumer of a good or service. That might be a pharmaceutical medicine, surgery, joint or other physical manipulation, dietary supplement, or any other consumption-based attempt to improve your health. Let me be very clear: I don’t consider this a problem with any particular therapy, but a failure in how many use the technologies that humankind has developed.

Modern clinical theory teaches acupuncturists to practice according to the passive care model. It match the commonly held standards of modern medicine, and treat their patients to manage the intensity of symptoms. While this allows patients to maintain their diseases without having to expose themselves to the potentially toxic “side-effects” of pharmaceuticals, it’s not the highest use of acupuncture. That’s why many acupuncturists seek other training — to increase the long-term value of their work.

Within the current health care arena, many patients comply with the passive care agenda, and grow dependent on their therapies. However, when you buy into that:

You’re not a Patient, You’re an Annuity!

While passive care (regardless of the specific modality) is a great economic model for the people and especially the corporations that provide it, it has much less value for patients. Passive health care reinforces the idea that the patient’s body is “broken” and needs to be fixed. Yet, the human body is made to heal! That is its NATURAL tendency. When the embodied spirit fails to restore health, we can conclude that SOMETHING is blocking its natural and intrinsic movement.

When used incisively, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine stimulate the embodied spirit to release its blocks to facilitate healing. When an individual’s entire being is focused on the healing process, when both the personality’s conscious choices and the embodied spirit’s automatic function are aligned, the possibilities are limitless. We’ve all heard of people that have healed themselves of cancer; those aren’t random events, but the natural result of the embodied spirit unblocking its natural potential.

Take the initiative; find ways to heal your life. Don’t just be a passive consumer of health care!

Indicator Symptoms: A Patient’s Best Friend

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Symptoms are the embodied spirit’s gesture to communicate its distress. They are intended to get the individual to focus his or her conscious awareness toward discerning the nature and causes of that distress. Though symptoms seem to be afflictions (to the personality), they are NOT themselves the problem. They are only the “finger pointing at the moon.”

In this case, the “moon” is the blockage (to the natural and intrinsic flow of physiological function) that is causing the distress in the first place. Sometimes this is an acute blockage (as from an injury), but much more frequently these blockages accumulate over time — in the “closets” of one’s life. The incipient accumulation of unresolved pathogenic factors leads to the wide array of progressive and degenerative diseases that generally emerge as people age.

By the time many people seek help, their embodied spirits are typically screaming so loudly with unbearable symptoms that individuals simply feel the need to control their discomfort. However, telling the embodied spirit to “SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP” doesn’t change the underlying blockage in any way!

Instead of directly quieting the messenger, classical Chinese medicine teaches us to stimulate the embodied spirit to release its attachment to (and entanglement with) the pathogenic factors that have been causing distress. As the natural and intrinsic flow of vital process (which we call “qi” in Chinese medicine) improves, the intensity of symptoms automatically decreases. Treatments that suppress symptoms serve the personality, and ones that stimulate or facilitate the (underlying) flow of vital physiological process serve the embodied spirit!

What are Indicator Symptoms?

The symptoms that come from chronic, progressive, or degenerative diseases are rooted in the (previous) accumulation of unresolved pathogenic factors. While the embodied spirit is willing and able to simply suspend those unresolved stagnations in a “closet,” the individual accumulates it in “dormancy.” In psychological terms, this process is called either suppression or repression, depending on the specifics of the individual’s avoidance strategy.

When the embodied spirit is no long willing or able to suspend the individual’s unresolved pathogenic process, it emerges in overt expression. The symptoms that people experience in such cases signal the blockages that had long been accumulating, but had also been held “dormant” to allow the person to “go on” with life. When the symptoms emerge, the embodied spirit is announcing that the person must tend to the vital issues supporting the blockages causing those symptoms.

Frequently such symptoms (and even clinical signs like hypertension, which are not usually felt by patients) respond to lifestyle choices. When the individual makes choices that support his or her vital process to flow more smoothly, the symptoms and signs diminish; when those choices challenge flow the symptoms increase. Thus, the person’s symptoms become “teachers” concerning the wisdom of various lifestyle choices. Rather than suppressing (and even demonizing) symptoms, patients can use them to learn how to grow healthier.

I first wrote about using indicator symptoms in treating people with chronic degenerative diseases more than three years ago.