Scholar’s Retreat a Huge Success (for me)!

During the past few months, I’ve grown increasingly involved with the International Society for the Study of Classical Acupuncture (ISSCA); we’ve recently had our second annual “Scholar’s Retreat” in Trout Lake, WA (near Portland, OR). It was a relatively small conference, as such gathers go, yet we had some fine presentations; and the four day gathering within the inspirational environment of Trout Lake Abbey was filled with opportunities for informal discussion and learning. I presented a paper just after lunch of the first day on the transmission of classical medical teachings, based on the biographical sketch of Chunyu Yi from the Western (Early) Han Dynasty. Then, late in the afternoon of the fourth day, I did a clinical demonstration with a patient of one of the young practitioners attending the retreat, who lives and works near Trout Lake. That was an interesting experience, in part because I decided that “when in Rome” (in this case, among Neijing practitioners), I would do “as the Romans do” — us larger diameter needles. In short, I’d learned that what I’d learned to do with mostly 36 and 34 gauge needles is MUCH more powerful with 28-32 gauge needles (as the number gets lower, the diameter is bigger).

ISSCA originally grew from a group of Dr. Ed Neal’s students in Portland, OR. He is a medical doctor who grew interested in acupuncture many years ago, and went to Italy to study with an Italian doctor who had learned from a pre-TCM acupuncturist who often referred to Neijing. During the early nineties, Ed had some health challenges that prevented him from doing very much other than working on translating the texts of Neijing. Dr. Neal has been working with direct translation of Neijing for approximately the same amount of time I’ve been studying with Jeffrey. While he has learned some interesting things from those efforts, he espouses many ideas than need careful review. I’ve taken his introductory series on “Neijing Acupuncture,” which explores some of the classic’s key language and concepts. His work inspired me to begin my studies of classical Chinese, so I could better understand the linguistic and  conceptual foundation for Jeffrey Yuen’s teachings.

The entire retreat was a wonderful experience, and next week I’ll be meeting with several ISSCA members in Portland, OR to discuss plans for my series on the channel systems to start there during the coming months. My early experience indicates that ISSCA is fertile ground for cross-fertilization, at least for me. I believe we can all learn a lot from each other — me from their scholarship of the texts of Neijing, and Dr. Neal and his students from my work learning ‘my’ oral lineage. While it has taken Dr. Neal a little time to accept the value of my work with my/Jeffrey’s lineage, my presentation at the 2nd annual ISSCA conference last month seems to have won him over. He was the first to ‘sign up’ for my series in Portland, when I saw him briefly a week after our retreat. I was in Portland to pick up my car, after flying back from being co-Keynote Speaker at the 37th Annual Conference of the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), but that’s another story. Stay tuned!

Update: I’m sorry to say that my associate with ISSCA has come to naught. I guess that either they decided by lineage wasn’t important after all, or that I wasn’t an adequate representative for their “scholarly” group. C’est la vie!