At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. Lao Tzu

‘Who is ‘Doctor’ for you?

I was posed this question by a Taoist priest in 2008. He was encouraging me to reflect on my roles both as an acupuncturist and herbal medicine practitioner as well as an individual and patient.

Who would I first consult if I was unwell? I ran through various scenarios in my head in order to answer this question: What if I felt blue? What if blue descended to black and I was having difficulty hanging on to my own life? What if I had a sore knee for no reason? What if my knee was injured due to a fall? What if I was coming down with a cold? What if my back was chronically aching? What if I found a lump in my breast?

Each question provoked a different emotional and sometimes physical response. As the scenarios played in my mind some invoked a practical, matter-of-fact response and others reduced me to fear and nausea. One thing became very apparent. I did not think clearly in the grips of fear and nausea. In those scenarios, I found myself quickly trying to deflect my anxiety on to another, seemingly wiser one, or at least, a calmer one.

Then it occurred to me that normally I AM the calmer, wiser one in all matters pertaining to me. No one knows me better than I know myself. No one can better factor in all my complexities since no one knows them like I do. And I am increasingly concerned that, when so many practitioners are overworked, no one will spend as much time researching all the options available to me, than me.

It is for this reason I believe that for any imbalances in my physical, emotional and spiritual health, I am ‘Doctor’ for me. My consultants may end up being surgeons, reflexologists, oncologists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, ayurvedic or herbal medicine practitioners, my local GP, psychotherapists or any of a number of allopathic or complementary practitioners. But I believe that it is my responsibility to pause, reflect, research, consult my consultants, and then determine the best course of action for me.

It was so much easier for me to answer this question in relatively good health. It gave me the time and space to run through available options and try to imagine and intuit what I would do. This was a highly personal reflective process. The course of action that I concluded I’d take may not make sense for anyone else but me. This was my thought process, my reflections and my journey.

However, I do believe that for all of us, it is worth taking the time now, in relative good health, in the absence of fear or urgency, to answer this question:

Who is ‘Doctor’ for you?

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All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small. Lao Tzu

My passion for Chinese Medicine has been growing since the day I began my studies. It is the only love affair I have ever experienced where the initial heady excitement hasn’t waned. I have learned over the years to try and keep myself in check when I am with people who don’t yet know and love this system of healing. Although I try to contain my enthusiasm, I fear some of my friends will tell you that I still fail miserably in this regard.

The more I learn and the more I practice, the more I continue to be surprised on the upside. Even when I have absolutely no expectation that a classical theory will work I am so often surprised by the results when I just have a go anyway. And this is how my enthusiasm for classical Chinese Medicine in the Taoist traditions continues to grow. It always delivers.

However it is worth noting that in my early studies there were times where I would disagree with a principle or think, ‘this doesn’t add up’. Although my passion didn’t wane, I did think, ‘here is the exception to the rule’ and planned to accept it as such. It is much like when you discover your new perfect love doesn’t pick up his socks. It’s disappointing, sure, but the rest is so good that you are able to put it aside.

What I didn’t anticipate is that over time, I would realize that the classical paradigm was indeed correct in all these cases and that it was my knowledge, experience and understanding that had to catch up. I was simply unable to appreciate the complexities of the alchemy at that time and as such discounted it as untrue when it was, in fact, true.

Discovering that my lack of experience was without exception the reason for my confusion, I now have a strategy in place. When something that is written in a classical text doesn’t seem to reflect my current experience or beliefs, I now put a ‘pause’ on it in order to reflect further.

When this happens, my favourite game is to ask myself the following question; ‘Even though I believe that our universe doesn’t work this way, if it did, how would it show up?’ or ‘Even though I believe that our physical bodies don’t work this way, if they did, what would be the result or benefit?’

Pausing to reflect in this way often generated answers to these questions or at least germinated a seed that would later grow into greater understanding.

Chinese Medicine in the Taoist tradition is more like alchemy. It is beautiful and simple and, at the same time, enigmatic and complex. It is likely that going forward I will be writing about our environment, health and healing approaches that are completely at odds with current popular beliefs but I urge you not to lose heart.

If this happens, consider taking a pause before rejecting it outright. Simply store it and save it for later. Just like climbing a circular staircase, we may end up revisiting the same view several times as we go around and around. But as we go around each time, we will see the same material from a different angle. It is from these different vantage points that our understanding will grow and so too will our perspective.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao Tzu

In my clinical practice, I end up spending a large part my time discussing diet and lifestyle.  Although patients come to me for an acupuncture treatment or herbal prescription, my role is not to merely ameliorate symptoms but to address the underlying cause.

I am of the belief that there is so much we can do for ourselves in order to enhance our wellbeing.  Often, some simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference in reducing the number of treatments required and preventing future recurrence of symptoms.  It is for this reason that I have decided to write this blog.

Although I was trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in acupuncture and herbal medicine, over the years I have been drawn to the early medical texts which are more reflective of Taoist traditions.  It is within these traditions that I believe lay the methods of healing at a deep energetic level and in discovering the underlying causes of imbalance.

My goal is to provide readers with an understanding of the Taoist elements of Chinese Medicine which work with the natural rhythms of nature, our bodies, emotions and spirit.  As the days, months and seasons progress, I hope I will be able to adequately convey the beauty, simplicity, and joy of this method of medicine and to provide some ideas for lifestyle enhancements to promote health and wellbeing.

I have chosen the quote by Lao Tzu as it resonates immediately with me and my feelings about undertaking this blog.  At the micro level, each blog post is another step on the road of understanding Chinese Medicine in the Taoist tradition.  At the macro level, the entire blog will be merely one step in the development and reflections of my life’s journey both as a practitioner and as a never ending student.

I hope you will join me for this journey either for its entirety or to dip in and out at your will.  It all starts with a first step…