Commitment to the Path of Enlightened Healing
Commitment is key to success within any endeavor. “The Tao Te Ching” chapter 10, entitled “What Can Be Done?” teaches, “by concentrating our vitality and inducing tenderness, we can become like a little child. By purifying, cleansing and profound intuition, we can be free from faults.”
Symptoms of dis-ease and dysfunction, coming from the mind or body, can be a calling for greater exploration of the self. We can continue to walk blindly for only so long before our bodies will demand introspective attention. Classical Chinese Medicine, based on Taoist and Confucian philosophy, believes life is a spiritual endeavor: this is true even for the least “spiritual” of us. I often hear people despair, feeling their bodies are “betraying” them when they are struck with a medical condition. The calm of health has been disrupted; their bodies are calling for attention, which, in many cases, they are not used to providing.
We live in a largely extroverted culture, which encourages us to direct our attention outwards. We are a “Firey” society: focused on conquering, exploring the outside world and enjoying the pleasures of the senses. When we are struck with a disease or disorder, it can feel jarring to our habitual way of living. The body and mind ask us to direct our attention inward, or they ask us to stop altogether. For someone in a Firey society, this can seem devastating, scary and frustrating. We feel as if we are being distracted from life.
The acupuncture channels are presented in a way to address this struggle. Their organization, trajectories and points present useful philosophy and knowledge about life. We are born, and the first years of our lives are devoted to survival: breathing, sleeping and learning to digest food from our environment. This stage is represented by the lung and stomach channels. If we can graduate from this stage in our development, we move into the interactive stage. As a baby begins to crawl and walk, she shows her desire to go out into the world and explore, as represented by the heart and small intestine channels. However, everything the child discovers in her exploration, she must bring back into herself. This process is represented by the bladder channel shuttling information into the kidney, where it interacts with the self. From there, a personality is formed, as are perceptions of the world through the “self-differentiation” stage of the pericardium and gallbladder channels.
The challenge of health concerns; brought about by aging, genetic-predispositions, lifestyle choices or trauma; are part of the natural spiritual unfolding in life. It is through these challenges that we are able to learn about ourselves and develop the virtues. This is a natural process that occurs within the “self-differentiation” stage of development. It is written into the code of the body; as represented by the progression of the acupuncture channels; that something will come into our lives and direct us inwards to modify our way of seeing ourselves and the world.
Perceptions of the world and ourselves are molded through the pericardium channel. This is the channel frequently used to treat trauma. As we venture out into the world as children, the pure “water” of our kidneys (or self) can become clouded with external influences. Disappointments, internalized perceptions from others and physical trauma can create a marshy environment within “the water.” The pericardium can create a “barrier” between the heart and ourselves. We may begin to see ourselves, or the world, through the filter of our clouded perceptions, based on the “heart pains” experienced during our development.
When health concerns stop us in our tracks, we are being asked to “concentrate on our vitality, purify, cleanse,” and “listen to our profound intuition,” as suggested by the Tao Te Ching. Within the channels of self-differentiation, occur a process where we are able to sort through accumulated perceptions, experiences and beliefs. Our Hearts have pulled much information, and many experiences, into our Kidneys throughout life. It is the Gallbladder that determines what promotes and supports our health and true sense of self, and what eats away at it.
Through the introspective period of the healing process, a purification and rectification occur. We are able to refine our experiences and discard the garbage. We are hopefully able to redefine how we see ourselves and the world in ways that promote and support our health and growth.
Commitment to the purification and rectification processes are key to transformation in healing. Symptoms often increase in intensity when we resist the body’s request to slow down and direct our attention inwards. The Gallbladder gives us the choice: do we wish to address our past, our lifestyle choices, our beliefs; or would we prefer to keep them in a state of repression?
There is no judgement attached to our choices, but there are consequences. Anything kept in a state of repression within the body will generate heat, which will slowly consume the resources of the body, leading to degeneration and aging.
Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist philosophy all believe that eventually we will have to deal with our “heart pain.” These philosophies believe in re-incarnation. If something is not resolved in this life, it will be carried onto the next. And for those of us who do not believe in re-incarnation, there is also the image of inheritance. That which we have not resolved can be passed on to our children through the genetic line.
Commitment to honoring our bodies and minds comes from self-care. Allowing time to be quiet, reflect and listen to the messages our body is trying to convey. Acupuncture is a type of body-oriented meditation, where the mind is focused on the body through the treatment.
When patients come to me with symptoms, my job is to listen and interpret the messages. The acupuncture treatment is a type of ritual where symptoms are honored and acknowledged. I use my medical knowledge to identify what switches are asking to be turned on or off via the acupuncture points at any given time. Each treatment focuses the patient’s mind in a specific way: bringing up sublimated information, moving blockages and fortifying the body’s energy. The sun is allowed to shine through the clouds, illuminating the pristine water. From there, the patient’s mind and body can make choices as to what they wish to discard, transform or cultivate.
It is through commitment to this ritualized practice that healing occurs. As with meditation or martial arts practice, cultivation comes through practice. Devoting time and space to being quiet and directing the attention inwards allows the transformation to take place. Freedom from suffering, confusion and pain are the results.
I find this process very supportive when in the midst of a health concern. Seeing health and disease this way has helped me step away from feeling like a victim. It is empowering to think that my health difficulties are part of my spiritual evolution; as is understanding that the body is not “betraying” me when I get sick. The body provides us with symptoms to alert us that there is something we need to pay attention to. The symptoms come from love; not from punishment. Our spirits want to evolve. Disease can simply be a vehicle to achieve this.