The therapeutic encounter between a practitioner and patient is, in many regards, the most important part of a healing relationship. This encounter is another way of referring to the placebo effect. But far from being ineffective, all good healers try to maximize this effect. According to Dr. Daniel Keown, acupuncture is one of the most sublime forms of the therapeutic encounter.
Chinese Medicine: A Holistic Paradigm
A series covering the foundational elements of Chinese Medical theory on Josh Summers' podcast, The Everyday Sublime: Shedding Light on Yin Yoga and Mediation.
How alive are you? This isn’t a question that Western Medicine frequently asks, but according to Dr. Daniel Keown, this question is at the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine. And the quality, quantity, and circulation of our Qi determines the potency of our “aliveness.”
What is Qi? What are the channels of Chinese Medicine? What is fascia? These questions and more are taken up by Dr. Daniel Keown, explained with lucid brilliance. For anyone interested in Chinese Medicine, this is a must-listen.
I talk with David Lesondak about his new book, Fascia: What it is and why it matters. David is rapidly becoming a rock star in the fascial world, having extensive work in structural integration, as well as having attended and presented at many of the Fascial Congresses.
Chinese language tends to describe the Organs and their functions in poetic terms. Their language is metaphorical, often drawing on images from nature and human governance to describe the various processes of human health.
“The best way to affect positively one’s Essence is by striving for balance in one’s life activities: balance between work and rest, restraint in sexual activity and balanced diet. Any irregularity or excess in these spheres is bound to diminish the Essence. A direct way to positively influence one’s Essence is through breathing exercises and such exercises as Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong.” – Maciocia
The second big function of the Blood in Chinese Medicine is that Blood is said to have the function of ‘moistening’ tissues. Strong Blood prevents things from drying out. Healthy Blood keeps the tissues moist, keeps the eyes from feeling dry, keeps the sinews (or tendons) lubricated, and moistens the skin, nails and hair, preventing all from becoming dry, cracked, and brittle.
As with everything in Chinese Medicine, all entities – whether they be a type of energy, an organ, or a meridian – tend to be defined by the functions they perform. And the concept of Qi is no different. It’s classification as a type of energy is defined by what functions it performs, and for Qi there are Five Primary Functions.
One way of thinking of the Meridians of Chinese Medicine is that they are, generally speaking, channels of communication within the organism along which subtle informational signals are transmitted.
Qi is “perceived functionally, by what it does,” is critical to remember. Entities in Chinese Medicine are almost unanimously “perceived functionally,” that is, defined by what they do. We’ll see this affirmed again and again when we look at the meridian system. Meridians are defined by what they do, functionally – the organ system – organs are defined by what they do, functionally – and the Vital Substances of the body – which again are defined by what they do, functionally for the whole organism.
A point that many authors and practitioners of Chinese Medicine often reiterate is that as qualities of change, Yin and Yang are in a constant process of controlling and balancing one another. A static, unchanging balance is never achieved. What is observed and assisted, however — both by the skilled yoga practitioner and practitioner of Chinese Medicine — is a smooth process of balancing
By observing Yin and Yang dynamics both in the macrocosm and within the microcosm, the overarching intention was always one of promoting harmony. When honored, observed and respected, Yin and Yang describe processes of change that can be fluid, harmonious and balanced. Of course, if neglected or disregarded, the ceaseless process of change between Yin and Yang can break down and no longer be a smooth, harmonizing process of balance, but rather turn into a disruptive, chaotic, and jarring dynamic of imbalance.
Taoists observed how the play of cycles in Nature would manifest in parallel within their internal experience. Understanding and attuning to the world outside facilitated an ability to bring the internal microcosm into harmony with its world, and vice versa, where greater understanding of the microcosm – especially through meditative insight – supported this harmonization with the external environment or macrocosm.
A holistic approach to medicine will formulate a diagnosis of a patient’s condition by taking into consideration the complex dynamic of everything going on internally with that patient, as well as external influences of interpersonal relationship, work, and climate. Whereas a more conventional approach to medicine will try to identify a singular causative factor that generates illness and which needs to be eliminated or suppressed.