I said this to myself over and over while I was in school learning Chinese Medicine, “Persevere, keep trying, study some more, and figure it out!” My original interpretation of persevering was to yell at myself in order to motivate myself to study. This resulted in a tight jaw, tight neck, and tight intestines, along with long slow hours trying to simultaneously study and badger myself into focusing. So much fun!
Years later, I am still studying and learning Chinese Medicine. In the last few years, I have come to appreciate what it means to be involved in a “life long study.” Life long study does mean perseverance. But perseverance does not mean badgering oneself into studying. For something to hold my attention this long, I obviously have a genuine interest and curiosity in the topic. I can skip the badgering routine now.
Chinese Medicine is an interesting topic. There are so many layers, perspectives, opinions and methods regarding Chinese Medicine, that finding what really is my interest within this vast framework has taken many years.
Here is what I have come to so far: Nature, Tao, Qi.
As an ancient (at least 5,000 years) medicine, Chinese Medicine was born from people who lived more directly with Nature than I do. “Back then,” people were seen as obvious manifestations of and important parts of Nature. The macrocosm (the Universe) was known as a reflection within every human being. So, to know ourselves was to know the Universe. To know the Universe was to know ourselves. To the know trees, rocks, streams, air, birds, flowers, seasons, Sun and Moon, wind, cold, heat, shadows and bright spots in Nature was the same as knowing the composition and flow of a person made up of body, mind, and spirit.
Taoism was the philosophy of those ancient times. Notions of healing, the elements, physical practices of Qi Gong, the qualities of herbs, a lifestyle of peace, harmony and longevity grew from Taoism.
Qi is the energy that enlivens and is all of life. In the west, we have no equivalent to the word, so we wander through words like “life force,” “energy,” and “breath” seeking a way to understand Qi. Qi is what Chinese Medicine is “treating.” If the Qi is unbalanced or stagnant, then the manifestation of the body, mind, spirit, of the person will also be unbalanced or stagnant. Although we have no real translation of the term, we have Qi.
Perseverance now means that I gently, patiently, and persistently direct my awareness to Nature, the Tao, and Qi. There is nothing in a book that will yield an understanding of these three foundational values of Chinese Medicine. Nothing about Nature, the Tao, or Qi is combative, oppressive or aggressive. So, badgering and contracting an order to “buckle down” and get focused has not led me to understanding. The perseverance I practice now is one of persistently practicing patience with myself, offering myself compassion and love while finding my way into the mysterious flow of ancient wisdom, bit by bit, a little at a time sprinkled with the occasional joyous moment of “Aha!”