Through some serendipity and some hard decisions, I’m finding myself with just a little more time on my hands than usual. My clinical practice is soaring, the business is reaching a nice momentum point, and I’m stepping out of University teaching. With my daughter out of the house and doing well on her own, and no major family crises dominating my attention – things are looking clearer than ever! What’s more, I’m a pretty simple guy. I don’t have many hobbies, I’ve no interest in acquiring any, and I don’t do many of the things that most people would consider leisure activities. So, this free time isn’t about to be gobbled up by something like that.
As I open myself to possibilities, I’m finding my attention dominated by two things. The first, not as relevant for this blog post, is meditation, the philosophy and science of mind and Buddhism. The second is, of course, Chinese medicine. Particularly – Chinese herbalism.
Now, yes, everything is the medicine and the medicine is everything.
Whether you spend a dozen hours a week reading graphic novels, or are a snowboarding champion or a woodworker, everything you learn there will, in some way, relate back to the medicine. I know plenty of colleagues who learn far more about how to treat patients effectively from kayaking the Columbia or donating time at the local food bank than most do reading books or thinking through theory.
Further, the learning you do by treating patients and observing effects – that’s learning that really sticks. It’s important, and I’ve been doing a lot of it. But, still, there are times when nothing but rote memorization, digging through texts and thinking through difficult questions will do. To get to the next level, I need to reengage with traditional scholarship. With books and mindmaps and critical thinking. And I’ve struggled, in the past, to make much time for more traditional absorption of knowledge.
The year of the pig has shifted all of that, and maybe it really is that triple burner deep yin energy that’s awakening my dormant faculties.
But even more important is my commitment to the Shanghan Lun Lines Retreat with ICEAM in Canada this June. I went to another Lines retreat 6 years ago, but frankly, I didn’t benefit the way I should have due to my busy life and mind. This time, I’m feeling ready. And the work I’ve done already in preparation has enlivened me about my lineage, the work that ICEAM does, and my place in this flow of information and practice. So, a surge of energy is powering me into a whole new cycle of time, as the yijing likes to say.
- To rememorize and otherwise refresh my knowledge and understanding of the Shanghan lun (SHL) formulas and all of the herbs therein
- To rememorize (and in some cases memorize for the first time) the Lines of the SHL
- To rememorize (and in some case memorize for the first time) the pulses associated with the formulas that are part of my lineage
- To read works outside my direct teachers and lineage about the SHL to add nuance to my understanding
- To do case review related to my prescription of SHL formulas, as well as those of my teachers in clinic over the years
- To arrive at the Lines retreat ready to receive the transmission and take a step forward in my clinical understanding
- Pen and paper
- Flashcard Hero app
- The Brain app
- Devonthink Pro Office app
- GoodNotes app
- Home office wall whiteboard & markers
- SHL translation Mitchell/Wiseman/Ye
- Commentary on the Discussion of Cold Damage with Annotations translation Jonathan Schell of CMDB (review forthcoming)
- SHL translation Guohui Liu
- Notes and recordings about SHL and formulas through the years, including all my notes from the indispensable series of courses, now available online, by Dr. Arnaud Versluys of ICEAM
Here on the site, I’ll share more of my methods and what I run into along the way.
There are a few articles here on the site about memorization, which will be the most important task of the next 20-30 days. I have the bulk of what I need already committed to memory, or so I think. I’m always surprised when I reengage how much I’ve let slip, and I don’t want to be slipping. There’s simply no replacement for memorization, and I find the more I have committed to memory, the more useful I am in clinic.
I still stand by the basic methods I discuss in my Shennong course on Chinese herbalism as well. Staring at text in books and living in the ether of the mind is great, but when I get stuck, nothing beats smelling, touching, growing and tasting herbs. While the SHL mostly trucks in formulas, and formula science is the best way to understand the text, there’s something indescribably important about engaging with the plants themselves on some level.
I will be posting as often as I can in the lead up to the retreat on June 10, and then posting my observations during the seminars themselves as I have time. It’s going to be a summer to remember! No pun intended…