"The term 'inner tradition' refers to the practice of Chinese medicine
in a way that places primary emphasis
on the use of medicine as a tool to aid spiritual evolution."
Last night, I had a giant realization right before I went to sleep. While reading just the first few pages of Lonny Jarrett's book (as quoted above), I wanted to highlight every word in a gold as brilliant as the awareness it was shining on healing and spirituality. Then, an a-ha moment crescendoed into my consciousness as parts of past and present all came together.
I immediately journaled:
"I am remembering now, as I read this book, that it's always been this. From the iSearch project in Mr. Provisor's 9th grade class — where my mother "strongly suggested"(forced) me to look into acupuncture as the main topic — I have always been fascinated by the complementary healing arts. How odd it is that while Mom continually cautioned us to do everything we could to fit into the mainstream and not stand out, every time a project came up in school, she asserted how important it was to distinguish ourselves as Chinese, so we could teach the other students about our culture. Now, I have a chance to incorporate it into my teaching and even possibly create a teacher training program after my 500-hour training. The more that I think about it, how wonderful and amazing it would be that this could be my passion, after all this time, and maybe even take me around the world by teaching a blend of the East & the West!"
Basically, it's kind of like how the sky has always been blue, but suddenly, you realize that you can see the hue in a totally new way. It's always been there, but as the adage goes, you'll only get it when you're ready to get it.
When I was in 9th grade, we were assigned a project for the semester, called an iSearch Project, where we had to pick a topic and generate an original 20-page double-spaced paper and a 15-minute presentation. Our teacher, Mr. Provisor, had various stipulations — we had to conduct live interviews with people (this was prior to the Internet, so it involved looking in the Yellow Pages and typing and mailing letters of inquiry to people), have a certain number of resources and references (which meant lots of library visits to refer to the Dewey Decimal System), and I can't remember what else. At the time, it seemed like a lot! I had no idea what I was passionate about (all I wanted to do was fit in and like what everyone else liked) and was the queen of procrastination (a habit that has shifted... a little).
Finally, a month before it was due, my mother kept pestering me that I should do the project on acupuncture and Eastern Medicine. I looked at her, skeptical and irritated. For a woman who constantly drilled it into her children's minds that we needed to do everything we could to fit into the dominant 'white' culture, this suggestion was going against everything she had taught me up until that point. What's more, one of my aunts was an acupuncturist and not only did I view her as a mean lady, but every time I was around her, it seemed all she wanted to do was jab thin little needles into my siblings and myself.
Eventually, I relented. I wrote letters of inquiry to various acupuncturists, requesting a bit of their time to do a live interview (maybe this is also where my love for hearing others' stories began?), and actually got a few responses. My mother drove me where I needed to go and to my surprise, I became enthralled by what these experts were telling me.
I distinctly remember meeting with a gray-haired Caucasian gentleman practicing Eastern Medicine in his office. He asked if I'd like to test the health of my organs and body systems, the way that he would do with any other patient.
"Sure?" I responded, questioningly.
He brought out what looked like a silver rectangle with holes drilled in orderly rows that perfectly fit an array of smile vials the acupuncturist had in a case. Connected to the rectangle by a black cord was a round silver wand.
"Hold this in one hand," he instructed as he gave me the tubular stick. "I'm going to place different vials in this container. Each of these vials contain elements that correspond to your different organs, so I'll test and see which one is healthy and which might need a bit of help. You'll hold out your other arm, and resist my push. If your organ is healthy, you'll be able to resist me. If not, you won't. This is one of the ways I test how my patients' bodies are doing."
Only now do I realize that he was muscle testing me. He first began with my arm at neutral, held out to my side, where I could the push of his hand with ease. Yet, as soon as he put a vial in the metallic container on the desk, one that designated a part of my body that was not as healthy as it could be, there was nothing I could do to resist his pressure. He'd take the vial out, push again, and I'd be fine. Put the vial back in to test and my arm flopped towards the ground like cooked spaghetti. My mind was blown away.
The other highlight I remember from this project was finding a VHS recording of a PBS show that featured videos of qigong masters in China. In a community park, the master would stand 40 yards away from a row of adults. He would then place his hands together and push energy towards the line of 20 adults, who would all fall back as though he were standing right in front of them and shoving them over — and he wasn't even close to touching them! I just looked quizzically at the television and wondered how?
In the end, staying up til dawn the night before my presentation was due, trying to put together a poster board and writing a 20-page paper with all the correct citations, jammed everything I'd learned over the past month in a way that the 15-minutes of presenting in front of my classmates flew by. I went from being nervous to having too much to say in the amount of time I was allotted, and somehow without my knowing, shifted from a topic I cared nothing about to something that I presented in such a way that everyone in the room was entranced.
The classroom clapped once I finished my last word. Mr. Provisor looked as though he were about to jump out of his chair, "You obviously did a lot of work and really care about this topic!"
Inwardly, I grimaced.
"No!" I wanted to shout out loud. "I don't care about this Chinese stuff! I want to be American! I want to be a white girl like all the rest of my friends and eat bologna sandwiches in brown paper bags rather than have to buy my lunch from the cafeteria!"
But, that's not what he was referring to, so instead, I did what I was taught to do, which is nod silently and smile acceptingly. I answered questions from the other students, which they asked not as much because it would earn them participation credits, but because I could see they were genuinely intrigued. This was likely the first time any of them had ever been exposed to anything like this. Then I sat back down and thought nothing more about it over the next two decades of my life.
Now, I'm dating an acupuncturist who, over the course of our relationship, has encouraged me to actually embrace being Chinese/Taiwanese. His family has shown me what it's like to honor tradition, to blend the culture they now live in with the one they were raised in. They've welcomed me into their lives as if I were their daughter, and I suddenly feel like I belong somewhere. Yet, I've had less than a handful of conversations with my beau about his acupuncture and Chinese herbology practice over the past 450+ days, other than to ask how his day went. I haven't inquired about the meridians in the body, which points correspond to which emotions, or how healing happens even though I am deeply interested in these things. It may seem obvious, but just as my nose sits on my face, it did not even occur to me to bring this as a topic of learning between us. Instead, I've simply sat beside him listening to strangers at restaurants question how treatments work when they find out he's an acupuncturist, and plucked a book or two from his library.
There are parts about me that are still resistent to bringing in what seems to have been so obvious all along. How could I not have seen that the seeds were planted long ago, when I find that the past decade of my adult life has been to search inwardly for answers? How could I not have acknowledged that I am truly excited to learn about all of these complementary modalities? I have been searching through Ayurveda, through yoga, through Reiki and other sorts of energy healing, when all the while, it has been in my blood. I was raised with it right in front of my face, surrounding my ears, lingering around my consciousness, even pricking my skin, yet because of a feeling of learned shame for being a minority, I have instead existed with a thick dark fog blocking a potential gift that was my birthright.
Over the past couple of weeks, I've realized how important it is to discover and unleash my own brand of yoga teaching style. Not what I think a teacher should be, how I think I should sound, what I think I should say, or what I feel I should know, but how can I be my most authentic self, where I'm not afraid to shine brightly irregardless of what others will say/think/do? On the most recent call with my business coach, he asserted that the more we worry about getting others to like us and the more people-pleasing we try to be, the more unappealing we actually become. Ultimately, we end up garnering the opposite reaction of what we're aiming for.
In reading just the introduction to Nourishing Destiny, I had to resist nudging my beau awake with exclamations of amazement at these answers just resting on my lap. According to China's oldest herbal text, Shen Nong Ben Cao, "the highest aspect of healing involves helping the patient to fulfill destiny in order to live out the years as allotted by heaven. Below that level of healing is the nourishment of humans' inborn nature (xing). The lowest class of medicine treats only physical illness."
I had no idea that traditional Chinese medicine had a primary therapeutic focus to help patients fulfill their personal destiny. Jarrett writes:
"I call this the 'inner tradition of Chinese medicine,'... that places primary emphasis on the use of medicine as a tool to aid spiritual evolution. Most notably, a patient's progress in treatment is assessed primarily by indicators of conscious awareness and balanced emotional functioning rather than, as is done in more external traditions of practice, assessing response to treatment with primary emphasis on the relative presence or absence of pain or other physical symptomalogy... Another hallmark of the inner tradition is that it explicitly serves as an extension of the practitioner's own spiritual quest and path. A foundational principle of this tradition is that a practitioner may only engender a virtue in a patient to the degree that he or she is able to assess that virtue within."
It's in the artful stories of each Chinese calligraphic character, the fables and mythology behind how things came to be, the reasons why my family was so superstitious growing up. All of these things were planting the seeds for me to put it all together into a way that is applicable for today's culture.
But, this still involves my actively embracing a side of myself that I have almost repented since elementary school, when I came to realize that I looked, ate, and thought differently from my majority counterparts. By truly blending East and West in a teaching style and a belief system that works for me means reevaluating so much of what I think in a loving and less judgmental way. It involves coming to terms with the fact that I am truly a hybrid being, one who was born in sunny California with attributes of a country half the globe away.
Can I do that? Can I finally relish that I'm not the docile, submissive Asian girl so often portrayed in mainstream media, that I'm not super thin and delicate, but rather curvy and strong, that I have a voice that commands a presence? Can I exude confidence rather than be self-effacing or face-saving? Can I take what I love about both cultures and truly make it my own in a way that other Asian-Americans who've grown up in this country with parents from another one would be proud of, too? Ultimately, can I love exactly who I am on the inside and the outside?
I believe the answer is 'yes.' And it all starts with an intention. So, my intention is to be all of me. And, with this blog and daily life, I'll see what the Universe and I co-create.
I bet it's something beautiful.