Creating Your Own Path to Wholeness
Marcia wouldn’t take no for an answer. She refused to believe, “No, we can’t figure out what’s causing your nausea and pain. No, we can’t do much for your depression besides give you drugs.”
Marcia initially came to the Chicken Soup Chinese Medicine clinic to enlist our help with her gynecological problems. For six months, she worked with me, using acupuncture and herbs, to ease her monthly pain and nausea.
“From the beginning, I could feel the improvement, but it still sort of snuck up on me, just how much of a difference it was making,” Marcia said. After several months of weekly treatments, she no longer had to miss a day of work every month. She rarely had any discomfort, and pain was a thing of the past.
Marcia was pleased that she’d sought out a solution and that it had worked. She’d been bouncing from doctor to doctor for years, and they never found a reason for her symptoms. But Chinese medicine looked at Marcia’s mind/body/spirit, not one isolated part of her body, and it offered her treatments based on an understanding of her whole being.
However, despite Marcia’s improved gynecological health, she was spiraling into depression. Her much-loved brother was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, and she felt helpless and angry that she couldn’t do more for him. Marcia had trouble sleeping, lacked energy, and lost interest in doing activities that she used to enjoy.
“I couldn’t think of how to do anything helpful. It all seemed useless,” she said, looking back on her sinking mood. “I guess I was always troubled a bit by depression, because my body had been out of balance for so long, but my brother’s illness pushed me over the edge.”
Although Marcia was scared, she didn’t give up. She created her own path to wholeness by putting together a team of health care providers and making sure they worked together within the context of Chinese medicine’s understanding of the unity of the mind/body/spirit.
“At first, I went to a psychiatrist for my depression,” Marcia said. “Then it occurred to me. I knew that acupuncture and herbal medicines were effective; they cured my recurring gynecological troubles. I thought maybe Chinese medicine combined with psychiatry could help my depression.”
Marcia said that she wanted me to talk with her other doctor so we could coordinate our treatments. She was in charge of her healing process; she guided us toward each other. The results were tremendous.
The psychiatrist and I compared diagnoses and treatment. I had determined Marcia suffered primarily from Liver Qi Stagnation, which was causing her gynecological problems, as well as disturbances of the Shen or spirit, which were producing depression. The doctor said Marcia was in a clinical depression, and she had decided she didn’t want to take antidepressants. The doctor concurred with her and said it would help Marcia’s growth if she could battle her psychological problems without drugs. That led the doctor to ask if I could provide treatments that would ease the physiological aspects of depression. I drew up a revised herb and acupuncture program and shifted the focus of Marcia’s treatment from primarily the body to primarily the spirit.
Marcia then expanded her healing team to include several other practitioners. She used both Feldenkrais and Rolfing body therapies to quiet her anxiety and tension, and she began seeing a nutritionist to reshape her diet so it provided more energy.
In a matter of weeks, Marcia’s whole demeanor changed. She began to believe that she might see some real improvement in her life. Her depression lifted.
“Things are better now,” she said. “When I’m feeling bad, I don’t think it’s the end of the world. When I feel good, it doesn’t worry me.”
Marcia has been directing her combined therapies for eight months now. Her initial regime of acupuncture and herbs, along with her weekly visits to the psychiatrist and the other therapies, resolved the depression.
“I feel terrific,” Marcia said. “It worked.”
For maintenance, Marcia receives acupuncture once every two weeks, takes herbs, and sees her psychiatrist once a month.
Marcia’s determination to regain harmony in mind/body/spirit inspired her to create a comprehensive healing program. It’s to Marcia—and to everyone who won’t take no for an answer—that this book is dedicated.
The New Chinese Medicine Handbook is your guidebook to pursuing health in mind/body/spirit. In this book, I demonstrate how you—like Marcia—can take control of your healing process and maintain or restore harmony in all aspects of your life, using Chinese medicine as the great vessel that transports you toward wholeness while bringing in many other healing arts as adjunct therapies.
This eclectic approach to healing, grounded in the philosophy and practice of Chinese medicine, and embracing the wisdom and benefits of many other forms of healing, is what I call the New Chinese Medicine.
New Chinese Medicine evolved over the first two decades at my clinic, Chicken Soup Chinese Medicine, and at Quan Yin Healing Arts Center, of which I was cofounder and then director of research and education. The underpinning of New Chinese Medicine is Chinese traditional medicine. Chinese medicine has evolved over several thousand years without interruption to its modern forms.
THE POWER OF CHINESE MEDICINE
If you expand your concept of healing to include the Chinese way of thinking about the human condition, you may experience a subtle but powerful change in how you take care of yourself.
• Chinese medicine theory will give you a new way of describing illness. You don’t catch a cold; you develop a disharmony.
• Chinese medicine will allow you to imagine a new way of overcoming illness. You don’t kill a bug with a drug; you use acupuncture and herbs to dispel disharmony.
• Chinese medicine offers a unique approach to treating physical problems and emotional upheaval. When you have a broken arm, you don’t treat only the body. And when you have a broken heart, you don’t treat only the spirit.
The mind/body/spirit is treated as a whole.
What is now named Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in China and in Western schools of TCM is a post-revolution compilation of the ancient Chinese medical theories of acupuncture, herbal therapy, dietary therapy, and Qi Gong exercise/meditation. In addition to TCM, my practice harks back to the roots of Chinese medicine and places a great emphasis on treatment of disharmony in the mind, emotions, and spirit. Chinese medicine is the root of this healing approach because it provides us with a powerful way to view human beings in all facets of our physical and spiritual being.
At my clinic, we recommend other healing approaches in addition to Chinese medicine treatments. We encourage clients to use whatever other healing therapies are necessary to create balance, wholeness, and wellness. These therapies may come from Ayurvedic medicine, Tibetan medicine, naturopathic medicine, standard Western medicine, homeopathy, chiropractic, psychotherapy, bodywork practices such as Shiatsu and deep tissue massage, Bach Flower therapy, aromatherapy, and body realignment therapies, such as Alexander Technique, Pilates, and Feldenkrais. The list goes on and on. Chinese medicine theory and practice—in conjunction with Western medicine and various modalities—is the essence of New Chinese Medicine.
APPLYING NEW CHINESE MEDICINE
You don’t need to see a Chinese medicine practitioner or come to our clinic to reap the benefits of New Chinese Medicine. You can use many self-care techniques to help you get started along your path to wholeness today. These techniques and therapies include Chinese dietary guidelines; various forms of meditation and exercise from Chinese Qi Gong to aerobics; Western nutritional supplementation; self- and partnered massages from Japan, China, and the West; and soaks, saunas, and compresses.
Self-care practices can make a dramatic and immediate difference in the quality of your life even before you have explored the Chinese medicine concepts on which New Chinese Medicine is based. Self-care therapies are notsecond best. I believe that they should be 80 percent of all care. They’re the most important part of any journey toward wholeness. You can’t arrive there unless you bring yourself along.
THE BENEFITS OF NEW CHINESE MEDICINE
New Chinese Medicine offers the opportunity to maximize your pursuit of wholeness.
• You will have an opportunity to explore the basics of Chinese medicine philosophy and practices.
• You will learn about many self-care techniques that give you control over the harmony of your mind/body/spirit.
• You will become familiar with the comprehensive programs for maintaining general good health; managing digestive problems; supporting the liver; handling stress, anxiety, and depression; managing women’s gynecological health; and helping people with cancer to survivorship. Each comprehensive program in this book sets out a specific plan for using Chinese medicine, standard Western medicine, and various other Eastern and Western healing therapies to restore balance and harmony in the mind/body/spirit.
TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR PURSUIT OF WHOLENESS
Why did I develop this New Chinese Medicine that encompasses so many traditions and healing arts? I developed it because many of my clients demanded control over their own healing process and access to the widest array of health-seeking therapies. Their vision of healing gave birth to New Chinese Medicine, and their determination proved a person can move toward wholeness—even in the face of devastating illness.
Twenty-four years ago, Jennifer came to see me because her Western doctor had diagnosed her with endometriosis. She had emergency surgery, which made her symptoms worse, and she could not tolerate the proffered drug therapy because of her sensitivity to similar medication. Jennifer was extremely skeptical about Chinese medicine, but she was desperate to find some relief from the severe pain of her condition. I prescribed her a regimen of herbs, acupuncture, and nutritional supplements. Slowly, she began to become sensitive to how her mind/body/spirit were affected by the disease and could contribute to the cure. She began to meditate and practice visualization while we continued her healing regimen.
After one year, Jennifer returned to her original Western doctor for an examination. He did another laparoscopy to check on the disease. There was no sign of endometriosis! Jennifer had combined Western and Chinese medicine, and she had both cured the physical disorder and propelled herself along a path to mind/body/spirit healing.
New Chinese Medicine can also be a powerful healing tool when a cure, in a Western sense, is impossible. In fact, the people whom I have seen become the most balanced and whole are not necessarily those who have become perfectly physically well. The most balanced are people who have gained maturity through growth and continual attention to the inner self. They may not have chosen to become ill, but they did exercise a choice about how they became well. Instead of allowing other people to make decisions for them, they took control of their lives and healing processes.
Let me give you an example.
Nick, a client with AIDS, came to me in 1987. He had been diagnosed with AIDS-related lymphoma, and his medical doctor told him that he had two treatment choices: chemotherapy or no chemotherapy. When Nick asked what the results of treatment might be, he was told that with chemotherapy he could live six months but would feel horrible, and without chemotherapy he could live three to six months without feeling especially sick. Nick decided not to pursue any Western therapies for AIDS or cancer. He began a self-designed regimen of vitamin C and the use of crystals for healing.
When Nick arrived in my office six months after beginning his self-treatment, he challenged me to say what I could offer him. I said I could not necessarily extend his life, but I could offer him a healing process. My role would be to provide all of the tools of Chinese medicine and, sometimes, to recommend that he seek Western therapies. We started a program of acupuncture and herbal remedies, and he agreed to use Western treatments for the various syndromes and diseases associated with AIDS if it became necessary. I told Nick he would have to be part of the process. He agreed (not liking the Western part), and insisted that he must be in charge of his treatment.
Sometimes, Nick listened to exactly what I told him, and other times he ignored me completely. At all times, Nick listened to his inner self, continuing to meditate and sit in front of his altar with its crystals and other objects that he thought were healing for him.
Nick had one of the strongest spirits and the most irascible personalities I have ever experienced. He lived for another five and a half years. This was a man who took full responsibility for his own healing, and he died a healed man.
These are but some of the paths to wholeness. As you search for your own path, it is my hope that The New Chinese Medicine Handbook will help you in your healing journey. Use this book as a resource. Take what you need and leave the rest. You may return to this book again and again, or you may sit with it and explore the deeper meanings in Chinese medicine. Your spirit will guide you. Healing will follow.