TCM experience #1
I finally got to truly experience and learn traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Although my first experience with TCM was arguably the time I spent at the Koyfman institute in Atlanta, and my second experience was a massage I received from a half blind dude the second week I got here, the time I spent with Josh was pretty life changing. Josh wasn’t like the Koyfman’s in one major respect: he didn’t diss Western medicine. He talked about how his father was a “badass surgeon” and how western miracles of medicine, like steroids or antibiotics, are thankfully always a last resort.
Josh has climbed the ranks of TCM high enough to be invited to Beijing to speak at a prestigious hospital this week. I’m very thankful he had time to see me. He referred to me as his training brother, which was a big self confidence boost. The first thing he did was listen to my heart and check my tongue coating (exactly like a western doctor). He checked two places on each of my wrists to listen to the pulses connected to different organs including my colon, liver, heart, and stomach and spleen respectively. He used “technical terms” like “slippery” and “tight” to describe my pulses. One major plus was he said my liver pulse was surprisingly good. Next he took a look at my tongue, and like other doctors, exclaimed my tongue coating was surprisingly thick.
After the quick examination he asked for my permission to do some points. After explaining so much about what he was doing, I wasn’t the least bit apprehensive about receiving treatment from him. Plus, the fact he said he brought his needles with him from the states eased my mind even more. So he started placing needles in my feet, and after the first one went in I had this weird weird weird sensation. I can only describe it as the feeling you get when electrocuted: not quite pain, but certainly unpleasant and weird. After placing some needles in my feet and three along my inner tibia (he said they corresponded with digestive organs: colon, small intestine, stomach) he rubbed some oil that his girlfriend makes back in Boulder (I got to see her on skype that day, and at WangFuJing XueXiao the next week) on my stomach. He then began placing needles into my abdomen. I think there’s around 20-30 in me at this point, but it was hard to keep track (whenever I lifted up my leg to look at my feet it was pretty painful to keep in the air). He also placed one point in the crown of my head, saying it would help with hemorrhoids.
During the acupuncture, Josh explained to me that the reason he doesn’t diss Western medicine (other than his father being “a badass surgeon”) was because Western medicine supports what Chinese medicine has purported to be medical fact for millennia. We then spent a long time talking about colloquialisms like “he was so mad that he turned green” and “He’s always scared; what a yellow belly” etc. He said that one day he will write a book about how Western colloquialisms are supported by TCM. He then went on to say that even a low income, illiterate, and senile grandmother knows that “if you keep worrying, you’re gonna give yourself an ulcer”. I was very impressed with both the way he carried himself during this time because not only was he carefully placing and twisting needles into my body, he was both incredibly calming and informative through his conversation. After adding points to my hands and arms he asked if he could use moxa on me. Without knowing what he would do, I agreed.
He took out what looked like a large tampon and lit it on fire. After blowing on the flaming end to both blow out the flame and accelerate the burning of the stick he wafted some of the smoke above my body. Josh proceeded to move the stick of moxa, with the burning end closest to me, around each of the points. He focused on the points located in my stomach and my inner tibias. While he rotated the moxa around each point he talked about a major beef he had with Western medicine: that doctors view diseases as problems rather than opportunities. Josh went on to explain that Eastern tradition looks to diseases as karmic roles that we need to graduate from, and that if we just treat the symptoms, rather than overcoming the disease itself, our life experience will be lacking. What Josh said next profoundly impacted me. He said the classic analogy that life is a stage is really true, and that we are all born into our respective roles. Granted, being born with a disease, or developing a disease isn’t easy, it doesn’t necessarily “suck”. You have two options: you can view your part as the lame character who is helplessly laughed at by audience and actors alike, or you can rise to meet the challenge and make high art out of your role.
Our conversation then got pretty deep and personal. Josh remarked that my body was taking in a lot of Moxa and that most people would have said that the heat hurt too bad. I seriously hadn’t noticed, let alone been in enough pain to exclaim, “hot”. Josh then told me that the lesson was coming to a close as he removed the needles from my body. I stood up and told him I felt amazing. I grabbed my bag and headed out to catch a cab to meet the rest of the group at an unknown location.
I truly believe that Josh is right about the karmic roles bit, and that my digestive problems do serve a purpose in my life. When I overcome my issues, I will have accomplished something incredible, which will physically and mentally make everything else easier for me. Although I currently view that task as nearly impossible, I look forward to how I will view my difficulties after moving past digestive problems.