I have been working with an 82 year old retired doctor for the last few months and one of the things that I am constantly amazed by is his constant reminding me of the fundamentals of Chinese medicine. Although this is not unique in my experience of Chinese teachers, this teacher actually expresses these fundamentals in nearly every case, which, again, is not unique, but the apparent simplicity of what he is doing diagnostically turns into elegant formulas showing clear depth.
This doctor has been practicing for 64 years, and yet he still asks all the same questions that we are taught in school and is constantly pointing out how he believes that from this basic set of information, the vast majority of cases can be sorted out. The interesting thing about this is, of course, how we fit these pieces together to develop a pattern or group of patterns to treat.
I have noticed that my teacher uses his other senses quite a lot. What I mean be this is that he doesn’t simply ask questions to hear the answers (words), but he is listening the the way in which people talk, i.e. the sound of their voice, how fast they talk, etc. He observes their expressions and all manner of their physical expression as a person, including any smells, colors of the skin, eyes, etc. and this information all comes together in his diagnosis.
For some of you this may all sound simple and you might be saying, “Of course!” and I would agree, I just thought it might be a good reminder that the fundamentals are what they are for a reason, they are the most important part of diagnostics in Chinese medicine. I also bring this up because I think that Western practitioners tend to easily get caught up in people’s drama and get sucked into becoming a counselor. While this may be part of a process for a person, and I would never discount it as a reasonable part of working with a patient, I think these reminders are important so that we can get to the heart of Chinese medicine’s view of what is going on with a patient and relieve their suffering, which is, after all, what they came to us for.