East Meets West
The field of Oriental medicine emerged thousands of years ago in a culture dedicated to alignment with integrity. With a highly disciplined approach, eastern physicians sought to alleviate human suffering by understanding the principles that support all of life. Most people do not realize that these ancient physicians mapped out a complete and comprehensive field of medicine that can work synergistically along with a western medical regimen, or provide tremendous benefit on its own. Every condition possible in humankind was categorized in an intricate system; for thousands of years, these principles have been verified countless times. Still today, careful diagnosis and treatment planning allows for the improvement or resolution of conditions, whether they are internally or externally based. Treatment may include acupuncture, herbal formulas, stress management and education that brings to light what has been contributing to the ill pattern and the wisdom that eliminates it. Western medicine, also dedicated to alleviating human suffering through the acquisition of knowledge and preservation of spirit, has advanced to a degree that many conditions which used to wipe out whole societies have been resolved, while new discoveries are made each day.
Both communities, through centuries of disciplined and meticulous study have peeled apart illness, developing independent theories as to how the body works; each discipline looking at the human system from different perspectives: western medicine finding discrete causes and cures for pathologies; eastern medicine, more interested in describing the principles upon which good health rests and how misalignment and imbalance within these guiding principles manifests as disharmonic patterns. Neither eastern nor western medicine replace each other; each offers a unique perspective from which to gain knowledge and insight. For those conditions that have not yet been resolved, it might be interesting to consider sharing information between eastern and western disciplines, rather than distorting either to fit into systems that are not direct overlays. By combining the fundamental knowledge within these independently derived perspectives, the total field of medicine may expand, opening up pathways that lead to resolution or improving many conditions not effectively treatable by other means.
Looking at how oriental medicine theory was developed reveals a deeper understanding of the potential benefits that might result from greater communication between eastern and western clinicians. The theory behind the practice of oriental medicine traces back thousands of years, and although the numerous translations are not without some error, the fundamentals upon which the practice of oriental medicine is based has withstood, not just centuries, but thousands of years. The principles are consistent, reliable, and when looked at critically, with an understanding of context, are found to be comprehensive, coherent and verifiable. We find that in current practice, diagnostic assessments based on oriental medical theory and western methods generally support each other.
What can be ascertained through in-depth study of the agreed-upon texts is that oriental medicine theory was brought forth by physicians who were highly disciplined, seeking to alleviate human suffering by conscientiously investigating and understanding the principles that support all of life. A complex medical theory developed that defined each organ system, discerned the functions and processes of each, as well as the guiding principles that explain how each organ system is positively or negatively impacted by responses to stress, pathogenic factors or imbalance. Ancient eastern physicians became adept at observing and describing specific illnesses as patterns that had not only physical, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually concordant patterns. Without microscopes or other forms of advanced technology, they became, instead, focused on the macroscopic observation of complex patterns and cascades of precipitating factors that contribute to, or are associated with a given condition. Perceiving even the energetic flow of the body and each of its organ systems was considered a fine-tuned skill.
Energetic lines associated with each organ system were traced, as they emerged from each organ to produce both internal pathways that inter-connect various organ systems, and external meridians that run along the surface of the skin. From each main internal and external branch, a web of inter-connecting meridians, (similar to a highway system or the circulatory system), was found to energize the entire body. Energetic imbalances were found to be the first indication that an ill-state was beginning to manifest.
The practice of acupuncture arose as a means of influencing the energy of each organ system. Eastern physicians found that specific points along the external pathways of each organ system could be activated to influence specific organ system functions. Through careful examination, each significant point along each external pathway was precisely mapped out according to location and functions. Protocols were established that involved combining points in a systematic way in order to correct imbalances while strengthening the patient’s constitution. This is the foundation from which licensed acupuncturists practice today.
Acupuncture and integrative treatment planning is similar to that of other medical professions. Relevant information is gathered from the patient and diagnostic data is incorporated from assessment tools. Unique to acupuncture and the practice of oriental medicine are tongue and pulse diagnosis which provide extensive and highly accurate information about the quality and state of each organ system. According to findings, a preliminary diagnosis is made in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine from which a treatment plan is then devised. Acupuncturists choose a combination of points that, via needle insertion, non-insertion contact needling or other energetic treatments, influence very specific organ functions and channel pathways in a way that corrects imbalances and strengthens the body. When considering a treatment plan, care is taken to target what matters most to the patient while seeking to bring the greatest benefit to overall quality of life. (Believe it or not, very advanced practitioners can influence the qi directly without requiring the insertion of needles).
During the initial intake, physical as well as psychological and spiritual components are assessed. Acupuncturists then determine the patterns most influencing an individual’s health, a specific treatment plan can then be designed to resolve the core issues of the current pattern in a way that raises the health of the whole being. Often this includes providing educational materials on the various spiritual, mental and physical factors that are contributing to the present situation, along with tools to help remove any mental or emotional blocks to resolving the pattern, whether subconscious or overt.
It is not just the activation of individual points known to have certain functions that bring about harmony to the body; the acupuncturist will combine points that work together, influencing many body systems during the course of one treatment. This provides a high per/treatment value, as during the course of one acupuncture series, multiple body systems can be brought into balance.
If the idea of influencing the body systems via the acupuncture meridian system is difficult to grasp, we can consider that an unrestricted flow of energy positively impacts health by facilitating proper blood-flow, appropriate distribution of body fluids and nutritive substances and by directing the materials and biochemicals that restore body systems, eliminate wastes and activate the normal regulatory and immune systems.
Keep in mind that the wisdom inherent within the core of the oriental medical system is a powerful means of activating a healing response due to the level of truth within the principles upon which it is based. Commonly, patients experience mental and spiritual breakthroughs as the energy underlying various patterns transforms. Insight and a deeper understanding naturally follows. An empathetic practitioner can be the crucial ingredient in the process, catalyzing healing on multiple levels much faster than expected. This is often the case when the intention to heal is sincere and unrelenting.
Along with acupuncture and energetic balancing, coaching may be recommended to help undue mental programs and specific herbal formulations may be prescribed. Based on findings from the assessment very specific remedies can be created that provide the nutrients and biochemical agents that further supports resolution of a disharmonic pattern. While focused on resolving the underlying imbalance, the whole constitution of the patient is also supported; the overall goal being an increased level of functioning, health and quality of life.
Nutritional recommendations, coaching and stress management techniques are often employed by many acupuncturists as well. The influence of an individual’s state of mind on overall sense of well-being is not overlooked, as this is considered an extremely powerful determining factor. By taking time to bring awareness to the thinking patterns and emotional responses that supported the undesirable physical condition, conscious awareness of the contributing factors is encouraged. The long-term benefits of treatment are more stable when an understanding is generated in regards to the influence of certain stressors over the individual’s health. In addition to helping bring to awareness how certain acupuncture meridians are being impacted by stress, reliable opportunities are provided for each individual to approach challenging situations in a way that supports a greater
sense of well-being, peace of mind and physical health.
Through a course, or several courses of treatment, the undesirable signs and symptoms are resolved as ill patterns are transcended. Healing can be described as more of an evolutionary process rather than a cure. In this way, whole groupings of symptoms shift over the course of treatment and may continue to shift in the positive direction after treatment has concluded. This is possible because consciously redirecting the energy flow of the body has a powerful effect on the regulatory mechanisms that establish functionality of all the organ systems. Once the regulatory systems have let go of the old pattern and adopted a more supportive level of functioning, the individual is no longer dependent on external sources of regulation. Sometimes an individual will revert to an old pattern; or the old pattern will seem to resurface, in which case, follow-up intermittent treatment as needed will reinforce the progrss made and provide overall constitutional support and benefit to lessen the frequency and intensity or any remnants from reappearing.
Most often, the individual will require treatment over the course of several weeks to establish and affirm a shift in health, followed by a tapering off period as the new pattern is fully implemented. For deeply ingrained patterns that have predominated over the years, an extended series of treatments is often beneficial, followed by a gradual tapering off. The long-term resolution of a chronic issue is facilitated by conscious coaching methods that support the patient’s inner process.
following is an introduction to fundamental principles . . .
understanding these provides a reliable foundation from which to heal . . .
In addition to describing the physical basis needed for a disease pattern to develop, the energetic manifestations of thoughts, emotions, psychological perspectives and spiritual conflicts underlying patterns are discussed.
The foundation of oriental medicine is rooted in aligning with mental, physical and spiritual qualities that generate a sense of well-being, peace of mind and greater sense of humanity. By creating an intricate and highly specific system for classifying disease according to pattern identification, Oriental Medicine’s capacity to treat and eliminate multiple seemingly unrelated symptoms simultaneously is immense. If the physical condition cannot be resolved, understanding the nature of the illness helps generate a sense of peace and understanding.
When we follow the origination of eastern medicine we see the wisdom it beholds. Since ancient times, very gifted eastern physicians have studied the guiding principles of life. The great scholars who originally presented Oriental Medicine theory found that every disease can be categorized according to eight fundamental principles. They also discovered that each internal organ system was intricately connected by well-defined, invisible energetic pathways, termed meridians or chann
els. The health of the organs and each channel could be assessed and treated, therefore influencing overall health. With precise acupuncture protocols, energetic work or herbal formulas, energetic blocks between crucial centers of awareness are cleared, intercommunication between physical, mental, emotional, intellectual and intuitive centers is facilitated and greater quality of life is experienced.
When this whole medical system is applied to support a person with a systemic condition, multi-dimensional benefits are gained of mind, body and spirit.
Traditional Oriental Medical Theory
Each organ system has unique characteristics and is connected to a specific energetic pathway. Each energetic channel originates in its associated internal Yin organ, interconnects with its paired Yang organ, and with the other channels via a complex network of pathways called meridians and collaterals. Each pathway then emerges externally at a specific point on the surface of the body and continues along a specific route that can be traced across the surface of the skin. Often misunderstood as separate discrete entities, Yin and Yang are constantly transforming one into the other; and in fact, the priimarily Yin aspect, always includes a little Yang while the primarily Yang aspect always includes a little Yin. If they did not, the Yin aspect would implode and the Yang aspect would explode. Consequently, for every Yin organ there is a paired Yang organ of the same element. Each pair being strongly connected, they are in direct communication via the meridian pathway and together reflect Yin and Yang qualities of each element. Health prevails when each organ maintains integrity and interacts with the other organs in a harmonious, balanced way. Interdependence and mutual support is not only an ideal to strive for, but crucial for a spirited life.
© Sarah C. Mowdy, L.Ac., Master of Science and Oriental Medicine, 08/02/20
This has been merely a brief introduction into some basic fundamentals underlying the practice or oriental medicine . . .
To learn more about how oriental and integrative medicine, coaching or workshops may support you, a comprehensive integrative consult can be scheduled with:
Sarah C. Mowdy, L.Ac.
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
At Yellow Emperor Natural Healing Center
10 Greenfield Ave
San Anselmo, CA 94960