My mind has been completely occupied this last six months with a little question : What does it mean to be a Professional of Chinese Medicine (or of Acupuncture or of East Asian Medicine or however you prefer to say it) in the 21st century? Further, how do answers to this question shape how we run our acupuncture practices, how we actually do our medicine, and how we live our lives amid all of that?
Several of you have already stopped reading this post, because you believe such a thing cannot be articulated.
Profession with a capital P? Too diverse a field, you think, and perhaps the question itself smacks of a little authoritarianism, or an attempt to squash the essential wildness of a medicine attempting to make space in a world of automatons.
In my teaching and coaching/consultant life, I work mostly to help people find out where they are, and what the relationship is with the Profession writ large, and find a space where all their talents, their interests, their desires, and most of all their potential are not just satisfied, but developed. This, for me, requires articulating what that Profession truly is and where it is as a developing “organism.”
I find that when people refuse to recognize the Profession as a Profession – to look it in the face with eyes open – their success is painful, often short in duration. Their fervor for the medicine fades, as does their practice. As a community of practitioners, a Profession, with codes and rules and workflows, we support one another – we give context to an occupation that sometimes can feel quite isolating.
I believe our profession is in the stage of development that is unique, and if we are to bring the wisdom and the practice and the power of the ancients into today’s world, and requires all of us to transcend those aspects of ourselves that would prefer to remain quiet, meek, safe, and otherwise underdeveloped.
It in fact requires those of us (and lord there are many of us) who hold dear to a confrontational, oppositional and counter cultural persona to consider compromise, unification and the values of more conventional perspectives. On the other hand, it requires those who prefer the well-worn path, who yearn for the staid, the status quo, the simplified, the adoration of the establishment to accept their position as outsiders and to shake things up.
The middle path, and all that.
In this profession, we have skateboarders and accountants and surfers and insurance salespeople. We have people fresh faced from college and from across all oceans and travelers and small town officials and punk rockers and dads. We have people from across every political spectrum, every nation, every personality type. Diverse dreams, backgrounds, perspectives, abilities and plans for our practices. There can never be one true way in this medicine – so why would there be in our practices, our clinics, our non-clinical applications of our degrees? Certainly, I can see that is true.
But this is true of nearly all Professions. People are diverse, and most Professions (especially old ones) are diverse in turn.
I still believe that there is an energetic and physical reality binding practitioners together, and that there is value in being aware of this, cultivating it, and creating structures and functional entities to keep it growing. It is similar to an ecosystem. There are parts of any ecosystem that are quite different from one another, but they are united in harmony through the interrelationships within.
Our Profession is an ecosystem in that sense.
My goal with my work on this site and in my teaching from this point forward is simple. To create a space – intellectually and otherwise – for the articulation of a vision of Professional Chinese medicine in the 21st century.
Because of my nature, this will trend towards topics related to Chinese herbalism as well as the more practical aspects of how we make a living practicing this medicine that we love. But, as is also my nature, I’ll run down rabbit holes and answer questions that I find latent in the literature and that are asked to me directly online and offline.
As a teacher in the field of business & practice management, this discussion informs what I do rather deeply. What I am attempting to discuss is acupuncture practice for people who want some balance, who have multiple interests and desires, and who do you want to participate more deeply in the construction of a great profession and healthier world.
It should be noted that this work isn’t necessarily for those who want to make as much money as possible seeing as many patients as possible, it’s probably not right for people who want to exploit highly profitable little niche using lots of advertising and slick marketing techniques, it’s also not for people who want to be completely passive in their life and their practice – ala “build it and they will come.” It’s not for everybody, in short.
It is for those who want their business, their practice of the medicine, their study and their inner lives to be interpenetrating, harmonious and on a path of upward spiraling development. It is for those who came to this profession with the intent of doing some deep good, and are willing to work hard to get there.
I want to be clear, if I haven’t been already. I’m talking about tracing, embracing and advancing the evolution of this wild and wooly profession.
I’m asking you, my readers, my students, my teachers to see beyond your fingertips and your Quickbooks and your massage tables. To look at your maxed out life and be willing to do just 10% more. Think of it as an energetic donation to the generations of practitioners to come, to their millions upon millions of healthy and happy patients, and of a more verdant world for all. In my writing and teaching, and in the tribe thus created, I hope to be part of this undertaking.
About Eric Grey
Hi - I'm the founder of this site and the primary master of all functions here. When I'm not writing, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.