In the area of Fort Stevens National Park, at least during the off season, you can drive on the beach. Some do this purely for recreation. “It’s fun,” a local told us just a few days ago, when we expressed dismay like any good Oregonians would. But, this morning, as I sit on the beach typing on my iPad (an impossible luxury), I realize that many do it for another reason – fishing.
I’m watching about two dozen men in as many trucks walking methodically over the silver wet sand in the hunt for a bounty of clams. As I write, an immature bald eagle flies overhead in the hunt for some fish or another.
I came here to do qigong, to meditate and to write.
So far, I’ve not used the edge of the ocean for industry – beyond writing – no fishing. Even if I were to do some fishing, I’d be highly unlikely to drive, unless I had some physical difficulty necessitating a set of motorized wheels. I have to admit that when I came here at 6am to find these vehicles and their industrious masters going 50mph and parking at the waters edge, I was super, super annoyed. I came here for peace, for serenity and hopefully, for isolation.
That was not to be.
I’m going to start writing a lot about the business of Chinese medicine.
In particular, I’m going to be discussing some of the more foundational material I think about – how to vision, how to filter through all the possibilities, how to strike a balance between utility and dreaming. I’ll also be talking about all the tools and tricks and laws and moves – the actual practice and equipment to take thoughts and make them reality. And, I’m finding that this situation on the beach is an absolutely perfect inspiration for considering all that’s to come.
A white 4×4 Toyota pulls up on the beach right ahead of me, partially obstructing my view of the majestic Pacific.
The man that gets out is quiet, determined, full of the spirit of the hunt. I realize he does not disturb me, he does not interrupt me. He reminds me. That meditation, that vision, that the seed of a beautiful life and practice doesn’t lie in some place on a mountaintop or on some deserted beach, apart from industry, apart from reality, apart from the messy business of creating life out of this world. It is mixed up with it, built upon it, built with it. The noise and the serenity. The cars and the gulls. The driftwood and the bits of shattered fishing line float. The rain spitting on my back and the sun shining in my face.
When I teach students in my first year classes about building a business, they come so full of pure vision.
They want to have a practice that makes them money and yet serves everyone, no matter how destitute. They want to spend their days dwelling in the qi of the universe, treating patients who don’t give them trouble and are always compliant, and to find their books and licensing and insurance billing is somehow magically done, perfectly, purely. They want to do 2 hours of qigong a day, plus yoga, plus walks in the forest, plus build a world spanning practice, plus take three months of vacation in Costa Rica, and somehow have time to start and raise a family.
Maybe that’s possible, I tell them. Maybe.
But practice is messy. It’s hard sometimes. At first, it often seems impossibly hard. You stumble. You find yourself at the office trying to trace some stupid transaction for hours. You realize you didn’t pay enough in quarterly taxes. Your patients push back, or you have to begin the dance of firing a patient who is draining too much energy. You realize your practice has veered far away from your original vision. Your devotion to your patients and your business detracts from your life at home. You realize you’ve not moved your body significantly for a week, or that you’re hiding out in the gym or in the forest, ignoring your bookkeeping and your records.
I like to talk about these things, not because I want to discourage students, but because if we know the pitfalls, we can gameplan for them.
Staying in balance implies a process. It implies that sometimes we get knocked off our equilibrium, and then we come back. For me, the judgment of whether I’m living a life of balance isn’t based on my never finding the dark, messy underbelly of reality of life on this planet. It’s based on how quickly I realize it, reorient, and step my way back into the light.
My moving here, to Astoria, from Portland – the center of the cool kid universe is part of my latest walk back to the equilibrium of my original vision. And that’s why I’m going to devote the next little bit of my work here at CMC to discussing it. To discussing my own life, my own practice, and how I’m coming to balance.
I’m going to be starting a secondary practice here, in a small town – a very different market from the one in Portland. I’ll be able to illuminate the beauty and challenge of both types of spaces. I’ll be able to discuss the management of a mature, stable practice full of employees and contractors and big market performance. I’ll be able to discuss the early visioning, and establishment of something new, from my heart, to feed my spirit and the spirit of a whole new community.
I think it will be an enjoyable ride for you & for me. So, for now, I’m going to watch the clammers out on the sand and then I’m going to meditate. In short, I’m going to live this day with both my feet on the ground.
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.