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  • Writer's pictureHeather Morrison-Tapley

The Rituals Of Medicine

tools of the trade in Traditional Chinese Medicine

When we are sick, we are usually scared. Or in pain. And those things more than almost anything else make us yearn for certainty, for reassurance. Of course top notch medical care is what is most reassuring. And sometimes that involves cutting edge medicine and technology. And sometimes it involves fire and needles and herbs and a sense of calm and a feeling of connection. I'm an acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist, trained in the US & in China. And one of the many things i love about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is its thousands of years of history and tradition. Healing has many rituals, from the symbol of the white doctors coat (which some acupuncturists wear but I have always chosen not to), which invokes to most a sense of trust, but also often a feeling of not being in control or the situation, and therefore a feeling of stress. To the symbolism of the herbalist's apothecary, or acupuncturist's office with Chinese art, feng shui and soothing music. I often think half the reason people come see me is for the feeling of calm and the feeling of being a partner in their treatment, not just the recipient. The tools of my trade all feel like rituals to me - from reading pulses and looking at tongues, to lighting fire and swirling it around glass cups I then quickly put on a patient's back to perform "cupping", to the water buffalo horn or jade "gua sha" tool I use to clear congested blood and qi and soothe muscles or get rid of colds, to the needles themselves, each one placed in a very specific location to do a very specific job. These points and these techniques treat not just the body, but the emotions and the spirit as well. After the Cultural Revolution in China, TCM became about science and medicine, any sense of "folk" medicine or spiritualism was stripped away. We are still taught from this post revolutionary text book to this day. But if you dig deeper there are points called "window to the sky" and "ghost" points which treat the spirit as well as the body. Happily TCM wasn't stripped of it's treatment of emotions as these are considered inseparable from the physical body so there are points I use daily to treat grief (which effects the lungs) or fear (which effects the kidneys) or over worrying (which effects the digestion). And though this medicine feels all ritual in some ways, it is backed up more and more as Western studies are done. I have trained with Memorial Sloan Kettering in treating cancer patients with acupuncture, I have read studies on MRIs done while needling patients and what the findings were, I have studied Reiki and energy work and reading a person's energy. What I love about the rituals of TCM is that they are all allowed. Not just the "juju" energy work. And not just the "proven" Western medicine, but all of it flowing together. And so when people enter my office and smell incense and lay on a warm table and receive their treatment, I think they love the ancient ritual of it all, and also the empowerment that no matter what they are facing, there is always something they can do to help themselves heal. The ritual of traditional medicine is fire and glass and herbs and needles. But it is also possibilities. And hope. And connection. #stonefeatherfire #ritual #acupuncture #traditionalchinesemedicine #herbs #herbalmedicine #alternativemedicine #energyhealing #healing #inspiration #health 

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