An in depth look to our approach

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As far as traditional Chinese medicine is concerned, we are right now at …

a crossingroad

Several options are open concerning the use of traditional Chinese medicine in our contemporary world.

One is to take some good ideas; for example, the use of this plant to cure that pain, so a lab can take the active principle to elaborate a new or a better treatment for some illness. It is certainly very positive that ideas coming from Chinese tradition fertilize western science, but it has nothing to do with Chinese Medicine as such.

Another is to take the tools of Chinese medicine like points, herbs and so on to treat diseases, but to rely mainly on Western medicine to recognize the symptoms and then to establish the diagnosis. It is possible as an approach and a practice, but it is not founded on a vision of human and of the universe as expressed in the Chinese tradition.

Still another is to try to mimic the past, to pretend to be in a world that does not longer exist, or to have a kind of magical expectation and building some kind of fantasy from various informations coming from classical Chinese.

We respect each individual approach and its sincerity, but it is not our perspective.

what we want to offer …

is a use of Chinese medicine which is based on the knowledge and understanding of the Chinese vision of the Human and of the universe, respecting its cultural context. We believe that, among other advantages, that will provide a way to look at the symptoms and do a diagnosis which is deeper and broader and often more acurate that the one offered by biomedicine.

This implies several things :

· To take seriously the traditional Chinese approach and to study it respectfully.

· To share enough of this vision to really accept it. In other words, to see the reality more as a changing process, an unceassing transformation, a network of relationship, a permament movement, than as something static.

Having this perception of reality, the traditional Chinese approach offers us models and patterns to find our way in this moving universe.

But we have to understand these patterns at their right level. For example, to add salt to something too bitter will not necessary balance it. We have to understand the meaning of the pattern. For instance, in the body, the meaning of the Chinese physiology is always expressed in term of functions, which are movements and exchanges of qi.

But to do that and to apply it to the world in which we live and work, we need also to address …

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the process of knowledge

It is absolutely necessary to consider what it is to know, how we know, the various kinds of knowledge (for instance, what we know we know, what we don't know we know, what we know we don't know, what we don't know we don't know). Without this consideration, it would be impossible to implement the traditional knowledge of another time and another world in what is our world.

It is the reason why consideration on the process of knowledge is intrinsically linked to the learning of Chinese perception of life, and why it is part of our program.

So a study of classical Chinese texts, mainly in the medical fields but also eventually outside of this field, along with a better perception of what is knowledge, is a solid basis for building the continuation of a tradition, the tradition we have in the best of the Chinese medicine.

Such an effort is worthwhile today, if we share the feeling that it is impossible to confine reality to a static definition, or to reduce a diagnosis to the name of a disease; if we share the feeling that the true approach of the patient lies in relationship and that healing is transformation.

It is a work that cannot be done by one single person; but necessarily by a group a people, even with different backgrounds or practice, but exchanging their experience and working together. Thus, the necessity to create what we have called a laboratory, heading to build a community supporting people teaching from the roots.

the classical chinese medical knowledge

Teaching From the Roots is designed to increase access to the Chinese medical knowledge base and to enhance its application. This knowledge base is vast as an ocean, but it is represented in classical texts (both medical and non-medical) long recognized as the literary basis, i.e., the roots of what is widely known as Traditional Chinese Medicine.

We have based these ideas on the observation that the status and role of such classical literature in contemporary education in Chinese medicine has been substantially diminished as the result of numerous factors. Most graduates taking their place among the growing community of practitioners of Chinese medicine outside China have spent little of their time in training concerned with classical knowledge beyond a trifling minimum requirement. It is probably no overstatement to suggest that few graduates of today’s training program around the world could even name more than two or three of the most important medical texts that constitute the archives we refer to as The Classics.

The library of the China Academy of TCM in Beijing holds more than 80,000 titles in its collections. Certainly not all of these qualify as Classics, but a non-trivial fraction of this large number can be considered as both classical in character and concern and essential for anyone seeking mastery of the subject of medicine in the Chinese experience for the past 2,000 years or more. Even in China, education in the classical dimensions of the subject can be quite minimal, particularly when viewed from the perspective of transmission of Chinese medicine into other language and cultural zones.

Regardless of one’s individual cultural background, a student of Chinese medicine needs access to the knowledge of the subject itself. This knowledge is wrapped in long standing traditions of intellectual pursuit. The knowledge along with the dynamics of knowledge creation contained in such texts constitutes a chief and focus of Teaching from the Roots. Essentially we hope participants in the course will be able to access, comprehend, and apply this knowledge in their own practice and particularly in the teaching aspect of their practices. We are particularly concerned with working with educators to establish sound principles of education in Chinese medicine that allow for the ongoing development of these roots from which the subject has grown for millennia.

the teacher training laboratory

A laboratory is a space in which people work. The word basically means 'work space'. And it is in this most basic sense of the word that we take it to mean that portion of the teacher training course dedicated to the work of assemblage, aggregation, analysis, experimentation, investigation, observation … and, yes, anything that suggests work on synthesis of principles, methods, and materials required for effective teaching of the clinical relevance of classical texts.

We have elsewhere referred to the rhythm of the course that we imagine obtaining from our work together in the following format. The whole course consists of colloquy focused on a sequence of themes drawn from the Classics and from their intellectual surroundings, plus the lab. The teachers present terms and passages from texts, along with relevant pieces of contextual information and essentials aspects of the necessary framework in which these terms and texts must be studied in order to gain their optimum and ideal resonance in the minds and experience of teachers and students. And teachers and students together in the lab work this material over as thoroughly as possible in order to make it fit for use.

Here, in the context of the laboratory, it is important to note that we approach teaching this class in a way perhaps best described as collaborative.

Pedagogy in conventional child-based education presumes that the teacher has the knowledge and is giving it to the student, whose primary role is to be a receptacle of knowledge; andragogy tends to recognize the importance of adult students knowing what and why they are learning and in setting their own objectives; and heutagogy stresses student-directed learning.

Our approach, that we are calling collaborative, emphasizes the student-teacher relationship as a key matrix for knowledge formation. We stress knowledge as process, based in discovery and identification of principles, and extending towards development of meaningful and useful methods.

This means that the objective of the course - aiming to provide you with useful ideas, information, principles, and methods for more effectively teaching the clinical relevance of the Classics - is actually accomplished in and during the laboratory portions of the course. Not exactly do-it-yourself: we do it together. Collaboration in the laboratory is the ideal here.

How does this cooperation take place? Taking our cues from classical traditions of knowledge in Chinese medicine, we place heavy emphasis on gong fu, or the hard work of preparing for such work. Preparation consists of two main categories: preparation done prior to attending the course sessions, and preparations taken during the ongoing colloquy and lab sections, i.e., note taking, recording of questions, disagreements, ideas, insights, suggestions, and other inputs to offer to the collaborative effort. We anticipate that this will enhance the liveliness of the course and encourage spirited discussion and debate of all key issues that arise and emerge as we work throughout the course.

One of the key figures in contemporary scientific research of acupuncture is Dr. Richard Hammerschlag. In a private conversation, Richard once told Ken what he considered to be the key aspect or element of his work as a lab scientist, which he did for more than a quarter of a century at City of Hope: "It’s that glimpse" he said, "you may be in the midst of something else entirely, when suddenly out of the corner of your eye or the corner of your mind’s eye you get a glimpse…" So whatever formats and procedures we find it necessary to develop and follow while we work together in our laboratory, let’s remain mindful of those glimpses, as they are indeed, so frequently just what Richard described them as: keys.

In fact the keys we are looking for are those that can be fitted into the locks that seal the doorway to more effective communications in the field of Chinese medicine. Thus the lab sections can be understood as communications experiments and experiences, all conducted for the essential purpose of refining this most fundamental aspect of the work we all do.