I was recently at dinner with friends — all of us acupuncturists with various backgrounds — and we were deep in discussion about how to describe what it is that we do. One said, “I call myself a Chinese Medicine Practitioner because that’s what I studied — all aspects of it (needles, herbs, movement & philosophy).” I wondered aloud, “Do you think that right now, there is a group of healers in China having dinner together saying, ‘I call myself a Western Medicine Practitioner because that’s what I studied – love those MRI’s and cortisone injections!’ ”
We tossed around the use of the term “Chinese Medicine.” What we are really pointing to when we use this term is ancient wisdom — not wisdom that is only exclusive to China, either but threaded through all the ancient world religions and traditions. It is the wisdom of observing the natural movements of life and the power of nature to heal the body, mind, and spirit.
Another friend said, “One way to describe what we do is to use the term Perennial Medicine.” The first image that comes to mind with the word perennial is of a plant that grows, blooms, wilts and moves into dormancy, only to return again and again with the flow of the seasons. The often forgotten textbook definition of perennial is this: “…lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring.” What a beautiful way to describe the wisdom which informs every question I ask my patients and every treatment I perform.
So what is it, then, that I say I’m doing as an acupuncturist? I am not merely ridding someone of pain or sleeplessness. With every needle and herb I use, I am remembering, reminding, and reawakening my patients to the wisdom that nature already designed into their bodies. And in this rediscovery, healing happens.
I came across one of Dr. Gordon’s quotes which perfectly captures this:
We are so impressed by technology that we have lost the art of trusting a sense of connection to something powerful within ourselves. The perennial journey to this invisible part of us, that allows us to call out the most appropriate response, is one we read about in spiritual traditions. It’s a sense of connection to our own wisdom and something greater than ourselves. Relearning this is critical to our survival.James S. Gordon, MD.