Su Wen 13:帝曰:奈何。歧伯曰:閉戶塞牖,繫之病者,數問其情,以從其意,得神者昌,失神者亡。”Close the door and shut the windows, tie yourself to the patient, repeatedly inquire about his/her feelings, adapt your treatment to his/her sentiments. If one gets ahold of the spirit, the patient will prosper; if the spirit is lost, the patient perishes.”

After so many years of practice of Chinese medicine, I feel that my main role as a physician is to support and nurture life and health.  Making peace between body mind and 神shen is what is truly healing to our patients, and our ‘tools of the trade’ (herbs, acumoxa, diet, counseling) are there to teach the body and mind how to restore full health.  The body and mind have a ‘memory’, and our tools help awaken this memory.  This is how I approach most of my treatment strategies these days.  Give each person time, and space, to ‘reconfigure’ themselves in more healthy patterns.  Provide just enough stimulus with acupuncture and moxabustion to begin gentle re-patterning.  Of course, there are times and situations (in acute injuries, attack by wind, cold, and other external evils, emotional trauma) where we need stronger medicine and treatment strategies.  But especially with chronic illness, deeply entrenched complex patterns, we often need to delicately restore and maintain the equilibrium of the visceral systems.  The body and mind respond to multiple stimuli. It is important that we see the physical body as a manifestation of great intelligence, and apply treatment as a way to harmonize yin and yang, from exterior to interior, from channels to yin viscera.  In order to do so, the physician of Chinese medicine should never be hurried, and be focused on the patient, the qi, the interactions between practitioner, patient and environment.  The above quote indicates that one has to tune in very carefully to catch the dynamics of the moment, considering the qi of the time of day, season, present weather, emotions, and read the patient as clearly as possible.  In this way, we will not lose the spirit, and we will not be practicing on ‘automatic pilot’.

Today I saw a ten year young boy who had a bout with strep that led to bi zheng/impediment of the joints a few months ago.  After a few rounds of antibiotics, I was able to treat him and stabilize his condition.  Today when I saw him, his right hand pulse was uniformly tight, flooding and slippery, his left hand pulse wiry.  So I asked him about his elimination, and since stopping the antibiotics, he had bowel movements only every six days or so.  Based on his pulse, I treated LI 11, GB 34, Liv 3, St 36, and St. 25, followed by moxa on the lower abdominal region.  I diagnosed his condition as a combination yang ming/shao yang, and gave him da chai hu tang in small doses, after he told me that bowel movements were often accompanied by straining, abdominal cramps, and a feeling of qi moving upwards from the stomach.