Màn màn lái
/// dieses Mal nur auf Englisch ///
I need to remember that I’m on a very long path and not just for the three years of formal study but generally in my relationship with East Asian medicine.
I have so many moments of wanting to follow every thread I find: Japanese versus Saam versus TCM acupuncture. Five Elements or Zangfu. I want to learn the localisation, indications, Shu and Mu correspondences, and combinations for every point I come across. Of course each indication for each point takes me down another rabbit hole, which bends through a wrinkle in time, which slips around the corner and the golden thread is lost. But there is another point there waiting for me to follow.
I have titled this article 慢慢来 màn màn lái (there is a note on the importance of language/culture below) because it is a reminder that was given to me by one of my mentors when I was living in the monastery and was recently gifted to me again while listening to an episode of the Qiological Podcast. It essentially means, take your time.
Each Spring, I begin anew my relationship with my Quest, using the Four Shields model by Steven Foster and Meredith Little.
Something I have learned in this last year of Quest with Carmen Spagnola, is that there is a seasonality and timeliness to what is learned. Summer’s child gets to play and believe and have awe while enmeshed with the world, Autumn has its initiatory mission of differentiation and skilling-up for adulthood, Winter has its lessons for tracking the collective and becoming elder, and Spring is the time to return to fundamental questions of form and formlessness.
There is also only so much of each season and so much that can be done. There will be another cycle and the cycling through the Seasons will continue with the return of Spring each year, and so it goes, màn màn lái.
Within the context of late-stage capitalist, white supremacist patriarchy we are expected to perform competency at all times. There is little room for going slow or taking time, lest one appear incompetent. In the Quest model this would be an overcompensating Winter’s adult that never initiated out of an Autumn’s adolescence. Under this pressure we become shortsighted. The resilience to dilate readily between focused, disciplined mastering and the systemic holistic awareness becomes ossified.
I want my needling technique to be perfect. I want it to be perfect right now. I’m noticing Winter’s adult in me reaching across the seasonal axis and condemning Summer’s child for not already knowing how to do something extremely specialised that some people spend a lifetime mastering. I’m noticing at the same time Autumn’s adolescent have contempt for authority and groups (I’m learning from teachers in a cohort) and want to go her own way and seeking validation by reaching across the seasonal axis to the formlessness of Spring, who praises that lack of discipline, that lack of secure attachment, as spiritually evolved.
I really need Summer’s child to remain curious and joyful and for Winter’s adult to back off a bit. I need Autumn’s adolescent to stop self-sabotaging and for Spring’s fool not to be such an enabler. That means I need Spring’s Initiate to step in where Winter might overreach and not allow Summer to revel in its nascency and mature in its right time and to continue that ripening into Autumn so that there is a harvest enough to survive the Winter and again into further renewal for Spring.
I’m using the Quest model to talk about my experience of acupuncture school because it uses the language of a Western initiatory experience. I want to learn from and appreciate Chinese medicine, without (as much as possible) doing what white TCM bro dudes do, which is ultimately cultural appropriation.
I don’t live in and am not steeped in a place or community where the Sheng and Ke Cycles have any cultural background.
What I have described using the language of the Shields above, collates to some degree to the Generative (Sheng) and Control (Ke) Cycles in Chinese medicine. When the elemental and seasonal qualities of life are flowing and unfolding undisturbed, then they are flowing in the outer circle pictured, the Sheng Cycle. When there is an imbalance, then we look to the child, parent, and elder correspondences, the Ke Cycle. In Spring the child is Wood. A deficiency in the development of Wood that came from a weakness or overbearing of the parent, in this case Water and Winter, would then require a corrective intervention from the elder, in this case Metal or Autumn. In this way, Chinese medicine treats each season and element as a child, parent, and elder at the same time depending on how it is functioning within the system.
A complaint I have about many Western models, the Four Shields included, is the tendency toward reductionism and the reluctance to allow for complexity, interdependent co-arising. So I can look to something like the Sheng and Ke Cycles and transmute the context that is my own and let the new understanding expand how I talk about my lived experience, within the language and culture background where I’m rooted.
So I say no thank you to the admonishment màn màn lái, but yes to taking my time and yes to allowing the right and timely unfolding of things.