Note: This is an edited version of a blog titled Digging the Well, originally published on September 3, 2015 by Frank Scott, L.Ac., acupuncturist, herbalist, and founding academic dean of Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago, IL. The original post may be found here.
Much of the elegance, beauty, and profound truth of Oriental medicine derives from the foundation on which it rests -- the interplay of yin and yang. These universal principles stand in dynamic tension, regulating and defining all expressions of life, describing a process in constant motion. Essential here is the understanding of these qualities and properties in relation to something else, and in relation to each other. In the human body, yin and yang are ascribed to illustrate kyo, emptiness, and jitsu, repletion, states of imbalance that are constantly seeking reconciliation in the service of homeostasis. The goal of all Oriental medicine treatments -- using acupuncture, herbs, and/or bodywork -- is restoration of the harmony and interplay between yin and yang.
Yin refers to downward and inward movement, inactivity, cold temperatures, gathering and consolidating, and material structure. Yang refers to upward and outward movement, transformation and change, hot temperatures, dispersing and separating, and functional action. Each of these properties, as well as the countless others we could assign, relies on its complementary opposite, not only for the sake of definition and meaning, but more importantly, for health and healing, subject to the situational demands of living in this world. Without periods of rest and inactivity, movement would become unsustainable; without transformation and change, the structure is not properly replenished. The dance of yin and yang is infinite in its possibilities.
Human beings are comprised of these yin and yang attributes, with some being more sustained throughout the course of one's life, while others are more fleeting. The sustained, constitutional propensities can reflect either health or illness. If one presents in clinic with a syndrome that is within the framework of, or closely related to, their particular constitution, then successful treatment is more likely. On the other hand, these sustained, perhaps recurring, patterns and susceptibility to specific disorders, can reflect an overall lack of vitality. One of the tasks that Oriental medicine practitioners face is evaluating these yin and yang relationships and determining if, when, and how intervening may be beneficial for the patient.
Symptoms provide insight into the balance of yin and yang. Some symptoms may be significantly more disruptive than others, while others may seem mild only to later prove indicative of a more serious problem as yin and yang grow further out of harmony. Restoring balance to yin and yang is about more than the elimination of symptoms. This constitutional approach engages the full benefit of our observation and experience, and as we attend to the challenges of both being sick -- the discomfort of symptoms -- and returning to a healthier state -- consistent treatments and other healthy choices -- we prepare ourselves for the challenges of adaptation that can show up in all aspects of our lives. This reflection and preparation is fundamental to the Oriental medical literature, with the admonition not to wait until one is thirsty before digging a well.
Take good care,
Clint Cain, L.Ac.
This page is intended to serve as a source for links to blogs and articles about acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine that both new and returning patients may find informative and/or entertaining. It is also where I will share information about the history, principles, and benefits of this awesome medicine.