Everything the Same, Everything Different by Paul Movsessian

Everything the Same, Everything Different by Paul Movsessian

After some years of observing how we in the West seem to apply the ideas given to us in our training of Toyohari, I have come to some reflections I believe might be useful to those who read this article. It is very easy to forget how mysterious the origins of Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) are. In fact, it is an unfortunate side-effect of our education and world view, that has been passed on to us, that in a very natural way without any conscious awareness we filter the ideas of TEAM straight into the biomedical model of the body and disease, whilst ignoring much information that our predecessors used.

For example, the rhythms and cycles of Nature feature strongly in our understanding of Yin and Yang and how the body reflects these within its interior landscape and relationships. Yet, the strongly developed intellect and the cultural sense of individuality separate us from this interconnection and often we miss the obvious. Rather than seeing the pattern created, we seem to project our subjective opinions made up of all the concepts we have built up in our mind through time. To be able to develop the senses in acquiring the information and then organize this to perceive the Sho or Pattern is a specialized skill that is not born on our concept of linear time. In other words, simply by stating how long we have been practicing Toyohari does not equate to an elevation in our abilities.

To be able to truly develop this art we need a change in our way of thinking and feeling about learning. This seems most obvious to me in the lecture given on Sho Selection. Several common themes arise after we receive this lecture. The first is to immediately forget all the steps and go straight to the pulse and picking a Sho to treat. The next is that when we hear the lecture again at summer school or a national meeting we start to filter it and tune out imagining we already heard this and know it, and by doing so we continue deepening the rut that the wheels of our habits course through. You can observe this clearly if you know what you are looking for during practice.

A third attitude that arises when hearing this lecture again is that we are here to learn something new and that the constant excitement of new information gives us a false sense of learning "more". Accumulation or memorization of information does not necessarily equate to learning or to wisdom, let alone experience. In this case, our mind tending towards distraction feels bored and may miss the pearls thrown to us.

These few examples should serve to illustrate the various possibilities that occur in mixing East and West. What can be done to remedy this? Firstly, one would have to recognize the need to resolve this situation and self-exploration could serve as a starting point, something as simple as meditation to come face to face with the mind. This would not stand contrary to the need of the practitioner to practice what they preach and maintain health in body, mind and spirit.

Next would be to appreciate the tradition of repetition as something different from "doing the same thing". In Chinese Medical thought, we can find that the Law of Numbers plays an important role. This is not unique to China and we find numerology in many ancient cultures. The two laws I would like to discuss are known as the Law of Three and the Law of Seven. The Law of Three is a law that is used in any process of creation. A simple example is father plus mother gives child. Many cultures have a trinity as their godhead like Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Osiris, Isis and Horus, as well as Brahama, Vishnu and Shiva/Shakti. We can see this law in many ways when we practice or learn Toyohari. The sensei plus the student gives the skill or teaching. The patient and the disease seek the practitioner. The practitioner and the patient seek the cure, etc.

One way this law can help us is to lessen that feeling of separateness that arises in individuality and reconnect us to the whole. We learn to see we are always part of something and never alone. To understand the interconnectedness of life and to see our place within the pattern rather than outside of it.

Once creation begins, the Law of Seven sustains it. Again, a simple example would be the model we are most familiar with, that the world was created in seven days and so we have our seven-day week that sustains our activities. There are many examples of this Law of Seven in all cultures like the seven sacraments that sustain the faithful, the seven chakras, the seven cosmocreators of our solar system seen as archangels, devas, etc., the seven deadly sins and seven virtues, and the seven lucky gods in Japanese mythology.

Looking at this within the learning and practice of Toyohari I would like to study it from another name that the Law of Seven is also known by. In music, this law is called the Law of the Octave. The octave is the simplest interval in music and is related to a concept known as harmonics. The same note played at an octave higher or lower is the same note but different based on its octave. It has also been shown that there exists a biological basis in mammals in the mapping of our neurons in the auditory thalamus of the brain based on this Law of the Octave.

What can one glean from this wisdom of the Law of the Octave? Like a well-known Zen Koan, "Everything the same, everything different", repetition is the same thing done over plus the experience. We need to remain in a state known in Zen meditation schools as Beginner's Mind, rather than prizing the Western approach of a Know-it-all Mind. This is actually harder to do than one might imagine and does take training. In our simple model of Kozato, we have the opportunity each time we needle to go through this Toyohari Kata or Form. Instead of rushing through it with our mind already at the destination, we are asked to slow it down and say what we are doing, wait for feedback, proceed in a timely manner, controlling each stage to reach the experience of the arrival of Ki and leave the person's system in a better state than when we started.

We can learn to listen to the same lecture with alertness while looking for the newness. It is amazing to imagine that we could believe we give any lecture our full attention and that we hear, grasp and understand how to apply the information in one sitting. Each level of knowing must leave room for more knowing after we gain experience and so the mind must remain elastic rather than rigid. If we can appreciate this law in action, we will not see what we do as boring repetiousness. At the same time, we will stop constantly grasping for the new before we have established a foundation to build on. In this way we proceed, like in our needling, without being careless and sloppy.

From our Western thinking we may conclude that, "all I need are the ingredients to this formula and then I am off and running". Facts will show different. Clinical reality is a living experience, and since our goal is not just to remove the symptoms but rather to find the essential root to treat, we have a different expectation for our outcome rather than seeing the cure as the symptom gone.

In Sho Selection are hidden many gems of wisdom that will allow the difference between each practitioner to emerge. For example, the dosage of my treatment will depend wholly on how much I apply the recommendations in Sho Selection. In turn, the tools I use, the amount of treatment, the selection of treatment side, the pattern I will supplement or drain and how much I do, all come back to Sho Selection.

Although there are many aspects to discuss from Sho Selection, I will focus on only two. Firstly, the importance of the final step of feeling the pulse. It is common for a practitioner after asking all those questions and going through the Four Diagnosis, to completely ignore the data collected and try to ascertain the Sho via the comparative pulse method. Confusion often arises as to why it is not what we expected. There are so many reasons for our pulse taking method to be biased. We might never consider the small details that are involved in influencing the pulse interpretation such as: posture, standardizing, dominant hand strength, sensitivity in fingers, part of fingers used, fingering method to take the pulse, variation in pressure due to anatomy of radial artery, projecting our own personal Sho, confusion of what we are feeling for and ending up guessing, occluding the pulse rather than feeling strength, seasonal differences, constitutional differences, not comparing all the possibilities and lastly, the difficult pulse that is hard to read due to the complexity of chronic disease.

In essence, the pulse should be a final confirmation to all the data collected. Being able to get a clear picture of the disease state via the constitution of the person, symptomology as it relates to the channels and five phases, hara and channel palpation and pulse qualities, all give us the Sho before we reach for the comparative pulse taking. Practicing this repeatedly and learning from our patients is one way to develop this skill. The other is to attend and take advantage of as many Kozato practice sessions as we can. The Kozato sessions will vary in influence depending on our branch and what senior teacher we may study with over the years. Ultimately, we need to practice the ability of having the Sho before feeling for comparative pulses. Developing this habit routinely in our clinics should allow this skill to develop quicker.

The second point to mention is the ability to put all the information together to adjust our treatment correctly for that individual at the time they are visiting us and select the correct tools and supportive treatments. This is actually harder to do than to discuss but we will never develop this skill if we ignore it. Imagine the difference between a patient in our clinic that we treat for a Lung Sho and the very same patient going to see one of the many senior teachers we know in Japan. Obviously, it is not as straightforward as just needling Lung 9 plus Spleen 3. Look at all the variables that could occur in that treatment from what we would do versus the senior teacher.

What needles were chosen or teishin, how and where the alive point was found, how much to advance the needle, how long to stay at the point, the strength of the oshide, the strength of the removal, amount of supplementation versus drainage, and what other treatment was given if any? In order to make all these judgements we start at the very beginning of Sho Selection and not at comparative pulses. What is the constitution of the person in relation to the disease, what is the nature of the disease, what channels are effected in this person by the disease or problem in general and how does one respond if they have already had acupuncture or is it their first time?

Dosage can easily be over and above if we emphasize the symptom more and end up using too many points. Originally, the word "dosage" comes from the amount of spices added to wine. Today this term has a medical application, and for us in Toyohari it implies how much treatment to give so that it suits the individual needs of the patient. For the treatment to match perfectly, many other factors need to be taken into account such as: home and work environment, age (the older one is, the more blood stasis therefore tolerating stronger dosage), occupation, gender (generally in females Ki moves more quickly therefore requires less dosage), and their medical history.

The chief idea is to look at how quickly Ki moves and how easy it is to leak Ki. For example, in children Ki moves very quickly requiring very little dosage. This means they will be very sensitive like people with desk jobs using the mind alot. When Ki moves quickly it is much easier to leak the Ki. People who are overtired, sleep deprived, have psycho-emotive problems, meditate alot will all be more sensitive and need a lighter dose. In addition, if the disease is acute or has inflammation the same is true. Therefore, the ability to make big differences with such small amounts of stimulation in sensitive people is due to treating the whole body via the meridian system and not just the local area.

In conclusion, it should be evident that we cannot reduce the wisdom of TEAM into the mechanistic model of the West without losing the art and skill that can only be developed by not ignoring the whole. We must be able to perceive the mystery of healing as something including, but beyond, a biomedical and three-dimensional phenomena and realize that Ki is moving the universe and all its creation. With this sense of wonderment, we can continue to constantly grow and develop as practitioners.

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