It was September 2010, my second week of school at NCNM, and I stood amongst my classmates in Heiner Fruehauf’s living room, at our first ever qigong retreat. No one knew each other yet; we were slightly nervous and awkward, yet curious to discover the teachings of the jin jing gong lineage to which we were being introduced. Many of us were in the midst of life change. Some had moved across the country to join the program, while others had undertaken radical career changes to pursue natural medicine. Still, others had transitioned out of relationships and living situations.
I was not immune to these circumstances; I had left my home on a farm in the rural area surrounding Salem, and the move had set into motion the end of my four-year relationship. I felt lonely, confused and, yet, still compelled to take this next step on my path. My intentions were confirmed everyday, as interactions with teachers and fellow students, as well as the information begin shared in class, helped me feel connected to something for which I’d been searching a long time.
During this retreat we learned a chanting practice that comes from the Wang Feng Yi lineage of emotional healing. In this practice, we face each of the five directions, chanting to the phase element and elemental power that emerges from that direction. The chants cleanse the negative emotions that are associated with each element, and call in the upright, virtuous qualities.
As we faced southwest, chanting to the phase element Earth, we asked the universe to rid us of co-dependency, clinginess, doubt, blame, unnecessary skepticism, and stubbornness. In exchange, we asked for the ability to give and receive nourishment, to be solid without being immovable, and, above all, to have trust and confidence in the medicine we were beginning to learn. This meant trusting the body’s ability to heal, trusting the innate healing power of nature inherent in all living things….. and trusting that we would be given exactly what we needed on our own paths, to develop as people and as physicians.
I can’t really describe what happened in that moment, but it was as if, suddenly, I understood. I understood that the personal difficulties I was facing were not standing in the way of my training– they were a part of my training. I understood that my training was not bound within the walls of NCNM, but that my life was my training ground, and nature my greatest teacher. I felt my deep desire to practice medicine, to help others heal, to become a physician, and I understood that, in the pursuit of this calling, I was being asked to relax and to trust. I understood that the degree to which I could become sensitive to my environment and enter into communication with the universe, was the degree to which I would be able to carry the torch of Classical Chinese Medicine and help others. My task in this moment was not to resist the circumstances I was being offered in my own life, but to respond, work with, and allow myself to be shaped by them.
Now, four years later, a couple months following my graduation, I look back on this experience with wonder and awe. In my time here I have been blessed with many opportunities for growth, and with the supportive community and lineage teachings I needed to benefit from those opportunities. I’ve learned how to maintain confidence in the medicine, in myself as a budding doctor, and in life itself. “Lao shanren kan wo xinshi? Wo xinshi!” Do I have “xinshi,” the deep trust and integrity that comes from Earth? Yes, I do!
Post by Alexandra Jackiw, graduate of NCNM Master of Science in Oriental Medicine program