So, I passed my thesis defense! I have a few revisions to make – when I’m done with those and have final approval I will (a) breathe a big sigh of relief, (b) begin posting portions of my thesis for discussion on the blog.
The thesis process was a good one, overall. I know that most Chinese medicine students don’t have to produce something like a thesis – opting instead to do a final project or something of that nature. If you would have asked me six months ago what I thought about our writing a thesis, I would have given you a pretty negative answer. At that point, I was still pretty freaked out by the clinical aspect of things and I really felt like we should be focusing entirely on the clinic during our final year. I can still see the benefit and wisdom of that idea, but I think I’ve developed a different stance over the last months.
Our program at NCNM is a little different than most in that it expressly intends to develop people who are or can be scholars in the field as well as practitioners. While many great scholars come from programs all over the world, NCNM is the only one that I checked out that actively attempts to develop the scholarly spirit in its students. Now, of course this is not always successful. People come to the program for different reasons, only one of which is to develop that scholarly acumen. It was (and is) definitely a priority for me. Why?
I continue to feel that this is a critical time in the development of natural medicine, including Chinese medicine. Great practitioners are needed. I truly believe that there is a difference between a person who has dedicated their life to the embodiment of the principles underlying Chinese medicine and a person who sees it simply as a career choice or something interesting to do for now. The experience of opening one’s self to the medicine completely and seeing what happens is profoundly moving, profoundly changing. Truly great practitioners emerge from this process. The one-on-one patient-practitioner interactions that these practitioners engage in are doing great work for our medicine as a profession, one changed heart at a time.
However, we also need people who can do more than be practitioners, in my opinion. We need people who can go out into the community at large and talk about health, healing and living in harmony with nature. We need people who do not shy away from difficult conversations about our history and our future. We need people who can write, people who are willing to do cross-pollination between disciplines in an overt and publicly available way, people who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there. We need to develop a vibrant community of people who are practitioners but also thinkers, scholars – people who can engage in well researched, passionate and decently written discourse both internally and externally. While a particular educational program is not necessary for that (may great writers have no particular education), in my case it has been helpful.
I was reminded of how something longer than a blog post is written. Your reading always takes longer than you think it will. You need plenty of time to think about it, between reading and writing and revising and reading and writing and revising. You need time to talk things over with peers and advisors. You will always need to read it many more times than you think. You will always open more cans of worms than you close. You will always go through periods of doubt and despair, punctuated with honeymoons of wild elation. It takes time, it takes energy, and it is so worth it. So, I learned (or relearned) quite a bit.
I also rediscovered and refined my passion for Philosophy and opened my interest into a whole new realm. Somehow, all of this has really improved my love for our medicine and has enhanced my clinical practice. So, it’s good all around.
About Eric Grey
Hi - I'm the founder of Deepest Health. When I'm not writing here, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Community Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.