Much of Traditional Chinese Medicine is a three way conversation that is continually taking place between this patient here now, whose body has its own wisdom, this practitioner here now, who has acquired some training, some skills and some experience, and the classics, the writings that have endured, of previous practitioners who reflected on their experiences and shared them through their writings.
One much studied TCM Classic is called the “Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen” (usually shortened to the “Su Wen”), which means “The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic: Simple Questions”. Generations have puzzled over it, commented on it, tried to apply it, and found some of it supremely useful in practice, and some of it enduringly inscrutable.
Today I want to share a phrase that is found in Su Wen, Ch 74. It says:
Tian di zhi da ji, ren shen zhi tong ying ye.
Translations are hard, and can never be precise, but the following tries to capture its meaning well:
Heaven and earth are the great Principle, human spirit knits through it and resonates with it.
There is a view here that there are harmonies and rhythms occurring in the “Heaven” (which also means “Sky”) under which we walk and in the “Earth” upon which we walk, and that our walking inevitably participates in the overall resonance patterns. That is to say, we are connected to these greater rhythms of our environment in an intimate way. Some of us can feel the approach of a storm in our bodies, sometimes as a headache, or achy joints, sometimes in other ways. Many more of us feel the release of tension when the storm is over.
The rhythms we resonate with are not always harmonious, or pleasing. Sometimes they are discordant, and we suffer. The source of the discord may lie within us or outside of us in the greater environment, but until the discordant, disturbing sound can be resolved into a more harmonious and pleasing one, we will continue to suffer.
This provides us with useful metaphors to understand what our task is within life and within the clinic. A musician, especially one trained in the give and take of a session, will know that sometimes a small change made in one instrument can quickly resonate through the whole group of performers, and become a pleasing, harmonic, resonance that pleases and delights everyone who is playing and everyone who is listening.
In the same way, we apply ourselves in the clinic to sounding a new note, a small change, but one that can ripple through the patient’s body, and also the world in which the patient finds themselves, and enlist all its elements in the creation of a pleasing resonance, the kind we experience as health.
Resonance – it connects us to everything.