This post is from an old site of mine and dates back to 2017, when I was living and practicing in Brooklyn.
I've been thinking recently about continuing to learn Chinese herbalism without an active teacher. It's as if the tradition itself is doing the instructing--the tradition itself alive, intelligent, purposeful. In the last two weeks a couple instances of synchronicity have really strengthened that sense.
In the first instance, I went to downstairs to greet a new patient, and found that a package of herbs had been delivered. It contained just two herbs, cinnamon twig and licorice root. These two happen to make up a classical formula (called, fittingly, cinnamon twig and licorice decoction). The patient's case was a psychologically complex one, but because of the timing of the parcel, I wondered half-idly if cinnamon and licorice decoction might not be appropriate. Sure enough, questioning confirmed that the key signs for the formula were present. Without the coincidence of the package arriving, I might not have thought to give that particular formula. But I was able to give it with confidence, and also, by virtue of having spoken in depth with this patient, to understand the kind of psychological state the formula is suited to address.
Then this past weekend, it happened again, and in much the same way: when I went to downstairs to let in a guest (a friend, this time, not a paying patient), there was a package of herbs waiting for me. They happened to be herbs for bone healing (including Gu Sui Bu, Zi Ran Tong, Ru Xiang and Du Zhong). My friend, it turned out, was nursing a fractured foot.
Coincidences? Sure, if you like. But I take them as a nudge from the universe, and another reminder that living traditions such as classical Chinese medicine are just that: alive. It may sound weird, but these tradition find ways of using us as their vehicles, shaping and teaching us so that we may pass them on. I find it a beautiful symbiosis.