I like to read. Like all serious students of Chinese medicine, my bedside table supports a stack of Chinese medical texts – right now Chip Chace’s An Exposition on the Eight Extraordinary Vessels: Acupuncture, Alchemy, and Herbal Medicine with an issue of The Lantern. However, I do like to read other types of liturature, both fiction and non-fiction. Some of these books, though not explicitly about Chinese medicine, are actually expressive of some of the most foundational principles of Chinese medicine. I have found some to be illuminating and inspiring. I thought a blog entry about some of my favorites might be interesting to the readers.
A favorite of mine is Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
This wonderful book by William Bryant Logan is, as you might guess, all about dirt. It is also all about the Earth element and the function of the Spleen and Stomach. Reading this text you will see how Fire interacts with Earth, how Earth controls and directs Water and the relationship of Earth to the heavenly skies and the essence of life. It is as if Mr. Logan studied human physiology except that the body he describes is the body of the Earth. You will finish this text with an ability to take a walk in the woods or on the oceanside and see the very same dynamics at play that you see in your clinic every day…
Another book that has influenced me considerably in my medical studies and practice is a book of essays entitled Being Bodies edited by Lenore Friedman and Susan Moon. It is a text of Buddhist essays addressing the “Paradox of Embodiment” by women. How do we accept our bodies and our pain while also deeply wishing to and attempting to heal? Can our patient’s suffering be a gateway to something greater that we can help catalyze? How do we work with the awareness of the inevitability of impermanence, decay and death while working to improve the condition of the body? The writing is beautiful and personal. I savored every essay.
I will write another post soon with a couple of other book suggestions…The next one will be fiction so stay tuned. I would love to hear what books others have found instructive for their Chinese medical practices.