When I reflect on my 2023 from a Chinese Medical perspective, I would characterize it as “yang within yin,” which refers to a condition being active and invigorating within an outward and/or greater context of pacification or lethargy. Think when we feel exhausted in the middle of the night but for some reason are unable to get back to sleep. This is internal “yang exuberance” during the most “yin time of day” when the rest of our body beyond our ruminating mind is logically tired, yin, wishing to sleep.
The dominant theme and stand-out defining occurrence of my past year has been becoming a first-time homeowner obviously, plus resuming my identity as a suburbanite for the first time in 27 years, which is over three “jing cycles” for a man! A “jing cycle” refers to our stages of physiological aging and spiritual evolution. Those of men are 8 years, those of women are 7, as the latter are supposed to mature faster.
27 years is so long ago that this of course does not feel like any kind of return or reunion, but an entirely new and foreign endeavor, heightened by the fact that I am no longer the dependent child, but instead have a dependent child myself.
“Settling down,” whether into marriage, parenthood, suburbia, or all three, has a yin essence. All three contexts are inherently more introverted, more grounding and isolating, even if one chooses yang within yin, and continues to prioritize community and socialization as we do.
Owning a home has an equally yin-nourishing nature. It represents stability. It might even be metaphorical, in that we are no longer floating high above on the third, tenth, or twenty-first floor of some building, relatively closer to the sun, which is the ultimate yang. Instead, we are on the ground. We are responsible for the ground and might reap its benefits, as in freely walking barefoot. Thus far my favorite perk is the town pool in Summer, located a ten-minute walk from home and seems to act as a predictable nucleus where we can cross paths with local friends. POOL=WATER=YIN. The raucous kids at the pool would be yang within yin.
Within this suburban yin of stability, which the majority of the population aspire to and view as the trophy for a first half of life well-lived, is the chaotic yang of constant repairs, occasionally necessary renovations, and great cost of resources, whether financial or physiological. Things have finally calmed down for us in this regard—the first 4-6 months were brutal—and we are grateful to have finally arrived at our new baseline of random windows or bathroom doors simply not shutting all the way. We’ll take it. It’s like after a serious illness gets cured most of us would be totally content with the occasional bout of acid reflux or low back pain.
Professionally, this year I completed my second 8-month long, virtual herbal medicine workshop with mentor, Dr. Suzanne Robidoux, in Beijing. Thus far she has been my most valued and enlightening teachers since starting school 15 years ago, and I look forward to studying more with her in the future. However, for 2024 my agenda is to take a break from her courses to dive deeper into studies of our most classic medical text, the Shang Han Lun, as well as the famous, Master Tung’s approach to acupuncture, taught by my Tai Chi teacher and friend, Dr. Henry McCann. That is, as much as house crises and repairs permit.
There are some ways in this incarnation of life where I have felt a bit unlucky, and other ways where I feel very lucky. I sincerely feel very lucky that people come to me for healing and trust me to stick needles in them, not always with the softest touch, and prescribe them herbal medicine, not always with the sweetest flavor. This especially speaks volumes in a society that hardly educates or encourages the public on Eastern Medicine at all. I recognize it as a testament to every one of my patients’ courage and open minds, which in my opinion are two of the most important characteristics to take with us through life. I thank you all for possessing these qualities, for coming to my office this year, and I hope to see you next!