Middle-Aged White Woman Teaching Asian Medicine

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Excerpt from “Middle-Aged White Woman Teaching Asian Medicine”


“We could go to war, or we could have this incredible new collaborative creation. It’s exciting. It’s a challenge. It’s what Wood is all about. It’s also what it’s all about for me, what it takes for me to have the nerve to teach a course on acupuncture. I do a lot of thinking, and get into interesting conversations, and I’m up for more of them, because it’s really an ongoing conversation about what it means to be a westerner who’s been studying Asian medicine for more than thirty years now — it’s thirty-three years, so I’m not a complete stranger to it — but I grew up in the United States of America; I’m saturated in a viewpoint that is not Asian, and I have done my best to learn, to incorporate, to be able to see from the other eye, to be aware of my own eye, so that I can see what it is that I’m seeing from, and to engage it — on all of our behalfs — with the humility and the rightful ownership of making a contribution to a collaborative process.

I cannot claim to represent an Asian viewpoint. I also cannot claim that what I’m teaching — ‘Oh yeah, I came up with this!’ — right? I must give massive credit to the sources! It would be arrogant for me to claim indigenous viewpoint in my teaching. It would be arrogant not to claim over-the-top levels of indebtedness to the origins. I mean, that would be pure cultural appropriation. How to engage that line in a creative and life-affirming way, so that in now way do I have to deny that this is a middle-aged white woman from America talking right now. The value of this is that the moment I say, ‘I am a westerner. Eye — am a westerner,’ I’m claiming that as both heritage, resource, and responsibility, and it frees me to open and say, “Oh. In the presence of knowing that this eye is a western eye, I make room for another eye, for its legitimacy, and for it to take up fifty percent of the dialog, neither to dominate it nor to be dominated by it. The moment I say ‘middle-aged white woman’ I make room for not-white, not-woman, not-middle-aged, the elders and the youngers, by claiming what I am.

So I ask that for all of us, for whatever relationship it is that we have to this medicine, whatever our particular heritage is, whatever our particular place of standing right now, this is where we stand, this is where the I is coming from, and we are learning about something that is the result of many, many collaborations, many, many people who learned from their elders, took from various traditions, and then said, ‘Okay. From where I stand, here’s what I’m bringing to that collaborative mix. And the vision has changed, and the vision has changed, and the vision has changed, and the vision has changed, and changed again.'”