(excerpt from The Five Elements of Recovery Part 1)
“The basic premise of Chinese medicine is ‘You can be you, or you can be ill.’ That’s the choice. You are what you are, and… we may all be equal but we are not equivalent. We have very different care and feeding needs. A starfish is not a giraffe. An eagle is not a zebra. You cannot ask of a frog what you can ask of a buffalo. Right? They are all wonderful and equal and different. A lot of the problem is that we didn’t come with an owner’s manual, and our parents didn’t necessarily have any idea, nor the kindergarten teacher, nor the whole society around us, what our care and feeding was, and what our unique gifts were.
Inherent in any person is a nature that can be fulfilling itself, or trying it’s best to fulfill itself, but getting wrapped around it’s own axle in some way. In other words, the pathologies that we have are highly indicative of what it was we were trying to do in the first place. If you slip and fall on the ice, it’s a sign you were on the ice. If you fall out of a tree, it’s a sign you were climbing a tree. The trouble we get into says a lot about what’s in us—that we were going for, that’s still searching for an expression.
It’s not about focusing on what trouble we got into and saying ‘You loser!’ No, it’s about saying: that you chose this way says something about what the basic equipment is trying to do. Any pathology is an x on a treasure map saying dig here, basically. Honestly, my other favorite group of people to work with is people with cancer diagnosis. The bigger the x, the bigger the treasure. This to me is the reward of going to work in the seriously gritty situations. The little stuff, whether you heal it or not doesn’t actually change your life all that much. The really big stuff, you’re either going to heal or you’re going to die. That’s actually exciting to me—because the kind of living that comes out of that is so huge, so uncompromising.
All we’re doing in this five element work is saying: someone is sounding a note. It’s off; it’s sharp or it’s flat. How can I help them get back in tune so they can do what they came here to do? They may have even forgotten what it is, but they are still shouting it in their clear yet out of tune way.
Many of us have found it to be true that we don’t have to reach enlightenment in order to be really, really helpful to others. Thank goodness we don’t have to wait to have our act fully together before we are able to be a pitch pipe. Can we hold the steady true note all the time? Likely not. Talk to me at 8:30 when my kid is still not ready for bed. It takes work, to be able to hit that note and hold the note. It seems clear, though, that a half-assed job of holding the note is way better than none. People are looking for an upgrade. If you’re feeling lousy and somebody holds a clear note by which you can re-tune yourself… that note, that bit of insight, that opening bit of support, gets taken up.”