An often overlooked though fundamental question the patient should consider is this:

What is health?

Before seeing any practitioner for any health complaint, this is a question that an individual must take into consideration, as what is health-y for one person is not necessarily beneficial for you: “Is paleo right for me?” “Have you heard of ‘intermittent fasting? Is that good for you?” “I eat really well and exercise, but I am still gaining weight”: These are all familiar examples of individuals asking themselves “what is health?”, but what is obscured by their questions is an attempt to find the be-all end-all method that can allow the individual to check the box and move on. As long as health is a box to be checked on a list of other achievements, health cannot be what it is.

As a practitioner, I cannot define for you what is health. When a practitioner does, it will manifest as a series of confusing trends that appear beneficial, but are so embedded within the other things that the individual heard was “good” for them, that over time they learn to completely distrust their bodies, what their bodies know, what their bodies say, and what their bodies know to say “no” to.

The best we can do is to get more clear about our expectations for “health” as an individual, as if you cannot define it clearly for yourself, your practitioner is not going to be much help to you. If the individual senses something is wrong, and goes to the doctor, and the doctor asks “where does it hurt” and you cannot answer that question, your prognosis will be poor. If instead, the doctor asked you “where is the health”, it is first going to be more difficult for you to define, but when made a daily priority or cultivation in terms of a question you demand yourself, then when the doctor asks you the same question at another time, you will have an easier time providing an answer. This is, as mentioned, due to the fact that you will have established the parameters of health for yourself, and you will know, more than your practitioner, where the disease lies. The job of the clinician, then, is to help you refine that language, to sharpen it, and then to read it back to you.

Understanding how to define health for yourself through Chinese Medicine

Health relies on the capacity for the body to readily mediate the exchange of information from external to internal and the body as a metaphor is perhaps one of the most profound ways of developing context for this information as we encounter the circumstance of change.

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine work as complementary tools to access the deeper to the most superficial of levels of the body when there is disease. The body’s job is to act as a mediator for transforming substances, Qi, blood and fluids, as they move within these levels, nourishing the various organs, tissues, and networks of vasculature. This process governs material that is most insubstantial and lighter in nature, as well as material that is denser, heavier and more descending in nature. Depending on the context or microenvironment of the body, these substances take on different forms and variable functions. This phenomenon of smooth flow and transformation can be disturbed by every-day stressors, from worrying about a to-do list, to experiencing a death in the family or a car accident. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine work as complementary tools to hone in on the disturbed regions of the body and to restore its innate capacity to transform experiences and raw material into nourishing resources that are readily bioavailable. Chinese medicine is an orientation, a languaging that provides moment-to-moment feedbacks system for an individual to comprehend the spectrum of their health, and it is this adaptability that rewards us wellbeing that is an equilibrium, something cultivated and maintained, rather than being a victim of good or bad genes.

Through this unique lens, Chinese Medicine historically aims to describe how human beings change and are changed by their environment. By virtue of this dialogue between body and environment, disease loses its potency to the subtle threads that connect circumstance. Health and wellbeing become intimately connected to the way in which we conceptualize the unfolding of reality–it is the capacity for us to describe how, moment-to-moment, we are experiencing life. Joshua Warren’s style of medicine aims to provide potent guideposts into the portal of sovereignty for the individual, intending to invite the individual to take responsibility and ownership of their wellbeing and to feel more empowered by it every day.