As part of a recent month-long study exchange in South-East Asia, I made a commitment to learn more about Eastern approaches to health and healing. After all, health is a concept that means very different things to different people.
On my first day in Singapore I stumbled upon a store overflowing with bags and boxes of roots, teas, tinctures, and herbs. The store fronted a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic, and I instantly became drawn to learning more about this ancient approach to healing. Through various conversations with people I met in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia, I learned that many South-East Asians incorporate both Eastern and Western approaches to health and healing into their lives.
Three weeks after my first visit to a TCM clinic, I was in the small city of Kluang, Malaysia, where I had the chance to sit down with a TCM doctor and – with translation help from a friend – discuss some of the key principles of TCM, as well as the key diagnostic tests, which he used to assess my state of well-being. (After a late night of karaoke and a strong morning kopi, I was a little worried to know what he would say! First, he looked into my eyes; then he took my pulse; then examined my tongue. These are some of the basic diagnostic tests that TCM doctors use. Of course, this may sound quite different from the basic diagnostic tests that happen in Western medical clinics, but the foundation of TCM is built on principles of balance – within the body, and with the world around us.
Those trained in TCM are attuned to imbalances in the body, and focus on detecting them, and then treating them holistically. Various types of massage are also used in TCM, and various tools to practice these important massage techniques spurred many further (sometimes hilarious) conversations with my hosts and friends throughout Malaysia.
Of course, I am steering far away from defining such an important and ancient healing practice as there is a depth of complexity to TCM that I am just beginning to scratch the surface of.
Now that I am back in Halifax, I am more highly attuned to TCM, and keep noticing all the clinics tucked into streets throughout our city. I look forward to continuing my learning explorations in the realm of health, and around the integration of different approaches to healing. Luckily, my diagnosis was good – according to the TCM doctor I saw in Kluang, I just need more sleep!