A question I get every so often goes something like "uh.....what's Praxis?" And I feel you, its not a word I was ever aware of until the day I sat down and truly started researching what my vision for this practice would be. I kinda love it and after reading this, I hope you do too.
The word "Praxis" itself is ancient Greek, and you guessed it translates as "practice". Look at that! I named my practice...practice - done and done, let's go grab that drink.
Wait, we're not done, oh jeeze, ok, just a bit of philosophy. (No hard feelings if you just skip to the end)
As a recurrent topic from Plato & Aristotle to St. Augustine, to Marx and Kant- folks have wondered about how a process, theory, lesson, or skill is actually enacted, embodied, or realized. Aristotle's bit posited that there were three basic activities of humans: theoria(thinking), poiesis (making), and praxis (doing). Corresponding to these activities were three types of knowledge: theoretical, the end goal being truth; poietical, the end goal being production; and practical, the end goal being action.
This resonated with me for several reasons:
- Personally- as a guy who thinks A LOT, my struggles often come from overthinking, and often getting bogged down by the infinite cornucopia of choice. You should see me with a menu at a new restaurant- comparing and contrasting both the individual ingredients as well as the overall flavor profile. It's a nightmare and I apologize in advance. If you'll drive, I'll read the menu in the car on the way over.
- Culturally - in my humble opinion, our society is too focused on the intellect often at the cost to and sometimes even demonizing, two other important tools at our disposal; the heart and the gut. Easy examples; how often do we say "what do you think about that" when maybe a better question is "how does that make you feel". People who go with their heart are flippant, romantic, pleasure seekers in our culture. But does that have to be so? Or let's take the gut for example- how many of us have had something that just didn't feel right or even something that told us to run. I call it our "spidey sense" and although out mind takes over and says "all-right, quiet down, your'e being 'irrational' " our spidey sense is there for a reason. Whether you prefer the biological explanation of our lizard brain or the more esoteric-psycho/spiritual "collective unconscious" your spidey sense developed WAY before your intellect and it deserves to be heard a lot more often and maybe might drive the bus just as well.
- Historically - When considering my practice design I knew my bend was severely towards whole systems design and a client centered approach (both essays in their own right). That structure in part then required that I consider the history of medicine in ancient culture as well as modern culture. In brief we can place the Indian Ayurveda at roughly 6000 BCE., and both Chinese and Egyptian medicine as early as 3000 BCE. "Modern" medicine is typically placed somewhere between the healer-god Aesculapius (~800BCE) and Hippocrates "the father of modern medicine" (480BCE). Amazingly, Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Abrahamic religions would all be born in this time too. Aliens? You tell me. But it seemed like an undeniable firmament for the practice.
Poiesis / Making
So great, in whatever way we've had a good think, reviewed a little history, things "make sense". But have we really figured anything out? My argument is no, and all too often we stop here when in fact it's best next to make a plan. And here's where you come in dear reader. In a client centered practice YOU are the expert as YOU are the only one who's had the lived experience of not only your ______ (illness, challenge, struggle, etc) but your skills, joy, feelings, intentions, etc. This design therefore seeks to destroy the "Doctor as expert" hierarchical model, including even myself the TCM practitioner. We're here to serve you, to provide information, guidance, support and more. However at the end of the day, only you decide what's best for you.
What we make is a plan. We get all things "theoria" / thinking down on some damn paper and we include your gut feelings,what makes your heart flutter, anything, EVERYTHING you chose as part of your healing path. I chose to root this practice in a time in which we were more open to a multiplicity of viewpoints. A time when medicine itself included the heart, mind, body, spirit and soul not only as important, but as equals, and each potentially contributing to not only as paths to illness but paths to wellness.
Praxis / Doing
The easiest way to describe the intention of Traditional Chinese Medicine is to aid in the free flow of Qi. If Qi stagnates, we stagnate. And if we stagnate, we die. Yes this is a gross over-simplification but let's go back to me in the restaurant- if I never decide, I starve. If we rely too heavily on the intellect, we obscure feeling and blight intuition. We need a plan. Yet what good is even the best plan if it never leaves the drafting table, we never "take it for a walk".
In the Taiji "Yin-Yang" symbol many of us are familiar with, there is always a speck of the contrasting color within its opposite. In fact these two colors are less oppositional and more mutually contained, each in a constant dance of transformation into the other. Health, sickness, wellness, etc therefore are also constantly in a state of transformation, each part of each other, inseparable. This practice and its design, honors this dance. We must apply our theory and design with the awareness that time is the greatest factor. You won't have the exact same cold twice any more than you can step into the same steam twice. But you can pay attention to patterns, to systems, apply critical thought and intention, and love (yes, I said it) and take that baby for a walk and see what happens. Test it. Notice the outcomes. Develop and refine not only your intellect but your intuition & heartedness, while developing a much deeper relationship with yourself, your loved ones, your community. Lastly, once a well considered plan is made, and intentions have been set - let it go for a moment, let the Qi flow, and Practice.