The School of Unlearning: The Road to Learning Traditional Chinese Medicine

I remember when, fresh out of med school and my own fertility challenges, I enrolled in a Masters program in Oriental medicine. Eager to begin my studying early, I asked the academic Dean what I could do to enhance my ability to learn Chinese medicine. Expecting assignments and encouragement for my enthusiasm, she simply said, “Forget everything you’ve learned about Western medicine so you can open your mind.” I was utterly deflated. I had always been praised for my keen intellect and ability to prepare for what was to come. This was not the way to prepare a Type A, Straight A overachiever. TCM school continued to challenge my overdeveloped mental aptitude. Amazingly enough, so did my fertility challenges. I thought I could think, study, and research my way into better fertility. I thought if I could only find the right doctor, the right exercise, diet, herbs or treatment modality, I would be fixed.

If I could provide the undoing instructions that I found, it would like something like this:

Unlearn your goal-oriented approach. Stop relying on your BBT charts and timed intercourse. Leave your labs alone! Leave the hormonal stimulation alone. Stop trying to figure this out.

Even in the study of Chinese medicine and more esoteric spiritual healing practices, there is a heavy reliance on learning the lineage. Do what those before you did. The more life wizens me, the more I come to realize that nobody else has my answers. No teacher, no doctor, no healer, no discipline. In every discipline, there was always the first one who came to know. Then everyone tries to emulate him or her. It seems my own personal path is that I have to be the one to find my own way. My direction has only arisen from the direct experience of my own life, as it is, and the answers that have always been found within my heart.

They don’t come like solutions to a problem, though. They come more like an obvious pointing toward a certain direction. They don’t tell me where I will end up, only how to pick up my foot and take the very next step. My body gives me the answers every time. My gut clenches when Life says no. My heart opens when Life says yes.

I remember when my gut clenched in my doctor’s office when he told me the dismal prognosis of my fertility. I remember when my heart opened up in the face of seeming no hope. I remember the shock of my doctor’s face when there was a strong heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. Nobody out there had my answers. Life showed me my own direction through the depth of my own heart.

My heart is opening even though I have no answers right now. I don’t know if I will remain married or not. In the face of this uncertainty, I can see that I’ve never known where life was taking me. I only took credit for it after the fact. I don’t know what tomorrow will look like, what I’ll be doing, or with whom. And the amazing thing is, I no longer even want to know. I want to unlearn all of the false certainties, the silly illusions of security, and live on the front edge of life where I can meet all possibilities in the mysterious unknown.

That is where my children came from – they did not come from my answers or anyone else’s. I didn’t learn them into existence; they showed up right out of the depth of the unknown; the miraculous.