莊子 (Zhuangzi)

莊子 (Zhuangzi) was an ancient Chinese Daoist philosopher from the 4th century BCE. Here's some reflections from two of his stories. 

蝴蝶夢 Butterfly Dream
Zhuangzi dreamed that he was a butterfly. Upon waking, he couldn’t tell if he had dreamed of the butterfly, or if the butterfly had dreamed of him! The indistinguishability of dreamer and dream highlights the undefinable nature of reality, and the interconnectedness of all things. The microcosm dances infinitely within the macrocosm. Anything is possible. Keep an open mind.
All is in motion. The only constant is change. I could be the dreamer one moment, the dream the next. I am an herbalist now, but I am also a client. I am alive today, but one day I’ll be dead. I’m a sleeping human in one moment’s realm of reality, and a flying butterfly in another. In my everyday life and clinical practice, I seek to treat all people with equal respect and appreciation for them in that moment, however they are. It’s important to maintain humbleness, a respect and appreciation for all things in their current manifestations, past evolutions, and future possibilities. Butterfly today, human being tomorrow. Anything can happen.
How do I perceive the world? Am I perceiving myself as the dreamer, or the dream? What’s real, anyhow? Is there such a thing? Stay humble, open, and curious. Question everything, yet hold it all loosely, like a flower that just keeps changing from seed to sprout to plant to flower to fruit to seed again and again, in your hands, breath, body, and heart.
I once dreamed of a Passiflora plant growing and blossoming, then gathering the flower and making tea, which I drank into my body, where the plant continued to grow and blossom into me and my life, while informing my existence with its past history of growing and blossoming, me evolving and growing as a flower as well, getting picked, processed, and drank back into my body, and into the body of the world. I am the flower. The flower is me. The answer is both, and neither. There are no clear lines or delineations, but there is clearly “me” and “the flower” and how we mutually inform and inspire each other.
We walk a fine line between healer and healee. We too are neither, and both. As healthcare practitioners, we can shape-shift, establishing rapport with clear communication, clean boundaries, a loving heart, open mind, and deep compassion. We can see things from the perspective of our patients and be supportive and understanding, while also holding space in a grounded professional way, accessing the roots of the medicine in clear, deliberate, poetic, intuitive ways that birth innovation through tradition, embrace the universal, and address the individual.

屠夫 The Butcher
When the butcher first started his work, he was clunky and awkward, carefully figuring out how to cut the ox just right by looking carefully, cutting slowly, and sometimes still making mistakes. Now, after much practice, instead of thinking about what he does, he approaches his work via his spirit, and doesn’t look with his eyes, resulting in smooth, effortless, and even graceful butchering that is efficient and effective. He cuts by following the form of the ox, instead of trying to impose himself onto the ox.
Michael McMahon shared this story during one of our first Palpation and Perception classes, where we learn a different myofascial line in the body each week, and palpate it on each other. “Touch as many bodies as you can,” says Michael, “then eventually you can stop thinking, and be like the butcher in Zhuangzi’s story.” I’m currently like the butcher when he first started his work. I keep referencing my notes to find the points, bony landmarks, and other elements, slowly repeating their names and qualities to myself, and still not remembering, while inelegantly manhandling my fellow students. One day, after much practical experience, I can internalize what I do so that it becomes second nature, I move with the body with knowledge and poetry, and I no longer need to think about it.
Non-action is poetry in motion, being in the zone, and being the wave, when all things move through us, and we don’t have to work hard or struggle wildly to create eloquent perfection. Practicing yoga and dancing, there’s a dynamic balance between maintaining relaxation and having control over the movements and postures. Non-action isn’t controlling everything with tightly contracted muscles and stiff joints, nor is it holding myself so loosely that I have no form or structure at all, and am just slumping around all over the place. There’s a balance between those two extremes which also encompasses both, in which I am completely relaxed, while simultaneously in complete control, able to accomplish the most with the least amount of effort, and the utmost grace and efficiency. It’s not just being in the flow, but it’s being the flow. The law of least resistance requires practice and life experience to attain, but is also a moment by moment practice of awareness, surrender, adjustment, and breath to access and attune one’s still, silent, center, radiating outwards with grounded elegance.  
We have to memorize a lot, as Chinese medicine practitioners. There’s 361 acupuncture points, 400+ herbs and formulas, and a whole new language of medicine, and way of observing and analyzing the world. In the USA, we can gnash our teeth as we labor long hours to memorize all these things, but in Taiwan or China, there’s even more to memorize: the entire Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (黃帝内經 Huáng Dì Neì Jīng), the song-lines (歌訣) associated with each channel, and more. “Dead memorization, live usage” (死記活用 sĭ jì huó yòng) describes this way of learning, where we invest so much sweat and tears memorizing this information that by the time we work clinically, it’s effortless, like second nature. When we memorize it, it still feels dead to us; we don’t yet have a true understanding of it. Personal, clinical, and all other life experiences literally breathe life into our memorized dead chunky information. But the memorized information forms the backbone, from which life practice can spring out from, and refer back to. Both are necessary.
Studying most modalities is like this: during yoga teacher training, we focused most of our training on learning one basic sequence. Once we could all confidently teach that basic sequence, we learned modifications. Once we internalized the basic form, then we could root down from that place of grounding, and rise up with powerful elegance. My Thai massage training was similar: we went over the same sequence over and over, until it was internalized, then could start diversifying from that still, silent, solid yet mutable center. My qigong teacher in Taiwan would not allow us to learn more of the form, until we had first achieved a certain level of mastery with the basic Universe stance, or 站樁 (zhàn zhuāng) daily for months. I’m still working on it. A simple movement held, for nine minutes a day, can make me shake and sweat, and sore the next day. During the nine minutes of stillness, I pay constant attention to my body, making micro-adjustments to my hips, shoulders, feet, head, neck… entire body. These miniscule nine minutes affect the rest of my day, and all add together over the years, to impact the rest of my life:  my posture, approach to movement, innate response to change, etc. An underlying form, or deeply internalized understanding of one discipline, can create a solid Earthen foundation for infinite flowers and possibilities to freely blossom forth. Complete immersion into any one thing creates a portal to the Universe. We immerse ourselves so completely that we lose all sense of self, and merge with all else.
To stop leaving tracks is easy, but to walk upon the ground is difficult.

Philip Ivanhoe and Bryan Van Norden, Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy
Bryan Van Norden, Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy

Luna moth, guardian of dreams. Pictured on the northeastern tip of the USA in Maine, from last summer's journey-woman botano-adventures.  


Some Tasty Spring Weeds

Here's some delicious wild edible spring weedy greens that are available around most parts of the USA, though at differing times (depends on when your spring begins). Spring is a prime time to get the leaves first, then the roots, then the flowers... and you can harvest (some) roots again, in the autumn. Chop 'em up fine all together, on their own, mixed with cultivated greens, etc. Make soups, stir-fries, souffles, soirees, etc. Yummm... have fun, and enjoy!

- Dandelion leaves, roots, flowers (Taraxacum officinale) 
- Mustard leaves, roots, flowers (Alliaria petiolata, and other Brassicaceaes)
- Wild Onion bulbs, leaves (Allium spp.) 
- Sorrel flowers, leaves (Oxalis spp.) 
- Miner's lettuce leaves, flowers, seeds (Claytonia perfoliata) 
- Chickweed leaves, flowers (Stellaria medea) 
- Clover leaves, flowers (Trifolium spp.) 
- Violet leaves, flowers (Viola spp.) 
- Dock leaves (Rumex spp.) 
- Plantain leaves, flowers, seeds (Plantago spp.) 
- Nettles leaves (Urtica dioica)