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What do the Classics of Chinese Medicine

have to do with Spiritual Direction?

June 23, 2020

By Maria Mandarino, LAc, DipAc (NCCAOM), LMT, CSD, MSEd


The Nei Jing is one of the classic texts of Chinese Medicine, filled with clinical theory and Taoist wisdom. It discusses not only pathologies, but also the vital importance of treating the spirit. It's a notion medicine has gotten a little far away from over the past 2200 years. 


One of my favorite verses from the Nei Jing instructs the physician on how to meet the patient:


First, select a quiet environment. Close all the doors and win 

Gain the trust of the patient so that the patient can completely convey everything 

that is pertinent to the condition. 

Nei Jing, Chapter 13


For me these words also speak to the essence of spiritual direction and what it means to hold space with a directee.  


As a spiritual director who was first a classical acupuncturist, I resonated strongly with the idea of the sacredness of the meeting room. Vulnerability is at the heart of every genuine healing experience. Vulnerability allows us to be transparent — with ourselves, and with our Creator. It is only then that we are able to do the real work of healing.


In the past few months we have been thrown into a new and sometimes deeply disturbing world, a world which most of us were never prepared for. A pandemic that doesn't seem to play by ordinary rules of biology. Civil unrest. Violent images our minds cannot process. There is so much to take in. We find ourselves living in a world that doesn't seem recognizable anymore. 


There is no user's manual for this new world or for the gamut of emotions that fill it on any given day. We can only do the hard work of sitting with these emotions, allowing them filter down until clarity and grace arrive and we can once again sense where God is meeting us in the moment and how it is we are being called into relationship. 


In finding my own way through what feels like a too rapidly changing world, and then in the next moment a world not changing rapidly enough, I have taken to asking myself, "Who am I now?" To be honest, every day my answer changes. 


If we have ever faced a time when it is essential to close the doors and windows and ask ourselves this question, it is now. Yes, we do this in spiritual direction, but the truth is we each need to be doing this for ourselves daily, meeting ourselves in sacred silence, knowing we are not in that silence alone and that if we cry or rage, God cries and rages with us. Have the courage to close the doors and windows. Have the courage to sit and wait. The waiting will be rewarded. 


I also invite you into spiritual direction if this question speaks to you and you wish to explore it, or any other soul questions, with a trained guide. I promise to create and hold the space with you, to keep the windows and the doors closed, to bar the entries from the outside world so you can hear the song of your soul and the voice of your Creator. I promise to sit with you in the range of your emotions.


It is all holy ground. 


Blessings and peace on your journey,

Maria