Yesterday we welcomed to newest cohort to Academy for Five Element Acupuncture. The winter class of 2016 began their first acupuncture intensive this week, starting Monday with a day of welcome and orientation. If you’ve been following our blog for awhile, you’ve read about (or maybe even experienced), the mixture of emotions that envelope staff, faculty and student alike. It’s a day of beginnings, of rememberings, of nerves, of joy. New people, new friends, and sometimes old friends or acquaintances finding themselves once again on the same path. It can be hard to settle into the nuts and bolts of orientation after the Opening Circle, but this cohort jumped right in and are well on their way as the newest members of the AFEA family.
The class will now spend several days with senior faculty member, Gary Dolowich learning the fundamentals of Five Element theory. Even though Gary literally wrote one of the books on Five Element theory, some of this material may seem too introductory, too shallow for some. Some of it may feel redundant if they’ve been reading or studying on their own before they decided to commit to a program. In recent years I’ve seen a trend of students finding practitioners who will mentor them before they start school. But there are some questions that have to be deferred until later, some ends that won’t be tied up until clinic. The basics are essential in this tradition of acupuncture. So, while the dedication to learn as much as possible beforehand is impressive, I should point out that such preparation is not necessary to succeed. There are many traits that go into making a student’s time at the Academy successful, but I think clarity of purpose is actually more important that academic preparation. That sense of knowing that the Five Element way of life is your path helps ground students when life and school get complicated beyond that exciting first day.
Many of our students don’t spend years waiting to start their acupuncture training. Many choose to jump right in when that sense of purpose comes to them. And yet they’re in class next to the students who have previous knowledge. Those of you who haven’t been through the first intensive may ask yourselves how this works with differing levels of knowledge. There’s a reason everyone starts at the same point (many reasons actually), but there’s one in particular that needs to be stated here.
No matter where you’re starting, it’s important to find a way to stay in the Beginner’s Mind. To revel in the new information and way of seeing the world; to let go of preconceived notions and ideas, letting them inform but not hinder new discoveries. Staying in the Beginner’s Mind allows students a chance to acclimate, but more importantly it promotes openness. Those students who can’t revel in Beginner’s Mind often have a harder time remembering that the world of Chinese medicine is gray. Two seemingly opposite ideas can be true at the same time, which is a hard lesson to reconcile for our Western brains. Those who are more open can accept the simultaneity of opposites and realize that they don’t have to choose one practitioner’s version over another. Instead, they can file both versions away and determine which one might work better for the specific patient they are seeing.
So, I refer you now to the Chinese proverb in the title of this blog post. The cohort that began their training today will grow because they were not satisfied with their paths. They have chosen to grow. That was clear when they initiated the admissions process. But now, it’s important to remember the second part of the proverb: “he who is not sure of his own correctness will learn many things.” Remember that no matter how much preparation you have, you can never be sure of your own correctness. Stay open, stay in the Beginner’s Mind and you will learn many things. It all starts today.
Please join me in welcoming this newest group of acupuncture students to the AFEA community. We’re excited to watch your journey.