My experience in teaching, during which I have seen many students’ patients, is that we are only beginning to understand the implications of the pulse qualities and of their combinations. Each patient teaches me something new, and I have encouraged other practitioners to adopt an investigative, rather than a passive, attitude toward the medicine. Simply repeating what was written 500 years ago by Li Shizhen, or 1900 years ago by Wang Shuhe, is inadequate for our time. I foresee some kind of ongoing conduit by which people can exchange information, and contribute to a new body of knowledge.

To quote J. Krishnamurti, with whom I agree, “Learning is the very essence of humility, learning from everything and from everybody. There is no hierarchy in learning. Authority denies learning and a follower will never learn.”

Students in my classes tell me that their otherwise competent teachers discourage them from pursuing the study of pulse diagnosis because, “It is really not that important.” To people who do not know pulse diagnosis, it may not seem be very important. The time and patience necessary to master Chinese pulse diagnosis is not synchronous with civilizations such as ours, which encourage short-term vision and short-term investment of all positive human attributes. This methodology is meant to be assimilated slowly, by setting aside time separate from current practice, while continuing to use the diagnostic techniques with which you are already familiar and successful. The process, which should not be forced, entails a series of increasing “aha” experiences, interspersed with the confusion, doubt and discouragement that are the rites of passage to all that is worthwhile.

The human condition is a house divided against itself; awareness is always struggling with amnesia. History has shown that, for most of us, the attribute of character required to resist the easy life in favor of preserving our humanity is insubstantial, and that the end has always prevailed over the means.

In The Pulse in Occident and Orient: Its Philosophy and Practice in Holistic Diagnosis and Treatment, Reuben Amber wrote that, “The Chinese use sounds to describe their pulse findings: the music of the lute the rustles of the reeds.” Though the sound associations of a 21st-century person will most likely be different from those of a 2nd-century B.C. physician, I find myself saying, “I hear” rather than “I feel” in reference to a quality on someone’s pulse. Amber went on to say, “The Unani physician (of ancient Persia) was required to study music so that he could distinguish the different sound and tones of the pulse.” There is a quote from the Torah, “The ten pulse types parallel the types of song (see Likutey Moharan Tinyana 24). Therefore, healing requires knowing the pulses, and then knowing what song to use as a remedy (Likutey Halakhoth, P’ru U’R’vu 3:1)”

More to our point, Amber added that this is “a glorious symphony of the body to which some people are tragically tone deaf.” Each of us is privileged to be born to receptiveness to one sense in particular, and especially privileged to have the opportunity in our lives, and especially through the medium of Chinese medicine, to develop the other senses. Amber notes that there are “physicians of two different schools of thought,” with “those who trust their machines, but not their senses, and those who trust their senses, but disbelieve the machines.”

As the 21st century continues, those of you who have chosen to practice this profession are relatively unique in this culture, inasmuch as you have undertaken a task which operates largely outside of the flourishing mechanical and electronic technology into which we have become more and more deeply immersed, especially during the past hundred years. Those who require unity and a deep personal connection to their work through their senses, as well as their intelligence, and for whom impersonal detachment is anathema, are people who will be drawn to, and gratified by, the practice of Chinese medicine. The practitioner is traditionally the only diagnostic instrument. Her intelligence, intuition, experience, common sense and especially sensory awareness, are the tools with which she accesses the inner human world.

The development of a fine sense of touch through the medium of pulse diagnosis is of course only one infinitesimally small measure against the mighty tide and power of numbing technology that is anesthetizing our being. Yet acupuncture is a proven medium for the resurrection, heightening and refining of awareness. When people ask me what I do, I can reply, “I offer awareness.”