Annual Practical Retreat
First Year Online Students - annual practical retreat 2019 - 2020
105 Hours Of Learning, Playing And Growing
The annual practical retreat 2019 with our 1st year students was held between 28/09 and 14/10 in a large house in Kamares, a nice sea village near Patras (GR) where we spent these days not only working on the practical aspect of learning acupuncture, but also on personal growth.
It was with great emotion that we all met in ‘flesh’, after spending ‘together’ 10 months online.
Some were apprehensive about sharing a house with virtual ‘colleagues’. Yet, in the laughter, the hugs, the flowing chatting and good humour, one could see from the start that things would have worked out amazingly well and our annual practical retreat would have been a success!
How was a day programmed?
During the whole span of the annual practical retreat 2019, we would meet every morning at 08:00 to sip warm water and lemon, in order to wake the stomach up (in Chinese Medicine the time of the Stomach is between 07:00 – 09:00). We would then meditate and set the intention for the day, looking at the sky and the trees in the spacious, beautiful garden. We would observe their ability to bend gently to the morning breeze. We would try to discern their message: flexibility, adaptability, resilience and ability to live with the external circumstances. Could we set the intention of relying on these qualities for our inner peace, so to allow Qi 氣 to flow smoothly and unhurriedly in our life?
The last of our morning practices would be Qigong 氣功 guided by Ivan, our resident shifu.
Breakfast would the follow: a good, healthy breakfast prepared by a couple of students rotating every day. Breakfast would always be a time of exchange, talking about feelings, impressions, and desires. What did everyone want from this annual practical retreat?
What did the students learn at the annual practical retreat 2019?
After breakfast, the typical day of this annual practical retreat 2019 would continue by feeling the meridians by following their trajectories with our hands and marking their points accurately. The latter involved developing two main skills: attention to the precise anatomical position of each point and sensing their Qi 氣.
Having located and felt the points, we would engage in learning how to apply the moxa cones and the moxa cigar to them as well as some simple needling techniques.
Studying the meridians also included discussing the channel’s narrative and what each channel can contribute to the whole, both according to the ‘5 Elements’/Phases 五行 and the ‘Chinese Clock’ sequences.
The students were surprised to notice that the ‘Chinese Clock’ sequence does not follow the the ‘5 Elements/ Phases 五行’ circular generation. We devoted some time to seeing how thanks to this ‘oddity’, each meridian interacts with each Element/ phase in a specific manner that guarantees health. The students were excited to learn how this apparently intricate structure creates the fundations for the fine equilibrium upon which health is constructed as a continuum of circular change 易 within oneness.
Zhang Jie Bin, one of the most famous doctors of Chinese Medicine starts his text “Yi Yi Yi 易醫 儀: 1″ by asking himself: “What is the relevance the ‘Yijing 易經”, the book that studies change, “in understanding medicine?” His answer echoes Sun Si Miao’s when he states: “Those who do not understand change, cannot talk about medicine.”
Given the above premises and the fact that, precisely as Zhang Jie Bin and Sun Si Miao had suggested, our students had spent a whole foundation year delving into the discourse of resonance, change and oneness before even studying anything else, they were ready to observe the circularity of time in the day and the changes brought about by it in their bodies. It also became clear to them that health can be recovered by facilitating the whole organism to resonate to the rhythmic and smooth flow of Qi 氣 in the 24 hours and in the seasons.
What else did we do at the Annual Practical retreat 2019?
They felt a person’s Qi 氣 by palpating the meridians. This is an excellent way of making contact with a patient and also gather information about the flow of Qi in their body: changes in temperature, nodules or resistance to a slight pressure can not only help understanding a patient’s condition, but also, point in the direction of the appropriate treatment strategy.
This is how, effortlessly, we found ourselves working with simple diagnosis: how to detect a weak ‘Element/ Phase’ and correct it? How to detect a Zang Fu’s 臟腑 deviation from the norm? How to think about it in a framework of change and oneness?
...... what else did we do at the annual practical retreat 2019? we worked massively with emotions!
As the group soon realised, each student had come to the annul practical retreat with some unresolved issue, carried from home in a secret pocket of their suitcase. We worked with each person according to simple ‘5 Elements/ Phases’ 五行 diagnosis, looking for colour, odour, sound and emotion and exploring strategies of self-help informed by Chinese medicine. This made all the participants very enthusiastic, as they became aware of some stagnant and unresolved personal ‘cliches’ that coloured their vision of reality. We experimented with changing viewpoints and feeling the difference produced on the emotions. Interesting! Read the testimonials below to hear about the results directly from some of the students present at the annual practical retreat.
Last but not least, in the last two days, the students were all called out to give a class on important topics studied during the year i.e. Phases 五行, each Zang Fu 臟腑, formation of blood, the role of emotions. etc. Thus, also the theoretical part of this year’s syllabus was repeated and possible gaps were filled.
In this picture, one of the students talks to the class about the physiology of the Kidneys. All the other students in turns stand up and become the ‘teacher.
Retreat and fun
The time we spent together at the annual practical retreat was not only work.
In the evenings, we would either go out to eat at local ‘tavernas’ by the sea and enjoy a good meal of fresh fish and local vegetables, chat, laugh and bond, or cook at home and watch a movie. We even had a whole day off when we visited the charming small town of Nafpaktos, on the north shores of the Corinthian sea, had a meal and walked by the sea, looking at the boats coming into the small harbour and the light shining on the water in the horizon.
Everyone is now looking forwards to the annual practical retreat of september 2020…….only a few months to go!!!!!
Here below are some pictures of this fabulous day together, where we let our ‘socks down’ and enjoyed playing like kids, carefree and satisfied.
This Annual practical retreat was a win win situation!!!
Now the students not only know how to locate the main acupuncture points 穴位 on all the 12 upright meridians 經絡, their intrinsic qualities, the usefulness of each channel and how to intervene on points by means of needles and moxa 針灸, but also how to keep their own Qi and emotions in flow and smooth.
Most of all, they have learnt how to meditate in motion, namely self-observation without judgement.