Other Background Information
Some folks find it easier to build a relationship with an acupuncturist (or language tutor ... or dog trainer, for that matter) if they have a sense of the common ground they share. Patients have often expressed their appreciation for my having told them a bit about myself before their first appointment....
"It was a dark and stormy night..."
During a particularly difficult period of my life, I decided I needed to have a sense of what made me tick - what was it that linked all the various gifts, passions and concerns that made up me? Through a sequence of soul searches, I found that there were two basic themes to my life. The first was that everything I did was about finding, creating, or helping others discover or create beauty - this could be as artistic as springboard diving, or trying to learn Chinese brush painting, or more distantly related, such as discovering the inherent symmetry and efficiency of the Hebrew verb system (the subject of my doctoral research).
The second theme was that I need to be a part of the healing of the world - this has impelled me into Chinese medicine; it has also created in me a desire to find ways to heal the brokenness of the physical world around us.
In more ways than I like to admit, I am only at the beginning of each of these journeys. I rely on those around me to help me learn more about how I can more effectively live out these principles, and I am always willing to re-evaluate how well I'm doing in these areas.
Somewhere along the route through my life, I developed a delight in discovery. Whether that be learning a little about the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet, or how to prune an apple tree, or what an aorist participle implies in Biblical Greek, I have had an appetite for new things for a long time. I am curious about everything, and have had the good fortune of companions who shared that curiosity for much of my life.
The result has been - among many other things - a passion for travel, new cultures and new languages, a love of reading, and an amazement at the wonders of the natural world and a desire to preserve them.
On the move...
I was a hyperactive child. Literally. There is good evidence to believe I was also fairly seriously bipolar. My parents made the choice not to medicate me, and put up with the annoying results. I was pretty unruly, and always bouncing off the walls.
I wasn't good at sports, and didn't have the kind of friends at school who overlooked such a failing, so I didn't join the football or baseball games at school.
Growing up in Santa Barbara gave me occasion to spend a fair amount of time hiking in the coastal foothills. For a good part of my early teen years, I had the good fortune to be able to ride horses in the back country of Santa Barbara, CA, where I grew up, and this cemented into my soul both a love of nature, and a delight in working with animals. I developed an interest in equestrian jumping and dressage during these years (dressage, by the way, is an equestrian discipline in which horse and rider work together to perform what amounts nearly to a blend between precision gymnastics and ballroom dance - an example can be seen in this YouTube video).
In high school, I decided to go out for water polo. To tell the truth, it was only because there was a kid in my French class I wanted to be friends with – he was on the water polo team, and so I joined up. I weighed perhaps a grand total of 84 lbs. at that point, so I wasn't an instant star. I did, however, go out for diving the following spring, and discovered I had a true affinity for that sport. Take a look at my diving webpage for more about my experiences in the diving world.
Up, up and away...
Oddly, there were four things I wanted to learn how to do when I was a kid: jumping horses, diving, figure skating, and ballet. All four are about flying, and all four have at least some element of esthetic beauty to them. I still haven't tried figure skating – I would love to, but I'm beginning to realize that older bones don't heal that quickly, and I still have hopes of diving for a while longer – so I may have to wait for the next time around to try figure skating.
Somebody out there probably has an answer to why I had this fascination with breaking the bonds of gravity. I have a few guesses, but it's an interesting symmetry, with or without explanation.
Arts & Letters
I discovered academic pursuits late in my education. Who knew that learning could be fun? Who knew that books could actually open the mind to new worlds? My voyage of discovery has taken me through Classic Greek tragedy to modern Sci Fi, and all manner of genres in between.
Somewhere along the route I rediscovered a love of art that had somehow got buried in my childhood. A couple years ago I even took a Chinese ink painting course - the kind of thing where you grind your own ink and paint pictures of bamboo in the wind. A lot of fun, but I have to confess I wasn't very good at it.
太極 / 氣工 – Tai Ji and Qi Gong
During my medical training, I discovered Tai Ji and Qi Gong. These are Chinese disciplines, related to martial arts, but with a kind of medical focus such as one finds in Yoga. Qi Gong - which translates loosely as 'energy exercise' - is essentially the Chinese equivalent of yoga; when it is done appropriately, it can be a significant part of a healing process or maintaining good health and balance. Tai Ji is in fact a Chinese martial art, but nowadays is practiced primarily for its health benefits, and thus is an aspect of Qi Gong.
I had the good fortune to study Tai Ji with Master Yijiao Hong for more than four years. Master Hong is an amazing woman whose gentle, graceful Tai Ji movements look as though they could knock down walls. I studied Empty-Hands forms (both Yang-style and Chen-style), and Weapons forms (Yang-Style Two-Edged Sword).
In addition, I learned a number of Qi Gong exercises from Sifu Hong, including 'Silk-Reeling Exercises,' the 'Eight Simple Pieces of Brocade,' and a number of others. It is my hope to introduce these to my patients as time and interest dictate.
Tai Ji and Qi Gong are remarkable tools for the balancing of the whole person. It is said that if one practices Tai Ji quickly, one exercises the body; if one practices it slowly, one harmonizes the mind and emotions; if one practices it very slowly, as meditation, it becomes a spiritual journey.
Qi Gong is similar; its simple exercises have the ability to rebalance physical, emotional and spiritual disharmonies. The Eight Simple Pieces of Brocade is a wonderful example of this – the eight exercises warm up, stretch and strengthen all the areas of the body, and balance the energy.
My family came from rural Pennsylvania. Our farm had been given to the family by a land-grant from William Penn in the years immediately after the Revolutionary War, and had been in the Dawson family for eight generations by the time we moved off it.
Many of my relatives remained in farming, and I grew up with a fascination with the 'old ways.' I still find ancient ways fascinating, and have worked to understand how 'things were done' in the pre-industrial world.
Things such as churning butter, making furniture by hand, spinning and weaving, and animal husbandry, are vital interests to me. My mother's father used to say that everyone 'should know how to do something with his [or her] hands.' I don't lay claim to being much of an expert at anything in particular, but have a fascination with 'creation' which spans woodworking to spinning, dying, weaving, and knitting, as well as gardening and animal husbandry.