On Jeffrey Yuen

One of the signs of a great teacher is the ability to tap into hidden areas within the student. Often I would sit in Jeffrey’s classes, feeling the material fully resonate with my own understanding, only to discover later that in fact I was not able to reproduce this understanding. This is because Jeffrey’s presence allows me to delve deeper and lends strength and support to my own understanding. As time goes by, the student’s understanding grows in strength and the student is able to tap into the ocean of understanding themselves with less help from the teacher.

It is not possible for me to impart all that Jeffrey has transmitted to me. Even had I absorbed it all, it is the transmission itself that is important and not the actual details. Nonetheless, I had attempted in this book to impart some of the knowledge that came to me through Jeffrey as well as some of the ways by which it has shaped my own path.

Far more than technical information Jeffrey transmitted to me a way of thinking. Most importantly he had transmitted to the importance of reverence and resonance. Through Jeffrey I developed the understanding that as an acupuncturist/healer I must have reverence to the process of my own cultivation. Without self-cultivation the work we do becomes merely mechanical. The idea of resonating with points, rather than using them mechanically or empirically, closely relates to cultivation. As Jeffrey says “anyone knows that ST36 is supposed to produce just about every effect in the book, but very few people can actually elicit the desired effect out of the point.” This is because we can only elicit out of a point that which we have cultivated with regards to it. To a TCM practitioner it is easy to think of ST36 as tonifying the Spleen and Stomach, and thus they can produce that result, or others related to digestion, using the point. Yet, the list of indications for ST36 is inexhaustible, ranging from menstrual and urinary disorders, to nervous system disorders, to pain in the arms: most practitioners cannot say with confidence that ST36 is their point of choice to all those indications. This is because they have not developed the particular understanding/resonance with the point that would be required to produce the effect.

One of the unique features of Jeffrey’s way of treating is his ability to relate to people on a level that normally requires years of intimate knowledge. Patients open up to Jeffrey immediately. He is also able to evaluate their condition without judgement. These are qualities I am still yet to develop within me. As a result, it is not possible for me to work in the same style as Jeffrey does. I do not evaluate the level of disharmony that has entered the person. To me that would be locking the person into a category. Jeffrey is able to determine where a person’s issue is within the model of penetration of the pathogenic factor, using a variety of diagnostic techniques, including pulse diagnosis, and heavily relying on his sense of the person. He then treats the level where he feels the issue is, trying to entice the pathogen out, or the person into confronting or understanding, etc. Jeffrey expects confirmation of his treatment strategy by eliciting new signs and symptoms that will show that the desired level has indeed been engaged (proving the issue has progressed to the desired level). To me most people appear to have all issues at the same time, commonly involving the blood/Ying/cognition, the Wei, social constraints, deep seated constitutional factors, etc. I find that it is not easy for me to see one level/issue as predominating. As a result, it is not possible for me to treat in the same manner that Jeffrey does.

Jeffrey operates largely as a shaman and a teacher. He is not a doctor. He acts as a physician on occasion, but his true calling is as a teacher and shaman. A teacher is one who brings understanding to another person, showing them ways to look at their lives through reflection. A shaman is one who connects us to other realms, to the ancestors (ancestors can mean both blood and spiritual ancestry, as well as roots and causes of our life circumstances). A physician on the other hand is only engaged to remove an obstacle, not necessarily by shedding light on it. Most of us operate on the level of a physician with some aspects of a teacher or even a shaman. Jeffrey operates on the level of a teacher, sometimes shaman, with some aspects of a physician.

True healing to Jeffrey is not the eradication of symptoms, but rather a greater understanding of the self. Jeffrey talks of the role of the practitioner as that of a guide, helping the client redeem the soul, so that our spiritual life can shine brilliantly, transcend the physical obstacles, and we can learn the lessons presented to us within this life span/incarnation.

My own understanding of pathology is tightly correlated to the idea that any injury (be it physical, emotional, inherited, etc.) that the body sustained in the past can be an event/place that will tie up the body’s energies, preventing it from fully handling future events. Thus, if I can find the original event that is locking the body’s healing energies, and treat it appropriately, all other issues tend to be resolved, much like a domino effect. For the most part, technically speaking, I follow the techniques of Kiiko Matsumoto, diagnosing by palpation and determining the efficacy of any point I use by its effect on the palpatory findings as well as on the actual complaint-symptoms.

Unlike Jeffrey, the majority of my clients come not for psycho-spiritual issues, but for very physical ones. Many of them do not invite me into their spiritual journeys and may even resent interference from an acupuncturist in an area they deem belonging to psychologists or spiritual teachers. (Jeffrey, being a Daoist priest, is, of course, often expected to “resolve” all issues on a spiritual level.)

In spite of these differences, the knowledge transmitted to me by Jeffrey is invaluable in my practice. We all fall back to the “tricks” we are familiar with. In my case it is the more mechanical style utilised by Kiiko Matsumoto. However, when our old tricks and ways of resolving problems fails us, this is where Jeffrey can extend us beyond the mechanics, beyond the tricks, and allow us to come up with new possibilities and treatment ideas.