How Theory Becomes Practice

By Dolma Johanison, D.Ac., L.Ac.

The Eight Extraordinary Vessels theory has been in existence for thousands of years, and many practitioners of Eastern medicine find themselves intrigued by these “mysterious vessels.” Over the years, many practitioners have indicated it is too dangerous to deeply explore the eight extraordinary vessels, while others believe quite differently. Li Shi Zhen of the 16th century had the viewpoint that not employing the eight extraordinary vessel theory with patients is a disservice to them. Following this guidance, I was profoundly inspired to deepen my study of these vessels and the works of Li Shi Zhen. During the course of my study and employment of the theory in my clinical practice, I discovered there is limited information on how best to proceed as a beginner practitioner regarding the eight extraordinary vessels. This discovery motivated me to write a book for the practitioner interested in knowing more about the eight extraordinary vessels and putting that knowledge into practice for the benefit of their patients.

“Early practitioners and philosophers were not afraid to use these vessels. Li encouraged all of his students as herbalists and acupuncturists to honor and practice the highest level of medicine by incorporating these vessels into their treatments.  In this way, he believed practitioners could serve the highest purpose.” (pg.13)

My passion with understanding these vessels began thirteen years ago and once I started learning about them, I could not stop. I believe the study to be one that is lifelong. To date, I seize every opportunity to gain experience from a master who works or has worked with the eight extraordinary vessels with their patients.

“Who we are as healers is a reflection of the embodiment of acupuncture history, our own personal journey, and the interconnectedness we cherish with our healer ancestry.” (pg. 11)

It became a calling to me to integrate this theory into my everyday acupuncture practice in order to fully support and heal my patients. While other theories prove to be beneficial and certainly supportive, no other theory has been as profound as the eight extraordinary vessels. Li Shi Zhen believed our patients were not optimally served without the practitioner employing the eight extraordinary vessels at some point during the course of the treatment strategy. This understanding had a deep impact on me.

“The great masters of the past were willing to work on the ties that bind us to cyclic existence; therefore, in deciding to treat patients on these deep pathways, one must not activate for others what one is not willing to do for oneself.” (pg. 23)

I set out to not only learn and study, but to employ the vessels on myself with a mindful and methodical process. As I learned more about them and journaled my firsthand experiences my interests deepened, and I wanted to offer what I had learned and discovered to other practitioners and their patients. On the “bookshelves” for acupuncturists, I realized a guide for the beginner was missing. Available information is profound and beneficial, however much of it can be dense and difficult for a practitioner new to the theory and its application. I wanted to bring the eight extraordinary vessel theory to the beginner and to do so with safe protocols.

This guide offers a swimmers block; a platform to dive from into the sea of the theory and begin exploration with safe protocols, point combinations, and case studies. My book is based on the works of Li ShiZhen and classical Chinese medicine.  While there are several theories and applications of the eight extraordinary vessels, my book is centered on one theory and application.

The Beginners Guide to the Eight Extraordinary Vessels …intends to offer a different perspective on the eight extraordinary vessels.”

…one thing that remains true is the value of the eight extraordinary vessels in the healing process.” (pg. 10)

Regardless of the theory and approach, each and every patient benefits from eight extraordinary vessel treatments during the course of a long-term treatment strategy. It supports the therapeutic and healing process regardless of belief systems or skepticism.

“Clearing the eight is a full-circle theory; moment to moment it is critical in resolution of the karmic consequences of the individual for this life, then the next.” (pg. 231)

This book offers a thorough foundation for acupuncturists on the eight extraordinary vessels in Classical Chinese medicine. History, the vessels, the pulses, point combinations and safety protocols are all covered, and case studies help demonstrate how this knowledge can be used in treatment, firmly putting theory into practice. Including many helpful illustrations, this book offers chapters on common problems particularly suited to eight extraordinary vessels treatment. Whether practitioner, or simply interested in understanding our energetic bodies and how they interface with our world, I hope you enjoy it and find it useful with your healing journey.

Dolma Johanison, D.Ac., L.Ac., has a Doctorate degree in Acupuncture, and practices Acupuncture in the state of Maryland. She also serves as a faculty member at her alma mater, Maryland University of Integrative Health. Passionate about the health of both mind and body, Dolma is a dedicated practitioner of meditation, self-awareness and balanced living.  She has served as a Board member for Buddhist organizations, and has held key committee positions in analysis and research.  Dolma graduated from two Army Colleges and served honorably in the U.S. Military for 21 years. She currently speaks publicly regarding the many benefits of whole-body wellness and integrative health practices.

Purchase a copy of The Beginner’s Guide to the Eight Extraordinary Vessels here.

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