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The Story of the Table: Western vs. Eastern Medicine

I’m going to share with you a beautiful metaphor that demonstrates the difference between Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both medicines have their place in our lives, and both can help support healing. But both also have different approaches. This metaphor comes from an old Chinese professor of fertility acupuncturist Jane Lyttleton.


Imagine that there is a round table that is having health troubles. Over the course of many years, the round table has grown sharp corners. It now looks like a square table.

The table goes to see a doctor that specializes in corners.


“No problem at all,” says the doctor. “We’ll have you round again in no time at all.” The operation was performed the very next day. The doctor cut the table’s corners with a saw. The procedure was quite painful, but was over with rapidly and efficiently. Unfortunately, the doctor cut a little too close on the fourth corner, and the table lost part of one of its legs. The top of the table, while not entirely rounded smooth, no longer had sharp corners.


The table then went to see a Chinese medicine practitioner.


“How did this issue come about?” asked the Chinese medicine practitioner. He listened to the table’s story, and then felt the tables cut corners and leg.


“Yes, he said quietly after some time. “I can help you to be a perfectly round table with a leg again. It will take some time, though, as you have had this disease for a long time.” And then, he pulled out a small file, applied it to one of the sharp edges, and began to file and file. And even though it was tedious for both the table and the practitioner, doing all that careful filing, after several months the table was smooth, strong, and round again.


Western medicine is efficient. It provides fast results, and it is wonderful for acute diseases like cancer, trauma wounds, or broken bones. If you’re in a life-threatening state of disease, you want to see a doctor.


But when your quality of life is affected, that’s where Chinese medicine can help. Hormonal imbalance, chronic pain, smoking cessation, weight loss – these are all issues that acupuncturists can work on with a nail file – and lots of patience and caring.

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