GUA SHA - RESPECT OTHER'S TRADITIONS IN THE FACE OF MISUSE AND COLONIZING INDIGENOUS INFORMATION
Woman using a Jade gua sha
"I am fascinated by global healing techniques and information, but I'm nervous that I'm helping to misuse and colonize indigenous information. How can I respect other countries' traditions?" -- Roger
We have access to so many global tools and ideas and it's tempting to pile them on our plate like delicious entrées, savoring their exotic flavors and reveling in the different nuances.
Trying new things is what helps humans evolve. However, in human evolution, the desire for new things has led to colonization, the assertion of power, the demand for surrender of art, craft, and knowledge to the conqueror. It's like the fearsome science fiction cyborg monsters, The Borg, who "will add your distinctiveness to our own collective."
And then the culture's distinctiveness is absorbed, learned, taught to later generations, often without mentioning where that information came from.
Over the years, more and more people have worked to research and honor the origins of ideas, including medical methods. As a white woman of European heritage (mostly German) I must work hard to make sure that as I bring practices from other countries into my own use and business, I respect their roots.
A prime example of this is my favorite tool—the gua sha.
I have a 31-year history with the use of gua sha. I studied Gua Sha Theory with Dr. Ling in San Francisco in 1989 and alongside him began utilizing it as a lymphatic massage therapist.
I continued to study gua sha therapy in 1991 at Five Branches University to develop my knowledge. I chose not to become an acupuncturist in 1992 because of the lack of heart-connected client care. I began studying Tibetan Medicine and Ayurveda with Dr. Lobsang Rapgay, who is now a professor of psychology at UCLA. He also utilized gua sha and explained where to find this theory in Ayurveda. It is a form of Chikitsa, rakta mokshana.
Dr. Lobsang taught me how to use gua sha in multiple ways and he called it "gua sha", not "rakta mokshana chikitsa technique", since it was the name being utilized throughout Asia and easier for clients to find information on its benefits.
Later I sought out Judy Taylor to continue my studies on the art of gua sha in connection to lymphatic care. I picked out the gems from her class, as we do with all our teachers. I appreciated her passion and dedication to this art form.
All the students who learn gua sha technique from me know of my background and that I am not an acupuncturist. Gua sha is from Chinese medicine, not an Ayurvedic term, and my use of gua sha may vary from acupuncture theory. In today's world, the words gua sha are being utilized in many forms of medicine who have scraping techniques with their own traditional names, as from Vietnam, Japan, Korea, India, Israel, and Germany, to mention a few. Most use the words gua sha to explain this basic scraping tool, since it is revered and best known as such.
It is with respect to and in honor of Chinese medicine that Gua Sha has become the phenomenon it is. I consciously choose to respect what I have learned about Gua Sha theory through the years and not act like I found some new thing called rakta mokshana as an Ayurveda practitioner.
With all the tools I use, I continuous work to research and acknowledge my sources and what I don't know. I ask my students to do the same. I challenge you to, as well.
Where does a phrase or a habit or even a family tradition come from? Try to find as many sources as you can. If you have access to your teacher, ask them about the lineage of what they teach.
To understand that all wisdom began with an individual or collective's imagination and daring is to comprehend that we must respect materials at their source. We must give honor to the courage, innovation, and hard work of these ancestors and pry open the cage of appropriation to elevate the true origin.