Integrating Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine

GUEST: Dr. Nan Lu
VTR: 04/21/2005

I’m Richard Heffner, your host on The Open Mind. And one fact I must face is that I’ve waited an inordinately long time to do today’s program on integrating Western and traditional Chinese medicine.

It was a decade ago, in fact, that a newspaper report of a rather heated meeting of scores of worried doctors and scientists defending what they called “reason” against the many new inroads of what they also dismissed as alternative medicine stimulated me to interview one of those medical critics on what he called “the medicine of unreason”.

Well, I never went further than that, I admit. I regret.

But now I want to do so, emphasizing here today the integrative and complementary (rather than just alternative) medicine with Dr. Nan Lu, a classically trained doctor of TCM, traditional Chinese medicine, who frequently partners with doctors of Western medicine, using complementary approaches in such specialties as women’s health, cancer, immune system disorders, and pain management.

And I would like to begin today by asking Dr. Lu how his work as Founding Director of the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation and its affiliated organization, the American Taoist Healing Center refutes any notion of “the medicine of unreason”.

LU: Wow …

HEFFNER: How does your work refute that, that concept? That rather demeaning concept.

LU: Well, it’s, it’s a big role about medicine, because once we talk about medicine there’s always associated with medicine is the disease. But the different things of the medicine is not about disease. Medicine has to be more than the disease. Medicine has to be focused on health. So that’s a difficult issue between the Eastern and Western … what are the means by which you treat a patient for the health, or treat a patient as disease.

So in ancient time and patient go to the doctor because … when healthy they go to doctor. And today you go to doctor when you’re sick … you go to doctor.

HEFFNER: That’s a fascinating concept. Have you discussed that at great length?

LU: No, I didn’t discuss with Western doctor, but I discuss it with the patients, so a lot of my patients are coming in for the tune up … just like a car. You know, you buy the car, you’re leasing the car … you have to follow the, the … what are called the, the car’s recommendations … every 3,000 miles, every three months you have to tune up the car. But no one tune up their own body. That’s a funny thing we see.

HEFFNER: Why is that? What, what was the nature of the tradition of American medicine, or Western medicine, that put its emphasis upon illness. How did that come to be, while you own ancient, much more ancient tradition … is that of emphasizing health, well-being?

LU: Well, I don’t know why. Maybe because the society changed. It may be because today everything is about a business. Sometimes we say … you don’t know why … do we really want people getting healthy? Sometimes you look at this way, and sometimes you look at the “how can we continue to treat patients if we don’t understand … there is the something else there … that allows us to treat.”

I’ll give you an example. For example today so many people are suffering pain. In pain they will always say, “what kind of pain do you have? Physical … this most people complain. And for physical pain, but what is behind the physical pain can be emotional pain. Which is in Chinese medicine we understand. 90% of pain behind it is emotional pain. Today a lot of disease behind is emotional disease, emotional problems. So the emotional pain, if you don’t fix … then the physical pain is just superficial.

Even emotional pain, what is behind the emotional pain. How about you have spiritual pain? That’s more difficult things. Unless the doctor will treat … has real training in the spiritual journey and understands the patient’s suffering at the spiritual pain … whenever you treat it, you give it treatments for pain, for the emotional … it’s useless. You have to guide in the patient … go through the spiritual journey. And then all the pains, you can fix.

HEFFNER: But that means, then, doesn’t it … ahh, that you and I … if I were your patient …

LU: MmmHmm.

HEFFNER: Is that the right word? Still? Patient?

LU: Yeah. You can say it this way, then maybe … I have a funny way … I say “who’s the real patient, maybe I’m your patient. See?”

HEFFNER: Explain that. Explain that.

LU: Yeah. I … one day I go to the hospitals … there’s a seminar I talk at … I say, “Who is the real healer? Who heals who? Does the doctor heal the patients? Or patient heals the doctor?”

HEFFNER: And your answer?

LU: I always say it’s the patient who heals the doctor. Patients are the doctors’ opportunity. I always have a fun in thinking. I said today, in the West we always want to be famous. Right? And copyright or patent this. So one of the days when a patient has an emergency, you go to Emergency Room and the doctor performs “magical” operation … whatever. Then suddenly doctor be famous because doctor perform magic, perform something miracle.

So, you know, I always say, if that’s the way … then the patient should go to the doctor … “I need a cut.” I need a percentage because you’re using my body. God created only one of me, I’m unique. Tell me who’s who. Without my body you cannot be famous. Right?

If you look at it that way, who should be the famous? Patient.

HEFFNER: But now what help is it, therapeutically to look at it that way?

LU: You know, you look at it this way, which I recognize now and most of the time at the ancient time order, when I was training … my master also training me … said, “You have to see the patients, or the other people, give you opportunity”. They have, in faith, allowed you to touch their body. That’s tremendous trust.

So you have appreciate that the patient’s giving you an opportunity because every patient, every treatment is brand new. Is new. It’s not old. Because its energy beings … you have to look at it as energy, you cannot look at it as just disease.

So if you look at it this way, make every time new things happen. Every time is the energy.
HEFFNER: How do Western doctors respond to this?

LU: Well, Western say … because … maybe because they cannot say “no” because even in science we understand that everything’s changed. But they just cannot prove. So … I believe it’s not just Western doctor, I believe it’s doctors themselves. Some are open minded, they can understand, make sense. But just the society, today, doesn’t allow them to think this way.

HEFFNER: Do you really feel that way? Aren’t we … when you talk about society today … I guess I respond to what you say now in terms of my continuing involvement in that old Western, American tradition …

LU: MmmHmm.

HEFFNER: … of thinking of doctors as “Gods”, the doctor can do no wrong. And that tradition has certainly been fostered by doctors. But isn’t that less and less true today?

LU: Mmmm, in one way it’s true. You look at it one way, yes, a doctor does help a patient, but doctor only can help a patient’s health, cannot save a patient’s life. Because … in Chinese medicine we believe life belong to God. God created life. It’s your … even in the West we say, “you time, that’s your time.”

All right, they don’t say, “Your time, we can change.” We cannot reverse time. Because medicine cannot do this. If medicine really can do this, I always make a joke … then on Sunday we should go to hospitals instead of church.

HEFFNER: How is that notion greeted by those who, in the West, are so very much involved with matters of religion?

LU: No, I think all the people in the West, they understand this way, should be this way, because some way, when they have a real faith in God, then they will understand medicine only can treat a treatable disease. Which means, if that’s your time, that’s your time, no one can stop you. No one can save you. If that condition can be treated, then medicine can help you.

HEFFNER: Your, your medicine then … if I can call it that … your healing then is based upon the sense of inevitability. Something is inevitable, it is not within our power. You’re talking about something beyond us.

LU: It is your power, but just … the power comes from where? See, the power can be many different ways. The power can be when we think, okay, most of the time we think the power is in the mind. We can control this. But power is not just the mind. Mind own can create a certain amount … mind can control … for instance, certain degree of our health, but mind never can create miracle.

In healing sometimes, particularly today we are facing to a lot of conditions like cancers. A lot of immune diseases. And, and in medicine itself … almost say impossible. But the miracle happens.

When a miracle happens and you ask the patients, “What’s going on?” They say, “It happens”. If it happens it’s not from the mind thinking “it happens”. So that means there’s got to be something beyond the mind. How can we go through beyond the mind? Which is a real … in Chinese medicine we believe it is the heart … which in a lot of religions, they believe, also, is the heart … it’s not the mind.

HEFFNER: In a very practical sense … how do you bring together the traditions of Western and Chinese medicine?

LU: Well, I would bring it this way … for example, the patient comes in, if they suffer from … today … we call that depression … put it this way, simple depression. The depression you have to recognize the patients … why are they depressed? Has one a physical condition? One can be emotional conditions. Most of the time I find the patient suffering a depression, they have deep issues about emotional. Emotional which means that inside they still have a passion, they want to do something. They … they inside they want to do something, but they cannot get what they want.

So we help a patient to see why they cannot get what they want. It is mind? Or, it is, it’s the path. Or it’s something beyond what you can control.

For example, we cannot control the weather. We all understand … today, rain … hey, we accept … all right … but a life sometimes is like nature … should be like a nature … you cannot control everything, but the mind doesn’t accept it. I believe I can control everything.

When you have that kind of thought, meaning you want to control everything, if you don’t get what you want, you get depressed. So you help a patient, I help a patient to understand certain conditions you cannot control … you have to accept.

HEFFNER: How does that differ from American … an American psychiatrist’s …

LU: I don’t know American psychiatrists because I didn’t go to that level here. I don’t go to that path.

HEFFNER: All right, but then let me … let me start … and let me ask you …

LU: MmmHmm.

HEFFNER: … not about a person who is depressed. But about a person who has cancer …

LU: MmmHmm.

HEFFNER: … how, in what way do you join together with Western medicine? How, in what way, do you differ? How, in what way do you complement each other?

LU: Well, the first issue I have … the complement for the patients, what we are doing here.

HEFFNER: What do you mean?

LU: I mean if we’re doing here for life … you want me to help you save a life, I say … you’re at the wrong place. You should go to church. That’s I tell exactly. I can’t save your life. But if you … if we want to go on a journey for the health … that’s when I can do something.

And if we want to do something deeper to find out what’s the reason … because I believe everything happens for a reason. Disease sometimes looks likes illness, suffer with physical, emotional, suffering … but some way to make a lot of patients … a lot of people to have an opportunity to turn around and to see things differently.

And when they can see something differently, they totally change. It’s an opportunity. You know, Chinese always say, “Everything has another side.” It’s an opportunity to let the patient open their mind, can open their heart, can see something different … maybe their life will change.

So when we treat the cancers. How do we really treat cancers? It’s the mind, or it’s the body?

HEFFNER: Or the spirit.

LU: That’s right. Can we really treat cancer? How many times we saw these miracle things happen. Doctor’s say … you have only three months to live … all right. Three months. But patient three years later come back, still okay.

I have one patient … he come to me … you know, after I did the lecture … when the lecture finished, he said, “Dr. Lu, you know, if … does Chinese medicine can help me to save my life.” I said, “No”. He said, “I …”

I said, “What kind of life you need to save?”. He said, “I got kidney cancer”. So the doctor say when they find that I only have one kidney, I was born with one kidney … I never know. When the bad things happen, almost impossible … doctors say I only have three months.”

I say, “Sell your house, do something what you want. What do you want? What do you wish?” He said, “I wish I can live in Florida.” I said, “Sell your house (he lived in Montclair … expensive house). I said, “Sell it. You have all the money and go to Florida … enjoy … do whatever you want … do something your soul, your spirit telling you.” He did it.

He sold the house and moved to Florida. Three years later he came back … thank you … me … he says “Thank you so much, I’ve had three years now. Doctor only gave me three months.”

HEFFNER: Now, what happened?

LU: What happened? That’s right. I always say, “What happened?” That means that we cannot determine the life, because life is mystery. How can limited mind understand unlimited mystery? Life is a mystery … every day is a change. It’s a mystery. We, we don’t know. Because in the body, in the cells, there are so many things going on … we don’t know. We just don’t know.

HEFFNER: But isn’t it your responsibility, if that’s the word to help bring about change?

LU: It’s my responsibility, if I have a chance, I have to tell the truth about what I believe. But it’s not my responsibility to save patient’s life. To treat … to completely treat a patient’s condition. Because everybody has their own responsibility to go through their processing.

HEFFNER: Then what are you doing for him? Are you guiding him …

LU: MmmHmm.

HEFFNER: … to understand what his …

LU: I just give … I just give him, from different angle … let him see … what before he could not see. Just like … you have a … in your garden you have so many flowers, you’re too busy for the different time … different, different days … you never … you never pay attention to what other flowers you have in your garden. I just say you have flowers inside, why are you looking outside?

HEFFNER: Now let me, let me ask why do Western doctors, American doctors, let’s say … choose to find complimentary involvement with you and your colleagues?

LU: Well, I believe it’s because it’s not Western doctor … I don’t put it this way … I think it’s human nature. I believe everybody born with a nature inside … has love. Has compassion. That’s inside. Everybody has this. Just society … outside the womb we grow up, we little by little cover or destroy this part. So once in the life sometimes you might make this part re-function again. Maybe some doctors change. How many doctors change? Many. Every year we run the one conference called “Building Bridge” …

HEFFNER: MmmHmmm.

LU: … for the complementary medicine. You know, every October we run this Conference. A lot of doctors, Western doctors come. And they talk about the feelings … their changes, because they truly believe we cannot treat patients just as the disease.

We cannot just come and say, you have a pain … and only look at the pain … they look at the whole thing. Like a doctor of hearts … when he treats heats, he understands that the heart is not just for hearts. Doctor … when he does cancer, he understands that the whole body, its emotions, everything. So that even Western doctors … I would way that they still can be open minded … totally understand we definitely cannot treat a patient just from one point.

HEFFNER: And what do you, in turn, derive from the Western tradition?

LU: Well, for Western tradition … I would say it this way … because every culture creates a different kind of mind. Right? Every culture creates a different kind of life style. So if I’m dealing with Western patients in the Western culture, I have to understand Western culture can create problems. Therefore when we let patients see that they’re missing something … for example, we do the car … I always use the car …

HEFFNER: I like … must get back to that …

LU: … because … it’s not as though they don’t have a concept of prevention, they do prevention for their car. Right? It’s not a concept … they buy the insurance. Everything has insurance. What’s the insurance for, to prevent something happening. So why not for body.

They never treat the body. They love the car more than their own body. That’s a funny thing I say. All right. Look at that part … they have … they do have this concept, but they don’t use it. And they put other things before, too. The energy … the Westerners say, Oh, we don’t understand energy. And they all love the money. Okay, we talk about the money. Think about your energy just like money. Now they understand.

HEFFNER: You mean spending it and conserving it?

LU: That’s right. Spending your energy just like spending your money. All right. The body inside, you have to look at this way … it’s an energy deficiency. Our whole body’s energy. But they don’t understand energy. But they love, they understand money. When they tell the people, “Hey, don’t do this. When you do this you overuse your energy.”

HEFFNER: Who comes to you?

LU: Oh, many different kinds of people. And a lot of time they come to me as the last hope. They say, “Okay. Cannot fix this, I’ve been many times to all the different doctors. Okay, they say (their friends) … go to check this guy. Maybe he can do something.” I say, “You’re supposed to come to me first, not come as the last resort.”

But unfortunately they come to the complementary medicine, always as the last resort. They should go, as the first resort, to the complementary medicine, so this way you can look at things differently.

HEFFNER: But having come to you at the wrong time, how do you make it into the right time?

LU: Well, if we look at the wrong time or right time, there is no wrong time and no right time. Because it is … has happened this way.

HEFFNER: Okay. Fair enough.

LU: They cannot, even if they don’t come earlier because they are not ready, because the healing is … healing isn’t something the doctor performs, healing is something the patient performs. The whole process. If they’re ready, its needs just one touch … just one talk. Just one talk … the patient understands. The whole thing will change. You really don’t need the needles. But sometimes you still put that … you punch in needles … they are just … in my opinion … they are just decoration and desserts. Because the main course already finished.

HEFFNER: Say that again.

LU: See, I always make a joke … when we … when I see the patients we talk, it’s like a conversation … and then the patient says, “I never thought I’d come here … it looks like psychology … I say, it is, because everything is about the emotions. Once emotions are finished, you understand what’s going on, why these things happened and then you know.

All right. You can feel it. I say, “You go to therapist for 20 years, after session finish, are you looking for the needles? Why you come here, you looking for the needles. A done deal. But only things … maybe I don’t have a license to practice. But it’s not the same way. I let you see your emotions caused these problems. The anger caused these problems. Sometimes angry. So once they understand angry … so okay, I’m not going to let this anger continue to bother me.

Once they can understand the problem comes from anger … healing would be much easier, instead of saying “Okay, I have a disease … I have to treat a disease, so this way, they can have more power, they can control the anger … instead of trying to control the disease.

HEFFNER: I’ve just gotten the signal, we have only two minutes left. I want to ask you how, whatever you want to call it, medicine, healing, whatever is practiced in China.

LU: I think in China today maybe difficult now, because China still is a more political country and sometimes China cannot practice … like a Western way, has more freedom. Because Western way, now you do the needles, in my opinion, you can tell the patient … see, it’s a spirit, it’s something you have to help patients understand. It’s a whole.

In China, this kind of conversation is very difficult because a lot of doctors have become so busy, they don’t have time to go to the big conversations to help patients understand.

HEFFNER: Don’t you think that’s true here?

LU: Here, if Western doctors … they don’t … if you go to the real, truly … those who practice complementary medicines they have to do this. Because a real, truly healing … it comes from the patients. And the patients make things different and has to go beyond the mind. Has to look at the whole thing in connection with the whole universe.

HEFFNER: And that is the basis.

LU: That is the basis. Without understanding … we are part of the universe … without understanding … if we think we are just individual, just treat individuals, you never can be successful. You … even disease you cannot treat … forget about your emotions and spirituals.

HEFFNER: Dr. Lu, we’ve … I’ve waited a decade for you to come here … you’ve got to come back again to continue …

LU: Me, too. I wait so long.

HEFFNER: Thank you for joining me on The Open Mind.

LU: Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity.

HEFFNER: And thanks, too, to you in the audience. I hope you join us again next time, and if you would like a transcript of today’s program, please send $4.00 in check or money order to The Open Mind, P. O. Box 7977, FDR Station, New York, New York 10150.

Meanwhile, as an old friend used to say, “Good night and good luck.”

N.B. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this transcript. It may not, however, be a verbatim copy of the program.

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