How we make sense in clinic is not as simple as ticking items off a list. It’s more than mentally sorting through the models, theories, admonitions from our teachers and some chatter from a recent glimpse at Facebook.

While the theories and mental models we crafted through our experience have a place in clinic, there is also the experience of sensing without a story being attached. If we are attentive and quiet enough there is something that arise in our mind, before the label of “it’s that!” gets attached to our experience. Sometimes we can have an experience in clinic that does not yet have words attached to it.

In this discussion we explore perceiving, thinking, evidence and sensing. Listen into this conversation on how we make sense at the edge our unfolding clinical experience.


In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • How Nigel got in to East Asian Medicine
  • Learning to sense rather than think
  • Using the five phases as a way to orient to both the internal and external world
  • Surrender is not defeat
  • The problem with trying to get it right
  • Importance of intelligent experimentation
  • Opening things up rather than nailing them down
  • Health is not just one thing

Medical art is understanding. Understanding arrives through learning. There are no old or new formulas, only efficacious ones

Nigel Dawes, L.Ac

As clinicians, I think most of us would agree that some of our best and most gratifying results are achieved when we allow ourselves to step “outside the box”. When we are willing to indulge in a bit of “intelligent experimentation”. My baptism into this field was the issue of just such an experiment.

In 1982, armed with a Masters in Comparative Literature (a passport to almost nothing other than a keen & critical mind) I set out for East Asia with little prior exposure to its various cultures, languages or peoples and certainly with no coherent plan. When I finally returned to London 6 years later (most of that time spent in Japan) I had even less of an idea of where my path lay.

Now, more than 30 years on, I am not sure I myself can fully rationalize the whys and wherefores of the various twists and turns that have led to where I find myself today – in private practice in New York, teaching, writing and thoroughly engaged in and celebrating every minute of my professional life.

What I do know is that rising as a practitioner to the challenge of guiding others toward better health, of sharing as a teacher in the wonder it is to facilitate the learning and embodiment of a new and powerful skill and to have the luxury of writing about these things to be shared with a wider audience – this is what gets me up in the morning and what gives meaning to my life.

I have become, I suppose, a kind of Acupuncture, Shiatsu and Kampo “Nerd” but I like to think one whose quest is still evolving and always prepared for not a little intelligent experimentation! As Basho said in The Rustic Gate (1693): “Do not seek to follow in the steps of the men of old; seek what they sought”.

Links and Resources

Visit Nigel online at

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