Beneath the apparent separateness of “the ten thousand things” of everyday life, there is a deeper underlying unity; an organic whole; a web of interconnectedness.
Taoism and Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine finds its roots in the 8000-year-old Taoist tradition. Taoist philosophy views the universe as an integral whole with an inner dynamic of cyclical patterns. The word Tao refers to the interconnectedness of this evolving world and human experience. Taoism is the understanding of these patterns and attuning oneself with the unfolding dynamic. Harmony and health are the balanced interplay of these tendencies.
Taoist philosophy postulates that the belief of human separation from our surroundings and from one another leads to a state of disharmony and imbalance. Human compulsion to exercise wilful control over all situations leads to discord with the natural way. External reality is in continuous flux, cycling in and out of states of balance and harmony.
By following nature and learning to flow with the ongoing patterns of change, “going with the flow”, we integrate. Our natural wisdom lets us know when to intervene and when to let things play out. Our actions become unforced and effortless, spontaneous and natural. We then flow with all experiences as they come and go.
In nature, change occurs organically, transforming and finding new order. The seasons flow into one another. Saplings are born in the nutriment of past trees. Fish find new home through streams of recent flood. While nature flows effortlessly, humans often struggle with change: resisting it or lacking the necessary skill to adapt.
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Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang lies at the very root of the Taoist tradition. They describe the dynamic of movement and change. While these two primal forces are opposite in nature, they are also interdependent. The existence of one end of the spectrum presupposes the existence of the other.
Their symbolic depiction conveys the harmonious balance between these two apparent extremes. The curved line represents their dynamic interaction. As each extreme reaches its fullest expression, it already carries the seed of its opposite, signified by the small dot. These two forces are literally flowing into and becoming one other.
Yang is characterised as creative, assertive, positive and light, while yin is receptive, yielding, negative and dark. It is important to understand that these attributes do not carry any moral or judgmental value.
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The Quiet Mind
By recognising patterns and stages of change we can practice appropriate timing. There is a time to act and a time to be still; a time to intercede and a time to yield. Going with the flow implies that there is a larger life current with which we can align ourselves.
In order to attain this flow and to have it become an instinctive and effortless part of our behaviour we need to attune ourselves to the needs of the moment. The most direct way of accessing this is by quieting the mind. An ideal state of mind is still, calm, reflecting and empty, rather than full of endless chatter, cluttered with extraneous thoughts, stories or other preoccupations. A quiet mind is an alert and responsive mind.
From the simplicity of an empty or quiet mind we can observe clearly and understand deeply. We instinctively attain and promote a state of balance and harmony. When our minds are quiet, neither our senses nor external events can overwhelm us. Because we perceive more clearly we can make informed and appropriate decisions.
Through watchfulness and quietness of mind we discover the natural order of how things change and grow. As we learn to be patient we become able to act or intercede at precisely the right moment. In this way we discover how to rely on more than just our intellect and logical mind to gather and assess information. We develop and trust our intuition. We experience ourselves as integral, rather than separate and simply focus on the needs of the moment.
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Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture
Chinese medicine is a complete system that has been practicing preventative medicine of promoting and maintaining health for more than 2,500 years. Much of what we know about Chinese medicine comes from a book called the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic.
It offers a holistic consideration of health and disease and teaches us to look at the root of the problem rather than the resulting symptoms. It aims to heal using treatments that encompass the whole of the individual as closely as possible. Understanding an illness means to perceive the relationship of all our signs and symptoms in context of our life and biography.
It observes life processes and the relationship between us and our environment. For good health and harmony we would function with the seasons in mind. In the summer we would eat cooling foods; spend more time outdoors and be active. In the colder months we would eat warmer foods; conserve energy, rest more and turn our energy inward.
Transformation is organic and to be nurtured. It is about detecting subtle changes and making adjustments so that we may thrive. There is no standard or absolute. Health in one person may be sickness in another. There is no normal, only challenges and possibilities unique to each of us.