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Ancient Medicine - China


The Chinese have been practicing herbalism and what would today be termed holistic healing since the dawn of their civilization.  Over the period of several thousands of years (some sources say up to 8000 years) a very sophisticated form of healing developed which has been used successfully innumerable times.

The Chinese Taoist tradition forms the foundation of ancient Chinese civilization which includes its healthcare system . (Some practitioners of Chinese medicine distinguish Classical Chinese medicine which is the pre-Mao medicine as opposed to the current post Mao medicine commonly known as TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine. In the TCM tradition many of the concepts and philosophy of Taoism have been eradicated from the healing arts. )

To begin, the Taoist follow the  laws of Nature as guiding lights. While many people have recognized the Taoist masters as being the healers,  the masters invariably deny that they are.  They emphasize that the Tao,  Nature, is the only true "healer" and that one can temporally be helped by the "healer but it is Nature who is doing the work.  Only by learning the wisdom and ways of Nature can one truly be "healed.  Thus, the masters developed the health promoting arts such as Taoist yoga, meditation, Tai Chi Chuan, acupressure and herbalism.

The Taoist believe that  a  lifetime of contemplation and searching ones Nature may be necessary to become a truly whole human being. The Chinese seek this vision through the merging of the body mind soul with  the Tao.

The word Tao has two major meanings.  One refers to the Absolute/  Eternal nature of all being and non-being.  A second meaning of Tao is the " Path or the Way."  One follows the "Path" in order to eventually recognize their unity with the Great Tao or the Absolute/ Eternal.

In one of the memorable passages in the book  Tao The Ching attributed to the illusive master Lao Tzu, it states:

 " Tao is Great
   Heaven is Great
   Earth is Great        
   Man is  Great

   Man follows the way of the Earth
   Earth follows the way of Heaven
   Heaven follows the way of Tao
   Tao follows its own way "

This passage I feel exemplifies the unity that the ancient ones experienced through reflection and studying their own nature and the nature of the world around them which are, in fact, one and the same. The way of Tao is an inner experience of immediate awareness and is intuitive rather than intellectual. 

Upon examining Nature, one realizes that Nature is perpetually changing.  Everything is gradually  moving, repositioning; nothing is absolute or unchanging except the Great Tao.  One who knows Nature or the Tao learns to flow with the changes and  avoids rigidity and attachment.   Lao Tzu states;

" The ancient saying ' to bend is to maintain integrity' is the work of truth. " 

But even within this all pervading change , there is a natural order and one may live harmoniously in Nature's orderly process by applying certain life principles.
The first life principle is; all processes in Nature are cyclic. Night and day follow one another,  the seasons change cyclically, and the lunar periods are predictable.  Humans, plants and other life forms move through their seasons of birth, maturity, old age and death.  One must not expect things to stay the same and thus cyclic nature of life is accepted. If the cyclic nature is expected than one can foresee  what the next stage will be. For example, heat must be followed by cold , down will alternate with up,  and wakefulness will alternate with sleepiness and so forth.

Since Nature flows in waves and we are an integral part of Nature then we flow in waves, also. I have found the best way to understand this is by just taking the time to notice and contemplate the ebb and flow of life. We can see it so clearly when we live near wild places such as we do here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Nature reveals herself  to those who are willing to see.

This idea of "timing"  our action is an integral part of healing.   Our biological rhythms, our moods,  our energy highs and lows are all clues as to how we are to be living at that moment.  When we get stuck in one way of thinking or do not allow for the opposite pole of our life to manifest then we sometimes think we have failed because there is not a constant undisturbed steady "forward" movement.  This is not the way of Nature, however.  Go with the flow and use ones will power to move through obstacles but do not fight against the natural flow  of  Nature.

Another life principle is Balance. How can one find happiness in a world that is constantly in flux.  Balance may be defined as not falling into extremes.  Don't move too much to one side whether this be emotionally or physically.

For example, at some points in life we have a lot of action and work to accomplish. These times must be balanced with deep rest, rejuvenation and possibly withdrawal  for a period of time.  If we try to continue with just work and movement then life will come in and make us stop either through illness, accident or adrenal exhaustion.

Another life principle as expounded by the Taoist sages is to truly know that the human being is a part of the natural order on Earth. If we think that we can subjugate and conquer Nature then we will hurt ourselves and the rest of life around us.  A person who is conscious of the unity of nature will not harm the world around them as this will just come back as disease, manifested both emotionally and physically.

All the ancient traditional cultures recognized the fact that the environmental forces play a critical role in a person's health . For example, there is heat, cold, dampness, dryness and so forth that influence our condition.  The Taoist way is to find unity in opposites and to see everything as a part of the Whole.  We must see that Nature has created perfection and can provide all that is necessary for us to live full and happy lives.

Another fundamental principle of life is adaptability.  We must constantly adjust to the changes in the environment; in our inner terrain as well as the outer terrain. A person who can blend harmoniously with various circumstances can feel the  healthiest.  In the realm of herbology there is a class of herbs that have been dubbed, "adaptogens." These herbs help us to have the strength and capacity to adapt to changes that occur. Some examples of adaptogens are ginseng, astragalus, schizandra and others.  The adaptogen herbs are becoming more widely available in health foods stores these days.  Adding them to soups is a traditional way of using them but taking them as capsules or extracts is becoming more common.  It is best to take these with meals and not during the first stages of colds or flu.

As we can see from this brief  outline of Chinese medicine it is a healing system based on seeing nature in her whole and integrated grace. We have seen the same thread of wisdom weaving its way  in our journey through the other forms of ancient healing that we have covered in previous articles in the Psychic Reader.   It is vital that we integrate this concept in what ever form of healing we are drawn to.   Thinking in separatist and fragmented ways should be a thing of the past.

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Wisdom from the Ages

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