So what does the Nei Jing contain that is so wonderful that billions of people can live happily for a long time, without the benefit of advanced western medicine? Nothing really, merely a recorded conversation between people musing over the nature of life, not unlike many poems and parables. However, should one be prepared to approach it with an open mind, they may well discover that on the pages lies a unifying theory of not only people and medicine, but of all of life. This is not the only example of such a piece of work but may well be the earliest. Yin/Yang theory was also first documented on these pages and it is this theory that leads us into the realm of existence.
The Yin Yang symbol represents the fundamental duality of the universe, a duality ultimately unified. Two aspects, both are necessary for the other to exist, complementary and contradictory, harmony is sought between them, and balance is the goal. This theory defines the parameters within which all observations are gathered. It dictates that we cannot know a part without an understanding of the whole. That an event, object or phenomena of any description has no meaning by itself.
It shows that meaning comes from participation in a pattern. That the mind and the body are two aspects of the one whole, that the nature of the universe is dynamic, that stasis is important in order to understand dynamics, and that imbalance must be understood in order to truly pursue balance.
Yin Yang theory can be applied to all things – male/female, life/death, heaven/earth, summer/winter, day/night, hot/cold, excess/deficient, full/empty, movement/stasis, and hence gives a relative idea as to the nature of a system at any one moment in time.
Around 500BC more philosophical thought was recorded by a man by the name of Lao Tse (Great Teacher). He wrote the Tao Te Jing, later known as the book of Taoism, (pronounced Dowism), consisting of 5000 characters on bamboo now regarded as a world classic. He wrote that human potential is not limited by nature, and that wisdom is to be able to see the greatest potential in nature and to flow with it. So important was it seen to be that not more than 1000 years later, the Tao had been engraved in stone in every provincial capital in China. In order to contract, it is necessary first to expand, in order to weaken, it is necessary first to strengthen, in order to destroy, it is necessary first to promote, n order to grasp, it is necessary first to give. The Tao, which means the way, is elusive and intangible. Taoist philosophy embraces the concept that everything is interconnected and that change is an inevitable part of life. The Tao is a written work that manages to reflect life, due to the contradictory and poetic manner in which it is written. In this way nature is not restricted, for example:
The Great Tao flows everywhere, both to the left and to the right, the ten thousand things depend on it; it holds nothing back. It fulfils its purpose silently and makes no claim. It nourishes the ten thousand things, and yet is not their Lord, It has no claim, it is very small. Tao abides in non-action, yet nothing is left undone. It does not show greatness, and therefore is truly great.
Also around this time, through observation, a new pattern was being recorded that co-existed with Yin Yang theory. It gave an even deeper understanding as to the nature of things, and more importantly, as to the likely nature of things tomorrow. Known as the Theory of the Five Phases it is a system by which phenomena undergoing change may be understood in relation to the correspondences and patterns that may be visited upon it. Each phase is representative of a transitional state, easiest understood in relation to the seasons. Over time all things felt, seen, and experienced were allotted a place within the five phases according to their inherent correspondences, including body organs and anatomical regions.
It can now be seen how potent such a concept, along with Yin Yang theory, is to medicine when the person is not separated from either the disease or from themselves. That is, who they are, where they live, what they do, and when.
The application of these principles of the workings of heaven and earth is performed on a being whose state indicates that they are out of balance, and that they no longer function harmoniously in their environment. The properties of a being that may be affected to restore harmony consist of Chi, Blood, Essence, Spirit and Body Fluids, all of which circulate through the Organs and Channels of the body.
From the Nei Jing, Chi Po says,
“…that which controls the bodily substance is called the Heart-Mind, the heart’s capacity for recollection is called reflection, the retention of recollection is called will. The retention and transformation of the will is called thought. Thought is engendered when consideration must be given to will. Worry develops when thought is infused with expectation and anticipation. Worry results in wisdom when it is capable of coping with the affairs of daily life. Therefore in nurturing life the wise adopt to the changes of the four seasons, acclimatizing to cold and summer-heat, leading a life of equanimity, free from either over-joy or anger, adjusting Yin and Yang and regulating the unyielding and the pliant. In so doing evils will rarely rise and long life obtained.”
You can see how easily a person in today’s society may lose the way, fall out of balance with their environment and hence benefit from an adjustment to the flow of their vital substances. So that the body in conjunction with the laws of the universe, may more easily return to the natural state of dynamic balance. The functions of these all-important substances will now be outlined so that it can be seen they constitute life within the human.
Chi, the substance behind the phenomena of movement. Chi is the force of life in us all; its effects can be seen and felt. To describe it as bio-electric energy comes close to an accurate description, but the truth is that Chi, like TCM, resists classification. We know when it is strong or weak – the intuitive senses (touch and sight) of a physician can detect it. Definable only by function it is the initial spark that gives us life, it grows us as we will it, protects, nourishes, supports us through many seasons. To the point of its natural depletion, at which time our Chi with our physical selves return to earth as another cycle is completed to start over. The many different functions of Chi are given different names: Activation Chi (Ancestral/Source) guides our growth and development Warming Chi (Nourishing) regulates the maintenance of organ and tissue temperature according to their functions Defence Chi (Protective) prevents unhealthy influences entering the body Transformative Chi (Organ) supplies the energy required for all the changes in substances within the body, formation, distribution and conversion Containment Chi (Spleen) which provides the power by which our substances and organs stay where they function best. Additionally as we breathe in air it becomes Lung Chi, the food we eat becomes Stomach Chi and the combination of these with Ancestral Chi (stored in the Kidneys) can create and maintain healthy levels of all the different types of Chi we need to live our lives. Chi flows through the Channels or Meridians of the body and may be positively influenced by stretching, breathing, eating, massage, herbal medicine, moxabustion, acupuncture and a positive outlook.
Blood (Xue) in TCM is a lot more than warm red fluid. Blood, defined by function, nourishes the body, considered the Yin to the Yang that is Chi. These two have interdependence with each other. They create each other. Chi may not move in a body unnourished, unmoistened by blood. Xue and Chi are best understood by their relationship with each other, Chi leads Blood, Blood is the mother of Chi. According to Elementary Questions, “if Blood and Chi fall into disharmony, a hundred diseases may arise.”
Essence (Jing) also thought to be fluid like, supportive and nutritive, the basis of reproduction and development. Development corresponds with changes in Jing. The Nei Jing speaks of human development in 8-year stages:
“…at 8 years the Kidney (Jing) is full, the hair is grown and the teeth change. At 16 years the Jing is abundant, the water of heaven arrives, the Jing Chi is able to flow, the Yin and the Yang are in harmony, and the person is fertile. At 24 the Jing plateaus, the tendons and bones are strong, the wisdom teeth come in and growth is at its peak. At 32 the tendons and bones are at their strongest and the flesh is full and strong. At 40 the Jing is weakened, the hair falls out and the teeth are loose. At 48 the Yang Chi is exhausted above, the face darkens and the hair whitens.” Spirit (Shen) is associated with the force of human personality, the ability to think, discriminate and choose appropriately.
“Shen is the awareness that shines out of our eyes when we are truly awake”. Shen is reflected in the capacity of the mind to form ideas, and the desire of the personality to live life. Chi, Jing and Shen are often referred to in Chinese tradition as “the three treasures”.
Fluids (Jin-ye) consist of all the normal fluid substances of the body including sweat, urine, tears, saliva, gastric juices and mucous. Yin Yang theory application denotes those fluids circulating superficially around the body, thinner, more rapidly moving, are more Yang, while those that circulate deeper with functions within organs and are of a thicker, slower moving nature are more Yin. Jin-ye, like Blood, moisten and nourish body regions, often viewed as less essential than the other fundamental substances, but are nonetheless dependant on Chi and Blood and vice versa.
These substances give an idea of the nature of the Chinese system however, they can only be understood when considered a part of a person’s complete pattern of harmony or otherwise.
Such a pattern may be distinguished through tongue and pulse diagnosis, general observation, palpation, detailed observation including questioning of the patient. Then the physician will influence the fundamental substances, by affecting the chi, according to the action they perceive will best aid the body in returning to a state of balance. Such an influence may be affected through use of a number of ancient traditions, which evolved with the philosophy itself, herbalism/diet, exercise, massage, moxibustion or acupuncture. These tools of the well skilled physician are all aimed at the Channels or Meridians (Jing-luo) of the body. Along these channels lie points of influence known as acupoints. There are in excess of 2000 of these acupoints used throughout history whose actions have been documented. 361 lie on the 12 regular Jing-lou (organ related) and the 2 extra channels (governing and conception vessels). The use of needles, for example, can reduce excess, tonify deficiency, warm what is cold, cool what is hot, circulate what is stagnant, move what is congealed, stabilize what is reckless, raise what is falling and lower what is rising.
I believe this inherent wisdom is slowly but surely penetrating the collective mind of the western world and will soon be the more favoured system in terms of prevention of disease, and daily maintenance of health. Some say our current system of medicine particularly synthetic drug therapy and surgery has its greatest strengths in trauma care and acute problems, while Chinese medicine excels in the areas of chronic problems and preventative medicine.
We service people from these locations – Ringwood, Ringwood East, Croydon, Bayswater, Kilsyth, Vermont, Vermont South, Mitcham, Wantirna, Boronia, Burwood, Burwood East, Blackburn, Nunawading, The Basin, Montrose and Mooroolbark