Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) spans several thousand years of Chinese culture and over the centuries has been shaped by various schools of thought. Some schools of thought lasting many hundreds of years. Common to all of them was the search for the cause and cure of disease as well as practises of longevity.
The greatest outcome of this tradition is the respectful enquiry into the Nature of life which the Chinese call Qi. It is understood to be the inherent and intelligent Life Force that is in everything in and beyond our world.
Qi is available to us in many forms. It is the air we breathe, the food we eat, rays of sunshine, the connection we feel with others, our precious water, the earth beneath our feet and even sounds we hear. But most importantly to each one of us, it is the very stuff of our bodies – physical, mental, emotional and energetic (etheric).
A lack of sensitivity and possibly a lack of respect for the Nature of Qi, despite our utter reliance on it, has led to a compromise in the quality of the Qi not only in the world but also in our own personal worlds… our bodies, our minds and our feelings. The last few centuries have seen the introduction of toxins and an increase in the pace of life that have burdened and harmed the elements both of the world around us, as well as in our own bodies.
There is hope, much can be done to turn the tide and replenish our world inside and out.
Healing in TCM is holistic, it is a way of living and the Philosophical guiding principle of this way is called the Dao…
The Dao/ Tao Oneness The Way The prior state of Unity before individualisation
Lao- tsu ‘s 6th Century BC Tao Te Ching is a collection of contemplations written of The Tao. For me these contemplations remind me that life is living and guiding us every moment.
It is said from the Dao arises duality – Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang are two equal aspects of life, two dynamic opposites. Nothing exists in the manifest universe that is entirely Yin or Yang, as each has the seed of the other within it. In TCM this knowledge serves as a guide to restore balance where it has been disturbed. Yin expresses as the feminine, moistening, cooling, dark, intuitive, passive, descending, nightly and earthy qualities. Whereas Yang, it’s polar opposite is expressed as more Masculine, drying, warming, light, logical, active, ascending, daytime and heavenly qualities. The various interplays between Yin and Yang give rise to the many thousands of Things – all that we know as life, seen and unseen.
In TCM mankind is depicted akin to the Vitruvian Man that Leonardo Da Vinci drew, with feet planted firmly on the Earth and arms raised to the Heavens. This is seen as symbolic of our need to be connected with both the Celestial (inspirational) and the Earthly Qi, and serves as a reminder that our lives here are more than just the worldly appearance.
Over many centuries TCM developed a system that potentially allows us to listen to our whole being to make sense of the appearance of disease and disharmony. I say potentially, as there is so much mystery about life still yet to be understood.
In the world around us we can observe 5 seasons (depending on locale). These 5 seasons or 5 Elements are interpreted in every aspect of the human being – our organs, our senses, our emotions, subtle colours emanating from our skin, the way we use our voice, subtle odours and in the patterning of emotional story. Like the Philosophy of the Tao Te Ching or the Yin Yang theory the 5 Element model also gives us a chance to look at our lives, this time with more description to consider where the imbalance is occuring.
We each have a Winter quality, the desire to retreat, to be still, to listen and recharge our reserve tanks. This is the Water element and is our ability to reflect deeply beyond the surface ripples of life and develop the insight to be able to recognise how to ‘go with the flow’ and be sustained graciously by life.
The Spring quality within us is our impulse to create our dreams, ideas or visions. Inspired to see our plan unfold before us, we get a burst of energy like a flush of new spring growth. This is the Wood element, a very popular mode in our culture. A mode that if we constantly use, will drain the reserves and stillness of our water nature and our affect our ability to be still and recharge deep down to our roots.
The Summer in us is the attraction to connect with others, to enjoy warmth and joy, have fun and be playfull- this is the Fire element. It is easy to see when someone is on fire- the same is also evident when someone has lost their fire- we see a persons fire as light and energy, in the sparkle of the eyes, beauty of their smile and in the generosity of their spirit.
Next is Late Summer, expressing the qualities of the element Earth. It is the season when food is most abundant and ripe. Nurturing is key for Earth, either through food or the giving of sympathy and empathy. Common amongst women, especially is the tendency to nurture others and not ourselves… to give and not receive. In time the face may develop ‘over nurturing others’ lines, wrinkles that run vertically in a row above the Earth’s facial feature- the mouth.
Then there is Autumn– the Metal element. It is associated with the Lungs and Large Intestine- our ability to receive and let go. Metal is a refining phase- discerning what is valuable and precious. It is reflected in our inspiration, aspiration and inhalation/ exhalation.
As we can see with the 5 Elements, harmony and balance is not just maintained by diet and exercise alone. The Virtues of these 5 Elements also need to grow and develop for Qi is an intelligent expression of life itself. And a life out of balance in any of the elements reflects in our health mentally, emotionally and eventually physically.