Traditional Chinese medicine understands that the human body has an inseparable connection with the natural world and the Universe. Although we may not be conscious of this connection and our lifestyles may prevent us from sensing it, each of us lives within Nature and abides by natural laws.
We are directly and indirectly affected by changes in Nature, weather, seasons, geographical locations, Earth energies, the movement of the sun and moon, time of day, among other things. These deep connections were well understood by ancient practitioners thousands of years ago. They based diagnosis, treatment, and prevention on “who you are, where you are, when you are and how you are”. This means that geographical location, season, time of day, genetics, age and body condition must play a role.
With so many factors, you can begin to appreciate the complexity of a medical system that believes no two people are exactly alike. All of TCM is focused on treating the individual as an individual. How does it go about this? It works first to bring your body into harmony within itself. Then it helps it come into harmony with the Universe in which it lives.
The following ancient story illustrates the importance of maintaining a connection with the energy of home.
The Yellow Jar
In the distant past, in the ancient Chinese province of Wei, there lived a very prosperous merchant named Wang. Wang spent most of the year traveling north and south, east and west, supplying all parts of the country with beautiful richly colored brocaded silks.
On one such trip, a local village supplier asked of Wang, “How do you manage? If I traveled one half the time and distance as you, I would be homesick all the time.” Wang replied, “Since you have been such a loyal customer all these years, I’ll tell you the secret of my success.” Wang opened his coat and pulled out a small yellow jar. “This,” Wang said lovingly, “is dirt from my beloved homeland, Wei. When the road has been my home for many months, I make a simple porridge and add a pinch of earth. All my homesickness vanishes. I feel restored!”
What this wise merchant understood is that while Universal energy remains constant, the energy of Earth varies. Each location has its own special energy essence. It is this “Qi of place” that is acutely missed by both the body and the emotions when homesickness or physical illness takes hold. Traditionally, earth or uncooked rice from the home village was carried while traveling or upon moving to a new region. A small amount of native earth or rice mixed into food would transfer the essence of “home.”
In this age of nonstop travel, it’s good to remember that we are rooted to the Qi or energy of a specific place. Although you may wander far from home, you can still connect through simple actions like this. This story illustrates so clearly how intangible things can affect our physical bodies. This individualized approach takes into account “who you are, where you are, when you are and how you are”. It opens a window for TCM to see deeply into the root cause of health problems. While its specialty is prevention, TCM does not suppress or cover up symptoms when they’re encountered.
Excerpted from: A Woman’s Guide to Healing from Breast Cancer, by Nan Lu, O.M.D., L.Ac. with Ellen Schaplowsky.
Join us next Wednesday to gain more insight into the underlying principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine.