Dualism vs. Nondualism Intro Notes


Dualism Photo

Check out the intro notes from this afternoon’s philosophy discussion. If you missed it, feel free to leave a comment here!


Welcome to the Citta Bhavana Ashram everyone! Thank you for joining us today. I’ll give a brief introduction before opening the floor for discussion. Please hold all questions and comments until after the intro.

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It is most often thought that dualism is a Western idea and non-dualism is an Eastern idea. But, even within traditions we find opposing ideas. Let’s explore a bit what dualism and non-dualism are.

These are ideas put forth in the philosophy of mind, as well as religion. Very generally, there are two fundamental categories of things. Typically these are the difference between mind and body, and sometimes even mind and brain. In other words, the dualist/nondualist debate is arguing whether or not mind is separate from matter.

Now, since we don’t have an agreed upon definition of mind, I’d like us to explore it from the point of view of whatever it means to you – whether it is consciousness, spirit, soul, awareness, divine, whatever. I don’t want us to get caught up in this, since it could mean any of these things or more, and I feel that it’s meaning is a bit of a personal matter. I’d rather we focus on the difference between this and the material world.

On a personal level, body can be considered to be the physical experience, including, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Mind can be considered to be immaterial experience: thoughts, patters, self, ego, memory, awareness. If you think of it like a venn diagram, what comes in the middle?

It has been debated, too, that body has memory – some may say “muscle memory” but others also speak about fascia as holding physical memory. Hence why sense objects can be a trigger for memories. However, this is not of as much importance in our discussion today.

In Indian philosophy, there are two concepts: purusha (consciousness, spirit) and prakriti (matter, nature). These are considered in nondualist philosophy to be AND – as in, they are inseparable and of the same importance; whereas in dualist philosophy it is purusha versus prakriti – as in, one always struggling for importance. In some dualist traditions they may consider that either purusha or prakriti is more important (depending on the tradition), though most often they say purusha (conscoiusness, spirit) is more important, and in fact more true reality than the material world.

We find this same idea all over religion, spirituality, and philosophy. Many dualists do consider that the material world is real – we can all experience it more or less the same. What is in debate is the non-material world, or mind.

Descartes, in his “Meditations,” argues for the point of view of mind and God as being one and the same. This is echoed in Eastern traditions through the concept of prana and qi (energy or life force), and even Atman and Brahman (individual consciousness and universal consciousness) – in other words, the part of us that is also in everything else. The most true essence of existence.

We know that all material things are subject to change. All things change over time, and this is unavoidable. So many schools of thought would argue that if it changes, it is not real. So that which is unchanging, this purusha (consciousness, divine, etc), is the most true, or the most real.

In nondualism, it is recognized that all things are ultimately the same. That nothing is unique, and even our consciousness is not our own. By that, it is meant that we are all drops of the same ocean – that we are all small parts of one big whole. That we are not existing without everything else, and everything else is not existing without us.

So, do you think that we have something in us, something perhaps divine or extensive in nature, that exists separate from the material world, or do we have an innate connection to that which surrounds us and can be experienced?

Are we unique individuals, or are we really part of one big whole?

Can our minds exist without our bodies?

Does whatever makes up the “I” exist in our minds, our bodies, or neither?

I open the floor. What do you think?

Eastern Perspectives on Compassion


Isis Pleiades has honored me with inviting me to host at the official launch of Spirit Park! So, at 10am SLT on Saturday Sep 21 I will be hosting a meditation followed by some discussion, in humble consideration of the International Weekend of Peace. Please join us to share in an exploration of the energy within ourselves and how we can transform it into compassion for all living beings.

I’m so thrilled to be back in SL and connecting with you all!

The entire weekend is full of events at this same location. The lineup is as follow:

Saturday Sept 21

6:45 am – Opening address form Isis Pleides
7 am – Rtada hosts Vedic chanting
8 am – Andre Farstrider hosts Starseed Connections
9 am – Kana Koray hosts New Hero Journey
10 am – Chraeloos hosts Perspectives on Chinese Medicine
11 am – Lyle and Sedona host Reincarnation and Immortality of the Soul
12 Noon – Elizabeth hosts The Oz Experience
1 pm to 8 pm – Live Music!
8 pm – Rtada hosts Vedic Chanting

Sunday Sept 22

7 am – Rtada hosts Vedic Chanting
8 am – Divali hosts I Ching Revelations
9 am – Andre Farstrider hosts Pleiadian Discussions
10:30 am – Regis Roubodoo hosts Inner Harmony
12 pm – The Companions Tea Ceremony/Tour
1-9 pm – Live Music
9 pm – Rtada hosts Vedic Chanting

I do hope to see you there! Namaste _/\_

**

International Day of Peace Guided Meditation and Presentation
at Spirit Gate, 10-11am SLT Saturday Sept 21 2013

Welcome everyone to Spirit Park at Nirvana Island. Thank you all for coming to share and take part in our celebration of peace, love and harmony. Thank you to Isis who invited me to host this discussion today. I’m so happy to be here!

On this day of International Peace I present the following practices to you so that we may see that each and every one of us is connected. If one of us suffers, all of us suffer. If we show compassion to all living beings as much as we can, if we feel that we are even slightly responsible for the well-being of others, and that our actions affect everyone else, we would live in a much more peaceful world. Only through love can we achieve world peace. And by love I don’t mean the type of love where you can’t stand to be apart or are reliant on the other person for your happiness, but the kind of love that is unconditional and accepting regardless of the situation. If we can all open our minds and bodies to the feeling of pure love and pure energy and send that love out to all who need it, remembering to nurture ourselves at the same time, we can achieve true happiness and true peace.

In Buddhist practice, we commit to three things:
1. Not causing harm
2. Taking care of one another, and
3. Embracing the world just as it is

Pema Chodron says, “May we all learn that pain is not the end of the journey, and neither is delight. We can hold them both – indeed hold it all – at the same time…”

With this in mind, I would like to introduce you to a practice called Tonglen. The idea is to breathe in pain, and breathe out relief. For this short meditation I will go into voice. I will also post the instructions here for those who do not have access to voice.

If you could get comfortable, whether sitting, standing, or laying. Regardless of what position you are in please make sure that your spine is aligned, so if you were sitting your tailbone would be drawn towards the front slightly, straightening your lower back, and your shoulders would be dropped out of your ears and resting in a line above your hips. Pull your chin in slightly, bowing it to your chest to make the back of your neck straight. Place your hands where they fall comfortably.

Now, take a deep breath, and close your eyes. Let the sounds of the world surround you; listen to the birds, the air, the children playing outside. Notice your breathing getting calmer, deeper, and steadier. On your next breath in, try to feel it fill up your entire abdomen. Hold it for a moment. Let it out. Repeat… Take a deep breath in. Feel it fill up your entire abdomen. Hold it for a moment. Let it out. Try to see if you can make your in breath the same length as your out breath.

Now, following this in and out pattern, bring your attention to how you feel. If there is any sadness, anger, pain, or other strong feeling, don’t judge it. Instead of labelling it, just notice it. What does it feel like? Where do you feel it manifesting? Play with it a bit. Does the feeling move? …

Now, bring your mind to something that makes you very happy: a loved one, the beautiful Harvest Moon, the sound of the ocean. Whatever it may be, let the feeling of joy and love fill you up. Let it wash over the fear or pain. …

Let us together breathe in the fear and pain and sadness that we feel. When we breathe out, send the joy and love out to the world. At first, send it to someone close to you. Then try sending it to an acquaintance. Imagine this joy and love going out to all the people you know. Then imagine it going out to everyone sitting in this room. If you can, slowly spread it out every living creature. …

With every in breath we can pull in all the pain and sadness that we feel and with every out breath we can turn it into productive, compassionate energy. I’ll leave you in silence to practice this for a few minutes. …

Slowly bring your attention back to your body. When you’re ready, deepen your breath, wiggle your fingers and toes. If you’d I suggest drinking some water to help ground you.

~~

Norman Fischer talks about us all “swimming in an ocean of compassion.” He goes on to say that everything is compassion. If we can see that everything exists in this ocean of compassion, we can be free of suffering. The practice we just did is a good way to open ourselves to this ocean of compassion.

Tantric yoga is a path of union – yoking – between the one and the many. It is the path to liberation of the “self” – the entity that the ego insists is individual, but is merely a piece of the macrocosmic world. Where would we be without each other?

Tantra worships the divine dance of Shiva and Shakti, which we can safely relate to yin and yang in Chinese medicine. The breakdown works a bit differently, though, with Parama-shiva as the umbrella of ultimate reality. This is characterized by sac-cit-ananda, or Being (sat), Consciousness (cit), and Bliss (ananda).

David Bohm described reality as movement that occurs as “a series of interpenetrating and intermingling elements in different degrees of enfoldment all present together.” This accurately describes the tantric world-view, which only adds that this dynamic Being is conscious.

Tantric practitioners believe that all of us have this Consciousness within us. They believe it is located within the heart, the heart meaning here: “that which I truly am.” “[The heart] is not the body or the mind,” says Georg Feuerstein, “but pure Being-Consciousness-Bliss.” Remember here, that these terms don’t mean what they mean in ordinary western context, as in the ultimate being there is no differentiation between subject and object.

Shiva, is the aspect of the ultimate reality that is consciousness. It is pure subject rather than object; the notion of “I,” without a sense of “I am.” You may be familiar with the mantra for this aspect, located in the heart, “aham.” This sound means “I.” Shiva is often interpreted as the masculine aspect.

Shakti, is the second aspect of the ultimate Reality. It is creativity, energy. Shakti coexists with Shiva to create the universe. Shakti is considered to be the Bliss aspect of the ultimate Reality. Shakti is often interpreted as the feminine aspect.

We can view the union of Shiva and Shakti much like we do yin and yang: as a seemless continuity of Consciousness and Power within one and the same Reality. One cannot exist without the other, one exists within the other, and one manifests the other. This union is often viewed in the west as a sexual union between a couple, but we must keep in mind that this union is transcendental and therefore also asexual.

Shakti plays the active role, whereas Shiva plays the passive role. He manifests the absolute stillness of consciousness, and she expresses the unlimited potency of Power or Energy. “Together they symbolize the play of life and death, creation and annihilation, emptiness and form, dynamism and stasis. This interplay is found on all levels of cosmic existence because … it preexists the ultimate Reality itself.”

One of the first concepts that Eastern practitioners focus on is nonattachment. The Kula-Arnava-Tantra, an ancient Tantric text, reads: “nonattachment (nihsangha) alone is the means if liberation. All defects spring from attachment. Therefore one becomes happy by abandoning attachment and relying on Reality.”

Reality is seen as a continuous process in which everything is constantly in flux. This is mirrored in modern physics: “[current models show] that the properties of a particle can only be understood in terms of its activity – of its interaction with the surrounding environment – and that the particle, therefore, cannot be seen as an isolated entity, but has to be understood as an integrated part of the whole. … The fact that the mass of a particle is equivalent to a certain amount of energy means that the particle can no longer be seen as a static object, but has to be conceived as a dynamic pattern, a process involving the energy which manifests itself as the particle’s mass.”

Here we can see that everything, on both macro- and micro-cosmic levels, is continuously flowing and changing. By teaching nonattachment we learn that change is inevitable, and that only by letting go of our preconceptions and expectations will Reality reveal itself and all the Bliss that it contains.

Georg Feuerstein, in his book, “Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy” gives a typical path of the tantric practitioner, which you may be familiar with if you know of Patanjali:

1. Yama – moral restraint consisting of non-harming, truthfulness, chastity, and greedlessness, which are said to be valid on all levels, at all times, and everywhere.

2. Niyama – self-restraint through purity, contentment, austerity, study, and devotion to The Lord.

3. Asana – posture, which makes the practitioner immune against the onslaught from the pairs of opposites (dvandva), such as heat and cold or dry and moist.

4. Pranayama – lit. “Extension of the life energy” by means of breath control.

5. Pratyahara – sensory inhibition

6. Dharana – concentration, or fixing ones attention upon a selected object, be it a mantra or the graphic representation of a deity

7. Dhyana – meditation, which is a deepening of concentration marked by a progressive unification of consciousness

8. Samadhi – lit. “Putting together,” or ecstasy, which consists in ones complete merging with the object of meditation

The Sharada-Tilaka-Tantra adds five practices to the moral restraint category: compassion, rectitude, patience, stability, and moderate eating, and in place of greedlessness, cleanliness. Through all of these practices, the sages believe one can achieve self-transformation. In my own experience, through these practices and many more, one can achieve an understanding of our connectedness to each other. Through these practices we can move beyond our limited sense of the world – how we want it to be versus how it is – and find our true happiness. Once it’s been found, once Bliss or enlightenment has been reached, one can live in the ocean of compassion with all other beings, free of violence and hatred, free of shame or greed. Through compassion for others you will grow to love yourself, and through loving yourself you will be able to feel more compassion for others.

Just remember, the people that it is hardest to feel compassion for are the ones who likely need it the most. If someone is acting really rotten, just remind yourself that you don’t know what they are going through in life. Maybe your smile or small reassurance or understanding would turn their whole day around. Just knowing that someone cares, even a stranger, can be a very powerful thing.

You may hear me use the term Namaste quite often. This is an ancient term which means: my soul honours your soul. I honour the place in you where the entire universe resides. I horn the light, love, truth, beauty & peace within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things we are united, we are the same, we are one.

I will leave you with one final quote:
“The opposite if consumption isn’t thrift, it’s generosity. ” – Raj Patel

Thank you for your time today! May all of you soak in the ocean of compassion, whatever path may lead you there! Much love and peace to you all. Namaste! _/|\_

TCM Transcript July 17 2012


A lot of really great questions were asked on Tuesday’s TCM discussion, so I wanted to share this with you all. I’ve removed everyone’s names and inserted their initials. Any additional comments I’ve added are in brackets []. Thanks everyone for coming!

Chraeloos: Last week we ended with a description of the spleen, I do believe.
NT: was there a simplified conclusion/summary?
Chraeloos: NT, I can do a quick summary if you’d like.
BT: hi glad to sit in
Chraeloos: first off, though, lets start with a short qi gong exercise.
Chraeloos: You can do this standing or sitting, whatever is more comfortable for you. Straighten your spine – pretend as though there is a string someone has attached to it with a rod and is pulling up from the top of your spine. Make it tall and straight. Next, relax your joints.
Chraeloos: Let your shoulders relax, your elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, everything; just let it all relax. You should almost feel heavier, as though there is more gravity pulling on you. Now, breathe deeply, bring the breath all the way through your body.
Chraeloos: Fill your meridians with the air, all the way to your toes and finger tips. Stay like this for a few minutes, breathing deeply and steadily, and try to clear your mind. Listen to the music stream if you want something to focus on. Just sit or stand and breathe, joints relaxed, and spine straight.
Chraeloos: Lets rest here for a minute or two
Chraeloos: Alright, take some deep breathes, and lets begin
Chraeloos: If you’d like to try staying this way for the discussion, by all means feel free. Make sure you stop if at any point it hurts or you feel dizzy. Any movements from this position should be slow and done in time with your breathing. Drink some water to help bring yourself back to center when you stop.
Chraeloos: So, last week we went over the three of the five zang viscera: the heart, lung, and spleen. Today we will continue with the liver and kidney, but lets do a brief summary first.
Chraeloos: The heart is the lord of all the systems in the body. It is the home of the spirit, and controls all the vital functions of the body
Chraeloos: Both Qi and blood run through it.
Chraeloos: The heart is surrounded by the pericardium, which is a sac type tissue that holds it in place and acts as a shield for this vital organ.
Chraeloos: The lung is an extremely sensitive organ that regulates respiration and movement of qi throughout the body.
Chraeloos: By breathing naturally (deep into the abdomen, not shallowly in the chest) one can optimize the function of the lungs. Also, breathing through the nose is best as the nose cleans the air before it reaches the lungs.
Chraeloos: The lungs also ensure that the heart functions properly
Chraeloos: The spleen works with the stomach and small intestine by storing fluids processed by the stomach, and sending them to all parts of the body to be used, and then sending them down as waste.
Chraeloos: It sends fluids to tissues, muscles, ligaments, organs, and everything else you can imagine. It is also considered the source of qi and blood because no process of digestions or absorption of essential substances would be possible without it.
Chraeloos: Any questions about that?
NT: no
BT: nope
Chraeloos: ok, great. Feel free to ask questions at any time. And if you want to get my attention stick the @ symbol in local and I’ll pause
Chraeloos: So, this week we’ll start with the liver.
Chraeloos: The liver is located underneath the diaphragm, on the right side behind the ribs. It is connected to the gallbladder via the meridians, and is part of the wood element. “Its main functions are storage of blood, regulation of the total quantity of circulating blood, regulation of the emotions, promotion of the circulation of qi and blood, promotion of the metabolism of fluids and regulation of menses.”
Chraeloos: In general, the amount of blood circulating is constant, but depending on your physical activity, such as running or sleeping, and emotional state, the amounts needed by the viscera will vary. If the liver is damaged it will not send out enough blood, causing dizziness, blurred vision, night blindness, numbness of the limbs, etc. If damaged, it will also not store unneeded blood, which could cause vomiting of blood, coughing up blood, nosebleeds, uterine bleeding, etc.
Chraeloos: The blood and qi both flow through the body in the same way, so the liver not only stores the blood but the qi. If the mental outlook is optimistic, the mind at ease, then the qi and blood will be harmonious and therefore all the viscera will function properly, and vice versa.
Chraeloos: The liver has its main manifestation in the tendons, nails, and eyes. “The liver controlling the tendons means that the relaxation or contraction of all the tendons in the body is related to liver function.” The liver is the source of nutrients for the tendons. Lack of this source will cause tremors in the hands and feet and reduced ability to flex or extend.
Chraeloos: “All syndromes of shaking, dizziness and vertigo belong to the liver.” – Plain Questions.
Chraeloos: In CM the nails are external portions of the tendons. When liver-blood is adequate the nails are well nourished and strong, bright, and lustrous.
Chraeloos: The eyes require blood to see, and therefore the liver is directly linked to them. If there is a deficiency of liver-Yin, for instance, there could be blurred or impaired vision, dry and screechy eyes, and night blindness. The eyes are also connected to the other zang and fu viscera, so not all signs of the eyes would link to the liver.
Chraeloos: scratchy*, not screechy, lol
Chraeloos: So, the nails are a good sign for practitioners of Chinese medicine to diagnose the patient.
Chraeloos: Each nail on the hands relates to a specific organ.
H: cool 😮
Chraeloos: The pinky nail is the heart and small intestine, ring finger the triple heater, and thyroid, the middle finger the pericardium and reproductive system, the pointer finger the large intestine and the thumb the lungs.
Chraeloos: the nails on the toes also have a direct link to systems
Chraeloos: The pinky toe is the bladder, ring toe is the gallbladder, middle toe doesn’t have one, the pointer toe is the stomach, and the big toe is the liver and spleen.
BT: @is it the same for left and right hand fingers?
Chraeloos: So if you notice a specific finger or toe nail grows more than the rest perhaps you have an abundance of that organs qi or yin/yang
Chraeloos: yes it is Bhang
Chraeloos: if you massage these toes, you’ll also be able to affect the organs
NT: my right big toe has issues
Chraeloos: what kind of issues, if you don’t mind me asking
NT: well a little gout, and dry skin cracking
NT: toe nail is alittle off color
NT: in a sexy way thoug, lol
Chraeloos: I’d say then that the liver and/or spleen are not functioning properly, likely a deficiency of spleen-yin.
NT: ok i will try to nurse it and see what happens
Chraeloos: As they deal with transport of fluids, sounds like they aren’t transporting enough
NT: lol, not nurse it
NT: oi
NT: i will tend to it
Chraeloos: try cool herbs, to calm down the yang. But honestly, there are many more signs to look for to give a proper diagnosis
NT: cool herbs?
Chraeloos: so I recommend talking to someone about it first, a doctor who can actually see you in person, etc.
NT: yes ok
NT: good idea
NT: <<not that worried about it
Chraeloos: Well, some examples of cool foods would be apples, barley, raw celery, cucumber, green tea, lemons, lettuce, pears, radish, spinach, tofu, tomato, watercress, and whole wheat.
NT: ok
Chraeloos: Yeah, if it’s just your toe and not a bigger issue, just keep your eye on it and make sure it doesn’t spread or get worse
NT: nods
Chraeloos: Alright, any other questions so far?
Chraeloos: ok, lets continue.
Chraeloos: Kidney (including the vital gate)
Chraeloos: The two kidneys are located in the posterior part of the abdomen, one on each side of the spinal column. The kidney is linked to the urinary bladder by the meridians, and is part of the water element. “Because the kidney houses the innate essence, it is the foundation of the Yin-Yang of the viscera and the source of life.” It is also known as the “innate foundation.”
Chraeloos: The kidney stores and preserves essence. Essence has two meanings in CM: a) the basic substance which constitutes the body and maintains all vital activities, ie. qi, blood and fluids, and nutritive substances, and b) specifically the generative essence, both the prenatal and postnatal qi.
Chraeloos: (Remembering here that everyone has prenatal qi – ie qi that they don’t have to acquire, but only a limited amount. If the kidney’s don’t function properly, you may run out prenatal qi, especially if you don’t maintain your postnatal qi)
Chraeloos: To maintain qi you can eat a healthy diet, practice qi gong (exercises, meditations, etc), among many other things. Again this is the Chinese view of preventing disease rather than fighting it once its already there.
Chraeloos: The kidney’s control reproduction, through both sexual functionality and reproductive capacity. They provide the original substance for the embryo and are the material foundation of the vital activities. The kidney’s also promote growth and envelopment through all stages of life. They also have an important part in resisting disease and delaying senescence. The last thing they do is facilitate the production of blood.
Chraeloos: development, not envelopment, lol sorry again typos
Chraeloos: Since the kidney holds both yin and yang, it is known as the “house of Water and Fire.”
Chraeloos: You may come across this term both metaphorically and literally, in medical texts
Chraeloos: If the kidney’s are out of balance you will get signs such as hotness in the palms, afternoon fever, night sweats, wet dreams in males, and sexual dreams in females.
Chraeloos: Of course, these things occur naturally as well
Chraeloos: The kidney provides the basic motive power of the water and fluid metabolism due to its warming and evaporating functions. It controls the opening and closing of the bladder, which lets the urine flow or be retained.
Chraeloos: This is why if you get a bladder infection, common in females, it can very quickly progress up into a kidney infection, and then a blood infection, at which point you’re likely hospitalized.
Chraeloos: So, ladies, if you get a bladder infection, don’t ignore it!
Chraeloos: The kidney’s also accept the Qi that has been inhaled by the lung. “Although the lung controls respiration, it is the kidney that maintains its regularity.” Specifically, the depth, smoothness, and evenness of respiratory movement can be maintained only if Qi inhaled by the lung has descended into and has been accepted by the kidney.
HS: heh, ignore shooting pains; yeah, I do that all the time
Chraeloos: oh, and the itch!
Chraeloos: NT, lol, we aren’t at all trying to sound sexy here, so dont worry hahaha
Chraeloos: This is why we practice qi gong breathing, pulling the air all the way into our lower abdomens (this is called “natural breathing”, since all animals and babies breath like this). Most adults have constricted themselves and breath shallowly into their chests. Based on CM theory, this is not good, as it stagnates the air and qi, and doesn’t allow it to reach all the viscera to complete their vital functions. Bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema and lung-induced heart disease often show symptoms of the kidney failing to accept Qi.
HS: The itch is impossible to ignore. I don’t even try
Chraeloos: lol
Chraeloos: In CM, kidney stores essence and essence engenders marrow. This promotes bone growth and therefore growth of the body. There are three kinds of marrow: bone marrow, spinal cord, and brain. All three are derived from the kidney’s essential qi.
Chraeloos: “Bone” includes the teeth. The kidney’s are also manifest in the hair. If your hair is fast growing and healthy then your kidney’s are likely healthy. The ears are also closely related to the state of the kidneys. If kidney-essence is strong, hearing will be acute; if it is weak, it may be as extreme as deafness.
H: @So i’m supposed to breathe like this all the time?
Chraeloos: H, ideally, yes
Chraeloos: its what most natural for your body, although as we age it becomes harder to do because of habits
HS: No, not all the time, just when you feel you need it; you have to be sensitive to your body’s needs
Chraeloos: So you can see why the chinese see the body as a whole system, not just individual organs
H: are there any situations when it’s not recommended? like, i don’t know, air in some places is too polluted and i might get too much toxins by breathing deeply?
Chraeloos: H, definitely. You’re body will react as it should if you let it. Being relaxed is key to breathing properly
Chraeloos: and breathing properly is key to being relaxed
Chraeloos: OK, here’s a good example for you all…
H: being relaxed – hard stuff o______O
BT: my tai chi instructor talked about focusing on the breath
Chraeloos: In WWII, a qi gong teacher was walking through a field with his student. They were chatting about something, likely a lesson was being taught. The teacher was so relaxed and natural that when he stepped on the mine he felt it before any pressure was applied, and was able to jump back and push the student away – all without the mine ever exploding. This method of breathing is a major way of how the teacher was able to do that.
Chraeloos: H, it sure is. But it really shouldn’t be. It is our natural state
Chraeloos: BT, yes tai chi is part of this system as well
BT: i like to practice after coffee is that bad?
BT: hard on the liver and kidney?
HS: Bhang, not necessarily bad, but you are putting an obstacle in the way. lol I do it all the time
Chraeloos: Bhang, yes, lol. Ideally you should practice on an empty stomach, as anything in the stomach restricts the amount of movement of blood and qi and other vital functions – as well as restricting the expansion of the body with breathe.
H: so i should try deeper breathing during the day spontaneously? or just once/twice as exercise?
Chraeloos: Coffee in general is hard on the liver and kidney as its so acidic and as we buy it has many chemicals added.
HS: Well, that’s like asking when should I take a crap during the day? Whenever you need to, ideally.
Chraeloos: H, whatever you feel comfortable with.
Chraeloos: I practice it whenever I think of it – all day every day
Chraeloos: Hunt, exactly lol
H: ok
H: lol
Chraeloos: and after even just a week my body became used to it, and started doing it naturally again
H: oh
BT: cool
Chraeloos: it is something that should become habit, you shouldn’t have to think about it after a while.
Chraeloos: As babies and children we all do it
Chraeloos: but as the stresses of this modern world affect us more and more we breath more and more shallow, until when we are adults most people breathe into their chests all the time.
Chraeloos: alright, well lets talk about the vital gate for a few minutes
Chraeloos: The Vital Gate
Chraeloos: “The left is the kidney and the right is the vital gate. The vital gate is the house of essence, spirit and vitality. in the male it stores essence; in the female it maintains the uterus. Its qi communicates with the kidney.” – Classic on Medical Problems.
Chraeloos: The vital gate has also been said to reside between the kidneys, in both kidneys, and it was the motive force of qi (residing between the two kidneys). Most importantly, is that the vital gate is the source of genuine qi, the birthplace of the body’s warmth and energy, and it plays a part in the reproductive and sexual functions of the body.
Chraeloos: No school of TCM seems to agree where exactly it is located, but we could say its in the middle section of our abdomen, where the kidney’s are either way.
Chraeloos: the vital gate can be compared to the chakras of reiki and ayurveda.
Chraeloos: it is a center of energy within the body
BT: dan tien?
Chraeloos: exactly
BT: k
Chraeloos: the vital gate is the center dan tien
Chraeloos: there are three, according to some, essentially compared to the root chakra, or located in the pelvis, the middle compared to the solar plexus chakra, and the third compared to the third eye chakra, in the head
Chraeloos: The three dan tiens are the humans centers of energy in the body, or even qi. These are utilized in meditation and all energy work, and tcm practitioners will also use them, although they are more oriented towards qi gong and are not used as diagnostics as in reiki or chakra healing
Chraeloos: But of course, that also depends on which practitioner you go to, as they all have their own styles and strong points.
Chraeloos: So, last but not least for today…
Chraeloos: As a whole, the all the zang viscera take part in the metabolism of water and fluids. The process is completed with the dispersing and lowering function of the lung, the transporting and transforming function of the spleen, the conducting and facilitating function of the liver, the water-passage dredging function of the sanjiao, as well as the transforming function of the kidney.
Chraeloos: That is the end of the notes for today. Please feel free to leave a donation in the tip jar if you want to support this event and ones like it! Thank you all for coming! Please feel free to stick around and ask any questions or just chat 🙂
BT: @would qi be comparable to fire and blood to water?
Chraeloos: BT, that depends. Everything is relative to what you are comparing it to
Chraeloos: I’d say the other way around when comparing blood and qi, qi would be more water like and blood fire
Chraeloos: But when comparing the blood to the skin, or to something else, it could take on another element
H: would changing my breathing habits help with that dust allergy i asked about week ago?
Chraeloos: H, likely yes.
Chraeloos: If nothing else it would enhance your lungs ability to protect against the dust
H: what about reverse crane breathing, this can be used to like, clean my lungs when i get too much dust? xPP
Chraeloos: lol!
H: xDD
Chraeloos: reverse crane breathing is very challenging. I’m not all that familiar with it, but any kind of reversed breathing is challenging and should only be used in minimal amounts
H: ok
Chraeloos: If its anything like the reversed breathing I’ve heard of, you suck your stomach in when you inhale, and push it out when you exhale. Which can be very good for building control and awareness, but should only be practiced minimally
H: does tcm say anything about best hours to go to sleep and get up to feel healthiest?
H: ok, i won’t overdo reverse breathing then, thanks 🙂
BT: isnt it with the sun?
Chraeloos: The best sleep happens between 11pm and 6am. I usually aim to be in bed for 10:30 and up by 6:30, as I seem to need more sleep than 7 hours.
Chraeloos: let me see if I can find this chart I had about the hours each organ is at its peak…
TCM Qi Cycle Chraeloos: There, so that is the chart for the hours each organ is most active
H: ah you see because my sleeping patterns are so f***** up lately
Chraeloos: I’d say if nothing else you should be able to get to your deepest sleep by 1 am, so the liver can function as it needs the rest more than the others
H: it happened when there was this annoying weather
H: i mean super-hot summer that i couldn’t handle xD
H: and i started to sleep at weird hours
H: during the day and all
H: and now there are storms all the time
H: and my hours changed again
Chraeloos: ah yes, well thats not necessarily affected your organs, it could just be the heat that keeps you up. But it would affect all your yin-yang balance, which could affect a certain organ depending
Chraeloos: and BT, yes, it is kind of with the sun, more or less
H: i started to go to sleep at 9 sometimes 10 pm lately but i feel shitty xP
H: i mean i ‘normally’ go to sleep at 6am *cough* (i know it’s weird) and i feel amazing when i wake up
BT: i just quit sleeping that seems to have done the trick
H: ha
Chraeloos: thats not good H! it is possible to get too much sleep also
Chraeloos: BT, that is horrible for your system lol
H: it’s like when i sleep most of the night it makes me feel worse, but when i’m up during lots of night hours i feel good, dunno xPP
BT: if i get enough yang saved up it’ll turn back into yin and balance out
[this isn’t entirely true…it mostly depends on timing. yes, when either yin or yang “overflows” it will revert back to the other, but not after causing much damage to your body, and perhaps not before death. The idea in TCM is to keep a balance, so any imbalance is not good for your body.]

TCM Series: Zang Viscera


(c) 2012, Chraeloos Resident
Welcome everyone to the Traditional Oriental Medicine series. Thank you for coming! Please leave a donation if you like what you see and want to see more. All donations are split between the venue and myself in order to keep these events going and to enable the growth of the sim. The tip jar is one of the candles on the table. If you’d like a copy of today’s notes you can find them in another candle on the table.

Thank you for visiting Peaceful Dragon Oriental Medicine Centre! The centre is currently under construction, but is intended to be an Oriental medicine learning centre. If you have a suggestion for an activity or an event here, please contact either Xandria Winterwolf or myself.

I just want to remind everyone that none of the information presented here is advice and therefore should not be put into practice without first consulting a professional.

Today we will focus on the structure and functions of the viscera.

The main sources used today are: http://www.tcmworld.org/, “The Way of Qigong” by Kenneth S. Cohen, “Traditional Chinese Medicine” by Daniel Reid, “Natural Healing Wisdom and Know-how” compiled by Amy Rost, http://www.yinyanghouse.com/theory/, http://www.sacredlotus.com/theory/substances/qi_forms.cfm, “Essentials of Chinese Medicine, Vol. 1” edited by Zhanwen Liu and Liang Liu, “Secrets of Dragon Gate” by Dr. Steven Liu and Jonathan Blank.

**

I’d like you all to take a few minutes and do this exercise with me.

You can do this standing or sitting, whatever is more comfortable for you. Straighten your spine – pretend as though there is a string someone has attached to it with a rod and is pulling up from the top of your spine. Make it tall and straight. Next, relax your joints. Let your shoulders relax, your elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, everything; just let it all relax. You should almost feel heavier, as though there is more gravity pulling on you. Now, breathe deeply, bring the breath all the way through your body. Fill your meridians with the air, all the way to your toes and finger tips. Stay like this for a few minutes, breathing deeply and steadily, and try to clear your mind. Listen to the music stream if you want something to focus on. Just sit or stand and breathe, joints relaxed, and spine straight.

If you’d like to try staying this way for the discussion, by all means feel free. Make sure you stop if at any point it hurts or you feel dizzy. Any movements from this position should be slow and done in time with your breathing. Drink some water to help bring yourself back to centre when you stop.

**

Zang Viscera: a collective term for the heart, lung, spleen, liver, and kidney. The heart is the governor of these organs, although they are all inter-dependent and work together to maintain vital activities within the body.

**

Heart (including Pericardium)

“The heart is the lord of all organs; it is where the spirit arises.” – Plain Questions

The heart is located in the thorax above the diaphragm and it surrounded by the pericardium. It is the house of the mind, the master of blood, and the governor of the vessels. It belongs to the fire element. When working with the other zang organs, it has the function of controlling all the vital activities of the body.

The heart takes part in the formation of blood, while also promoting the circulation of blood. The qi of the heart enables it to beat. According to yin-yang theory, the qi belongs to yang, and the blood to yin. Because of this the heart can have two categories – heart-Yang and heart-Yin. Because of the hearts connection to the blood vessels, it is easy for practitioners to find any changes from the normal activities of the heart through the pulse. For example, when the heart-Qi is abundant and the blood full, the heartbeat is strong and the blood would flow smoothly. This is manifested as a regular pulse that is forceful and regular (4-5 beats per breath), as well as a red and vibrant complexion. On the other hand, if heart-Qi and heart-blood are insufficient, the heartbeat is weak and the pulse is irregular and feeble with a lustreless and pallid complexion. Also, stagnant blood would manifest as a dusky complexion, cyanotic lips, palpitation of the heart, tightness in the chest, precordial pain, and a pulse that is hesitant and intermittent.

By saying that the heart governs the mind we’re really saying two things: a) that it is the outward activities of the life of the whole body, i.e., the complete form and function of the body including complexion, expression of the eye, speech, response, movement of limbs and trunk, etc. b) it is vitality, or spirit, consciousness, and all thinking activities.

This is different from western medicine as it holds that the brain holds all these activities as a response to the external world. In CM we believe that these mental activities are attributed to the physiological functions of all five zang viscera. They came to this conclusion for two main reasons: 1. blood is the material support for mental activities, and 2. mental disorders are usually cured by methods of treating the heart. For example, if there is heat in the blood the mind may become deranged, manifesting agitation, delirium, and even loss of consciousness.

We mentioned the complexion and pulse as a sign of the state of the heart, but the tongue is another good sign. The tongue manages speech and taste – two things dependent upon the heart. The tongue is connected to a collateral meridian of the Heart Meridian of Hand-Shaoyin. For example, if the heart’s Wi and blood are abundant, the tongue will be supple and agile, speech clear and fluent and taste keen. If Qi and blood are insufficient, the tongue will be pale and taste blunted. There are many signs that will show through the tongue.

The pericardium is a membranous envelope of the heart. It acts as a shield for the heart, and promotes the circulation of qi and blood. It is not an independent organ, but part of the heart.

**

Lung

The lung is a delicate organ, sensitive to heat and cold and highly susceptible to invasion by external evil qi. It is part of the metal element and is located in the chest. The lung is the commander of regulation for respiration and managing gas exchange between qi and the body.

The lung regulating qi means all the qi in the entire body. Therefore, regulation of lung qi has two meaning: a) the lung regulates respiration, and b) the lung regulates qi of the entire body.

“The lung’s respiratory function ensures that the fresh air is inhaled and the spent air is exhaled, thereby enabling the metabolic processes to proceed normally.” This should be a smooth, rhythmic process. If the lung is invaded by evil qi there can be many symptoms, including but not exclusively, tightness in the chest, cough, dyspnea, and impedance. If this exchange of fresh air and stale air does not occur, all vital activities stop.

When we say “regulating the entire body’s qi”, we mean mainly two things. First, “the lung helps in the formation of qi, especially thoracic qi. Thoracic qi is formed when the essential nutritious substances of food and drink, extracted by the stomach and transported by the spleen, is combined with fresh air inhaled by the lung.” The lung helps in the transportation of thoracic qi through the entire body via blood vessels. “Only the lung’s incessant, rhythmic and even respiration can ensure the harmonious balance of Qi’s in-out and up-down movement in the body…”

As you can see, blood circulation results form the cooperation of the heart and the lung. The lung also distributes liquids throughout the body such as food and drink that have been transformed by the spleen. As you can see, “it has an important role in the metabolism of fluids and in the maintenance of the proper balance of metabolism.” The lung also eliminates the pathogenic poisons, keeps the respiratory tract clear, and assists the large intestine in the excretion of wastes. The lung connects to the skin by opening and closing the sweat glands. The nose is the obvious external orifice for the lung. The nose helps keep out the evil qi by means of the nose hairs and intricate internal passages.

**

Spleen

The spleen is located in the middle-jiao, underneath the diaphragm. It belongs to the earth element, and is connected to the stomach by means of the meridians. It has two main function: transportation and transformation, ie. “digesting food and drink, transforming them into nutritive substances, and absorbing and distributing the essential nutrients to the entire body.” It works with the stomach and the small intestine, but it she lead organ in this system.

When the spleen takes the absorbed water it transforms it into body fluids and delivers it to the lung, which then, along with the heart, distribute it throughout the body. The fluids end up back at the spleen after the organs have taken what they need from it, and the spleen goes on to deliver the waste to the appropriate organs to be excreted from the body as sweat or urine. The spleen, in its action of sending the body fluids throughout the body, helps the visceral organs stay in their proper locations. This is because the muscles, tissues, and ligaments that support the internal organs also depend upon nourishment form the body fluids. Also, the spleen ensures that the blood flows in its proper passages, and not outside them.

If the spleen lacks in its functions you’ll see a loss of appetite, loss of taste, abdominal distention, diarrhea, and other symptoms such as malnutrition, fatigue and lassitude.

The digestion of food and drink, absorption of nutritive substances and their distribution cannot take place without the spleen. Because of this it is considered the source for qi and blood. Spleen-Yang is what warms the body, digests food and drink, and facilitates the production and conveyance of the nutrients and body fluids. “Spleen-Yin is the essential nutritive substance for nourishing the spleen and the stomach and for restraining spleen-Yang.”

**

Liver

The liver is located underneath the diaphragm, on the right side behind the ribs. It is connected to the gallbladder via the meridians, and is part of the wood element. “Its main functions are storage of blood, regulation of the total quantity of circulating blood, regulation of the emotions, promotion of the circulation of qi and blood, promotion of the metabolism of fluids and regulation of menses.”

In general, the amount of blood circulating is constant, but depending on your physical activity, such as running or sleeping, and emotional state, the amounts needed by the viscera will vary. If the liver is damaged it will not send out enough blood, causing dizziness, blurred vision, night blindness, numbness of the limbs, etc. If damaged, it will also not store unneeded blood, which could cause vomiting of blood, coughing up blood, nosebleeds, uterine bleeding, etc.

The blood and qi both flow through the body in the same way, so the liver not only stores the blood but the qi. If the mental outlook is optimistic, the mind at ease, then the qi and blood will be harmonious and therefore all the viscera will function properly, and vice versa.

The liver has its main manifestation in the tendons, nails, and eyes. “The liver controlling the tendons means that the relaxation or contraction of all the tendons in the body is related to liver function.” The liver is the source of nutrients for the tendons. Lack of this source will cause tremors in the hands and feet and reduced ability to flex or extend.

“All syndromes of shaking, dizziness and vertigo belong to the liver.” – Plain Questions.

In CM the nails are external portions of the tendons. When liver-blood is adequate the nails are well nourished and strong, bright, and lustrous.

The eyes require blood to see, and therefore the liver is directly linked to them. If there is a deficiency of liver-Yin, for instance, there could be blurred or impaired vision, dry and screechy eyes, and night blindness. The eyes are also connected to the other zang and fu viscera, so not all signs of the eyes would link to the liver.

**

Kidney (including the vital gate)

The two kidneys are located in the posterior part of the abdomen, one on each side of the spinal column. The kidney is linked to the urinary bladder by the meridians, and is part of the water element. “Because the kidney houses the innate essence, it is the foundation of the Yin-Yang of the viscera and the source of life.” It is also known as the “innate foundation.”

The kidney stores and preserves essence. Essence has two meanings in CM: a) the basic substance which constitutes the body and maintains all vital activities, ie. qi, blood and fluids, and nutritive substances, and b) specifically the generative essence, both the prenatal and postnatal qi.

The kidney’s control reproduction, through both sexual functionality and reproductive capacity. They provide the original substance for the embryo and are the material foundation of the vital activities. The kidney’s also promote growth and envelopment through all stages of life. They also have an important part in resisting disease and delaying senescence. The last thing they do is facilitate the production of blood.

Since the kidney holds both yin and yang, it is known as the “house of Water and Fire.”

If the kidney’s are out of balance you will get signs such as hotness in the palms, afternoon fever, night sweats, wet dreams in males, and sexual dreams in females.

The kidney provides the basic motive power of the water and fluid metabolism due to its warming and evaporating functions. It controls the opening and closing of the bladder, which lets the urine flow or be retained.

The kidney’s also accept the Qi that has been inhaled by the lung. “Although the lung controls respiration, it is the kidney that maintains its regularity.” Specifically, the depth, smoothness, and evenness of respiratory movement can be maintained only if Qi inhaled by the lung has descended into and has been accepted by the kidney. This is why we practice qi gong breathing, pulling the air all the way into our lower abdomens (this is called “natural breathing”, since all animals and babies breath like this). Most adults have constricted themselves and breath shallowly into their chests. Based on CM theory, this is not good, as it stagnates the air and qi, and doesn’t allow it to reach all the viscera to complete their vital functions. Bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema and lung-induced heart disease often show symptoms of the kidney failing to accept Qi.

In CM, kidney stores essence and essence engenders marrow. This promotes bone growth and therefore growth of the body. There are three kinds of marrow: bone marrow, spinal cord, and brain. All three are derived from the kidney’s essential qi. “Bone” includes the teeth. The kidney’s are also manifest in the hair. If your hair is fast growing and healthy then your kidney’s are likely healthy. The ears are also closely related to the state of the kidneys. If kidney-essence is strong, hearing will be acute; if it is weak, it may be as extreme as deafness.

The Vital Gate

“The left is the kidney and the right is the vital gate. The vital gate is the house of essence, spirit and vitality. in the male it stores essence; in the female it maintains the uterus. Its qi communicates with the kidney.” – Classic on MEdical Problems.

The vital gate has also been said to reside between the kidneys, in both kidneys, and it was the motive force of qi (residing between the two kidneys). Most importantly, is that the vital gate is the source of genuine qi, the birthplace of the body’s warmth and energy, and it plays a part in the reproductive and sexual functions of the body.

**

As a whole, the all the zang viscera take part in the metabolism of water and fluids. The process is completed with the dispersing and lowering function of the lung, the transporting and transforming function of the spleen, the conducting and facilitating function of the liver, the water-passage dredging function of the sanjiao, as well as the transforming function of the kidney.

We’ll end there today. Any questions or comments?

Life Energy Around the World


Qi is a very important concept in Chinese medicine. As it turns out, it’s a very important concept all over the world! The following is an excerpt from “The Way of Qigong” by Kenneth S. Cohen.

Invisible life energy is a universal concept and is most commonly associated with breath, heat, air, and/or sunlight. Evidence of a shared, perennial philosophy of health can be found among all ancient cultures.

God breathes the “breath of life” (ruach) into Earth to create the first human. The Hebrew name “Adam” ids rived from the same root as Adama, Earth. The Breath of God (Ruach Ha Kodesh in Hebrew, Spiritus Sancti in Latin) is synonymous with the power of Spirit. A similar idea is expressed in the holy scripture of Islan, the Qur’an (Koran). The words nafas, meaning Allah’s own breath, and ruh, meaning Allah’s own soul, “are used to mean the human breath and human soul – confirming the fact that we are originally from Allah, of Allah, for allah, and in the end will return to Allah.” Shaykh Hakim Moinuddin Chishti says that “breath” is not the same as air or oxygen. Rather is is a divine energy that regulates human emotions and the equilibrium of the body. “Both the quantity and quality of breath have a definite and direct effect upon human health.”

In Greek, the vital breath is called pneuma, a word first used by the philosopher Anaximenes (ca. 545 BC). Anaximenes said that life begins with the breath. All things come from it and dissolve into it at death. The soul is breath and is that which controls and “holds together” (prevents the disintegration or decomposition of) human beings. As air or wing, it encloses and maintains the world. Cambridge University professors G.S. Kirk and J.E. Raven in their work The Presocratic Philosophers, label a section of Anaximenes’ writings “The Comparison Between Cosmic Air and the Breath-Soul,” ideas that are remarkably parallel to the Chinese words Yuan Qi, “Cosmic or Original Qi,” and hun, “breath soul.” Vital breath creates a unity between microcosm and macrocosm. In Kirk and Raven’s translation, “The life-principle and motive force of man is, traditionally, pneuma or the breath-soul; (pneuma is seen in the outside world, as wind) therefore the life-principle of the outside world is pneuma; (therefore wind, breath, or air is the life and substance of all things).”

Hippocrates (460-377 BC) considered the founder of medical science, believed that the forces of life, like qi, must flow. When chymos, the body’s fluids – principally blood, bile, and phlegm – are in harmony, one is healthy. In The Nature of Man, he writes, “A man enjoys the most perfect health when these elements are duly proportioned to one another in power, bulk, and manner of compounding, so that they are mingled as excellently as possible. Pain is felt when one of these elements is either deficient or excessive…” When a component of health is isolated and out of balance with the other elements, in excess in certain places and absent form others, the result is pain and illness. According to Hippocrates, balance is the natural state. The role of a physician is “not to manipulate the patient as one would handle something inanimate, but to remove, both from within and from outside the patient’s body, obstructions to healthy recovery.”

Among the Kung San, the indigenous people of Africa’s Kalahan Desert, life energy is num. The num is stored in the lower abdomen and at the base of the spine and can be made to “boil” through ecstatic dance. In Boiling Energy, by Harvard lecturer Richard Katz, an elderly healer explains, “The num enters every part of your body, right to the tip of your feet and even your hair.” Num makes the spine tingle and the mind empty, without thoughts. The healer of healers “see people properly, just as they are.” At this point int he dance, the healers can project healing num or pull sickness form those who are ill. Shamans, num kausi, the “masters or owners of the num,” might help a student enter the proper state of transcendent consciousness (kia) by “shooting” arrows of num into the student’s body, often by snapping the fingers. (Some Native American healers project energy in a similar way, by slapping the palms together.) LIke modern physicians, the Kung believe that people carry illness within the body. When disease flares up, it can sometimes be cured by accumulating num, increasing the inner reserve of healing power. The Kung are also willing to use modern antibiotics. No treatment is 100 percent effective. As healer Gau says, “Maybe our num and European medicine are similar, because sometimes people who get European medicines die, and sometimes they live. That is the same with ours.”

Some fifty or sixty thousand years ago, long before the Chinese spoke of qi, Australian aborigines were cultivating life energy as a key to healing and spiritual power. According to my friend, ruin Tribe elder and medicine man Gaboo, “People who had this energy could communicate telepathically across vast distances. They formed the aboriginal telephone line.” In Voices of the First Day, a classic of aboriginal spirituality, author Robert Lawlor notes that, like the Chinese, the aborigines concentrated on an energy centre four inches below the navel, “where they said the cord of the great Rainbow Serpent (kundalini) lay coiled. Through the same centre the Aborigines drew body heat from the ‘rainbow fires’ that helped them endure cold.” Aborigines, like other indigenous tribes, believe that people today have less of this life energy than in the past. Because life energy is the common source and link between people and nature, the loss of it parallels the loss of connection between human beings and their relations: the plants, animals, stones, water, sky, the earth, and all of creation. Restoring life energy to its original condition of fullness may be the key to recovering lost potentials and realizing that”the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst.”

Native American tribes also recognize the existence of a subtle healing energy. The Navajo say that the Winds (nilch’i) gave life to human beings and all of nature. THus, James Kale McNeley, Ph.D., a teacher at the Navajo Community College, speaks of the “Holy Wind” in his Holy Wind in Navajo Philosophy. As the Winds swirled through the human being, they left their mark as lines on fingers and toes. The Winds are also sacred powers, sources of healing guidance. They are considered messengers of God or the Great Spirit. When Native Americans pray to the “Winds of the Four Directions,” they become intuitively aware of solutions to life problems. According to one Navajo elder, if the Winds’ guidance is not followed, if one refuses to follow God’s instructions, “…our Holy One takes out the Wind that was within us. He stops our heart.” In SiSiWiss, “Sacred Breath,” an indigenous healing tradition from the PUget Sound region of Washington State, healers project power to their patients through dance, song, and laying on of hands. Some SiSiWiss chants include specific breathing methods to either drive away disease or invite helping and healing spirits.

IN the Lakota (Sioux) language, the word for soul, woniya, is derived from the word for breath, ni. In 1896, the Lakota holy man, Long KNift (George Sword), told physician James R. Walker, “A man’s ni is his life. It is the same as his breath. It gives him his strength. All that is inside a man’s body it keeps clean. If it is weak it cannot clean the inside of the body. If it goes away from a man he is dead…” The Lakota sweat lodge healing rite is called inipi because it purifies the ni. “Inipi causes a man’s ni to put out of his body all that makes him tired, or all that causes disease, or all that causes him to think wrong…”

IN Hawaii, the most powerful healers are known as Kahuna Ha, “Masters of the Breath.” The sacred healing breath, ha, can be absorbed at power places in nature (heiau), through dance (such as the hula), and deep breathing exercises. Some Kahunas learn how to store healing energy in the heart. Then, when the healing energy is projected through laying on of hands, the ha is coloured by the healer’s love and positive thoughts. In traditional Hawaiian counselling and mediation, all parties in a conflict first calm their minds by breathing deeply. This helps them to be less reactive and to find a better solution. The ha can also be transferred from a healer to a patient by blowing directly on the patient’s body. When a Kahuna Ha is near death, he/she may transfer lineage and power by breathing the ha onto a student or family member. The Hawaiian word Aloha, often used as a respectful, heartfelt greeting, also means “love.” Love is the “meeting face-to-face” (alo) of the breath of life (ha).

Of course the closest parallels to qi are found in Asian countries, particularly India. In India, the life energy, prana, is described as flowing through thousands of subtle-energy veins, the nadis. one of the goals of Yoga is to accumulate more prana through breath control exercises (pranayama) and physical postures (asana). THe student is also taught to conserve prana, and not to waste either his inborn, genetic store or that acquired through meditation. Some yogis believe that we are given a certain number of breaths at birth. If we learn to breathe more slowly, we use up our endowment at a slower pace and thus live longer.

There are remarkable parallels between Yoga and Chinese yin-yang theory, the philosophy that health is a balance of complementary opposites: fire and water, mind and body, self and nature. Hatha Yoga balances the solar (Ha) and lunar (the) currents of life energy. By reversing the courses of the two pranic breaths, one fire-like, one water-like, longevity is assured. Fire is made to descend, water to ascend, thus unifying mind (fire) and body (water) and preventing the dispersal of life energy.

 

TCM Series Intro Notes: Chinese Methodology


(c) 2012, Chraeloos Resident
Welcome everyone to the Traditional Oriental Medicine series. Thank you for coming! Please tip if you feel so inclined. All tips are split between the venue and myself in order to keep these events going and to enable the growth of the sim. The tip jar is one of the candles on the table. If you’d like a copy of today’s notes you can find them in another candle on the table.

Thank you for visiting Peaceful Dragon Oriental Medicine Centre! The centre is currently under construction, but is intended to be an Oriental medicine learning centre. If you have a suggestion for an activity or an event here, please contact either Xandria Winterwolf or myself.

I just want to remind everyone that none of the information presented here is advice and therefore should not be put into practice without first consulting a professional.

Today we will focus on CM Methodology.

The main sources used today are: http://www.tcmworld.org/what_is_tcm/, “The Way of Qigong” by Kenneth S. Cohen, “Traditional Chinese Medicine” by Daniel Reid, “Natural Healing Wisdom and Know-how” compiled by Amy Rost, http://www.yinyanghouse.com/theory/chinese/what_is_qi, http://www.sacredlotus.com/theory/substances/qi_forms.cfm, “Essentials of Chinese Medicine, Vol. 1” edited by Zhanwen Liu and Liang Liu, “Secrets of Dragon Gate” by Dr. Steven Liu and Jonathan Blank.

**

Today we are going to begin with something a little different. We’re going to start with a short exercise. I’d like you all to take a few minutes and do this with me.

You can do this standing or sitting, whatever is more comfortable for you. Straighten your spine – pretend as though there is a string someone has attached to it with a rod and is pulling up from the top of your spine. Make it tall and straight. Next, relax your joints. Let your shoulders relax, your elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, everything; just let it all relax. Now, breathe deeply, bring the breath all the way through your body. Fill your meridians with the air, all the way to your toes and finger tips. Stay like this for a few minutes, breathing deeply and steadily, and try to clear your mind. Listen to the music stream if you want something to focus on. Just sit or stand and breathe, joints relaxed, and spine straight.

Pause for three minutes.

Now we will start.

**

“Disease is the process in which an evil Qi causes an illness and the genuine Qi of the body fights off the disease-causing agent. In this process, the unity within the body and the unity of the body and its environment mean that there are continuous interactions. It is only when the body’s genuine Qi is too weak to resist the evil Qi or the intensity of the evil Qi exceeds the genuine Qi’s ability to resist that illness occurs. This struggle of genuine Qi and evil Qi persists from the moment of attack through treatment. It continues until the body’s genuine Qi has gained sufficient strength to overpower the evil Qi.”

The struggle of the genuine Qi and the evil Qi directly affect the course of the illness, as well as the treatment.

“Huangdi’s Internal Classic” tells us that in order to be an excellent physician, one must have a very wide knowledge base including, but not limited to, “astronomy for phenomena above us, geography for phenomena beneath us, and the social sciences for events among us.” This is because they recognized the influence the entire world and our social, economic, and physical environment have on our health.

**

Chinese medicine uses a few approaches to treat patients. Firstly, they use the holistic systemic method, which utilizes the Five Elements theory to divide the “vital activities of the human body into five functional systems and which then links all the phenomena of the universe into these systems. Thus, the human body is not merely an isolated whole, but is part of a much larger ecosystem.” This method also utilizes yin-yang theory, separating everything into opposites.

The second approach is a classification by analogy, where things that are similar in properties or appearance are assigned to the same classification category. This helps the doctor to figure out a diagnosis. For example, the flow of the blood in the veins can be compared to the flow of water in a river. When water is chilled it freezes, and when heated it boils. Blood should therefore have similar characteristics. This provides a clear explanation for the symptoms of illnesses of Cold and of Heat. This method has its limit, as it works on probability, not fact. All the actions taken here are corroborated by experience. It is also within this method that herbs are classified according to their properties.

The third approach is to infer the interior from the exterior, or, to observe the outward appearances in order to infer the changes inside the body. Chinese medicine believes that the five zang organs (heart, liver, lung, spleen and kidney) and the six fu organs (stomach, small intestine, large intestine, gall bladder, urinary bladder and san jiao) are closely linked to the organs and tissues on the bodies surface (five sense organs, four limbs and the head, and the nine orifices). The internal and external are linked mainly by means of the meridians and the activities of Qi and blood. The signs a practitioner will look for are the five facial colours, the changes in the tongue, the profiles of the pulse, the appearance of the ear, among many more. Every sign they see will help narrow down the diagnosis and treatment. A fuzzy, yellow tongue with a flushed complexion means something different than a fuzzy, yellow tongue with a red complexion.

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Illnesses will have certain symptoms depending on the stage of its course. For instance, peptic ulcer disease may be diagnosed with a) deficiency-Cold of the spleen and the stomach, b) excessive liver-Qi attacking the stomach, c) accumulation of Dampnesss-Heat in the stomach, or something else. Throughout these different stages different treatments need to be applied. Because of these stages, many illnesses may be treated the same way; for instance, chronic lumbago, edema, diarrhea and enuresis all have a deficiency of spleen-Yang and kidney-Yang, and therefore can all be treated by the method of warm tonification of spleen-Yang and kidney-Yang. Different herbs may be used based on the other symptoms the patient shows, but the purpose of the herbs is the same.

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“Quiescence is the opposite of activity. It includes serenity (absence of stress) of the mind and quietness of the body, and occupies an important role in the CM theory of health preservation.” Much of the typical Chinese exercises include little action, and instead focus on inaction, or even a slow movement between postures. For instance, certain aspects of Qi Gong do not involve any movement of the limbs or trunk, where others involve constant movement. “By assuming certain well-defined postures and engaging in specified breathing techniques and meditative exercises, the person can carry out self-training and self-regulation and attain the goal of regulating, restoring and improving the body.” Of course, you don’t want to do all activity or all quiescence, as any excess or insufficiency is not good for your body. As I usually say – everything in moderation! In other words, those guys that walk around like brick walls with huge muscles and spend four hours a day at the gym, actually aren’t healthy. They are harming their bodies by weakening their genuine qi, by excess of ‘active’ and absence of quiescence, and will deteriorate quicker. They will have harder times fighting illness and recovering from injuries than people who balance their activities and quiescence.

The Chinese emphasize the importance of preventative medicine. In order to stay healthy, both your body and your mind need to be maintained. The idea is to facilitate the movement of Qi and blood to avoid stiffness of the joints, and to ensure there is no stagnation of the meridians or organ systems. the key to promote and preserve genuine Qi is to practice physical training, have a proper diet, regulate mental activities and establish a science-based lifestyle.

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The human body is obviously very complex. It is composed mostly of the zang and fu viscera, the non-organ structures, the sense organs and orifices, the material bases of vital activities (essence, Qi, blood, body fluids, etc.) and there meridians. “Knowledge of the structure and functions of the body systems in CM has been obtained through observation of the manifestations of many physiological functions and pathological phenomena in the body. As this knowledge accumulated, it was taken a step further and became formulated as the visceral manifestation theory. The foundation established by this theory comprises principally the following three aspects:”

1. Ancient Anatomical Knowledge. As early as the eras of Spring-Autumn and the Warring States there are already descriptions of findings from the dissection and research of the human body such as circulation of blood, describing not only the formation of blood but its nature, functions, source that powers its circulation, internal organs it flows through, and its rate of flow.

2. Long-Term Observation of Physiological and Pathological Phenomena. Through the approach of “inferring the interior from the exterior” the ancient people figured out the physical and pathological patterns and rules of the human body. For instance, when the skin was chilled the common cold could develop easily and manifest such symptoms as nasal discharge, cough, and the absence of sweating. From this observation they inferred the relationship of the nose and skin to the lung. Or, in other words, the “lung has its orifice in the nose” and the “lung governs the skin”.

3. Summarization of Practical Experience. Not all connections between the body are outwardly obvious. Through practice and experience they were able to figure out some odd connections. For example, Many types of eye disorders could be cured by techniques that treated the liver. Based on that, they gradually formulated the theory that “the liver has its orifice in the eyes.”

The Visceral Manifestation theory includes the five zang organs (heart, lung, spleen, liver, kidney), the six fu organs (gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, urinary bladder, sanjiao), and the five irregular organs (brain, bone marrow, bones, blood vessels, uterus).

The zang viscera share two main functional characteristics: the mental activities, ie. “the heart houses the mind,” “the lung houses the soul,” “the spleen houses intention,” “the liver houses the ethereal soul,” and “the kidney houses the will.” The second is that they house essence and Qi.

The fu viscera share the functional characteristics of receiving, digesting, and transforming food and drink.

“The five sang viscera house the essence and Qi but do not discharge it; thus they are full but cannot be filled up. The sic fu viscera transform and digest matter but do not store it; thus they are filled, yet are not full.” – Plain Questions

We must realize that although the names of the organs are the same as modern western medicine, their physiology and pathology are quite different. “In the theory of visceral manifestation of CM the functions of a particular zang organ can encompass the functions of several organs of modern anatomy; and the functions of a particular organ in modern anatomy may be attributed to several zang and fu organs.” For example, the functions of the heart in CM include the nervous system, as well as the functions attributed in modern anatomy.

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There are many practices to induce good health, including qi gong, tai chi, meditation, etc. Leaning against the piano, I’ve got a chart for you all with 24 basic tai chi moves. We began with a qi gong exercise that you can feel free to do whenever you like. And now, I’m going to end the notes with a qi breathing exercise.

The following is a basic breathing exercise:

Find a comfortable place to lie down or sit. Make sure that there are no major distractions such as noise, weather, etc. Make sure that you have nothing binding on your body, so remove your shoes and if you are wearing a belt, undo it (it’s also a good idea to loosen your pants or skirt). Allow your body to relax completely. It is often helpful to think of yourself floating down a stream. Inhale slowly, steadily and deeply to your abdomen, focusing on your navel. As you inhale relax your entire body and especially your abdomen to allow your lungs to expand to their full capacity. Exhale slowly and steadily, making sure to completely empty all the air in your lungs. Now, slowly fill your lungs again and expand them to their full capacity. And breathe out slowly, emptying all the air in your lungs. Repeat this as many times as you like.

If you have some water nearby go drink some in order to help ground yourself once you have stopped the practice.

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I want you all to experience the benefits of Chinese practices. If you practice these exercises even three times a week you will quickly start to feel better. Personally, I work at an office so I sit at a desk all day. I find if I practice breathing deeply and sitting straight while relaxing my joints I don’t get stiff by the end of the day. You can do these practices anywhere, any time.

As a discussion point, and to finish us off, what do you think is meant by this quote?

“Yin-yang and the seasons are the beginning and end of all things.” – Plain Questions

TCM Series Intro Notes: The History of Chinese Medicine P1


(c) 2012, Chraeloos Resident
Welcome everyone to the Traditional Oriental Medicine series. Thank you for coming! Please tip if you feel so inclined. All tips are split between the venue and myself in order to keep these events going and to enable the growth of the sim. The tip jar is one of the candles on the table. If you’d like a copy of today’s notes you can find them in another candle on the table.

Thank you for visiting Peaceful Dragon Oriental Medicine Centre! The centre is currently under construction, but is intended to be an Oriental medicine learning centre. If you have a suggestion for an activity or an event here, please contact either Xandria Winterwolf or myself.

I just want to remind everyone that none of the information presented here is advice and therefore should not be put into practice without first consulting a professional.

Today we will focus on the history of Chinese medicine, with some added notes about things we’ve previously talked about..

The main sources used today are: “Essentials of Chinese Medicine, Vol. 1”, “Traditional Chinese Medicine” by Daniel Reid, “Natural Healing Wisdom and Know-how” compiled by Amy Rost

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Chinese Medicine emerged in the ancient Shamanic systems of China, and grew with the beliefs of Taoism. The theoretical foundations emerged, as far as we have records, in the fourth the first centuries BC with “Huangdi’s Internal Classic”. This was followed by the “Classic on Medical Problems” in the First Century BC. This work elaborated on the medical theories of “Huangdi’s Internal Classic.” The clinical medicine model then emerged at the end of the second century AD with the “Treatise on Cold-Attack and Miscellaneous Diseases”, which gave diagnosis based on the Six Meridians Theory. Next was the earliest materia medica, “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic,” in the first to second centuries AD. This was a compilation and basic theory of 365 Chinese herbs and their properties, classification, and flavors.

Prior to the emergence of professional physicians in the Chou dynasty (1122-249 BC), Chinese medicine was the exlusive domain of tribal shamans (wu). These people practiced with herbs for healing from the mountains. They were the first to test and categorize the herbs.

“References to thirty-six different diseases and their herbal cures have been found inscribed on some of the 160,000 tortoise shells and oracle bones excavated during the twentieth century in the Central Plain region, dating mainly form the ancien Yin dynasty, circa 1500 BC. This proves that disease and medicine had already become a sytematic field of study in China, if not an actual profession, as long as thirty-five hundred years ago.”

“”Huangdi’s Internal Classic” conatins the popular thesis on the relationship between man and nature: “VItal qi is connected with nature.” It means that the vital activities of the human body are closely linked to activities in the universe. Firstly, the human body relies on the unceasing exchanges of both substance and energy with the natural environment to sustain life functions – ie. the digestion and absorption of foods, excretion and breathing. Secondly, the human body is capable of continual adaptation to the natural environment. When the days are hot, Qi and blood move toward the body surface, as manifested by profuse sweating and decreased urine, in order to regulate the body temperature, and when the days are cold, Qi and blood move away from the body surface, as manifested by increased urine and decreased sweating. Thirdly, the human body is not completely passive when adapting to changes in the natural environment. Indeed, once familiar with the regularities of the environment, the human body actively adjusts its activities as appropriate to the changes in the environment.”

Western scholars still refer to this period of Chinese history as mythical and refer to the founding emperor Huang Ti (the Yellow Emperor) as legendary. However, recent archaeological excavations have confirmed the existence of a major civilization that flourished in the Yellow River basin around 3000 BC, governed by an emperor named Huang Ti.

In 218 BC, the militant kingdom of Chin conquered all the warring kingdoms and principalities, uniting the empire under a single centralized government for the first time in Chinese history. In his ruthless drive to eradicate all vestiges of the past, the first Chin emperor ordered the infamous Fires of Chin, a mass book-durning campaign in which virtually all written records of ancient China’s classical heritage went up in flames.The only exceptions to this wholesale destruction of recorded knowledge were books on agriculture, divination (including the I-Ching), and medicine. Because of this, much of the knowledge and records that would help us in understanding these ancient times and the progression of ancient medicine are destroyed.

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The body must adapt to changes in the seasons and in yin-yang. The entire environment has great influence over the human body and therefore all practitioners should take into consideration all possible external factors when diagnosing a patient.

The Chinese figured out the connection of microcosmic and macrocosmic because of necessity. The first signs of the TCM theories of qi, yin-yang, and the five elements all appeared in approx. fifth century BC (or earlier; according to some the theories go back as much as ten thousand years ago). Some feel that they are found to emerge here because of the major cultural shifts going on at the time. The period from the Warring States to the Qin and Han dynasties (fifth century BC to first century AD) showed the shift from a system of slavery to a feudal one. Many sciences and philosophies (biology, anthropology, calendar, mathematics, etc.) emerged here. During this time there emerged a medical classic – “Huangdi’s Internal Classic” which explained the laws of life and the unity of the body with the natural world. “It provided a systemic discussion of anatomy – the viscera and meridians – physiology, and pathology.” It also described the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases.

In ancient China, before Chinese medicine was established, ghosts and gods were believed to be responsible for illness. When patients were ill they would turn to a sorcerer or sorceress and devout prayer for help. CM counters this belief and argues that illness is a natural and avoidable phenomenon. The reason for this is that as the year has the various weather changes of the seasons so can the human body be in states of health or illness.

CM also rejects the notion of incurability and considers that if an illness is not cured it is because the physician’s knowledge of the illness is not correct, not clear or not adequate, or because an effective therapy has not yet been found.

“Because nature is the most obvious and enduring manifestation of Tao on earth, much of the traditional terminology of Chinese medicine is derived directly from natural phenomena (fire and water, wind and heat, dryness and dampness, etc.), and a traditional Chinese diagnosis often sounds more like a weather report than a medical analysis.”

“Because the microcosmic energy system of humans (ren) stands midway between the cosmic powers of Heaven (tien) and the natural forces of Earth (di), drawing power from both sources, human health depends not only on internal energy balance within the system, but also on harmony with the macrocosmic powers of Heaven (the cosmos) and Earth (nature).”

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And for today we will leave it there. Any questions or comments?