Winter Solstice in Chinese Medicine–The Way of Heaven
What is Meant by the Way of Heaven in Chinese Medicine
Natural Law versus Sin
To live in harmony with the Winter Solstice in Chinese Medicine is , according to our Chinese Classics, “living with the Way of Heaven”.
The Chinese concept of Heaven is not like the heaven of monotheistic religions. Heaven in Chinese philosophy refers to Natural law. So for example, the Emperor rules “in the name of heaven” IF he is righteous. If he is not righteous, then you must overthrow him, but if you rebel when he is a good Emperor, that is akin to “sin.”
Living with the Seasons is Living with Natural Law
Living in tune with the seasons, is living the Way of Heaven. So next time you have frozen yogurt, coconut water, or ice water in the middle of flu season, just know that in ancient China that would have marked you as what Christians call “sinners” , or maybe just as mentally ill. Because it makes no sense to make your body cold, when the temperature around you is already cold. The body needs appropriate warmth in winter and appropriate cooling in summer.
Bio-Rhythms Linked to the Sun, Moon, and Earth’s Rotation
Is it not odd that anyone would imagine that our mammalian bodies are not subject to the same cycles of solar, lunar, and terrestrial energies that all other living things on earth are?
How could it be that the rhythms on earth that cause trees to drop their leaves in fall and sprout buds in spring don’t effect us, too? Or the once that lead birds on their great migrations, or that cause bears to hibernate across long winter don’t effect us?
Intestinal Gas and the Hibernation of Our Cousins the Bear
Did you that at the end of the great hibernation that Bears in USA have accumulated gas in their intestines, from lack of movement. Just like humans often pass gas in the morning. This is due to inactivity, which naturally causes some Qi to stagnate in Acupuncture theory. This is a normal physiological stasis, not a pathological one. What is pathological Qi stagnation in the gut comes from stress or drinking iced beverages and overeating.
To purge their intestines of the uncomfortable gas that has grown in their their gut since before Winter Solstice, bears, on leaving the den in Spring, seek out and eat a bitter medicinal plant called “skunk cabbage”. Don’t stand down wind from a bear in early Spring
The Ideology of Chinese Medicine versus Western Medicine
The idea that it does not matter what the season is, or even how you make your surgical cuts on the abdomen, is related to a mentality that ignores the most fundamental chronobiology, the seasons and the daily cycles. Early to bed early to rise said Ben Franklin. My Yoga teacher used to say “an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after…” Simple chronobiology.
Electromagnetic Waves and the Winter Solstice
The electromagnetic waves and fields that according to Einstein and his descendent physicists, cause the simple crocus to be the first to shoot up flowers in late February, and fruit trees to wake up from their bear-like long sleep and give us flowers in Spring and fruits in summer, how could they not effect humans, too? To ignore this basic scientific reality is to ignore what Chinese Medicine calls The Way of Heaven.
My Mother and Lifestyle Medicine
And the Way of Heaven in our ancient texts like the Nei Jing, The “Yellow Emperor’s Classic” guides us like the Bible or Koran, on how to sleep, eat, drink, eliminate waste, process emotional and nervous system states, healthfully, so that we dont become needlessly ill. Again Benjamin Franklin “prevention is better than cure.” Ayurvedic Medicine, the medicine of the Ayurveda, has the identical view. So when my mother would scold me gently, “Eyton, take a plate and sit down at the table,”, or “slow down and chew your food,” she was admonishing me to live The Way of Heaven.
The Western Medical Viewpoint and the Drug Cartels
The world view that has you out running in a tank top in the wind in winter is related to a world view that creates wonderful helpful drugs, but lives in denial of their side effects. Its a world view based on “conquering” nature. Its that world view that ignores the perils of microplastic pollution and thinks about profit. This is the word view of Big Pharma acting like Narco Cartels and Gangster Drug dealers….
To create a slavish reliance on drugs that treat symptoms and not causes. A willingness to use drugs and surgery as a first choice rather than desperate last choice, while maintaining a willful blindness to drugs toxic side effects; to the damage and pollution done to your body by living and treating your body as a machine rather than living organism. By ignoring the Way of Heaven–How Nature Works
Body Ecology and Love of Nature
Ecology and love of nature starts with your own body. Its a world view– practicing prevention by recognizing we are an intimate part of nature, and so cannot continue exploiting her without damaging ourselves. Creating smog and polluted rivers is not following the “Way of Heaven” as described in chapters 1 and 2 of the Neigjing suwen (Yellow Emperer’s Classic) anymore than drinking ice-cold beverages, overeating factory farmed flesh foods, or smoking cigarettes are.
People find meaning and identification in different ways. Some of us are committed runners. Some people play bridge. A percentage are politicians. A lot of people believe with conflicting absolute certainties in books of revelation that promise various heavens and hells to believers and non-believers alike.
Blind Faith in Science Misrepresented by that MD in the White Coat
Some people place the same level of blind faith in what they think is Science, though they don’t actually understand the science. Ask any average educated layperson to explain how western medicine works, or what the force of gravity is, and they will be as short on details as they are on its philosophical framework. The business of America is business .
Heaven, Hell, and What You Can and Cannot Know
I don’t know if hell or heaven exist, if the messiah will come some day, or if she has already. I dont know if God had one or many sons, if Muhammed was the final prophet, or if the Buddha really did “attain enlightenment.” Enlightenment? Depends what you mean by that. What is your philosophical framework?
Chinese Medicine is Empirical–Its based on What You Can See and Verify
Me, I am a simpleton. I love Chinese medicine for its child-like simplicity. Chinese medicine is blunt like a child is. We ask, “mommy, why is that man’s face red?”, or “daddy, why does that woman have freezing fingers and toes?”
I do know the sun warms me up, and wind cools me down. I know that that water is refreshing and that I cant sleep without a nice blanket.
I know how I feel when I eat freshly made food and I know what its like to be hungry. I know how I felt when my mother and father died and I know what its like to be madly in love.
What is “Reality”?
Language determines our sense of reality..
In the Tamil language, the word for yellow is the word for turmeric. The word for green is the word for raw, as in a green mango. The hardest thing about learning Chinese Medicine was learning to think in a new language.
That is why there is no exact single word translation for the word Qi, the same word found in Tai Qi or Qi Gung. Because biological Qi is defined in Chinese by listing its attributes. Its a diff way of learning. First you memorize the attributes of Qi, and over time, as you practice acupuncture and herbal medicine, and listen to your elders use the word, you will learn what it is. Especially as you learn to cultivate your own Qi with Nei Gung, and Tai Qi, you will understand, grasshopper.
What Qi Is?
Qi is warm, light, and mobile. Right there we can think and understand that the everything about a living thing involves Qi, and that everything about your body upon death describes the abscence of Qi. The only Qi in a corpse is the stored Qi. So we eat flesh, for its stored Qi, what we call Blood or Jing.
And yet, if fish is fresh from the ocean, we say it has good Qi, whereas a MacDonalds hamburger, not so much. There are things we do to destroy or wreck the Qi of food, sometimes, e.g. freezing. What is the diff between freshly cooked rice that fills the room with fragrance, and frozen microwaved rice. Its the Qi. In fact, when it comes to food, the Chinese word for “fragrance” is closely associated with Qi.
So, even if you translate it as “life force” that is incomplete, and only reflects your western English languge need for summing up in one word.
The Language of Being in Love and Medicine
We humans see the same realities through many lenses and describe it with differing languages. For example, I could say I am in love and feel elated and can’t sleep for endless nights thinking of my beloved, or I could say I feel so amped up that my heart is racing, or the neuroscientist could describe love in terms of neurotransmitters, hormones, and brain wave. Which language is more accurate?
But I dont hear any teenager descibe being madly in love by describing her/his endorphins? If anything they may confuse the experience of attraction for what love is and becomes..They may describe the physical sensation of sexual arousal, “i have the hots for him….she is so hot….”Few folk describe love with the language of science.
The strength and weakness of bio-medicine is its specificity, its the ability to see the world through this amazing digital microscope. But sometimes you are blinded to the forest when all you can see are the cells of trees.
What I know About Winter and Healthy Living from Chinese Medicine
I don’t know anything about God. What I do know, though, is that it is winter and cold and when its cold the lake freezes and my dog sleeps early in the evening and late into the morning. He waits for the sun to rise before getting up for tea.
Illness does not erupt out of the void. It grows from the soil of lifestyle, mentality, emotions, and the blessings or curses of genetic inheritance, what Chinese medicine in its acuity described 2200 years ago as “pre-natal ‘Qi’.”No one controls their pre-natal Qi. What you can control is how much money we put into or take out from the savings account you inherited from your ancestors.
Each disease has a long history, the history of your mind-body. And each disease has complicated cures, including exercise medicine, food medicine, mental culture (meditation medicine and a philosophy of living medicine) what you do or don’t breath in or put on your skin medicine, deep relaxation medicine, and, when all that is not enough, drug medicine, whether herbal/natural or synthetic/un-natural.
But healing is a process, not a pill. You cannot cure with a drug what you created with a lifestyle, any more than you can cure a social problem like gun violence by just removing guns. You also have to address the national psychology that underlies such high levels of anger and violence. You cannot cure insomnia with any drug or herb without getting to the underlying nervous system dysregulation and possible associated emotive states that have created an insomniac. Proper sleep culture is needed. You have to learn to slow down inside.
In Chinese medicine to heal your lifestyle means to have, as a starting point, correct behavior for the various seasons, to grasp the common sense notion of that the centrifugal Yang energies that cause sprouts in Spring and fruits and flower in Summer and lost leaves in Autumn and ice in Winter, also affect your own body, and have to be respected. There is a diet and behavior and exercises appropriate to each season that are quite intuitive and survive in our holidays.
Heavier foods at Thanksgiving and Christmas and the Roman New Year/January 1 are appropriate to the fact that our digestive fire amps up in Winter to keep us warm. One example. But we have to balance those heavier foods with vegetables and the sour and pungent tastes to assist the digestion and elimination. Stronger fire in winter is not license for excess. And it is also dry in late Autumn/early Winter, which means pushing hot fluids and moistening foods, like collard greens lightly cooked in olive oil with onions, cumin and pomegranate molasses.
To create health in Chinese medicine is to follow the Way of Heaven and Earth, what we would now call Nature, in its most profound and material senses. We can all, if we stop for a moment, imagine what that means. In the end, it describes a life of harmlessness, to oneself and others. When you use natural cleaning products, for a mundane example, you benefit your body and stop harming the natural world.This is described in the ancient texts as Virtue.
The scholar Claude Larre points out that in classical Chinese the placement of the ideograms within the group of ideograms gives as much meaning as the characters themselves–”Nothing is fully understood before it finds its place in the the group to which it belongs.” I think human beings are like Chinese ideograms, multiple characters placed within a larger group from which its meaning is derived. The larger group is heaven and earth, nature. What sentence do you want to be interdependent with?