As I delve into the mysteries of Traditional Chinese Medicine, I am feeling a complete harmony with the philosophical aspects of Taoism [this is the energy work that I have recently described]. The best way of understanding (at least superficially) this form of philosophical and religious tradition is through the Tao symbol itself [“Tao” literally translates to mean “way” or “path”]:
First, an excerpt from the Tao Te Ching [or Dao De Jing], a fundamental text that outlines some of the fundamental precepts of Taoism [an ancient shamanistic East Asian religious/philosophical practise encompassing elements of ancestor and nature spirits]:
“The Dao gives birth to One
Two gives birth to Three
Three gives birth to the Ten
-Dao De Jing
The Dao [Tao] is akin to the Indian concepts of brahman or atman. Tao itself is the influence that gives order, balance and harmony to the Universe. It represents nature, due to the belief that nature represents the Tao. Qi (or Chi as you may have commonly heard the term) is the energy of action or existence that brings this about. The idea, is that this energy (Qi) should be balanced and harmonized for Tao to be achieved (a sort of Universal order).
In it’s simplest form, the Qi energy can be described as being derived from Yin and Yang (pronounced “yong”) components. Yin is the dark swirl in the symbol (female, grounded, cold and moist), counterbalanced by Yang (male, airy, warm and dry). To ensure further balance of the Yin aspect, it must contain a tiny bit of Yang, and vice versa. According to some Taoist schools of thought (the Yang school being the exception), the Yin energy is the first energy. [the chicken and the egg concept].
The concept of the Tao then can be applied on a macrocosmic level (ie. the Universe, the Environment) and a microcosmic level (ie. the Body). In health, there is a balance of Yin and Yang (the “Two” from our Dao De Jing script) and the force of Qi is capable of sustaining the Unified Whole or the “One”. Now, the idea of the “Three” has some scholars confused, in that it might mean the Self, heaven and earth [the number three has often been associated with the holiest of numbers, representing the three states of consciousness – heaven, earth, hell…three aspects of time – past, present, future…three divine activities – creating, conservation, destruction]. The “Ten Thousand Things” refers to the multiplicity of this alchemy that is created from the basic elements, and the continued balance required for Tao [I could imagine that a more metaphysical version of this symbol would involve alternating Yin and Yang smaller dots within the smallest circles…ad infinitum…].
Metaphorically speaking, the Tao symbol analogy is a beautiful one for understanding the fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM]. One school of TCM teaches The Five Element Theory. This theory further describes the Tao as being in harmony with nature – the elements (earth, wind, fire, water) and seasons (winter, spring, summer and fall). For example: the period of deepest winter corresponds with the descent of Yin (approximately the 4 o’clock position of the symbol, where the black portion of the swirl is thickest). This is a period of energy grounding and storage. It corresponds with the kidney (the organ responsible for storing Yin). Not surprisingly then, the element water (ie. kidney fluid) is associated with this portion of the symbol. As one moves around the symbol in a clockwise fashion, we encounter spring (liver, wood, Yang mobilisation), summer (heart, fire, Yang storage) and fall (lung, metal, Yin Collection).
Now, how does all of this information get utilised in the TCM system, you might ask? The Tao symbol and philosophy of Taoism provides such a lovely for balancing the microcosm of the body, when applied to a system of practise which includes intuitive and objective observations (environment, diet, health, physical examination).
I will dip into some of these aspects in my next post.
“The Sage stands facing South”