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Listen to Your Body

Listen to Your Body: The Wisdom of the Dao

Bisong Guo
Andrew Powell
Copyright Date: 2002
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  • Book Info
    Listen to Your Body
    Book Description:

    Listen to Your Body shows how you can promote health and natural well-being by modifying everyday actions to improve the flow of qi (the universal principle of energy). Breathing, eating, drinking, resting, washing, and many other small but vital actions--if carried out in the right way--can result in profound changes in body function. To give readers an understanding of the body's own natural medicine, the authors provide a clear explanation of the foundations of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with reference to qi and its flow through the body's meridians, the balance of yin and yang, and the body's energy centers. Readers will learn how to "tune in" to the signals the body transmits to warn of impending health problems; numerous case histories illustrate how this highly developed information system of the body works. Later chapters address the art of relaxation, bringing together the TCM approach to health with recent scientific studies. Finally the authors describe in detail how to apply the natural medicine of the body to daily life. They discuss illness prevention and provide specific guidance for the management of a range of health disorders. Exercises and simple routines are given, together with the basis for their therapeutic effect.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6337-1
    Subjects: Public Health

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Rowena Plant

    YESTERDAY I returned to work after a short break. “How are you?” a colleague asked. “I’m well, thank you,” I replied, a simple, familiar form of greeting posed and responded to quickly and automatically. But how was I really? A few aches and pains perhaps, but that’s normal enough, isn’t it? Apprehensive about the day ahead maybe, but that’s how work is, isn’t it? It could be that any number of things were not quite right within me, but did I know? This book asks us to enter the place between that question and answer, to make a space between...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xviii)

    WE ARE ALL living with our bodies twenty-four hours a day, every day of our lives. But how well do we know our bodies? Do we have to be doctors to understand what is going on? Do we need to hand over our bodies to a professional every time we get a symptom or rely on a prescription to put the problem right?

    If you don’t understand your body, seeing your doctor is the sensible thing to do. But the first step is working with the medicine that is right there in your own home—the natural medicine of the...

  6. PART ONE The Miracle of the Human Body

    • The Cosmos as a Living Organism
      (pp. 3-10)

      WE USUALLY think of our bodies as complete in themselves, separate from the air we breathe and the ground we walk on. It is true that the body is a whole universe in itself. But it is part and parcel of the total universe in which we live and to which we are connected every minute of our lives.

      When we look at a clear night sky, we see thousands of stars all suspended in space in our own galaxy, and we know that our galaxy is just one of millions reaching to infinity. Within our own bodies, we too...

    • Yin and Yang: Nature’s Energy Balance
      (pp. 11-14)

      CONSIDER the ancient Chinesetaijisymbol (see page 12), which describes the fundamental dynamic balance of the whole universe. As noted earlier, the universe is organized like one giant hologram. Thetaijireminds us that this holds true at every level of magnification, from the cosmos right down to the micro-universe of the human body.

      The shaded area of the symbol representsyinand the white areayang. These two energies are opposing in nature but have a complementary relationship and are always found together. There are endless examples: sun and moon, earth and sky, fire and water, light and...

    • The Meridians
      (pp. 15-23)

      THE MERIDIANS are a network of energy channels running throughout the entire body. We may picture them as a kind of road map, with twelve major meridians serving as the motorways, eight additional meridians like major trunk roads, and twelve divergent meridians like minor roads running alongside the motorways. Flowing out from all these meridians like a network of country lanes are small branches called collaterals.

      The meridians do not figure in the anatomy of the body according to conventional western science, since they are not solid structures like arteries, veins, lymph ducts, or even nerves. Yet more than two...

    • The Flow of Qi in Nature
      (pp. 24-26)

      WE HAVE SAID earlier that there is a special reason for puttingyinon top andyangunderneath in thetaijithat can be understood with reference to the world of nature. The mountain rises up out of the lush vegetation of the valley below. Down the slopes trickle mountain streams. The earth at the foot of the mountain is rich and moist, and the warmth of the golden sunshine filters down through the trees and green plants that grow in profusion on the floor of the valley.

      Up on the mountaintop the air is clear and cold. Way below...

    • Harnessing Nature’s Qi: The Three Dantian
      (pp. 27-30)

      THE CONCEPT of the energy centers of the body can be traced to the ancient teachings of the Daoist school of Quanzhendao (Ultimate truth of the Dao). It was discovered that with regularqigongpractice, energy flowed within the body in the vertical and horizontal planes. These planes intersected in three places—the head, chest, and abdomen—and where they crossed, intense foci of energy could be generated. These energy centers were called the threedantian—the lowerdantianrestoringjing,the energy essence of the reproductive organs; the middledantianrestoringqi,concerned with bodily and emotional energy; and...

  7. PART TWO The Information System of the Body

    • The Natural Human Life Span
      (pp. 33-35)

      HERE FOLLOWS a remarkable story. It tells us what we can achieve, if only we live by the medicine that comes free with life itself and learn how to maintain the balance and harmony within us.

      In the south part of China there is a remote village that was recently visited by a journalist. He arrived in the village while a wedding ceremony was taking place. Noisy festivities were going on and he inquired who was getting married. He was somewhat surprised to hear that the bride was eighty-two and the bridegroom was in his nineties. He was even more...

    • Recognizing the Signals Your Body Sends
      (pp. 36-41)

      MODERN SCIENCE has shown the physical body to be a miracle of living engineering. But there is another miracle, less tangible but no less real, that has been known about in China for thousands of years. The body is not just made up of visible matter that can be viewed under the microscope or analyzed in test tubes. Its fundamental structure is made ofqi, just as everything in the physical universe is made ofqi.

      At the deepest level,qiis a unity that cannot be described in words. It is the source of all creation. At the next...

    • Case Studies from a Specialist Clinic
      (pp. 42-66)

      THIS CHAPTER describes a number of cases of serious illness or disability that help link theory to practice and illustrate how the concepts discussed so far are applied in specialist treatment.

      A fifty-year-old woman complained of a red, itchy rash on her abdomen and chest. The rash had been present for a few weeks. She was also tender over the neck, shoulders, and the middle of the chest, which in TCM are typical signs of emotional stress. She added that she had recently fallen over, twice within three days, and was suffering from headaches and back, knee, and ankle pains....

  8. PART THREE Learning to Trust the Wisdom of Your Body

    • Mind and Body in Harmony
      (pp. 69-70)

      WHEN WE CONTEMPLATE the world of nature around us, we find a deep truth in everything we observe. There is always a good reason for how things are! At first glance, this might seem obvious. Yet a lot of human suffering arises because we believe we know better than nature.

      Mankind has made some wonderful discoveries in science and medicine. The trouble arises when we try to rule nature instead of remembering that we are part of nature, right down to the chemistry of every living cell. In her wisdom, nature has arranged for each cell to function as a...

    • Relaxed Mind, Relaxed Body
      (pp. 71-74)

      RELAXING MEANS slowing down. First and foremost, it means slowing down the mind. Only when the mind is calm does body-qistart to flow in accordance with nature’s rhythm.

      Qinormally flows at about twenty centimeters a second. When you see someone practicingtaiji(Tai Chi), the movements appear to be in slow motion, rather like a person sleepwalking. The reason is that they are timed to the flow ofqi, which allows the practitioner to concentrate theqiand harness it to strengthen the body.

      Relaxation is the first stage ofqigong. With instruction and regular practice, we can...

    • Ancient Medicine: A Hundred Generations of Study
      (pp. 75-78)

      WE CAN NOW SEE just how much TCM accurately forecasts what modern science is demonstrating in the laboratory. The fundamental principle can be summed up as follows: avoiding emotional stress gives peace of mind. Peaceful mind strengthens body-qi. Strongqiprotects the organs of the body against pathogenicqi, ensuring health and natural longevity.

      In the ancient Daoist medical tradition, we are warned of the converse principle, with an image of terrible destruction from within. The person who shirks moderation and instead indulges in emotional excess falls victim to greed, jealousy, and stupidity. It is said that within the body...

    • The Art of Knowing Your Qi
      (pp. 79-90)

      WHEN YIN AND YANG are in balance and theqiis strong, we sleep deeply and wake refreshed. The body feels light and ready for action and there is a natural desire to get up and start the day. As the body instinctively responds to our needs, our activities flow with spontaneity and creativity. Mind and body are working as one.

      Whenyinandyangare not balanced, mind and body cannot work together. For example, you wake but your eyes don’t want to open. You tell yourself to get out of bed but your body wants to stay behind...

  9. PART FOUR The Daily Care of Your Body

    • The Biorhythms of Yin and Yang
      (pp. 93-96)

      THE ANCIENT WISDOM of Chinese medicine teaches that better than any treatment is to avoid falling ill in the first place. There is an old Chinese saying that needing treatment is like beginning to dig a well when you feel thirsty!

      To stay fit and live long, it is important to keep in mind how theqiof the cosmos influences theqiofyinandyangin the human body. The biorhythms of body-qireflect the cycles of the year, the season, the month, and the day, all of which are determined by the motion of the heavenly bodies....

    • The Right Way to Start the Day
      (pp. 97-98)

      THE BEST TIME to wake is with the rising sun, for at this time the body-qiis rising too. If you need to empty your bladder, do so right away but then spend a few minutes quietly lying on your back in bed with your eyes closed, and do abdominal breathing (see “The Art of Breathing”). Imagine the sun shining on your body and relax from head to foot, keeping the mind calm and still. Before you get out of bed, have a good stretch and gently massage your face with your hands. Once out of bed, keep warm by...

    • The Art of Breathing
      (pp. 99-103)

      TO BREATHE IS TO LIVE. Every newborn baby cries out in order to expand its lungs with air for the first time and continues to breathe until respiration ceases with the ending of life. It follows that we all know how to breathe!

      It does not follow that we understand breathing as an art and a skill that can bring us health and longevity. Breathing as an art originated in China and is thought to date back ten thousand years to the New Stone Age. We know from engravings more than five thousand years old thatqigongwas practiced then...

    • The Rhythm of the Four Seasons
      (pp. 104-106)

      THE ANCIENT TEXT OFThe Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Medicinesees the rhythm of human life as subject to the seasons, just like the rest of nature. We are advised that throughout the year we should get up at sunrise and go to bed by the time it gets dark. In the temperate zones, this means sleeping much longer in winter than in summer, and the difference becomes greater the farther north and south you go. Since the industrialized world disregards such biorhythms, we are left to decide for ourselves how closely to follow this rhythm of nature.

      Spring is...

    • Water as Medicine
      (pp. 107-113)

      THE CHINESE CHARACTER“huo,”meaning “life,” reflects the profound need of all life forms for water. There are two types of water that need to be considered, body water and environment water. The quality of both is of great importance to health.

      Eighty-five percent of the human body is water. Water is the basic component of blood, in which the white and red cells are suspended and various salts, proteins, and other compounds essential to life are dissolved. Water is equally important inside the cells of the body where, surrounding the nucleus, it forms the protoplasm, which contains complex structures...

    • Washing Is a Skill!
      (pp. 114-119)

      WASHING IS NOT JUST a matter of cleaning the skin. As explained in Part One, the skin is much more than the body’s covering, for it is intimately related to the meridians. The pores of the skin not only open and close on account of sweating but at a subtle level they also regulate the flow ofqi. It is helpful to remember this when you wash and care for your skin.

      When you get up in the morning, wash your face with cold water. Better still, take a cold shower. This brings several benefits. It directly stimulates the elastin...

    • How to Dress
      (pp. 120-123)

      CHOOSING WHAT CLOTHES to put on when we get up gives us the opportunity to harmonize with ourqi, for colors have a special place in healing, strengthening the internal organs and promoting the flow ofqiin the meridians. White light is made up of a mixture of wavelengths, but when the wavelengths are scattered, as with a prism or a rainbow, we see the different frequencies as bands of color, with red at the short end of the visible spectrum through to violet at the long end. What makes a piece of material blue, for example, is that...

    • Eating Wisely, Eating Well
      (pp. 124-129)

      TO EAT OR NOT to eat? That is, so often, the question. Common sense tells us we should eat when we are hungry. Yet people who are under stress or whose metabolism is seriously out of tune may experience hunger most of the day, and sometimes during the night as well. This is not something that simply eating more will put right. From the TCM perspective, body-qihas got so out of balance that information-qiis no longer able to do its job. In this situation, so-called greed is really misplaced need. In contrast, when theqiis strong and...

    • Natural Body Functions
      (pp. 130-131)

      ALL NATURAL BODY FUNCTIONS have a purpose. Just as a home needs chimneys and drains, so the body needs to keep its internal environment clean and healthy. When we need to belch or pass wind, it is because the air needs to be released. To hold back will only cause indigestion, chest pain, or cramps. If passing wind causes a smell, rather than feeling embarrassed it is better privately to congratulate your body on having successfully rid itself of toxins! The smell produced by this cleansing process soon passes, in any case. Another instance is when the stomach gurgles. People...

    • Medicinal Plants
      (pp. 132-135)

      SOME MEDICINAL PLANTS have a place in traditional western medicine. The common foxglove, orDigitalis, for example, contains an active constituent widely prescribed for the treatment of certain heart conditions. In China almost all foods, plants, and herbs have a place in the medical pharmacopoeia, with more than five thousand preparations. Over as many thousand years, there have been detailed studies of their medicinal properties, their effect onqiand the meridians, and their beneficial and toxic properties. For minor ailments, certain plants can be used singly. On most occasions, accurate mixing of a number of plants is required depending...

    • Drinking Alcohol: Vice or Virtue?
      (pp. 136-138)

      NO DRINK HAS ATTRACTED more praise and greater condemnation than alcohol. Mankind has used alcohol since the ancient discovery of the natural fermentation of sugars by yeast. Alcohol has been used in China medically as well as socially for over four thousand years. Consequently, its effects for good and ill have been closely investigated, with the result that from the TCM perspective there are very clear rules about the right way and the wrong way to drink.

      Li Shizhen, a famous physician during the Ming dynasty, pronounced, “Wine is indeed a delicious drink bestowed by Heaven. Drinking it properly helps...

    • Qi and Sex
      (pp. 139-144)

      SEX BETWEEN a woman and a man offers a life-giving exchange ofyinandyang, resulting in a strongqi, resistance to illness, and an increased longevity. These benefits occur when the right conditions are fulfilled. If sex is used carelessly, or in excess, we are warned that far from improving health, we will be risking illness and a shortening of life expectancy.

      For more than two thousand years, Daoists have held that sex should take place within a stable and loving relationship. In 1978, research was carried out in China in the district of Bamaxian, famous for its long-lived...

    • Traveling with Ease
      (pp. 145-148)

      ALL OUR LIVES we are immersed in environment-qi,and any major disturbance of it is bound to affect us. This needs to be taken into account when we travel. Storms, high winds, lightning, heavy rain, or fog all occur when the balance of theyinandyangof the climate is temporarily disturbed. Because of modern technology, we take less notice of these fluctuations in environment-qithan did our forebears. Sitting warm and dry in a car or plane insulates us from the power of the elements, and we may feel secure in our comfort. At the same time, we...

    • Keeping Your Home from Harm
      (pp. 149-150)

      JUST AS YOUR MIND dwells within the body, so your body dwells in your home. It therefore follows you should treat your home with the same care and respect that you give your body and apply the same principles of good sense and moderation. Your home should be pleasantly warm and dry. If the weather is fine, windows should be left open so that fresh air can circulate freely. When the weather is poor, at least open the windows for a short while morning and evening (and lunchtime if you are staying in during the day). Dampness and draughts render...

    • Preparing for Sleep
      (pp. 151-154)

      ANIMALS VARY IN THE AMOUNT of sleep they need, from none, as with dolphins, to cats that spend more time asleep than awake. Humans spend up to one third of their lives sleeping, but there is a good deal of individual variation. Some people thrive on only four or five hours a night while others need eight hours or more. What really matters is the quality. Waking from sleep, whether it be four or eight hours, and finding yourself still tired and listless means that the sleep has been shallow and the body has not been replenished.

      There has been...

    • Enjoy Aging with the Help of Your Qi
      (pp. 155-158)

      IN SHITOU SHAN, a remote village in the Liaoning province of China, lives a man called Li Xiangyang. Li is often out and about on his bicycle. He is sound of wind and limb and walks with a straight back and a firm step. His eyes are keen, his hearing acute, his voice strong, and his mind clear. He worked for most of his life as a laborer and builder. Now retired, he continues to exercise, going for walks three times a day throughout spring, summer, and autumn. Li’s home, which he keeps clean and tidy, is simple in character...

  10. Postscript
    (pp. 159-162)

    NOW THAT YOU HAVE READ this book, pause and reflect on what you have learned. Can you recognize yourself in these pages? If so, what changes do you need to make to your life?

    This book has been written so that you can know, even before visible illness has occurred, how to be well and stay well. The inspiration for the book came from patients who, on recovering their health, suggested that such a book could make a big difference to the lives of friends and family. Many have said that if only they had known about these things before,...

  11. Index
    (pp. 163-168)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 169-174)