Chinese medicine has simple principles of living that anyone can understand and follow. We hope you put them to practical use. You probably know many of them already, since most are simple common sense.
These are ideals and ways of looking at things. And they are flexible and subject to modification. They are not rigid. They in no way indicate that anyone or any one group, even the Chinese or ourselves, truly follow them, especially not all the time! But we still present them here as good time tested ideas for the current world.
EXTREMES TURN INTO THEIR OPPOSITES
The Chinese teach the principles of yin and yang. Yin is the water principle-such things as meditation, inactivity, peace, death, containment, reflection. Yang is the opposite-the fire principle- such phenomena as being scattered, disorganization, activity, light, anger, restlessness, growth, active play. You can see that each has positive and negative aspects. The principle is this: too much yang turns into yin; too much yin turns into yang. Fire can burn itself out; still water can stagnate. Each extreme causes death. A balance between them causes life. In your own life, did you ever meet someone who worked 80 hours per week (yang) and then got sick and lay in bed for weeks (yin). Or, a professor who was so smart as to be dumb? Or, someone with no formal education who was wise? Or a child who was so active he fell?
WE NEED BALANCE
The Chinese believed health was achieved through balancing yin and yang. We can illustrate this with the Chinese view of emotions. Excitement is an extreme emotion. The Chinese believed excitement was a pathogen. It would follow that after a period of excitement (yang), a period of depression (yin) would follow. You can watch to see if this is true. The healthy emotion, the Chinese teach us, is simple joy. Appreciating your day, your body and how it moves, eating an orange, looking at a flower, playing with your dog (or cat). Being able to appreciate life this way comes from balance. Simple joy that we are all born with from our childhood is an emotion which helped us strive and give us confidence through play to grow us into adults. But we still need simple joy as adults too, as we never stop growing if we are healthy.
WE ARE LIKE A GARDEN; NOT A MACHINE
The body is more like a plant growing than a machine. We are born with varying degrees of the life force and we are all unique, just like no two plants are alike. There is a force or energy the Chinese called Qi, (we don't have a directly translatable name for it in English) which we can't see which causes us to be born, to grow, and to be healthy, just as a plant grows toward the sun and we can't see the "force" that makes that happen, but we know it is there. Scientifically, physics demonstrates the presence of many different types of "energies." The life energy within us strives toward health. If not, the acupuncturist and the patient together try to determine what is wrong with the balance. We then help to nourish the person's own healing strengths or to remove any stagnation in the body or the environment which may be impeding the natural flow of the person's life.
FOOD IS THE BASIS OF CHINESE MEDICINE
Not Chinese herbs; not acupuncture; not medication. If we don't have a solid foundation through nourishing food it is difficult to sustain health both physically and emotionally. Good food replenishes us and makes us strong and resistant.
WE NEED REST
In addition to the activity of life, we also need rest and regular and decent sleep.
WE NEED EXERCISE
Even the human brain was developed through motion. Exercise has an effect on both the body and the mind and the immune system. It also affects pain.
EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED
Our minds are connected to our bodies; the food from the earth with our health; our communities and families with the rest of the world's communities and families and with nature. In other words, what we do affects our world. And what others do affects us. No one or thing exists in isolation. This also applies to acupuncture. For example, the Chinese view the knee as connected to the posture and the back. No part of the body is seen in isolation. And neither is the mind. Or the surrounding environment.
WE ARE BORN WITH A FINITE AMOUNT OF LIFE ENERGY
If we waste it, we don't get it back. We need to use it wisely. As we age, our hair falls out and our muscles and joints get stiff if we don't use them. We can replenish our energy, age well, and even slow down the aging process, through positive life practices, such as good food and exercise. Life operates under a "use it or lose it" principle. This includes our brains.
TRUE INTELLIGENCE COMES THROUGH A BALANCE BETWEEN HEART-MIND AND NOT THROUGH LOGIC ALONE
Here is where compassion comes in when making decisions.
YIELDING CAN BE STRONGER THAN BRUTE STRENGTH
A young plant that is flexible and can bend with the winds in a storm can be stronger than a huge stiff tree that snaps with a strong gust of wind. Sometimes yielding to circumstances indicates greater strength than a fight. The behavior of water which flows around a huge rock illustrates this principle.
STILLNESS & SILENCE HAVE VALUE
Since acupuncture is done in silence, this point of view holds particular importance. Giving ourselves periods of silence through acupuncture, meditation, or reflection can lead to all kinds of changes and creativity. Remember yin and yang. Stillness (yin) can lead to activity (yang). When people are treated with acupuncture in a room together meaningful silent communication happens. When we have really good communication with someone, sometimes there is no need to talk. When we are silent we can sometimes better communicate with ourselves. Meditation is good for the brain.
We're all in the same boat here. When we fully realize the frailty and transitory nature of life and circumstances, we are more likely to approach our lives, the lives of others and the nature that sustains life with more wonder, respect and gratitude. We all suffer when good things end. On the other hand, on a more positive note, when things go bad for us, it won't last forever! A comforting thought. Flexibility and compassion are some of the keys to dealing with change.