The Yellow Emperor asked the heavenly teacher: “I have heard that people in ancient times had lived as long as one hundred and twenty years with no sign of weakening in movement, but people nowadays become weakened in their movements in the age of less than sixty years old Is this due to a change in natural environments or due to man’s faults?’ ‘Chi-Po replied:
“The ancient people who knew the proper way to live had followed the pattern of Yin and Yang which is the regular pattern of Heaven and Earth; eating and drinking in moderation, living their daily lives in a regular pattern with neither excess nor abuse. One should live a quiet life with few desires so that he could retain his true energy and his internal spirits which are the effective weapons to head off the attack of disease … to maintain an easy-going attitude with few desires, to maintain a peaceful mind without fear, to work hard without fatigue, to retain smooth energy circulation so that the spirit and the body will remain in perfect harmony.” (Su Wen Ch. 1)
Keeping a healthy life style in ancient times didn’t require special attention. Physical activity was part of the daily routine; eating an organic wholesome diet with the local produce that was in season was the only option. Going to sleep when it was dark and waking-up with the first light was the normal way of life as well as living in harmony with the seasons, using natural medicine and living a stress free life.
Nowadays, we have to pay special attention to the way in which we live; jobs are often spent being sedentary in side offices for long hours; the food we eat is not organically grown and often includes additives, refined foods and now includes genetically engineered grains and vegetables. Having light whenever we need it means that many of us go to sleep far too late at night; we are not living in harmony with the seasons; people still use too many medicinal drugs and we all know the long list of things we do or fail to do which cause our stress levels to be very high. Chi-Po has a few things to add to that list:
“people nowadays are quite different, because they intoxicate themselves exorbitantly, replace a normal life with life of abuse, have sexual intercourse while intoxicated, exhausting their pure energy through gratification of their desires, wasting their true energy through careless and prolonged consumption, failing to retain their energy in abundance and to guard their spirits constantly, rushing to the gratification of their heart to the contrary of the true happiness of life.”
Technology, comfortable houses, electricity, cars, medicine, are all natural progression of human beings and it could not have been any different, but the advantages have their dis-advantages; diseases such as MS, ME, Cancer and Aids might be as a result of the life style we live. The high stress level in our lives which was really meant to be more comfortable and stress free weakens the immune system and compromises health. It is important that we pay attention to healthy living by keeping the immune system strong and the other body systems and organs functioning well. This will determine not only our quality of life and health but also our children’s and in turn their children’s health.
Many people suffer from symptoms that are a result of their life style. Migraine, for example, often relates to high stress levels usually caused by a busy life-style, too much alcohol and/or coffee, eating the wrong sort of food (chocolate, food high in additives, dairy products). Most people are not aware of the implication this has on their health and even if they do they cannot always change their job to reduce the stress. It is not necessary to make drastic changes in order to improve the quality of life. It would be beneficial to create the changes before symptoms appear by turning them into one’s daily routine. There are many things one can do to improve their health. Below are a few examples:
Diet: The food we eat has a direct and major effect on our health. Vegetables and meat should be organic and by that I mean free of chemicals and not genetically engineered! The way the vegetables are cooked is important as different ways of cooking will affect their nutritional value and will change their energetic quality (e.g. from cold to warm).
Drinks: Special attention needed to be paid to what we drink. Water is best for us and should be drunk at room temperature. Herbal teas are also good and can be chosen according to the symptoms; camomile is good for insomnia, stress, headaches, hyperactivity and teething in babies; peppermint is helpful with digestive problems and nausea and there are many more teas to choose from. Alcohol is acceptable in moderation, but for certain people it would be better to avoid it all together. Soft drinks should also be kept to a minimum, as they are full of additives and sugar. Coffee and tea should be kept to a minimum as they contain caffeine and are therefore stimulating. People with headache, high blood pressure, eczema and stress should avoid them.
Exercise: This is always a sensitive issue. We all know the physical benefits of exercise; they improve circulation by stimulating the blood flow and strengthen the immune system by improving the lymphatic and energy flow throughout the body. It strengthens the muscles, keeps the body flexible and mobile and relaxes and stimulates the mind. It also helps to control body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Many people however are still reluctant to participate as they find exercise too much like hard work and boring.
Remember yourself as a child playing outside, and how your body felt then; full of vitality and enjoying the freedom that comes with the movement. That is the motivation for exercising. Find something that will make you smile and really enjoy doing, which will give you a sense of well-being e.g. dancing, skating, trampoline jumping, walking, gardening, cycling, golf, yoga or Tai Qi. You don’t have to become an exercise freak, but you do need to exercise regularly.
Sleep: With electricity available at the touch of a switch, it is not surprising that night – time has turned into an active time for most people. The darkness outside shows that all activities should stop. It is time to reflect on the day that has passed and restore the energy for tomorrow. According to the Chinese it is important to go to sleep before 1 1pm as the energy then starts a new cycle around the meridians which restore the energy reservoirs in the body. If you are a late sleeper, try going to sleep before 1 1pm for a week and see if it does make a difference to your energy levels during the day.
Meditation: It means sitting quietly and focusing on the in and out breath for twenty minutes a day. It is a time where all the ‘doing’, ‘running’ and ‘thinking’ stops. Just connect with the breath and therefore with yourself. Coming back to now, to the present and to your body and mind in the present. Meditation is not done to fill a gap within oneself but to overcome the obstacles that stop you from feeling as a whole.
Medications: Medications here include medicinal drugs, vaccinations, pleasure drugs and smoking. They should all be kept to a minimum as they often have side effects and energy wise they create dampness, dryness, cold and/or heat that obstruct the flow of energy in the meridian system.
Many common symptoms such as insomnia, depression, headaches, muscle pain, bowel problems, fevers, menopausal symptoms and many more are often treated with drugs. All symptoms are an indication of an internal imbalance and taking the medication will just give temporary relief. This will encourage one to ignore the problem, which can only lead to further symptoms developing in the future. Fevers for example, unless there is a real threat of fatality or fits, burn out the dross of disease and have a cleansing action on the body.
Sex: Sexual intercourse draws energy from the deepest resources within the body, the essence that relates to the energy of the kidney. This is especially applicable to men as women use this energy in pregnancy and birth. If one feels tired after intercourse it is advisable to cut down on his/her sexual activity for a while and concentrate on building up the body’s energy by taking the above advice. Generally speaking intercourse should be kept to a minimum in winter, when tired, drunk, under the influence of drugs or by the elderly.
The illusion is that ‘nothing will happen to me’. People often say they have been doing ‘it’ for years and they feel well. Illness doesn’t come to us randomly, it is the result of what we do or do not do from the moment of birth and conception. When young it is easier for the body to cope with very little sleep and bad diet, but it doesn’t mean that the life style has not had lasting effect, which may show up many years later.
Nowadays we live a very fast life with many diamonds coming from several different directions. Many things have been invented to help us cope, but instead they encourage us to do more and go even faster. It is good to remind ourselves that without our health nothing we do is really meaningful. It is up to the individual to take the responsibility for the quality of life they will live (that is of course within the limitation of the environment; e.g. pollution, quality of water, food etc.).
Galit Hughes has more than 25 years’ experience as an acupuncturist. Having graduated from ICOM in 1993, she also taught Chinese Medicine in Israel after her studies at the International College of Oriental Medicine. As an acupuncturist, Galit now practices and teaches Acupuncture at ICOM.