Tao quote: The Tao does nothing, but leaves nothing undone. If man could observe it, all creations would be transformed by themselves. Lao Tzu Tao Te Cheng quotes (37)
What is the meaning behind this quote? Can we heal the planet by doing nothing? I hope to come back to this quote at the end of my talk to share how it might hold some wisdom on caring for the environment.
What does Traditional Chinese Medicine have to do with caring for the environment? Chinese medical theory stems from philosophical teachings of the Nei jing, an important classic of Taoism. The foundational premise of Chinese Medicine comes from the notion that we need to live in accordance with the rhythms of the universe. Humanity at large remains in good health when they live in balance with nature.
The Chinese didn’t dissect the body. They looked to the environment to find clues as to how the body works. The first principle of Chinese Medicine that I will explain is Five Elements Theory. Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood.
We have a birthing cycle (arrows on outer circle) and a controlling cycle (arrows on the inside of the circle). Each element or organ system is in a constant dynamic relationship with all the other elements. These elements correspond to a direction, a season, a climate, a colour, a taste, a smell, a time of day, an emotion and an organ system. For example fire and water interact in nature, heart and kidney interact in the body. If there is not enough water than fire gets too hot. If there is too much fire than water will dry up. The same balance needs to be maintained between our heart and kidney. Lets translate this into diagnostic strategies in the clinic. Say a man walks into my clinic. Initially I notice his complexion is pale, he has a dry cough, and his demeanour is somber. After a full intake he tells me he has asthma, it is worse in the fall, he suffers from constipation and he has worsened after losing his father 6 months ago. Now lets go back to our 5 element theory and look at the element of Metal. The colour of Metal is white, the season is fall, the emotion is grief, the organ system is lung and large intestine. All these signs together tell me this man has an imbalance in metal.
The question is always how does man live in accordance with this natural cycle? A good start is to adhere to the seasons, the climate, the time of day, the tastes. For example right now the season is fall, the climate is getting cooler, days are getting shorter. Our energy or Qi is beginning to shift inward. In summer our Qi is expansive and moves in an outward direction. In fall our Qi begins to turn inward and slow down. So if we listen carefully our bodies want to naturally follow the rhythms of nature. Our body wants to retire a little earlier, dress a bit warmer, maybe eat more warming vegetables like squash or sweet potatoes (the colours of fall!). To contrast, this is not the time to indulge in cold foods like we can in the hot summer.
Another principle of Chinese Medicine is of course Yin/Yang Theory. Two opposites that mutually control, support and transform into each other. Yin/Yang theory explains patterns, relationships and change, or how things FUNCTION. They explain the continuous process of natural change. Yin/Yang is dynamic, ever changing, like the natural world. Again, in clinic I must determine is the condition Yin or Yang? Internal or External? Cold or Hot? Deficient or Excess? And my treatment plan must seek to return the body to a more balanced state of this natural law.
Lets move from diagnostic strategies to treatment plans. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are
becoming increasing accepted here in the west, and they are the main methods I use in clinic. Another method that a Chinese physician would prescribe is Qi Gong. Qi Gong is a major part of Chinese Medicine. Along with dietary changes the physician would give you Qi Gong exercises to do for healing. If diet and/or Qi Gong didn’t improve the patients condition than the physician would prescribe acupuncture or herbal medicine.
In 2009 I was fortunate enough to meet Master Li Jung Feng. It was then I began my training in Sheng Zhen Gong. Although this Qi Gong was similar in many way to what I had learned in my medical training, it also had some significant differences. Like all Qi Gong it is a self healing technique that increases energy flow. Master Li opened my eyes to a wider perspective. Sheng Zhen Gong is not only a technique, it is a profound message. A message that the world needs now more than ever. The message is we have forgotten our natural state. We are no longer in touch with the truth of who we are. We are out of sync with the rhythms of natural world. Nowadays no one feels satisfied. Our mind are perpetually busy, we spend our time trying to get this or that from the world. We are all full of stress and worry. This constant state of feeling we need something from the world has created a world that is suffering from our incessant need to “take” or “get”.
Through the practice of Sheng Zhen you are able to return to your natural state. Master Li often will say, open the heart and merge with the universe. Through the meditative movements the person is able to set aside their worries, needs, and busy minds. Our minds are so busy trying to get us what we want that we have never stopped to consider is what we want important? or more importantly, is what we want good for us? When you learn to quiet the mind, you learn to listen to the heart. What do our hearts really want? Opening the heart and merging with the universe is returning to our natural state. Our natural state is an intimate relationship with nature. The result of being “out of touch” with our environment has lead us down a path of destruction, not realizing we are also destroying ourselves. How do we get back? Sheng Zhen offers a way back….we rekindle our relationship with nature by quieting the mind so that we can reconnect with nature. So we can “return to oneness” with nature. To refer back to Chinese medical theory, it is the perspective of medical scholars that you are a microcosm of the universe. You are not only a part of nature, but you embody nature. Master Li’s vision is that when you return to your natural state and merge with the universe you empty yourself of all
differences. It is when we recognize our deeper commonalities that we can began to work together for the good of all. Quieting the mind and opening the heart will have a positive effect on your family. When more families calm the mind and open the heart, it will have a positive effect in the community. When more communities calm the mind and open the heart the country will benefit. When more countries can calm the mind and open the heart it will have a positive effect on the world.
Getting back to caring for the environment and the question what can I do? What can I do right now to help change things for the better? The question feels so overwhelming. How can we possibly make a difference? Until we foster that deep connection with nature, our minds will continue to lead us down the path of destruction. A disconnected mind can easily pursue a path of destruction. So the FIRST thing we must do is stop incessantly doing. Slow down. Reconnect. Merge. Become one with nature. Return to our natural state. THEN our actions in the world will cease to be destructive. Did Lao Tzu understand this when he said: The Tao does nothing, but leaves nothing undone. If man could observe it, all creations would be transformed by themselves.
How could we destroy that which we are one with? A good image is the women who is pregnant with her child. She naturally wants to take of herself because in doing so she takes care of her child. The two are mutually existing and thriving together in harmony. We are as intimately connected with nature as mother and child.
If we look at the second part of Lao Tzu quote he seems to say when we observe the “nothingness” we may then transform all of creation. We mustn’t think that we literally do nothing. On the contrary we WILL take action in the world BUT this action will stem from a place that is in harmony with the rhythms of the universe. Master Li teaches that the universe has an abundance of healing energy to offer at any moment. Is is a divine power that gives unconditionally. If and when we harness this power there is no question we will move in a direction that is harmonious with our environment. And quite effortlessly I suspect. A direction that is aligned with the laws of the universe.
Sheng Zhen Gong and/or Eastern philosophy can teach us to change our focus. To move away from that which does not sustain life and move towards a harmony with nature that allows life to thrive. I will leave you with another ancient quote to ponder. “He who masters the true nature of life does not strive after that which is of no use to life”- Chuang Tzu