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 Lao-Tzu and Confucious

The Ancient Chinese Art of Healing

By George Mera

First part

Just as your mind is self-regulated by two hemispheres of the brain, the Chinese mind was influenced and balanced by two great thinkers Lao Tzu and Confucius; the left side of our brain is practical, goal oriented, restless, analytical, logical and pragmatic.  It organizes the complicated puzzle that is our lives, reminding us to plan, organize, predict the future, to not waste time and to avoid becoming a failure.

The right side of the brain is metaphysical, creative, religious and artistic.  This side of the brain likes to wander and it is more contemplative.  When this part is prevalent in your life, you are preoccupied with the incorporeal, supernatural aspect of life and contemplating who you really are.  So your behavior probably will be a little bit impractical to move forward since you are always looking for harmony, justice, and beauty in life.

People influenced by the left side of the brain will accuse the ones influenced by the right side of being vague, daydreamers and underachievers.  The right-brain people will accuse the other side of being obsessed with what they don't have and living for the future, which is a hoax, thus missing the magic of the present moment.

Confucius was a great organizer, he promoted rituals and ethical behaviors in family and society, he introduced a hundred and thirteen rites or rules, he assigned the proper placement of people in public ceremonies according to with their ranks and importance; obviously Confucianism was a great help for the rulers of the time who can use his organization in order to control people, so if you are a practical individual and anxiously trying to climb the ladder of success you will be considered a Confucian.

On the other hand, Lao Tzu's teachings cannot help any group to control another, they are irrational, obscure and apparently in contradiction.  If you are a bohemian, monk, artist or a bum you are following the teaching of Lao Tzu, as he taught to stay on the path of less resistance, to be like a valley which is humble. That is in contradiction with the world teachings that you have to be like a mountain peak to be extraordinary, superior to excel. In Taoism, there is nothing more extraordinary than an ordinary man because for a normal person the goal is to be extraordinary and special.  Taoists want you to relax, to slow down, to smell the flowers and to enjoy a simple and natural life.

Most of the knowledge that Chinese people developed 500 BC was realized with the Lao Tzu's mind, with the right part of the brain, and completed with the left.  To understand this concept, imagine a dark room with two types of light, the spotlight which focuses with intensity on a small surface and it is difficult to see the rest of the room; and the floodlight that focuses on a bigger surface but it is difficult to see the details of things.

All our education has been conducted to focus on the spotlight; pay attention, how much information can you retrieve, how smart you are.  But you only specialized in a particular area of knowledge and if you scratch the veneer of the understanding of reality, you will find out that you really don't know much about who you are; on the other hand all the knowledge that they discovered was with the floodlight observing a bigger surface, the interweaving of all phenomena.

How do you think your organs work?  They work because there is a part of your brain that makes them work and is automatic and some people believe there is nothing you can do about it.  If you have good organs you are lucky, otherwise, the doctor is going to take care of you.  For Taoist or Lao Tzu's followers that part of the brain is accessible to us.   If you quiet down and meditate thus we can influence our most intricate internal functions with the conscious mind and discover the profound and hidden connection of humankind with nature.  This will allow us to be in harmony with what the rest of the universe is doing, to arrive at the realization that total knowledge is impossible and life will always be a mystery.

Hua Hu Ching is a book that compiled the understanding of human nature around 500 BC; the translation of the title is "Classic of Converting the Barbarians".  This book, as many other spiritual ones in the Eastern tradition, is a dialog between a student and a master; in this case, the master is Lao Tzu and the student a prince.  Some people speculated that the son of a king was Gautama Siddhartha or Buddha.

This speculation created bad blood between Taoist and Buddhist in the fourteen century resulting in the burning of all the copies of the Hua Hu Ching.  Nevertheless, the oral transmission of the book remained in Taoist circles and after many centuries it was rewritten.  I must add that the introduction of Buddhism to China happened with no resistance.  Taoism didn't have any disagreement with the teachings of Buddha because Tao and Dharma are basically the same.

Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Zoroaster, Heraclitus, Empedocles, and Mahavir Jayanti all lived in 500 BC. Their teachings have many things in common; for sure Lao Tzu and Confucius crossed paths at least one time in their lives.  The same with Buddha and Mahavir Jayanti (founder of Jainism) these two last men had many similarities in their lives being both princes, equally enlightened and traveling the same lands for decades spreading their teachings to basically the same people.

The Hua Hu Ching has 81 chapters, like the Tao Te Ching, the other book attributed to Lao Tzu. The book in chapter 55 enumerated the 17 Ways to maintain longevity, create balance and obtain enlightenment.

This article will explain in general each of the 17 Ways described in chapter 55.  All these principles can be incorporated in your daily life.  In all my years as a teacher I have found that many people are afraid of getting involved in any of these practices because they believe that the concepts are very difficult to understand, they involve a certain kind of indoctrination or that you have to adhere to certain occult dogma.  I am going to explain simply the 17 Ways to promote longevity so you can understand and apply some or all these principles to live a longer, healthier and happier existence.

1. Yi Yau, the healing science that incorporates diagnosis, acupuncture, herbal medicine, therapeutic diet, and other methods.  

In the old days, doctors used to see hundreds of people every day.  They had to be fast in diagnosing the patient's disorder as soon as they walked at the door.  They were looking for signs of misalignment in the extremities, the texture, and color of the skin, the brightness of the eyes and the breathing pattern.  These observations were done just prior to the doctor examining the tongue and mouth and taking the pulse to listen to the energy of the meridians.

Doctors could predict with accuracy what kind of sickness will appear when seasons come too early or too late.  They observed human behavior according to the heavenly movements of the stars.  They knew the importance of tuning with the environment for our health, realizing that the body is not just the physical aspect but is working in relationship with the cycles of the terrestrial and celestial forces.

Diagnosis is one of the most important parts of the prescription of any treatment.  For some doctors reading the pulse, depending on the patient could be time-consuming.  There are internal and external factors which disturb homeostasis.  The externals are excessive heat or cold, hot or cold wind, and dampness; although the symptoms could be the same the treatment is different.

Doctors listen to the subtle pulse of the meridians in both wrists, in the left side, the heart, liver, and kidney.  If you press a little deeper you can find the corresponding meridians, small intestine, gall bladder, and bladder; in the right hand the lung, spleen, and kidney.  With deeper pressure are the large intestine, stomach and triple warmer ( Chinese medicine divided the torso into three parts upper torso heart and lungs, the second part stomach, spleen, liver, the third part intestines, reproductive organs; these three parts have a different temperature and regulates the glandular and chemical part of you).

There are so many books explaining the pulse reading.  The most important is the Ma Jing, a diagnosis text of the late Han dynasty (206 BC-24 AD).  The author Wa Shu-Hei has mentioned 28 different pulses.

You don't need to learn how to read your pulse but you can learn how to observe your body for some symptoms.  Not to become paranoid or hypochondriac, but to observe any abnormal changes in your physical body or your behavior and don't allow this anomaly to become chronic.  Chinese doctors believe that any problem becomes chronic after seven days and even if you heal a chronic condition you pay a bigger price for that.

We have two kinds of Chi, congenital and acquired.  Congenital Chi is in your genes.  It tells you how long are you are going to live and for what diseases you are susceptible and eventually, under attack, you will cease to exist.  Acquired Chi comes from the food and air you take in (Chi is encapsulated in the air).

So don't let any problem become chronic.  That doesn't mean that you go immediately to the doctor but first try your grandmother's recipes, use heat or cold treatments or rest.  When you cure of a chronic condition you use your congenital Chi thus over time shortening your life by weakening your system and organs.

Acupuncture is an ancient art.  There some explanations about its origins, one is that some soldiers wounded in battle by arrows were cured of chronic afflictions that were otherwise untreated.  Hieroglyphs and pictographs have been found dating from the Shang Dynasty (1600-1100 BCE).

The museum of acupuncture in Xian displays needles made of stone.  These needles were used to press the acupuncture points more than piercing.  Nine types of needles are mentioned in the yellow Emperor Classic of Internal medicine.  Some needles found in archeological excavations were made of bronze, copper, tin, gold, and silver.

Acupuncture is necessary when chi (vital energy) is stuck or is running too fast in some of the meridians.  Just as the earth has meridians, so the body has twelve vessels than correspond to the Zang- Fu organs; Zang (Yin organs) Fu (Yang organs).  There are also eight extraordinary channels that are called prenatal since they helped to form your body, and also many hundreds of collateral vessels.

Acupuncture was considered a myth by western science until recent times when scientist find out that the channels exist and validated this millennium activity so it is now accessible to anybody.  Even insurance companies cover this treatment.  It is commonly used for addictions, pain release, energy boosting and sleep disorders, especially for people whose bodies cannot tolerate conventional medicine.

An alternative for people who are afraid of needles is to use acupressure, called Tui Na which can be as effective as acupuncture.  This technique in Japan is called Shiatsu.  If you suffer from migraines, use the acupuncture points in a self-massage.

Herbal medicine has been mostly abandoned in China for the more practical use of western pills.  The traditional use of herbs is a time-consuming activity and the taste is not pleasant.  The advantage is that the combination of herbs is balanced by the five elements of transformation of energy: Fire creates Earth, Earth creates Metal, Metal creates Water and Water creates wood (vegetation). These elements counteract each other as well.  Water destroys Fire, Metal destroys wood, Earth destroys water, Fire destroys Metal and Wood destroys Earth.

 Each of the Zang and Fu organs is assigned by one element being the Zang organs Yin (solid) and Yang (empty). Fire is the heart and small intestine; Earth - Spleen and Stomach; Metal - Lung and Large Intestine, Water - Kidney and Bladder, Wood - Liver and Gallbladder.

So, for instance, you are suffering from a liver (Wood) affliction, this disorder could be originated for two reasons:  You have too much energy or not enough in your liver meridian.  If the energy is excessive the condition is Yang and the treatment will focus on your Lung meridian because Lung is metal and metal cuts wood.  If you don't have enough energy the emphasis will be in your kidney meridian since water promotes wood.

But focusing in one particular organ it might create an imbalance in the other organs and meridians so consequently, the herbal formula will incorporate all five elements within to harmonize all the organs without affecting the others because in essence medicine is a poison that fights another poison.  It never gives you health.  The correct use of these seventeen arts will give you health and longevity.

Medicine is a toxin that, kept it in the body for a prolonged time, will eventually contribute to the destruction of that which it was originally intended to protect.  In the old days in China, a good doctor will never give you a medicine that you take for the rest of your life but will look for the reason of the disease, your behavior, and habits.

If your energy is weak it will affect the quality and enjoyment of your life so there are some good proven Chinese formulas to enhance your Chi while you naturally keep cultivating your vital energy.   Ching Chun Bao is a combination of herbs that has been used for thousands of years.  A formula with different proportions of the ingredients was discovered in the excavation in Xian of the terracotta soldiers dating from 210 BC and was discovered by a farmer in 1974 changing the potency of the old formula.  Another product is Royal Jelly which is the food exclusively reserved for the queen bee.  When a queen is dying three of the larvae are fed with Royal Jelly so they become queens and in a fight, only one will survive.  In essence, all larva are the same, they become workers or soldiers but only the ones fed with Royal Jelly will become queens, it makes them bigger and lives longer.

Another marvelous product to enhance Chi comes from Peru.  It is called Maca, a root similar to the potato.  It grows high in the Andes where no other crop will grow due to the harsh climate and poor soil.  Nevertheless, Maca is a complete food has all the nutrients that the body needs, enhancing your glandular functions and the chemical part of you.

                               Maca, Royal Jelly & Chin Chun Bao                        

                                                         Click for Maca info

The therapeutic diet was used as way to heal.  Anything that you eat can heal you or kill you.  The proper combination of the Four properties or natures of Chinese medicinal herbs should be maintained in your diet: cold, hot, warm and cool, and the five flavors: sour, sweet, bitter, pungent and salty.  The correct balance will maintain you health.  Inside some special restaurants in China doctors read your pulse to prescribe a menu to be prepared for you according with what you need.

Foods that have a pungent flavor can act on the lungs and large intestine; foods with a sweet flavor       on the stomach and spleen; food with sour flavor on the liver and gall bladder; food with a bitter flavor on the heart and small intestine; foods that have a salty flavor can act on the kidneys and bladder.

Pungent foods (ginger, green onion and peppermint) can induce perspiration and promote energy circulation.

Sweet foods (honey, sugar and watermelon) can slow down the acute symptoms and neutralize the toxic effects of other foods. Sour foods (lemon and plum) can obstruct the movements and are useful, therefore, in checking diarrhea and excessive perspiration.

Bitter foods, such as animals' gall bladder and hops, can reduce body heat, dry body fluids and induce diarrhea (which is why many Chinese herbs recommended for reducing fever and inducing diarrhea taste bitter).

Salty foods (kelp and seaweed) can soften hardness, which explains their usefulness in treating tuberculosis of the lymph nodes and other symptoms involving the hardening of muscles or glands.

In addition, some foods have a light flavor or little taste. These foods normally have two flavor classifications. Cucumber, for example, has sweet and light flavors. Foods with a light flavor promote urination and may be used as diuretics.

My advice is to experiment with a variety of foods to find out what is proper for your constitution.  Many years ago I would always have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.  After eating it I would always feel lethargic and with a sensation of nausea so I decided to experiment with different foods.  I tried only one fruit every day, and drew my conclusions the same with every type of flour in the bread and with lunch and dinner.  After the experiment I got back to oatmeal, this was an Aha! moment , the nausea got back, my mother with good intentions always fed me with oatmeal and according with all the experts is good for everybody but just not for me.  Listen to what your body is telling you; be conscious of the quality of Chi in the food you eat.  If the food is overly processed all the enzymes are killed and that product has no Chi and will be a burden on your system. 

On my most recent trip to China I had the good fortune to train for 15 days in Chenjiagou located in Henan province, a small farming town of 3000 people.  This village is the birth place of Tai Chi Chuan  and it is mandatory in the schools to learn it from early age, so most people are very skillful in Tai Chi including the cook of the school I was staying at.  He was a character.  He begins his day at four in the morning practicing before everybody wakes up, sometimes in the late evenings he will do pushing hands ( two persons training routine) with us in a hidden place since he was not allowed to teach, but his skills were outstanding.

The food was simple and mostly vegetarian.  Some people were not happy, complaining about the lack of protein considering that we practiced an average of eight hours or more a day.  We all ate together Chinese style; I was cautioned by many people in America to be extra careful with what you eat, the cleanliness and the water. I had brought along much medicine just in case.  Although sanitation was not in the standards you would wish to have and some Chinese students will stick their chopsticks in a table bowl that we shared, none of the 40 people got sick and unlike most places in China nobody was coughing.

When I arrived to the school I was giving a metal bowl for my meals, so as soon as I could I bought a porcelain one since the element which I was born under is wood and metal cut the wood.  The cook noticed that and approached me and asked through an interpreter why I was using porcelain.  Following my explanation he told me he also studied Chinese medicine and his meals were perfectly balanced with the five elements, four properties and five flavors and that I shouldn't worry, I have never been more energetic and my stomach has never worked better than in those 15 days in Chenjiagou.

2. The second of the 17 Ways is Syang Ming, the science which predicts a person's destiny by observing the outward physical manifestations of his face, skeleton, palms, and voice.

The difference between human beings and animals is that we are conscious, that we are not only happy but know that we are happy.  If an animal lose one of its legs it will continue with their life.  It wouldn't try to reattach it, he is not conscious of the past or future he is in the present moment.  This consciousness makes us superior to animals and more miserable than them because we can predict things and this make us aware that one day we are going to die.  This in turn makes us very anxious and life turns in an impossible war against death, but the avoiding of death is ultimately death.  Life is the acceptance of death, making peace with the fact that we are all going to leave our bodies, realizing in fact, that death can become your friend.

So we are living for the future knowing that really there is no future.  This struggle for surviving affects your outward physical manifestations; people are obsessed with the future, with what is going to happen so it is common to go to the fortune teller, the astrologer and the Tarot reader.

If you go to a fortune teller all excited about an important decision you want to make, he will read your external signs in a positive way since your energy was uplifting and contagious. If your question shows a sign of hesitation and pessimism your reading will be negative.  What the fortune teller is reading is the vibration you are emitting.  Positive vibrations make you breathe deeper, your position will be upright and maybe your face will emboss a smile.  Other people carry all the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Mind, body and emotions are one thing.  Whatever affects your body affects your mind and vice versa. Your emotions are part of you as your hands are.  Permanent emotional imbalance or contentment in life can be manifested in the physical body and that vibration can also be stored in your organs or muscles.

As proof, for a month be kind with yourself, read only uplifting books, don't watch the news, eat slowly delicious food prepared with love, dance or do gentle exercises, watch your expression and soften your face, keep the proper alightment of your skeleton system and work on your voice how it sounds and what you say.  After the month notice if anything is different.  Nothing in life is permanent and life is continually changing.  Some of the Qi Gong exercises focus in the four ways to bring an inner smile. The first smile comes from the corner of your eyes to the Lower Dan Tien (below the navel), the second from your eyes, the third from the upper jaw to the bottom of your ribs, the fourth from the corner of your mouth to the kidneys.

What Chinese doctors were reading in your face, hands and voice was the book of your life; how these events positive or negative marked your life.  All these repetitions of gestures and movements left a mark in your outlook, so with deep understanding and compassion, recommendations were suggested to change your destiny.

The person who started reading this article is dead now.  Who is reading this now is a new person and tomorrow you will be another.  Life and death happen simultaneously like day and night.  Every inhalation is a rebirth; every exhalation could be the last, so maintain everything new.  Don't put an automatic pilot in your life; be always aware.  Awareness is a field of sensations, textures, smells, vibrations and thoughts, the more you are aware the more you will be amazed.


3. Feng-Shui, the science of discerning the subtle energy rays present in a geographic location to determine whether they will properly support the activities of a building or town constructed there.    

In China, it would be unthinkable to construct a house without consulting a Feng-Shui expert. The translation of Feng-Shui is water and wind, so during millions of years, water and wind have eroded the mountains and valleys and give the shape that they have. Chinese people refer to the mountains as dragons, so if you construct your house in a place that Chi is not flowing or too close to the tail or head of the dragon, you are exposed to decay, corrosion and death.

Your energy vibrates according to the vibration of your surroundings, sometimes you go to a different city and things go your way, getting things for free, everything runs smoothly and your stay is pleasant; in other places every relationship is incorrect and all the events are essentially wrong; your personal energy in some cases can harmonize with the energy of the place but in other cases you are in conflict with nature.  There are some mystical places on earth where the gates of heaven are open.

The year you were born determines what you have in your heart, what animal in the Chinese Zodiac you belong to.  You captured the essence and vibration of the earth in a particular time and space; you are the encapsulation of a moment in the earth's ancient cycle. For that reason, you are compatible with other cycles of the earth, with other people who encapsulate different vibrations.  Since all phenomena are yin and yang you might also find an aversion to other people, inexplicable hate with no apparent reason.

The succession of the New Year in Chinese tradition is based on the lunar calendar, Yin, the cycles of the moon.  The New Year is in January or February, there are twelve months in the year, and the cycles are based in twelve years.  Each of the years is assigned to a different animal; each animal has to pass through each element.  For example, the tiger has to have a fire tiger, earth tiger, metal tiger, water tiger, wood tiger.  For all the animals to complete all the elements it would take sixty years.

In the old days when parents wanted to marry one of their children, they will hire an expert in Chinese Zodiac, finding the compatible animal for their child.  The spouses would meet at the wedding ceremony; they had never seen a portrait of the consort.  What mattered was the well-matched vibration of energy, the acceptance of the weakness of the partner and the ability to support each other and matches were usually for life.

There are two schools of Feng-Shui.  The old school will use a compass called Lo-Pan, a sophisticated device that can calculate the combination of the twelve terrestrial branches and the ten celestial stems.  Humans, like the earth, have these branches and stems and Chinese believe that when a person comes to this world with a handicap there is a deficiency in one of this celestial stems.

The Lo-Pan is the reflection of heaven and earth.  It is like an ancient computer having 36 rings, reading above the constellations which are twenty-eight mansions organized in groups of four:  Red Phoenix, White Tiger, Black Turtle, and Green Dragon.  It also contains a compass pointing south with 24 directions.

It is necessary to enhance the four most auspicious corners and minimize the four disastrous corners. Every person has different corners, according to the year you were born.  There are some ways to calculate this.  It is called the Kua number (it is calculated based on your gender and date of birth) so many people living in a house could have different auspicious doors etc.  The intention is to create harmony in the house for everybody living in it.  Everything could be corrected and there are certain devices to be placed, like mirrors, statues, plants, wind chimes, etc.

The new school basically divides your house into designated areas, like the corner of wealth.  For example, when you enter a Chinese restaurant you can see in the left corner a fish tank or some plants called the money plants such as the Crassula Ovata or jade tree and also Pachira Aquatica that looks like a braided Bonsai.  These plants and the tank will retain the money especially if you have a door nearby.  The other corners are fame, marriage, children, helpful people, carrier, knowledge, and family.

A friend of mine who is a master in Chinese arts, Augustine Fong, told me a story of a person he knew who had great luck and became wealthy late in life, so he built a house of his dreams.  He didn't ask for advice from Augustine but he invited him for the house inauguration.  Then he asked my friend what do you think.  Augustine, an honest person, told him to sell the house and move.  He didn't follow the advice.  In less than six months he was dead and his kids started to eat each other raw for the inheritance.  I asked Augustine, "Being you an expert why didn't you resolve the problem?"  He said it was not possible; he became too rich; he built his house in the wrong mountain.  You can't move a mountain as you can't move a burial ground.

So if things are not going your way since you moved to a new place or your luck has never been good in the place you always lived, consider moving to a different place or rearrange your house, consult an expert or get some information.  Corrections are not difficult

4. Fu Kua, the observation of the subtle alterations of yin and yang for the purpose of making decisions that are harmonious with the apparent and hidden aspects of a situation. The foundation of Fu Kua and of all Taoist practice is the study of the I-Ching, or Book of Changes.

I-Ching has been my best friend for many years.  It does not always say what I want to hear but rather makes you reflect and see the situation from another perspective and with practice is a tool in which you can trust.  It is your inner voice, your subconscious mind. The I-Ching is called the book of changes of the eternal truth.  Every phenomenon in life is never static.  It is constantly growing, modifying and dying.  Our thoughts and moods change according to the cycles that we have in life.

In the old days, people who were trying to resolve some dilemma in their lives will consult a sage.  The sage will throw some straws on the floor and will tell the person what to do and this act was interpreted for some people as magical divination; in recent times Confucius explained how the I-Ching works.

There are 8 elements in the world:  heaven, earth, lake, fire, thunder, wind, water, and mountain

Each element is represented by three horizontal lines called trigrams, based on Yin and Yang.  The solid line will be considered Yang, the broken line Yin.  The combination of two trigrams creates a hexagram; heaven could be over the lake, water over heaven, etc.  You ask a question and throw the I-Ching coins or straws six times to form a hexagram.  Some of the hexagrams could have moving lines, which means that you would have another hexagram, hence two answers.

The corresponding structure of the lines can make the foundation, middle or top of the hexagram weak or strong.  There are 64 possible combinations which embody all the possible situations in which our psyche can be immersed in life to make a decision, so the I-Ching will help you to see the situation from another angle like you see it from above so you can make the appropriate changes.

So how do the I-Ching works?  Remember the floodlight; in essence, your subconscious mind is infinitely wiser than any person you met than any book you read.  You already have the answer to your question.  Your mind has already read the book and will guide you to your appropriate answer.

So the I-Ching will make you reflect upon any doubt that you have in your life so the wisdom that you already possess will flower.  The communication with your subconscious mind will be one of the masters and the student.  Your natural instinct will improve to detect when the situation can turn dangerous or into an opportunity.  It is not an accident to be at the right time at the right place; your natural wisdom guides you always to the positive if you listen.

Get one of the more understandable copies of the I-Ching if it is complicated for you to read.  If you don't feel an immediate connection with it don't buy it.  Always use your instinct to buy something.   There is a good book about first impressions entitled "Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell.  His contention is that over-thinking an issue or problem can lead to?Analysis Paralysis'.

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