It’s a warm and lazy summer weekend here so I thought I’d just write a little of my own thoughts and experiences. So there won’t be anything very specifically clinical here. One of the things on my mind lately is the incredible depth of thought and experience of our ancestors. Highlighting this for me was the convergence of two experiences, one from my students, and one from my own personal studies.
Over the last few weeks as we’ve been studying more clinical applications of Five Phase theory in my Nan Jing class, I’ve been hearing from students that they are astounded at the complexity of thinking doctors from 2000 years ago had. One thing the Nan Jing teaches us is that there is more to Five Phase theory than just the rote memorization of basic correspondences. Unfortunately in most modern AOM programs, this is all that we teach of the Five Phases. More complicated theories such as the Ten Celestial Stems and Twelve Earthly Branches are never even mentioned. When we start taking a look at advanced clinical applications of the Five Phases, we see how they can be used in an incredible rich and flexible system of diagnosing and treating the body. And doctors from two millennia ago took the time and had the sensitivity to discover all these complicated body relationships.
Then came yesterday… Fridays and Saturdays are my time to visit my own Shifu to continue my Neigong and Taiji training. Over the last two years or so we have spent most of our time working Taiji, but these last few weeks we returned to some Neigong exercises. Yesterday he taught me a new posture that I had read about but not yet practiced, an exercise called “Golden Needling Pointing South” (金針指南). This posture is a type of Wai Dan Gong (External Dan); the difference between the Nei Dan Gong and Wai Dan Gong being a focus on working internal Qi circulation (for the Nei Dan), or working body relationships with external Qi (for the Wai Dan). Exercising the Golden Needle Point South starts with facing an appropriate direction based on Twelve Heavenly Stems theory, and then holding a standing post position for about 10 minutes. Then, we slowly turn, paying attention to the sensation of facing different geographical directions. The practice is supposed to sensitize us to the Qi of the different directions so that eventually one’s own body becomes sensitive like a compass.
That just blew me away…
I don’t know if this is really possible for me, but I’m almost certain that in ancient times it was possible. As my own acupuncture students have been seeing, in years past people had a lot more time to sit and think. Or, if they were Neidan practitioners, sit and meditate, exercise, or just feel with their own bodies. They didn’t have Netflix, Facebook, or blogs to steal time from practice. As I get older I’m finding that simply taking time to practice is becoming more and more important to me, and more and more meaningful.
On top of that, recently I listened to an NPR story about a group of people without any terms for relative direction; in other words, this group had no words for right or left, or front or back. All they had were absolute direction terms. That means when giving directions they’d always say something like, “go straight ahead, and turn East at the corner,” rather than saying turn left or right. Or they might say something like, “hey watch out! There’s a bee flying on your North near your head,” instead of saying there’s a bee behind you. They pay attention to where they are, no matter where it is, to always know what direction they are facing in absolute geographical terms. Wikipedia mentions some of these groups of people under their Relative Direction article (click here to read).
There are still some mammals that have enough of a magnetic sensitivity that they can use it for orientation and navigation (click here to read some more). So, why not humans in modern times? Whether or not I can actually learn to do this, just the process makes me take time, in a quiet and relaxed manner, to just feel and learn sensitivity to the world around me. In the end that alone is not a bad thing.
I’m going outside to practice more, and I recommend you all do the same. If anyone is in the New Jersey area and wants to come learn Qigong in my classes, please click here to read more.