Today I look at Chinese medicine from a shamanic point of view.
Many years ago I studied Chinese Medicine in China. I lived there for nearly five years, I accumulated about two thousand Chinese books. But I always had the feeling that something was missing.
(It is not- we just have to look deeper)
So I studied with shamans all over the world. Healing matters deeply to me.
I learned about spirit. I learned how spirit is lost and how it is called back.
I learned about intrusions and the spirit of the death that come to haunt us.
I learned about Power Loss.
Most importantly I learned that Shamanic ideas are not alien to Chinese Medicine. They are its very root.
The Wu Shamans of ancient China were women who danced to bring the spirits back.
African Yin Yang
Laozi, the mysterious creator of the Dao De Jing, was a great shaman.
He (she?) wrote a book called: Book about the way and the power.
The Dao De Jing (Tao Te King) most people think to know.
You may want to read this wonderful book again. And again.
The ancient shamanic classic Dao De Jing and a handful or two of acupuncture points are the essentials you need to be a wonderful healer.
This is very little, if you compare this to any other medical system.
Of course it is fun, to know more stuff. I enjoy all kinds of manual techniques or point combinations by famous doctors or herbal medicine and I think so do you.
But the more I accept that healing is the natural way to go, the less I rely on overly complicated interventions.
We do not need to worry out about not knowing enough.
We always do. Knowledge lies deep within.
It is narcissistic thinking that we must be incredibly great to heal people.
We hand over the power to be who we are to other people.
Like this we put incredible pressure on our clients: If they get well, we feel really good and accomplished. If they do not get well or even die, we feel like terrible failures.
Have you ever had a client who told you she felt better, just to make you feel better?
They should not have to do this.
They are on a quest to encounter their own inner healer and we can chose to help them.
We do this by connecting to them.
The ancient Chinese Shaman Laozi says:
“Two give birth to Three. Three give birth to ten-thousand things.”
Three is the magic connection.
Whenever the Magic Three is born, we will feel in your guts what this person needs. Or they will feel it. Something will come up and it will be healing.
Healing does not necessarily mean we will not have to die.
This may be hard to swallow, because we tend to think of medicine as the great warrior against death.
This is another instance of narcissistic thinking and again it does not serve us well.
Fear of Death is a Damaging Belief. We are Immortal anyway.
If we loosen up around death- healing will be much easier.
In Shamanism the world of death is just another place to be.
Let us talk about damaging beliefs.
Some popular damaging beliefs are: I am ugly, I am stupid, I am unworthy.
Cognitive therapies and hypnotherapy try to get rid of these beliefs by understanding them and finding something more useful.
We may write on our mirror or on little cards: I am beautiful. I am smart. I am worthy.
This may be less painful. But it does not work as well as most people hope.
You see: whether we claim to be good or bad it is probably not the truth. It is alien to who we are and therefore not very powerful.
The truth is: when are born we are neither good nor bad. We are just as we are. Just like a tree.
Then our parents, our teachers, our friends really get going and chop us into something useful.
A chair. A table. A wooden bowl. While all we wanted to was grow and be alive.
In Humans we do not use Axes to chop down our Inner Truth. We use Words.
The great shaman Laozi was not so keen on words and names:
The Dao that is named is not the real Dao, he said.
He also had a dim view our notion of usefulness.
The thing he liked the least was morals.
To think we are bad is obviously damaging.
To think we are good is not much better.
Good is not what we want to be: We want to be real.
Laozi said that moral categories were the beginning of all evil.
Just ask your local crack dealer who pushes poison to small children whether he considers himself a good person. He will have very elaborate explanations why it is ok what he is doing and why, of course, he really is a good person.
Beliefs are food for the mind chatter that prevents us from listening to our inner song. The deep knowing who we really are.
Thunder and Lightning: Two Shaman Gods and also two well known Acupuncure Points
While we are at it, I want to point out, that we have methods in acupuncture to get rid of sticky thought forms- be they whiny and self pitying or resentful and self-righteous or outright grandiose.
Try a point on the back, right between the middle and the heart. It goes by the name of yixi- cry of pain- bladder 45.
Here, just over the diaphragm, is the lower region of our sky, the lung, where the darker and heavier clouds collect.
With the acupuncutre point “yixi” sticky thought forms will pour out of the client. After half an hour of accusations, misery, self pity and tears, we can clear up the sky with two other points: Lu 7 and St 40, Lieque and Fenglong- which incidentally are the personal names of two old shaman gods of China: Thunder and Lightning.
Put your intention on clearing away cloudy thought forms and the two gods will be at your command.
“You can’t go back
and you can’t stand still
If the thunder don’t get you
then the lightning will.”
(The grateful death)
After thunder and lightning have swept away the mind chatter, we have to apply thought discipline to keep it that way.
There is a mantra that seems to be working especially fine: I just tell myself to shut up whenever my mind goes into self bashing mode or self inflating mode.
Shutting up is good medicine
The mantra “shut up!” came to me on a vision quest I did once on a very beautiful spot near an old Apache graveyard near the Mexican border. There were wolves. There were hot springs. There was snow.
As the place was so beautiful and so holy I prepared myself for great instructions.
I did my little ceremony and sat in the snow and started pouring my heart out.
I really got going.
So many things I needed to learn and do. So much misery I was making up for myself.
I was a complete nuisance to all the other beings on that beautiful spot.
All of a sudden someone said in a very clear voice: “Shut up. If you go on talking you will not hear what is being said.”
It was a peck of grass.
To shut up is very serious advice given to me by the spirit world and I thought I’d pass it on.
Now that we have talked about damaging beliefs, which are not cool, and about how to get rid of them, by shutting up, we are done with this talk.
Hold your horses.
I am just warming up.
We are immensely priviledged to be students of a medical system that does not draw a line between body and spirit.
A system that is non dual to the very core.
A system that furthermore teaches us a very simple technology to work with spirit.
Acupuncture: A Technology of the Spirit
However we have managed to reduce it to a system to treat symptoms and diseases.
Acupuncture can do that- it can do anything we want it to do, because the needles are a language that speaks to the body and if we talk disease- so will the needles.
We have been brought up to think diseases are real.
We have been brought up to think that they are entities that somehow come over us.
Later generations who will have understood will shake their heads at so much superstition.
Our notion of disease is yet another damaging belief.
Disease is the Soul’s way of healing
Some time ago I was meditating and it was one of those rare moments my mind really got out of the way. I sat there for a couple of hours, feeling calm and blissful.
Suddenly from deep inside a thought popped into my mind: Disease is the soul’s way of healing.
Next thing I felt the strong urge to jump up on my feetwhich were numbed after sitting so long. With a terrible sound my ankle cracked and I fell down on the ground. There I lay trying not to be sick from the piercing pain that shot through my leg.
Why had I jumped up like that? What had made me do so?
After a while my daughter came in and found me lying on the floor.
“I fell down”, I told her. “But never mind. I do not know how, but something just got healed.”
“Oh mommy”, she said and looked at my foot that by that time had swollen into a huge formless lump. “Only you can say something like that.”
My daughter knows me well. I can be bit weird at times.
Over the next days I held the thought “Disease is the soul’s way of healing.”
I did some acupuncture to help the swelling go down and did some exercises to find out what was happening.
Very soon I realized that while the lump slowly turned into a foot again some other changes took place. I will not bore you with the details, but among others my iliosacral joint and hip which had been really painful for a long time opened up. The vertebrae in the neck fell into place. Headache and an occasional tinnitus dissolved. I got a bit taller. Most importantly for an ardent dancer like myself I found a completely new balance.
It was complex healing- far more complex than everything I ever learned in osteopathy.
I would never have been able to do anything like that consciously.
But something deep inside knew everything it needed to do.
It was not the first time it had done so or tried to do so.
But it was the first time I was really able to go with it instead of fighting the symptoms.
It is not always easy to appreciate the self healing process.
It can be painful and inconvenient like a swollen ankle.
It can be much worse than that.
We all have known people who started a new life after some terrible disease. I have a friend who lived through terminal cancer and found herself a new person at the end of that trial.
Healing can be deep and painful.
The force behind healing has no mercy. It is a natural force and if we try to fight it, it may very well kill us.
It is a force that comes from our roots.
The only real disease there is, is when we are not connected to this force.
A tree that is not rooted well, will be eaten by worms and thrown down by the storm.
This is the way of the forest to heal itself.
This is how life works.
The “Three Treasures” of Ancient Chinese Doctors
The ancient Chinese doctors talked of “Three Treasures”: Shen,Qi and Jing. Let us meet these forces.
Shen- the Intouchable
In beginners classes of Chinese Medicine we talk a lot about Spirit- Shen.
Shen is expansion. It is yang and it connects us to the sky.
When the going down here gets rough parts of it can fly far, far away and not find its way home.
We call that soul loss. It happens when we are traumatized. Soul loss reduces our being.
Live loses its light and we feel lonely and sad.
Soul loss can be treated relatively easily with acupuncture.
Qi- the World of Matter
Spirit is pure yang, immaterial. When it dives down into yin again, it translates into qi.
Qi is the body we work with. Our feelings and our thoughts.
Most of the time our attention lies here. In the middle world.
We are used to get a grasp on things by giving them a name. Our specific cultural formation, our language, lets us only see the things we have words for.
We are resistant to things we have no names for.
Jing- The Essence- our inborn Power
When Qi dives down even deeper into Yin it condenses into essence- Jing.
The Chinese say it cristallizes. They teach that this crystallization needs lots of stillness and time. Like during the ten lunar months we spend in the womb before birth.
This cristall is the Jing. Our core.
As cristalls do- the Jing resonantes with its own frequency, our personal song.
If we want to know who we are, we need to listen to that song.
Most of the time we do not. Instead we listen to the chatter of our mind.
We do not hear so much about Essence in Chinese medicine.
All we learn is that we need to guard it- preferably with much sleep and little sex. Not much more we can do about it.
We also learn that it is something like gasoline. Once it is used up we die.
You can easily see that we translate our everyday illusion of scarcity into what we think is spiritual thinking.
Instead of thinking of Essence as some kind of spiritual gasoline, we can also think of it as our connection to the spirit world. The place were we are purely ourselves and at the same time connected to everything.
Think of a tree. In the upper world it stands high and reaches up into heaven. It is light and beautifully alive. Its branches rustle and sing songs without any meaning or intention attached. Songs of pure sound that somehow express, what it is on the inside.
Then there is the middle part. The trunk. A bundle of millions of pathways that connect the branches to the roots.
The roots lie in the dark. Therefore we do not see that they form a web that spans for miles and miles connecting all trees into one living organism. Along that web the roots pass nutrients and water. Here in the dark their power is born.
We are just like that. Deep down in the dark we are connected to everything.
The Dark World
Laozi called this place of creation The Dark Female.
It is a scary place. The place where we lose ourselves to death.
This is, why little children want to leave the light on and why all of us cannot keep still.
We all like to think that we are children of the light.
But we are also children of the dark. This is where our power is born.
If we want to embrace that power we need to grow up.
The Inuit Shaman
Shamans have some hard ways to grow up.
I read a story once about a traditional Inuit shaman who was put on some floating piece of ice to during the endless night of arctic winter. I do not remember for how long, but a lesser man would not have lasted an hour out there I suppose.
Facing death from cold and dark was this man’s test. The ultimate challenge for him to show, that he was a grown man, strong enough to face the spirit world.
When he came back he told his people:
Outside, there is nothing to be afraid of.
This message touched me very deeply. If the things we are afraid of are not outside. Where are they?
What is this place, the dark female, like.
Laozi,the Shaman of ancient China has taught, that in the beginning, people where simple and therefore they were powerful.
Have you ever listend to the prayers and spirit songs of tribal people all over the world.
These songs are simple and truthful. They are also very powerful.
I once sat in a sweat lodge with an old Lakota healer who sang songs for thunder and lightning.
When we crawled out after several hours of ceremony we found that a tornado had wiped out everything around the lodge.
Cars and trailer homes were turned upside down. Houses had lost their roofs. Strong light poles had been broken like straw. The entire place was a mess. But inside the lodge, nothing but a fragile tent made of sticks and blankets, we had not even heart the storm.
Spirit songs are powerful
A native person,someone with a deep connection to the spirit world, will tell you, that these songs are not made-they are received.
They come from the spirit world.
We do not connect to this realm on the outside.
The spirit world is the land of Yin and we find it within ourselves.
When animals and rocks and plants talk to us, they talk in spirit language, in pure sound, and we hear it with the inner ear.
Providing we shut up.
Qi and Evil Qi
Words are qi.
They are born as vibrations, pure sound, from the core of our being and are made into meanings by our intention. The middle.
It is our specific human gift to create meaning.
True words are in alignment with who we are.
The Chinese word for being in alignment is zheng.
True words are Zheng Qi.
Like a spirit song such words are powerful.
Words and thoughts that are not received but copy pasted from stuff we have learned do not have the same power.
They can be judgmental words, words of pride, words of guilt and words of self loathing. They can be anything.
They can be medical diagnosis.
All such words are not in alignment with who we are.
They are Xie Qi.
Xie Qi attract all kinds of similar thought forms from the outside world. They cluster and build up like dense clouds.
If we do nothing about these clouds- thunder and lightning will.
Meet the Dragon
In our beginner’s class in Chinese medicine we learn, that there is a dragon fire residing in the kidneys, most say the right kidney (which is where I feel it) or somewhere near the base of our spine. The Indians call it the Kundalini and visualize it as a snake.
For me it is the Dragon.
They say: Dragons dwell in underground caves and every once in a while they rise up to the sky to play with colourful balls.
When the dragon rises freely it brings about ecstasy and delight and an opening of the third eye.
When the sky is obstructed by clouds or strange thought forms the dragon will rise anyway and wreck havoc like a tornado.
For the last 2000 years Chinese Medicine has talked of ministerial fire rather than of dragons. The ministerial fire is our vitality. It has to do with heat and sex and other wild stuff.
The Confucian doctors admonished people to nourish their yin and refrain from sex and sit in meditation to control that fire.
They were terribly afraid of the ministerial fire and with reason.
When the dragon rises through a cloudy sky- when there is lots of Xie Qi- this Xie Qi will get momentum.
We get all kinds of heat, bursting, explosion, irritation, inflammation. Oftentimes this is in the region of the so called smaller yang, the Gallbladder and Triple heater channel. Think migraines. Think tinnitus. Think gallbladder colic. Think apoplexia.
The rising of the dragon shines light on every little Xie Qi it encounters on its way. You get swellings, red and itchy skin eruptions. All kinds of lumps may grow out of proportion. Your arteries may clog or explode. Your heartbeat may run out of control. Your stomach inflames. You may get strange cravings or unbearable pain.
Depending on your thought forms you can get any disease you can imagine.
The dragon rises out of the dark and it can make a murderer out of you or make you leave your partner of twenty years.
The dragon is the thunder and lightning of our inner universe.
It does not care about collateral damage.
It does not care whether we get killed in the process.
In the spirit world death does not exist.
The only thing the dragon wants to do is clear up the atmosphere. To reconnect heaven and earth.
To dance on a clear blue sky and play with colourful balls.
Taming the Dragon
In acupuncture we can tame the dragon to do its thing in a sweeter way and if we feel a little wilder we can undertake to wake a sleeping dragon on purpose.
Here are some ideas:
We have acupuncture points to connect heart and kidney.
We have points to heat up the ministerial fire.
We have points to clear out the Shaoyang channels.
We have points to get rid of toxic heat, damp and phlegm and unclutter the middle.
We have points to get rid of thought forms and other xie qi from outside.
We have points to connect to our ancestors and to the spirit world.
We have points to carry people high up on a mountaintop and points to submerge them into a deep blue ocean.
We have points to walk our clients through every part of their inner universe.
This work can be a bit dramatic. But in the end people get very still and some of them receive their healing song.
They get visions, hope and a new feeling of authenticity.
They start whole new lives.
So now, that we know the dragon I want to remind you of one more thing:
The difference between a healer and a sorcerer is, that the healer controls his thoughts and knows, when to shut up.