The East through Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very ancient discipline that seeks to achieve health and harmony by rebalancing the energy of body and mind. This medicine, based on the concept of energy flows, consists in the art of restoring functional harmony in the exchanges between different life forces (vital energy or Qi). The object of this energy medicine is to regulate the energy flows constituting and animating an individual within the broader framework of the flows constituting and animating the universe.

What has been delivered to us is the outcome of integration and adaptation to the different philosophies it has come into contact over its evolution and, in particular, with Taoist thinking, the Confucian School and the Theory of the Five Elements.

This tradition considers the universe as an energy field resulting from the seamless interplay between two fundamental cosmic principles: Yin and Yang. It is an all-encompassing analogue view of the individual, according to which health and wellbeing are the consequence of our psychological, energetic, physiological and spiritual equilibrium. The observation and classification of the connections between the two principles has led us over the millennia to assume a comprehensive knowledge of the real world where things happening in the Macrocosm (cosmos) also happen, on a smaller scale, in the Microcosm (individual).

According to Taoism, by understanding the cosmos, the universe and nature we come to understanding ourselves and our personal growth. There is no contraposition between good/evil, right/wrong, etc. Opposites become identical aspects, as well as an integral part, of the same reality/phenomenon. Every time the observer’s perspective changes, a different interpretation of the ethical/moral value of an event is given. There are no absolute values – only values relative to the system/model used as a yardstick.

Attention must be focused on the observation of Nature and its manifestations, for it alone will allow us to recognize the characteristics of Tao.
From Nature comes the very idea of Yin/Yang, the two opposites forming the Tao symbol, which represents the most important and distinguishing concept of Taoism. The study of the cyclical alternation of day and night is symbolically related, respectively, to the shaded and to the sunny side of a hill, a single entity carrying shadow and light, the two universally joined opposites eternally chasing each other and following one another.

As a consequence, a physical or mental symptom is not the sign of a localised condition or disease, but points to an imbalance of the whole body.
Traditional Chinese Medicine does not break everything down to its individual constituents in search of its smallest component, thereby losing sight of its purpose, unity: the individual and his/her psychophysical equilibrium, deeply immersed in the surrounding environment.

As an integral part of the macrocosm, we are fuelled by the same life force flow, Qi, circulating within our body along the network of meridians, the invisible channels making up the interconnection system between organs and life-giving functions.

Qi is the product of Yin/Yang interplay. It is the foundation for the phenomenal world.

In the human body, Qi is the driver of movement and transformation, the principle that moves, warms and protects us from external influences.
At a psychological level, its free flowing allows us to change state and to cycle through different emotions when switching over from work to leisure, from activity to rest.

Health and physical wellbeing, therefore, are nothing but the natural outcome of a harmonious circulation of Qi, whereas any disharmony furthers the onset of illness and disease.

Here is where we find the originality of Taoist thought: an opposition exists, as Nature teaches us, but it is relative: darkness only exists if contrasted with light – and no reality is ever absolute.

Shape originates from shapelessness, just as shape will eventually lead to shapelessness. This existence prior to existing, this “shapelessness”, this not yet expressed potential is designated by the term Tao, literally “the Way”, the matrix of the Universe.

From this obscure mystery emerges something called “WuJi”, the “non-pole”, the embryo of a not yet polarized – and therefore not yet differentiated – existence. That is why the symbol is an empty circle. This empty circle appears filled in the TaiJi, “the greater pole”, symbol. Taiji is a potential, but not yet occurred, differentiation. Whilst still being a unity, it already harbours the seed of division and, therefore, birth. The symbol recalls the natural ebb and flow, the merging of white into black and black into white, of union within contraposition and, naturally, of movement.

At the centre of the black side (Yin) there is a white dot, just as at the centre of the white side (Yang) there is a black dot, to emphasize how either part contains the germ of the other, just as in the winter solstice, under the snow, the seed of summer bloom is already alive. Drawing the two halves within a circle conveys the idea of the intimate blending of the two aspects which, together, make up the whole of life.
Tao is a constant flow causing perpetual and unavoidable transformation.

References
Il libro della Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – Carlo Moiraghi – Fabbri Editore
Elementi di Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – J. Schatz C. Larre E. Rochat De La Vallèe Edizioni Jaca Book, Original Title Aperqus de modecine chinoise traditionelle, Maisonneuve, Paris, 1979
Elementi di Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – F. Bottalo Rosa Brotzu – Edizioni Xenia
Medicina Cinese – Ted J. Kaptchuk – Red Edizioni – Original Title The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine, McGraw Hill Professional, USA, 2000
Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – M. Corradin C. Di Stanislao M. Parini Casa Editrice Ambrosiana
Teoria e pratica Shiatsu – Carola Beresford Cooke – ed. UTET – Original Title Shiatsu Theory and Practice, Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, 2011

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