Spirituality and Traditional Chinese Medicine

By John Voigt

The key character in the Chinese word “spiritual” is shen ().

Shen Spirit in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from West Learns East

From the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine: If you have shen, you will progress towards health. If you lose your shen, you will lose your life. [1]

The modern standard reference book for Chinese characters, the Hanyu Da Zidian (2006) defines shen this way: Celestial gods/spirits of stories/legends, namely, the creator of the myriad things in heaven and earth and the supreme being. Spirit-mind-consciousness. Magical, supernatural, miraculous; mysterious, ability to divine the unknown, amazing foresight. And—(especially telling for our purposes)—a highly skilled doctor.

Shen can show itself as something good or something evil.  The word shen may be easily applied to such entities as ghosts, goblins, devils, monsters, and demons, all of whom (historically at least) have been said to bring about illnesses. [2]

The goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that by effecting a healthy flow of qi-life energy in the meridians, and gaining a correct balance of yin and yang energies in the organs, the body and mind gain health and wellbeing.  A goal of the spiritual path is turning away from the myriad attractions and distractions around us and returning to a union with the Infinite, the Absolute, the Divine.

Both these health and spiritual goals are alluded to in the opening of chapter 42 of the Dao De Jing.

Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching

Chapter 42 (excerpt) - Genesis

(Before the beginning was)

Dao from which is born One (unmanifested Qi).

One which gives birth to Two (the static polarities of yin and yang).
Three - a dynamic Qi appears opening Yin and Yang into a harmony of interaction.

And from Three, creation [in time and space] unfolds and all things are born.

All things carry yin on their backs and embrace yang in their arms.

When female-yin and male-yang mix and blend their Qi (breath/life energy), harmony is obtained. And from Three, creation [in time and space] unfolds and all things are born.

The author, Laozi (Lao Tzu) purposefully has used the seemingly vague open-ended words: Dao-One-Two-Three-All Things. But their lack of specificity enables the thoughtful reader to creatively interpret each word.

The Dao (the “Way”) as an archetypal Mother giving birth to the One, its alter-image, the Hidden Qi: the potential for time, space and consciousness to exist.  From the Hidden Qi there appears Two, the separate as yet non-interacting Yin and Yang [3] - therefore there is no movement and so there is nothing to be seen.

From the Two comes Three, a manifesting  Qi generating interaction and movement between the previously static yin and yang.  And so is born all the myriad things and thoughts possible throughout the entire universe. [4]

The key to spirituality in TCM, as well as in certain mystical religious practices, is to walk the walk of this cosmological emanation in reverse. That is to say from the All (“ten thousand things” of the original text) to Three (Heaven, Earth and Humans), then Two (yin-yang), then One (unmanifested Qi) as the traveler maintains her connections to the commonplace ordinary world of others,  thus safely returning into the harmony, purity, power and compassion of the Way.

The Five Elemental Energies in Nature and in Man

5 Elements : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

There is another Daoist concept of creation that places Five after Three - (perhaps four is missing because, like our thirteen, it is a bad luck number in Asia).

From a primordial infinite nothingness (wuji) comes the One Supreme Ultimate (taiji), a source of creation but without any human personality of a Judaic-Christian God. Then appears Two as the always connected interacting polarities of yin-yang. Then Three as the Heavens above, Man in between, Earth below. [5]

Yin Yang : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

From Three comes Five: the “Five Phases of Universal Energy” - or more commonly but not more accurately called, “The Five Elements.” [6] These are the energies of Wood [actually the energies of growing trees, even all the green leafed flora that grows up from the earth],  burning Fire, fertile Earth, cutting Metal, and washing Water. They represent the changing conditions of all phenomena. Each of the Five has a specific correspondence with a season, direction, color, taste, and internal organ; which helps to explain how the body functions and how qi-energy changes during disease and during healing. Each of the Five has been deified into a god, or could be thought of as a god.

Animal gods have also been assigned to each of the Five. [7]

5 Elements : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

Five Animal Frolics

The Chinese physician, Hua Tuo (circa 140-208 CE) was famous for his abilities in acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine, and medical qigong exercises.

Hua Tuo : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

Similar to the earlier Shamans and WuYi, Hua Tuo developed his “Five Animal Gymnastics” (Wu qin xi) from studying the movements of animals and birds. What exactly were the creatures and movements is now unclear,  but what is obvious is that the Five Elemental Energies, and their ability to heal, are in play here.

The Body heals with play. The Mind heals with laughter. The Spirit heals with joy, [Chinese Proverb].

Often in my qigong classes we do a free form interpretation of some the five creatures. It may be done alone, but it is especially fun with others or in groups. Not surprisingly little kids get it right away; we should be more like them.

Tiger. Walk in a slinky way like a tiger. Growl, and make clawing gestures.

The Tiger represents the elementary energy of growing trees. It relates to the Liver, anger and its opposite,  peacefulness. The grasping motions may help open the acupuncture points at the tips of the fingers and in the palms.

Phoenix. The Phoenix is a mythological creature that reincarnates itself by rising up from the ashes of the fires of its past.  With this qigong there is an implied rebirthing of the self. The Elemental Energy is Fire, the organ is the Heart.

The Gymnastic: In a wide stance, turn to the right, inhale and lift the arms up by your sides.  The heel of the left foot should rise up as you do this. When the hands are level with the ears, open and unfold the hands and arms as if you were a beautiful Phoenix unfolding your wings.  Pause then slowly exhale and float your arms (as wings) back down and return to facing forward with arms hanging down by your sides. Then turn to the left and repeat the gesture, now with the right heel lifting off the ground. Do six times or for as long it feels good to do. It may be viewed on YouTube done by its originator, Lin Housheng. Go to 32:47 of  “…18 Motions of TaiJi Qigong, Disk 2.”

Cat and Cow. The Yoga Cat and Cow pose is normally done on the floor by first arching the back up like an angry cat, then letting the belly loosen and drop down like an old cow. As with most hatha yoga these are static  positions. It becomes more of a qigong gymnastic if you make smooth, gentle and continuous cat and cow movements. The Elemental Energy here is Earth, the organs are Spleen and Stomach.  But this gymnastic also massages the spine, shoulders and all the organs of the lower torso.

An advanced way is to stand and with the chin and hips gently make vertical circles; first forwards then backwards,  the shoulders are kept loose. Go easy with this one: even a hint of pain and you should immediately stop. [8]

Gorilla. Be like Tarzan and tap around your collarbone area. You might make his “King Gorilla of the Jungle” call. (His girlfriend Jane did it as well). It’s great for the important thymus gland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thymus .This qigong gymnastic relates to Metal, and the Lung area.

Peacock. Peacock Spreads Tail To Show Beautiful Feathers.  Pretend you are a peacock and raise your hands straight up. As they go above your head spread your arms open.  From the sides of your eyes using peripheral vision imagine your beautiful feathers.  With your arms uplifted and palms facing out, slightly bend the elbows and slowly sway to the left and right like audiences at a rock concert. The Energy is Water, relating to the Kidney area.

Healing Prayers

The Ultimate Absolute within Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism is devoid of any human qualities. But in the way that the Abrahamic God gained anthropomorphic qualities, the Asians added many buddhas, bodhisattvas, avatars,  gods, and immortals as a gateway into experiencing the divine Absolute. In both the East and West prayer to the Divine or to divine human-like forms, personifications, icons, etc. has had many instances of miraculous healing take place. Even if no cures happen, prayer can lighten the pain and travail of the passage from life to death.

For Buddhists, the traditional god of healing is Bhaisajyaguru who is also called Yao Shih Fwo. He sometimes functions rather like an Asian “patron saint of healers.” The Medicine Buddha Mantra

Bhaisajyaguru The Medicine Buddha : Chinese Medicine Living

This lovely image from wikipedia

NAMO (I take refuge in) BHAGAVATE (the World-Honored One) BHAISAJYA-GURU (the Master of Medicine) VAIDURYA (the lapis-lazuli colored ) PRABHA (light) RAJA YA (the king) TATHAGATA YA ARHATE (the Thus-Come-One, the One-Worthy-of-Offering) SAMYAK-SAMBUDDHAYA (the equal and correctly enlightened), TADYATHA (and I speak thus): OM (Hail!) BHAISAJYE (Healer) BHAISAJYE (Healer) MAHA-BHAISAJYA (Great Healer) RAJA (king), SAMUDGATE (the path to enlightenment) SVAHA! (So be it!).

Guan Yin / Kwan Yin

Guanyin/Kwan Yin is the goddess of Compassion. Her name literally means “Hearing the Cries of the World.” Although originally a Buddhist god, she is now honored by Daoists, Confucians, Hindus—She has gained the love of the masses in the East, and many in the west. As with Mary or Jesus, angels or saints she is often prayed to for healing.

Quan Yin : Chinese Medicine Living

This beautiful image from wikipedia

Her mantra/prayer is Namo Guan shi yin Pusa, meaning

“Salutations to the most compassionate and merciful Bodhisattva Guanyin who hears the cries of those who suffer.”  Here is a link: Kuan Yin Mantra - Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa.

The mantra "Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa" with a variety of artwork depicting the Chinese goddess of mercy who relieves suffering.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6JhSegPjOM

There are many more mantra prayers in the religions of the world that may be used for healing. Perhaps search on YouTube for one that captures your heart.  I typed “healing prayers OR mantra” on my browser and came up with this URL.

Of course with a clean and pure heart, you could compose your own prayer or mantra.

A Few Simplified Spiritual Techniques

Disclaimer:

This article is for educational purposes only. It is not offered for the healing of any illnesses.  If  a person is sick they should see a proper professional in either (or both) western or traditional Chinese medicine. If doing anything in this article is physically or mentally uncomfortable, painful, or feels strange or weird immediately stop doing it.

1. Since the harmony of the Dao is reflected in nature - take a pleasant walk by the ocean or in the country. Or have fresh cut flowers in your home.

2. Daoist and Buddhist rituals include lighting incense and candles, singing prayers, and ceremonial dances.  If at home alone feeling glum, why not light incense and/or candles, sing and/or dance?

Qi Breathing Exercise

Qigong (chi kung) is a basic modality of TCM. It often is defined as “breath work.”

A person can sit comfortably with a straight back, and focus their mental attention on their breathing. Then calmly breathe more slowly and deeply. If the mind wanders simply count the breaths up to five (or any other number) and repeat the counting, or use a mantra like “peace,” or “relax,”  or “I am calm,” etc.  More Advanced: next be aware of the coolness on the nostrils. Then move that awareness to the qi-breath entering the lungs, from there be aware (or just imagine) the oxygen–qi in the blood entering all parts of your body, helping healing and refreshing you.  Having a simple smile seems to help this qi breathing exercise along. A really easy version of this exercise is to slowly, calmly and fully breathe into your lower lungs, only paying attention to how it feels.

Get a massage; I recommend Chinese Therapeutic Massage (Tuina). But massage can be done at home with a partner or by one’s self: rub and squeeze the body - especially the arms, legs, belly and kidney areas and feel energy blockages open up inside. Again keep your attention on how if feels, what the qi flow is doing. That may aid in making this a spiritual healing experience

Amulets are often used for healing.  An interesting way to do this is keeping on your person a mini-sized Daode Jing. Shambhala Publications has a 3 x 1/4  x 4.5 inch size copy.  

At night when the sky is clear and the moon is full, with open eyes look up to the moon and see it smiling down on you then smile back at it. The advanced Daoist qigong version of this is in the Endnotes, see [9].

One Last Thought

The belief systems of a non-spiritual TCM practitioner and a practicing Daoist healer may differ; nevertheless a raison d'être of each is similar: the goal is the gaining of wellbeing. One might say the absence of illness while the other says being in harmony with the Dao. However putting the best of both together offers the possibilities of a long, healthy, and happy life.

Endnotes

[1] Zhang Yu Huan & Ken Rose. Who Can Ride the Dragon? pg. 211. Paradigm, 1999.

[2] Illness are said to be produced by xie qi: bad, evil, pathogenic, demonic, devilish, evil life energy. See “Turbid Qi” http://qi-encyclopedia.com/index.asp?article=TurbidQi by Jerry Alan Johnson

[3] Yin originally meant dark and shaded. Yang originally meant sunny, full of light.

As mentioned above, these are not hard and fast static concepts.  As time (night and day) moves forward each continually folds into and becomes the other. So by extension we have light-positive-masculine qi and dark-negative-female qi (no sexual value judgment is implied). Everything in the universe has both aspects of interchanging yin and yang.

[4] When this emanating process is balanced and in harmony all is as it should be. When disharmony happens (as in much of our modern civilization) there can be a harmful damaging chaos; things are no longer with the Dao. Examples are global climate change, widespread mental and physical illness, and continual killing warfare.

[5] The Chinese have different terms to expound on the meaning of this Three. With San Cai (Three Powers) yang becomes the Heavens, yin becomes the Earth, and in between are we, Humanity. Or San Bao, (The Three Treasures) of Jing (Essence) Qi (Vital Energy), and Shen (Spirit). Those knowledgeable with TCM working principles will recognize fundamental terms here.

[6]  The Chinese name for Five Energetic Phases is Wuxing (wǔ xíng -五行) which is an abbreviation of wu zhong liu xing zhi qi — “five types of universal energy [qi or chi] dominating at different times.”

[7] The White Tiger rules Metal and the Lung. Black Tortoise rules Water and the Kidney. The Green Dragon rules Wood and the Liver. The Red Phoenix rules Fire and the Heart. The Gold Dragon rules Earth and the Spleen/Stomach.  http://realm-of-midgard.wikia.com/wiki/Five_Gods_of_Wu_Xing .

[8] Sorry, I have no video for this, but Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming’s “Simple Qigong for Back Pain Relief (YMAA)” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BObNy_LBFRU from 0:04 to 0:41 offers some clues; it’s all about those concave – convex movements of the spine.

[9] Taking in Moon Cream Tonifies yin-essence. Gathering Sun Essence replenishes yang-qi. As the sun begins to rise at daybreak, with mostly drooped closed eyelids, breathe in one mouthful of soft gentle reddish sunlight (imagine it); hold the breath, then swallow it; then exhale and send it down to the dantian. Do ten times. At night when the skies are clear and the moon is full do the same swallowing with moonlight, six times.  Adapted from Chinese Qigong, Zhang Enqin, (1990) p.108.

A Daoist source of this exercise may be found on pg. 54 of Early Daoist Dietary Practices, by Shawn Arthur. https://books.google.com/books?id=idBrd_dKCkYC&pg=PA54&lpg=PA54&dq=Early+Daoist+Dietary+Practices+%22solar+lord%22&source=bl&ots=9-fKlt71__&sig=UVFqKokBlpyKOz-1qk4wsF5L0Nc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwip4qzt24nMAhUFPj4KHYjTAakQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=Early%20Daoist%20Dietary%20Practices%20%22solar%20lord%22&f=false

Bibliography/Sources

“Chapter 1, What is Shen (Spirit)?” http://www.itmonline.org/shen/chap1.htm

http://www.yellowbridge.com/onlinelit/daodejing42.php

“The Chinese Cosmos: Basic Concepts.” http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/cosmos/bgov/cosmos.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_mythology

“Daoist Magic - a conversation with Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson, Ph.D, D.T.C.M.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckpN8TWPbhE&nohtml5=False

Guan Yin Goddess of Healing. http://www.quanyinhealing.net/quan_yin.html

Timothy Leary. Psychedelic Prayers after the Tao Te Ching. http://www.holybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/Timothy-Leary-Psychedelic-Prayers.pdf

Lin Shi and Chenguang Zhang. “Spirituality in Traditional Chinese Medicine,” [in] Pastoral Psychology, October/December, 2012.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257635748_Spirituality_in_Traditional_Chinese_Medicine

Elizabeth Reninger. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Five Element Styles of Practice. http://taoism.about.com/od/qigongchinesemedicine/a/TCM.htm

Taoism and martial arts-Opening Dao. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SP0vS4hTJs

Terebess Asia Online (Tao). The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, [125 translations]. http://terebess.hu/english/tao/_index.html

John Voigt. “Happy Fun Qigong.” Qi Journal, Vol. 25, No. 3: Autumn 2015

Ibid. “Qi in the Daodejing—The Way and its Power.” Qi-Encyclopedia. com http://qi-encyclopedia.com/index.asp?article=Qi-in-the-Daodejing

Ibid. “Six Healing Sounds: Chinese Mantras for Purifying Body. Mind, and Soul. Qi Journal, http://www.qi-journal.com/Qigong.asp?Name=Six%20Healing%20Sounds&-token.D=Article

Wu Xing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_Xing

Featured image from wikipedia.
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Spirituality and Traditional Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


Alignment - Part 1

By Steven Lubka

I write this in the beginning of the year 2016. In the last several decades we have experienced increasingly rapid and dramatic changes in the ways in which most humans live on this beautiful planet. We have developed incredible technologies that have made the impossible , possible. Our environments are filled with invisible wavelengths of light (wireless internet technologies)  which transmit the sum of human knowledge instantaneously to most points on the planet. With nuclear energy we generate power from invisible particles on a scale previously unheard of. We have discovered ways to alter the genetic information of plants and animals, to travel through the skies at incredible speeds, to travel into outer space, and many other feats which were delegated to the realm of imagination 100 years ago.

From a certain perspective one can view all of these inventions as coming from a pure seed of potential, a dream in the collective mind of man. Of course it is our nature to attempt the impossible. Of course it is our nature to dream, and yet we now find ourselves dealing with the fallout of all of these technological breakthroughs. Our inventions have changed our lifestyles and the face of the earth and these changes have happened faster than the biologic systems of the Earth and the human body can handle.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

Our bodies evolved over millions of years sheltered in the magnetic resonance of the planet. As we slept on the earth and walked barefoot on her landscape we were constantly attuned to her vibrations and frequencies. Our science is now discovering how essential our attunement to these magnetic fields are for the function of our cellular health. Magnetic frequencies and light cycles impact every aspect of our biology down to the cellular level, and yet in a hundred years we have completely disconnected from these nourishing vibrations in favor of artificial sources. We have migrated from a life lived in communion with the Earth and all her medicine to one that is lived in an artificially lit indoor environment that is becoming increasingly saturated by the electric fields and wireless radiations of our technological brilliance.

We once woke up with the sun and moved through complex natural environments to fulfill the tasks of our daily lives. As we moved, the very act of movement caused the vital fluids of our bodies to circulate to all the organs and muscles. The heart is not the only mover of blood. The contractions of muscles pull blood and circulate nutrients to all parts of our physical form. Yet now we sit and stare into screens endlessly, robbing ourselves of the replenishing aspects of movement and the joys of it.

At night darkness fell and our activities ceased with it. We learned the wisdom of having a time for darkness and inactivity, something which our industries which strive for growth at all times could serve to remember. The period of darkness experienced at night is a critical as the period of light experienced during the day. The morning sun triggers a massive shift in hormonal function as the bodies shifts into its daytime processes, and similarly the onset of darkness triggers the onset of our nocturnal processes.

The Chinese knew the importance of Yin and Yang, and what can occur when these forces are out of balance. In their language I would say our light environment has become Yin deficient because of our use of artificial lighting. I also find our constant illumination of our world to be symbolic of the masculine conquest of nature. We have created eternal daytime, we have conquered darkness, and we have lost touch with her feminine receptive nature. We have lost the ancient experience of stories told around a fire. and of quiet conversations with our loved ones under the night sky. In scientific terms we are impairing the product of melatonin and damaging our eyes via blue light toxicity during the dark portion of the photoperiod.

These are just some of the changes that have taken place in the last hundred years and I cite them now as an example of how our way of living has shifted so dramatically and so quickly. As a result of all these changes a general malaise has come to afflict the human population. We have become numb to the sound of it as most take this state of being as “normal” for it is all they have ever known. How does one know they are sick if they have never been well?  All you need to do is turn on a television ( but I do not recommend it) to hear the advertisements for medications for depression, anxiety, cancer, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, MS, and a variety of other diseases which were  unheard in ancient societies and among hunter gatherer populations.

However, the innate intelligence of life is stirring within us and many people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with this culture we have manufactured. A great awareness for physical healing and restoration is emerging and I feel it is one of the most important ways that we pay homage to the Earth, by healing the gift of the body we have been given. Through the miracle which is the Internet I have watched for years as people from all over the world have gathered in virtual space to find solutions and it is here in this virtual realm that I am sharing my contribution to the whole. We can’t say that the times we live in are boring!

The body is a complex system, a unified whole made of many parts. In this way it reflects a fundamental principle inherent to all levels of creation. All manners of form in this existence are simultaneously a singular whole and the many parts which it is composed of. This is an important reference point to hold when one attempts to bring their body back into a state of health. The state of health is the singular holistic manifestation of all parts working in harmony. So where does one begin in their journey? For each person different pieces will hold different magnitudes of importance. This is individual and must be discovered by the individual. What is most important for one person will not typically be what is most important for another and I don’t truly find there to be a hierarchy of the various systems. The heart is not intrinsically more important than the liver. The brain is not intrinsically more important than the gut. The alignment of the spine not intrinsically more important than the circadian biology. All of these things work together, much as rivers don’t exist without the land they flow through nor without the clouds which replenish the waters of this magnificent biosphere.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

I say all of this and yet now I must create a starting point for one cannot address the whole without starting with one of it’s parts. The Chinese viewed a human life as something of great value. The human being was seen as a conduit between heaven and earth, between form and formlessness. In other words the human being was bridge between two worlds. In my eyes nothing manifests this role or relationship better than the spinal column. The spine is something of incredible function. It not only is the literal foundation of our physical form but it also is the ground through which an immense of amount information travels in the forms of nerve signaling and sensory input from all parts of the system. It is the central axis of the body. A properly aligned spine yields a properly aligned being who is a conduit of both heaven and earth. I find that the spine is also the antenna of the body and when the antenna is calibrated properly it allows one to become receptive to “information” from the greater systems we are a part of. It allows one to receive “information” on the level of frequency from the magnetic field of the earth, the frequencies of the stars and cosmic bodies, and from the interconnected biosphere of life on this planet. A hunched and collapsed spine is a sign that the organism is heading towards death, yet most live in this state from a young age now.

This concludes the first of this three part series. In the next part I will outline some basic habits one can cultivate to to easily improve one’ alignment. In the third I will show how to perform a basic cranial-spinal reset and delve into some further discussion of our motivation to heal ourselves, where this motivation is useful, and where it is limited.

 

Alignment Part 1 : Chinese Medicine Living

*Images
The beautiful featured image from picturesdotnews.com
Earth image from Mother Earth by Commander on Youtube.com
Tree image from veganfeministnetwork.com
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Peace Love & Acupuncture Button : Chinese Medicine Living


The Nocebo Effect

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

What Is The Nocebo Effect?

Have you ever heard of the "nocebo effect"? The nocebo effect is basically the opposite of the placebo effect. Lets define both terms.

The placebo effect is a measurable, observable or felt improvement in health or behaviour which is not attributable to a medication or any procedure that has been administered to the patient.

The nocebo effect is an opposite tendency - and one that has been largely overlooked by the medical/research community. Put simply, the nocebo effect is the phenomenon in which inert substances, suggestions of substances or the words of a medical professional can actually bring about negative effects in a patient or research participant.

The Nocebo Effect And Cancer

The nocebo effect is real and very powerful. I have seen it in action in my practice and in my patients. Nowhere is the nocebo effect more noticeable than with my cancer patients. And in those cases, it was elicited simply with words. Patients aren't feeling well and go in to the doctor to try to ascertain what is happening. There is testing and then a doctor's visit to discuss the results. In the session, the doctor tells the patient that they have found something irregular, and that it is cancer. They are told where the cancer is and at what stage it is at according to the staging system which is comprised of four stages. The stages help the doctor to determine the appropriateness and aggressiveness of the treatment required and determine the prognosis, or outcome for the patient. Stage four is the last and most serious stage, meaning that the initial cancer or tumor has spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). And in these discussions, something often happens. The oncologist will tell the patient how long they have left to live or can expect to survive. This is usually *if* they start treatment right away. If they refuse treatment or ask for some time to consider the options, they are often told that the clock is ticking and that they are wasting precious time because death, is racing towards them.

 

The Nocebo Effect : Chinese Medicine Living

Cancer is the extreme example because it evokes such an intense fear response. No one wants to receive a cancer diagnosis, because in many cases they believe that it is literally a death sentence. The truth is, that we are all living with cancer in our bodies every day, and if our immune systems are healthy, then we are fighting it off on a regular basis. It is when the system gets out of balance due to various factors like extreme stress, poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyle that we are no longer able to fight off disease causing agents in the body and things like cancer can develop. The other thing that is important to remember, is that many cancers take between 5-12 years to develop to the point where they are measurable with modern medical equipment.

The Power of the Word

I am not sure if most of us realize how incredibly powerful words can be. The nocebo effect is a clear illustration of their destructive power. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the placebo effect does not only have to be medications, treatments or procedures that have a beneficial effect, it can be the words themselves that do the healing in the body and the psyche. There is a wonderful book that talks about this concept in detail called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is definitely worth a read. In the book it talks about the importance of being impeccable with your word, which means being very careful with what you say, as words can create destruction as well as joy in the person they are being said to (and in the person saying them).

The Nocebo Effect : Chinese Medicine Living

While I was writing my thesis in my last year of Chinese medicine school I read a lot of books on the power of the mind and its ability to heal the body (I wrote about the mind/body connection and how it related to healing). In my reading I discovered many documented cases of people who had been unknowingly living with cancer for many years, and it wasn't until they got diagnosed that they got sick and died. This got me thinking about the power of words and how important it was to be responsible with my own. In another book I read about how, in some experiments with olympic athletes, they had hooked them up to electrodes that measured their brain activity and muscle activity simultaneously. The athletes were asked to visualize themselves doing their events in their minds. The thing the scientists discovered was that the muscles that they would be using to do their events were firing as if they were actually doing them which led them to conclude that the mind doesn't know the difference between actually running an event, and visualizing it. What is happening physiologically can be profoundly affected by our thoughts and emotions, which is something that I believe Western or allopathic medicine is just beginning to recognize.

The Nocebo Effect And Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine the nocebo effect is well understood. Not by that name, but the integration of all aspects of a person's being in how it relates to health and wellness are built into the foundation of the medicine. The nocebo effect is a Western term for a phenomenon that the Chinese have understood for thousands of years. Words like "cancer" don't exist in Chinese medicine, they are a result of a long term imbalance in the system. When things have been out of balance for so long that disease develops, cancer can be the result. In the office of a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner you will discuss many lifestyle options when it comes to your diagnosis and treatment. An extremely detailed initial consultation is one of the ways in which the practitioner can determine where the imbalances lie. The more information that is gathered, the more detailed the entire picture of what is going on with the patient. And, the more information about the patient and how the imbalance was created, the better and more targeted the diagnosis and treatment. One of the reasons that Chinese medicine is still so effective after thousands of years, even for diseases that are attributed to modern living, is that is is based on principles that don't change. The effect of our physical, psychological and emotional lives all have an impact on our health. What we eat, how much we exercise, how well we sleep... these are the pillars on to which our health and wellbeing are built. And each person is given a thorough intake and therefore receives a very personalized diagnosis and treatment. Cancer is one diagnosis, but there are a million reasons that cancer can develop. It is the job of the TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) practitioner to determine WHY you have that cancer and give you recommendations and lifestyle advice along with acupuncture, Chinese herbs and other modalities to help your body to heal itself. The TCM practitioner believes in the body's innate ability to heal itself if it is given everything it needs to do so. They are your partners, helping you to find the balance that will bring you back to ultimate health, harmony and happiness.

 

The Nocebo Effect : Chinese Medicine Living

 

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References 

Smithsonian - www.smithsonianmag.com

 

 

The Nocebo Effect : Chinese Medicine Living


Happy Earth Day!

Chinese medicine is all about our harmonious relationship with this wonderful planet. Today is a day to celebrate how amazing it really is and help us remember to cherish it forever and always. <3


Words of Wisdom...

A lovely thought from Thich Nhat Hanh. Truly words of wisdom. <3