“Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.”
Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
When philosophies such as Daoism and Buddhism move from the East to the West they often get simplified and watered down so that we can understand them. Chinese medicine is no different. The Western mind is very good at compartmentalising things and extracting the things that it finds agreeable. Take acupuncture for example. It has been taken it from its ancient shamanic, Daoist roots to a point where it has become common place for acupuncturists, physios and Doctors to insert needles in the body without any thought to the philosophy from which it came. This is not necessarily a bad thing and it often works quite well, particularly on a physical level but it is only a small part of the picture.
Chinese Medicine is just one branch of the big tree of Daoism and it can’t really be fully separated from the other branches which include Nei Gong, Feng Shui, astrology, numerology, the Yi Jing and so on. The human body exists within time and space and is affected by various forces with which it encounters. One of the easiest ways to see this is with the changing of the seasons. The ancient Chinese closely observed the changing of the seasons and saw that they were in effect energetic movements and these energetic movements also occur inside the body. We are now coming in to spring and the environmental Qi is clearly moving upwards as is the Qi within us. This can sometimes lead to problems if the Qi is moving upwards too forcefully (e.g. headaches).
These ancient sages recognised the fact that illness often arises when the body is unable to adapt to change. How many times at this time of year have you gone outside in summer clothes only to come home with a winter cold? It was therefore recommended to get a treatment at the changing of the seasons to help with this adaptation. However being the cunning bunch that they were, they took this one stage further and sought to harness this environmental energy to boost the body’s Qi. This technique is known as seasonal tonification and also brings in to the mix some Chinese astrology. The theory is a little complicated but the treatment itself is quite simple.
First you must determine when a person is born, for example I was born in the year of the Fire snake. This means I should have a relative abundance of Fire energy, therefore I will be working with the Fire meridians of the Heart and Small intestine. We are now in the Wood elemental season of Spring so to harness this natural energy we use the Water point on the yang meridian (Small Intestine) as Water is the ‘father’ of Wood on the elemental cycle. You then use the Fire point on the yin meridian (Heart) as Fire is the ‘daughter’ of Wood.
This can be a little tricky to get your head around at first but what is essentially happening is that with just a few needles, you are harnessing the energy of the season and combining it with a person’s natural energetic state to bring about an overall gain in Qi. This is acupuncture that is harmonious with time and space and it is acupuncture that comes from a time and space different to our own. The beauty of it is though, it is no less powerful now as it was then, as these great teaching have the ability to transcend time and space altogether.