A Chinese Prescription for Health & Longevity
Has the question, What can we do to avoid sickness, debility, and senility in our lives? – Ever entered your mind. What can we do to help ourselves heal from diseases or afflictions already a part of our lives? What can we do to create a longer, healthier, enjoyable, and more productive life?
Answers to these questions can be found through learning about the ancient wisdom of the Chinese people who have studied the phenomenon of longevity for over 5,000 years. A vast body of Chinese medical knowledge has accrued from these efforts, providing a viable alternative to unhealthy, destructive behavior and lifestyle habits.
The Chinese medicine view of health emphasizes the influence of emotions, nature, electromagnetic forces, and energy on the human body, mind, and spirit. This healthcare paradigm is built on the belief that energy flows throughout every living thing and health depends on how and where this energy is flowing – greatly emphasizing the importance of prevention as a necessary first step toward creation and maintenance of good health.
The first classic of Chinese medicine, the Nei Jing, states that treating disease after it arises is like beginning to dig a well after one has become thirsty or like forging spears after the war has already broken out.
The ancient Chinese medical texts are filled with information about how to prevent degeneration and disease combined with a multitude of guiding principles for creating a healthful and long life. A basic tenet of these teachings holds that we are born with an abundant supply of “The Three Treasures” which are Jing (vital essence), Qi (vital energy) and Shen (spirit).
These Three Treasures are believed to have a direct effect on the aging process. Through proper cultivation, preservation, and protection of these three treasures, a greater chance for a long and healthful life exists.
A fundamental relationship exists between Jing, Qi, and Shen whereby an accumulation of one, in turn, creates abundance in the other. To retard the aging process, it is, therefore, essential to maintain balance and harmony within not just one, but all of the treasures. Understanding how these three treasures work together to promote proper body function provides a compelling impetus for making healthier behavior and lifestyle choices.
Jing forms the initial substance from which the body is created and determines genetic make-up and constitution. The quality of Jing determines longevity and resistance to degenerative disease. Strong Jing generates a long life free of degenerative disease, whereas weak Jing manifests in children as failure to thrive and in adults as premature aging.
Tooth decay, arthritis, hearing loss, lack of sexual drive, osteoporosis, and senility are all examples of the physical and mental deterioration that occurs with the diminishing of Jing.
A finite amount of Jing exists within the body at birth, when it is ultimately used up, one dies. To allay this process, extra energy left over at the end of a day can be transformed during sleep and used to protect Jing from being consumed too quickly. Since we tend to have less excess energy as we age, our bodies can be depleted of Jing more quickly during this time.
For this reason, it is best to conserve energy each day, go to bed and rise at a reasonable time, and avoid chronic stress throughout life, but especially in our later years. A form ofJing exists after a child is born that receives nourishment from food, water, and air. Consuming the purest and most potent foods and drinks available is thus essential to maintaining strong Jing, as well as breathing clean, fresh air.
Jing is mostly related to the kidneys, the primary organ that controls growth, maturation, aging, and natural death. This explains why strengthening, protecting and cultivating Kidney Jing is a primary focus in Chinese longevity practices. The kidneys are considered to be the root of the body’s energy and spark the energy of other vital organs. Maintaining proper amounts of Kidney Jing, therefore, has a profound effect on the energetics of the body.
Chinese tradition dictates that the kidneys are nourished by warmth, yet injured by cold. It is also believed that they are depleted from excess sexual activity. What constitutes excess, in this case, varies for each person, but in general no more than once or twice a week is a usual recommendation.
The following are other ways to protect and preserve ample storage of Jing within the kidneys:
- Sleep with socks on and refrain from walking barefoot on cold floors to warm and protect the “Bubbling WellPoint” which is the first point on the kidney meridian located on the sole of each foot.
- Wear a band or extra covering around the lower back or simply make sure the lower back is always covered. This protects the kidney energy from being injured by the cold elements, especially in winter months.
- Abstain from cold food and drinks, especially in the cold weather or right after vigorous exercise.
- Don’t overdo sex. You can withhold your orgasm to preserve Kidney Jing if desired during healing times.
- Do self-acupressure on the acupoint “Kidney 3” once daily for two minutes on each foot. It is located in the indentation right behind the medial aspect of each ankle bone. Practice self-acupressure to relaxed and receptive to healing as points are pressed along with slow, gentle and deep breaths. Breathe into the lower abdomen, rather than the chest, to further strengthen Kidney Jing. Use firm pressure applied gradually on the acupoint, using the thumb or middle finger.
Qi refers to the life force flowing throughout every cell and tissue of the body. It motivates all vital functions and transformations and thus sustains life. Ultimately, everything in Chinese medicine is based on the concept of Qi, one that is derived from the digestion and transformation of the food, water, and herbs and through the air, one breathes. This means, it not only important to eat right to have strong Qi, but to live in a well-ventilated environment and to get plenty of fresh air.
The ancient Chinese exercises of Tai Chi and Qigong are excellent ways to cultivate Qi, thereby supporting the welfare of the physical body. These slow, rhythmical, and meditative movements permit the entire body to relax, opening and restoring the proper flow of Qi within the energetic pathways (meridians) of the body.
The free flow of energy created through these movements promotes blood flow, which transports nourishment to our vital organs, glands, and tissues.
Tai Chi and Qigong movements are often synchronized with a slow, rhythmic, and deep breathing technique to not only increase lung capacity, but to cultivate and balance Qi, calm Shen, and nourish Jing.
The following Qigong exercise “Fluffing White Clouds” can be practiced to strengthen Qi and thus nourish all three treasures:
- To begin to stand with your feet parallel, shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent.
- Your hands are resting open at your sides with your pinky fingers next to your legs and fingertips facing the earth.
- As you inhale, straighten your knees and lift your hands to shoulder height in front of you with palms facing upward and elbows slightly bent.
- As you exhale, turn your palms downward and bring your arms down, drawing your wrists back in toward your body and bending your knees again.
- The heel of your hand leads and fingertips follow.
- End with elbows slightly bent, palms face downward, your hands by your sides stretched out flat as if gently patting white clouds.
- Turn your palms upward and continue from the beginning.
- Coordinate the movement of your hands with the bending and straightening of your legs.
- Repeat continuously 6-12 times.
The sensation of Qi during this exercise can be extraordinary. As your palms move upward, you may feel they hold a heavyweight. This is abundant Qi from the universe. By contrast, when your palms turn down and float back to your sides, it may feel as if there is a light, fluffy pillow beneath them. The power of these sensations increases with every repetition of the movement and your deep, rhythmical breath.
Shen represents all aspects of consciousness and mind. This includes awareness, cognition, thinking, feeling, will and intent as reflected in the personality. The Chinese principles for nourishing Shen suggest an open and peaceful way of being combined with a balanced emotional life. The more flow is created within the mind, the more things flow on the outside, leading to a bright and shining Shen.
The following exercises are practiced to create just that:
- Visualize yourself strong, yet flexible as bamboo – a Taoist symbol of longevity. Bamboo bends in the strongest winds. It survives without breaking, whereas rigid plants break and die. Remain firm in your inner goals, yet flexible in your choice of methods to achieve those goals.
- Create relationships with people that are healthy for you.
- Find what you truly love to do and go for it! Focus yourself toward this special goal and manifest it. Be one of those people living well into their nineties imbued with zest and passion for life.
- Find time for fun, rest and relaxation.
- Learn to express your emotions by allowing them to naturally come out as they arise. The emotions of anger, fear, sadness, grief, and worry need to be expressed to stay healthy. If you keep them pent up inside they can have a negative effect on your vital organs. Be patient and gentle with yourself and those around you as you honor and share your feelings.
As the master, Chang Po-tuan said a thousand years ago: “The words are simple, and the way is easy. It’s like finding the source by following the stream.” As long as you stay on course and don’t get sidetracked en route, you will get there sooner or later. Meanwhile, the journey itself is half the fun, and the Tao teaches us how to enjoy the trip without exhausting all our resources.
A combination of flexibility, spontaneity, and freedom from judgment is the best way to achieve peace within self and the outside environment. The more the mind flows, the more Shen is pacified, Jing is cultivated and Qi flows freely. This is truly the complete prescription for healthful longevity acquired through the abundantly powerful energetics of The Three Treasures.