For those of us who constantly yearn to achieve various things, an occasional dipping of our minds into the ancient Chinese
principles of Taoism can help wash from our lives some of our excessive yearning and habitual dissatisfaction, and give us
a taste of a contentment which is often near, often easy, and free. Sometimes we forget, sometimes I forget, the importance
of modesty. A Taoist book which I love and often carry with me is Back to Beginnings. "When the rich and well established, who should be generous, are instead spiteful
and cruel, they make their behavior wretched and base in spite of their wealth and position. When the intellectually brilliant,
who should be reserved, instead show off, they are ignorant and foolish in their weakness in spite of their brilliance."
The better known and more essential source of Taoist principles is Lao Tsu's wonderful Tao Te Ching, of which there are many translations. I feel it's a good idea to read more than one,
including the not-very literal version by Stephen Mitchell. You can read James Legge's much older translation for free, here at Upchange
(see the left column link).
In 1980, after I was hit hard by a recklessly driven car while bicycling in Oregon, I got thrown over the car and landed
on the street in a sitting position, so that my spine was compressed, causing "referred" pain throughout my body, and especially
intenese pain in my back and the sciatic nerves running down my legs. For a few weeks I tried various therapies, including
physician-prescribed drugs and physical therapy, and had several sessions with a chiropractor, and took a reflexology course
at a community college, and consulted an herbalist (even though I thought of myself, probably naively, as experienced in that
field) -- but found no relief until an M.D. referred me to a licensed acupuncturist -- and during my first session my pain
vanished, to my surprise and delight. Pains returned later, with less intensity, but after two further sessions of acupuncture,
and my continuing yoga (which I'd begun in childhood) the pain was gone for good. I remained a little wobbly for awhile (having
not walked unassisted for weeks), but soon was completely OK. Both before and after this experience I read about Chinese Medicine,
never becoming particularly knowledgeable about it, but developing considerable respect for this remarkable system of healing
developed over thousands of years. So if you have aches or ailments which "conventional" treatments haven't cured, or if you'd
just like to feel a bit more refreshed, I highly recommend trying acupuncture. I realize that many people fear the needles,
fear the pain they might bring, but that's a misconception: the needles used in acupuncture are much smaller in diameter than
the needles used by M.D.s and nurses for vaccine shots, and you'll either not feel them or probably not mind the small sensation,
once you've experienced the results.
To find a professional acupuncturist near you, click here or (for a list from another source) here. Most or maybe all of those listed have degrees in Oriental Medicine and can recommend appropriate Chinese herbs and other
treatments. In my experiences with acupuncture, both long ago and more recently, the costs have been less than "standard"
treatments which are less effective. YMMV
Healing Rays -- Would you like to have a device which generates healing, deep-penetrating rays, curing diverse disorders,
in the manner of the then-fictional medical machines shown in the old Star Trek TV show and movies? It appears to me (though
I continue to seek news of further research and testing) that a device somewhat like that (though probably not quite as miraculous
and quick-acting) is now available -- the FIM Energizer (FIM = Far Infrared Mineral). I've been using one, following a tip
from a wonderful MD trained in Chinese and Western medicine, who was treating my mother with acupuncture and with one of these
far-infrared lamps. (For several months, my mother had been experiencing painful sciatica, was unable to walk without using
a walker, and often used a wheel chair, until her first session of acupuncture and infrared lamp treatment. Since that day,
a few months ago, she has walked unassisted, feeling far less pain in her back, legs and shoulders.) From personal experience
I'd known about acupuncture's usefulness, so had urged her to try that (and physical therapy, etc) rather than settle for
minimally effective prescription drugs -- but I'd never heard of this fascinating healing lamp, which was invented in China,
and has been used by US and other Olympic teams and professional sports teams, and by physicians worldwide. Apparently, because
of the particular character of rays produced, other types of heat lamps do not produce these curative results. For fairly
detailed discussion of effects, counter-indications, history and clinical studies, see the various articles at healinglamp.co.uk and elsewhere on the web.
These lamps can currently be bought for about $110 including shipping (shipping costs depend on where you live) -- by
phoning UPC Medical Supplies of San Gabriel California, at (800)790-4888 -- I have no commercial relationship with UPC, beyond
having bought two of these lamps from them (one for my mother, one for myself -- we don't live close enough to each other
to share one). Buying 2 got me a $5 discount from the $90 cost per lamp, and shipping was $18 for each. Prices may change,
and there are other versions (two versions cost much more, one lacks the tall stand so is less convenient to use). On the
internet, amazon.com (and UPC Medical and others) sell the same FIM Energizer lamp, but for higher prices, ranging from $159
to $329, plus shipping. (Well, actually, that $329 price includes shipping, at one web site, but who cares!) The heavy base
adds to shipping costs, but is needed for stability because of the way the multi-jointed arm can extend laterally. Minimal
assembly is required (attaching wheels to the base and sticking a couple of parts into each other). The device includes a
timer (up to 60 minutes).
Here's the official Product Description: "Emits deep penetrating, far-infrared waves for most conditions; just
aim the FIM Energizer at the affected area - bare skin, around 12-14 inches away. Leave it there for 30-60 minutes. The deep
penetrating FIM energy will be felt as gentle warmth in the treated area. The emitted FIM energy penetrates up to 3½ inches,
and stimulates microcirculation, delivering higher levels of oxygen and nutrients to the injured cells, while eliminating
toxins and cellular waste. This begins the healing process as pain is relieved. How FIM Works. The FIM (Far-Infrared Mineral)
medical device features a plate coated with a mineral formation consisting of 33 elements, essential to the human body. When
activated by its heating element, the mineral plate emits deep penetrating, far-infrared waves ranging from 2 to 25 microns
in wavelength. This coincides with the natural, healing far-infrared waves generated by our own bodies, and is naturally absorbed
into our tissues. At the molecular level, this exerts strong rotational and vibrational forces in the cells of these tissues.
This absorbed energy has been found to yield many therapeutic effects on the human body by: Dilating blood vessels and increasing
blood flow and oxygen saturation; Accelerating the decomposition of unstable cells; enhancing white blood cell function, increasing
immune response; and stimulating the hypothalamus, which controls the production of neurochemicals, which control sleep, mood,
pain, and blood pressure."
Immediately after several kinds of injury (including bruising) and for a couple of days thereafter, it's probably best
to apply cold instead of heat, so I assume that this lamp should not be used then. And some other precautions are necessary
and mentioned in the lamp's instructions, such as keeping the rays from being directed into the eyes. And I use a surge protector.
Note that ultraviolet rays and x-rays and gamma rays, which can damage us, exist on one end of the electromagnetic spectrum,
beyond visible light, while infrared waves (which these lamps produce) are on the opposite side of the electromagnetic spectrum
much different effects (and are not visible, but can be felt as heat). I'm no expert on any of this, and will be seeking clarification.
The FIM Energizer Lamp uses 275 watts -- far less than a portable space heater (which would not have these healing effects).
Still, I do consider it important for us humans to decrease our use of electric energy, so to balance my mentioning this far-infrared
lamp and my tentative enthusiasm for it, I'll advise that whenever possible, you use compact fluorescent light bulbs for most
lighting, rather than standard light bulbs. Compact fluorescents last much longer than standard bulbs, and produce as much
light for a fraction of the wattage, so their initial higher price is more than offset by energy savings of several dollars
over the life of each bulb. You can probably buy these bulbs at stores near you -- and they're available via the internet.
(The FIM Lamps produce warmth but no light, by the way.) Also let's eliminate or minimize commuting and other non-essential
driving. Eventually upchange.com will have a section on energy & conservation -- and updated thoughts on the far-infrared
lamp, with other health-related suggestions (on exercise, food, tea, sleep, serenity, etc), on the Health page (link
at the top).
I plan to update this page as my understanding develops. Please send me your insights (via the comments box below).
Sleepy Yin and Yang
A fine book which for several years has helped me think through which herbs to grow, how to grow them, how to harvest and
use them, is Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West: a guide to gardening, herbal wisdom, and well-being, by Steven Foster and Yue Chongxi.
I wish more herb books would take this approach, of giving the whole story (almost) of how to use specific herbs, including
adding color photos, and references to recent research (pluses of several of Steven Foster's other books on herbs), in addition to gardening tips and reputed health benefits. It's interesting to read
about Chinese medicinal uses of ornamental plants such as dianthus, gardenias, peonies, balloonflowers, rose-of-sharon, mums,
nandinas, blackberry lilies, daylillies and japanese honeysuckle -- all of which I've welcomed to my garden (plus forsythia
& baikal skullcap, which alas passed away). Actually, I don't consume any of those (except an occasional nibble), and several
of the potential uses seem admittedly minor, or not currently relevant to me, or have not stuck in my memory -- but it feels
refreshing to grow plants which add both beauty and other potential benefits. (The book points out that many folks consider
japanese honeysuckle, often called Halls honeysuckle, a weed -- but is sure smells sweet!) The book also has worthwhile discussions
of some of the trees (ginkgo, eucommia, jujube) and vines (schisandra, ho shou wu = fo ti tieng) and shrubs (eleuthero, vitex)
in my garden & containers, and lots of others unfamiliar to me. Leaves of ginkgo, schisandra, hou shou wu and eleuthero (Siberian
ginseng) often swim in my teas -- all are said to enhance human energy, when used appropriately. (Writers always suggest using
the roots of all varieties of ginsengs, especially old roots from wild plants, and they may speak with experience and wisdom,
but I'm confident that the leaves also carry some of the active alkaloids, and am not often inclined to uproot my rarest friends.)
An example of a useful detail mentioned in Herbal Emissaries: when harvesting ginkgo leaves, wait until they begin to turn
yellow (rather than picking them when they're green, as one might naturally tend to do) -- as validation that this is standard
practice in the herb industry, check ginkgo products such as tablets, and notice that they're yellowish or yellowish-brown,
Because knowledge of the uses of herbs has developed over many centuries in China, it's not surprising that no one book
covers the whole subject. So I often also use A Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs, by Daniel Reid. This book lacks
the color photos and cultivation information in Herbal Emissaries, but may be a slightly better choice for those just
wishing to learn about the uses of Chinese herbs and herbal formulas.
Other books I've bought and used, on this subject, include
Wee Yeow Chin & Hsuan Keng's An Illustrated Dictionary of Chinese Medicinal Herbs (a nice-looking hardback book with great color photos, many of them full-page, and
generally a concise description of the uses of the herbs -- which is often what I want),
Richard Lucas's Secrets of the Chinese Herbalists, Revised Edition, A Manual of Chinese Herbal Medicine: Principles and Practice for Easy Reference, by Warner J-W. Fan, M.D., and Michael Tierra's Planetary Herbology -- and all of these include good information not found in Herbal Emissaries
-- especially about herbal combinations and Chinese medical principles and additional herbs. Planetary Herbology adds info on ayurvedic herbs (those used in India) as well as rare and common herbs
used in Europe, the U.S., and worldwide. I think of Herbal Emissaries as the most practical book I've found that's specifically
about Chinese medicinal plants (especially for gardeners) -- though here & there I wish it included even more details. Probably
there are many super books of which I'm unaware, on Chinese herbology, or any subject, especially ones written in Chinese,
and the internet has more and more of this and diverse health info. Of course, there are numerous other good herbs which are
native to other parts of the world -- and books about them -- and you can eventually see more thoughts on those here at upchange,
and links to good herbal websites.
The I Ching
In the early 1970s, when I was having a tough time (of my own making) I found helpful guidance in The I Ching, a book of Chinese
Philosophy which is often used for divination. Using the I Ching is like having a wise friend available to consult -- you
may not always see things as the friend does, but your ways of understanding things will gradually deepen through the interaction.
There are numerous worthy translations and editions of the I Ching -- for the past 20 years or so, my favorite has been R.L.
Wing's I Ching Workbook (because of its good, clear use of modern English, and its inclusion of brief interpretations of hexagrams
when no lines are changing), though the the old Wilhelm/Baynes version has more charisma of physical form, and a good introduction
by Carl Jung -- that's the version with which I began, and I'm still quite fond of it (have completely worn out a couple of
copies). There are a few nicely portable, tiny pocket editions, including one published by Shambhala. Recently I bought The
Everyday I Ching, a not-too-large paperback by Sarah Dening -- and on the other end of the size scale The Complete I Ching:
The Definitive Translation by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang, both of which have been very favorably reviewed.
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