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The Body as Wisdom Teacher

“Although we are here today, tomorrow cannot be guaranteed. Keep this in mind! Keep this in mind!” (Chinul: Founder of Korean Son Tradition, Translated by Hee-Sung Keel p88).

Chinese medicine emphasizes prevention over treatment. In this way, if we are mindful and attend to the signals, we can maximize our well being. If we ignore the signals and wait until things are critical, we can sometimes become really sick.

The Chinese metaphor for how we should seek to live is like a rice pot bubbling at just the right rate; not too hot and not to cold, just enough rice, just enough water, and just the right heat. All the elements must work together in the right amount (Ju-Yi, 2008). However, in our fast paced life, we often crank up the heat and put our “pot” to bubbling at a mad rate that evaporates the water and burns the rice!

What we want to try and do instead is adjust the heat as necessary to our own unique endowment of what the universe gave to us. So in our lives, this means ensuring enough quiet time, enough time to laugh, that we eat healthy food, get enough sleep, find how to limit stress to an amount we can handle, and exercise at just the right amount for our constitution. All in all, it means having enough “yin” time relative to “yang.” And this amount will change over the course of our life. If we pay attention, we will know how to adjust with nature. We might then be able to avert the lament of this young 26 year old who writes that “to keep up the pace, I put myself through a series of self-imposed tortures that included overcaffeinating and taking catnaps in place of real sleep. I was 26 and felt invincible. I figured I could handle the pressure, so I ignored repeated headaches, blurred vision and general exhaustion.” (Jonas Koffler: What I Learned from a Stroke at Age 26.)

The Practice: Notice and really be mindful about your mental, physical and spiritual status. Are you running on empty? Do you have the slight post-nasal feeling like you might be starting to get a cold? Is your neck stiff and tight and you have trouble looking over your shoulder when you are driving? Do you feel blah, hopeless, lack of joy? These are our signs. It is our body as wisdom teacher. It is our signal to listen and ask what we need: to rest, to slow down, do some yoga or meditation, maybe to skip that party and take a nap, or take a day off of work, maybe go for a restorative walk. Maybe it is time to change up your work to something that you are impassioned about and you want to wake up to do. For an interesting new book on doing less, Greg McKeown has written Essentialism: the Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

Learning to be more “yin” with you,



Ju-Yi, W., & Robertson, J. (2008). Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine Wang Ju-Yi’s Lectures on Channel Therapeutics (1 edition). Seattle: Eastland Press.

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