The Body Ecologic Prt. 2

Prt. 2

The Sentimental body

The notion of qi was always around. Qi is the communication of heaven and earth. It communicates through the myriad species. However before the Body Ecologic, the proponent metaphor of the body was the Sentimental body. The Sentimental body came around the Warring States period after Confucius, where the ruling class amongst the tribes were educated by the scholars of the times. The scholars were travelling philosophers who engaged in ritualistic endeavors to keep the ancient traditions alive. They went from ruler of state to state to teach how to handle the people, educate the people and themselves. In order to understand the human mind, the scholars of the times explored human emotions and how they manifested physically and mentally. Qi, the grand communicator of Heaven and Earth had its development in this role. Directionality of qi and its expression of yin and yang was attributed to the emotions, each one having a different expression.

The way one felt when they experienced emotions showed the relationship of one’s body to their awareness. For example, the Yin shu, mentions “When one is joyful, one augments yang. When one is angry, one augments yin.” Here a dichotomy of emotions is developed as well as a directionality. Joy, lightens the spirit and has an upward motion. Anger weighs down the body and compresses the body.  Another dichotomy, that developed was that of emptiness and fullness, an inward extent and an outward extent.

From the Nei Ye,

“The form of the Heart is spontaneously replete (Qi). Spontaneously born and complete. It loses this form through, care and joy, pleasure and anger, desire and profit seeking. If (the heart/you) are able to rid itself of care and joy, pleasure and anger, desire and profit seeking, the natural feelings of the heart cleave to rest and calm.”

Here fullness and emptiness take on the roles of Qi, and how the emotions may diminish and fill the heart. Ultimately the nature of the heart is to be rested and calm. So one must try to control one’s emotions so that they may control their Qi.

“with a settled heart within, the eyes and ears are keen and clear, the four limbs are strong and firm. He is fit to be a dwelling of essence. By essence it is meant the essence of qi”

Here the settling of the heart, clears the senses and strengthens the body. This allows one’s body to be open to qi, the communication of heaven and earth. With this there is a settling where Qi can make itself known.

Before seeing the landscape of the body as a reflection of Heaven and Earth, the pre-unified Chinese had to see the body as a settling place of the communication of Heaven and Earth. Qi was recognized as a directional force that through Dao yin, an early form of Qi gong could be moved around in the body by controlling the emotions. The Sentimental Body was an exploration of the directionality of the effects of the emotions, and how they played a role on rudimentary physiology and psychology.








Yi 意 and Xiang 像

In the Huang di Nei Jing, one of the daoist cannons that make a cornerstone of Traditional Chinese medicine, states that the zang fu- organs store the zhi- virtues/spirits/wills. The Zang fu organs are the Heart, Lung, Liver, Spleen, and the Kidney. These organs are storehouses for these virtues/spirits/wills. 伸,Shen, the word for spirit, is that which animates, so one could look at it as the processes that give the person and body life. This is why, I use the terms virtues, spirits, and wills. For each on their prospective level, show a way of life, perhaps one of a sage, or a regular person, or just for one surviving. A virtue fuels the sage to continue his path, a spirit enlivens your Joe, and will gives strength for someone to persist. These are all driving forces. Strengths and powers to keep us alive, and better ourselves. There is a Hierarchy of the Zang fu, and with a simple start the Heart is the Ruler in the schema of the Daoist and Chinese medical body.

“That which takes charge of things is the Heart. When the Heart is utilized, there is intention 意。 When intention is preserved, there is will 志. When will is maintained for changes, there is consideration 思. When thought extends itself far and is oriented there is reflection, 慮. When reflection is applied to dealing with things there is wisdom 智。” Lingshu 8

Here I will take loosely these two cognates and their interactions. In dealing with Xiang, as what has been mention in the previous two blog entries. Its more like the impression that nature gives us. Xiang is the image that pops in our heads when a moment unfolds. It is the beauty and wonder, or the simple and boring. It is the imprint that is let to us to unpackage. As with the Yi ching, it can be the overall impression given to us in a reading. Yi, intention happens when the heart is used. Here, the heart is the mind/body connection. It is more than consciousness, our cognitive function, beyond recognition and know, but also the process of preservation, and self-awareness. Yi, stirs out from the heart, but is store in the spleen. It is the intentionality that is derived from a thought. It is the active component from where the thought came from. When an intention is held, it solidifies and strengthens into a form, and this becomes will. Will is a persistence for existence. It is a drive into being. It takes power to feed a thought, and strength to manifest it, either in word, deed, or act. Will is stored in the Kidneys, for it is from the Kidneys that we get our impulse and our drives. This we will go into detail in the next entry. From the persisting will, consideration is then formed. Consideration is the stitching and a making of thought. It orients thought in the schema of one’s life, goals, or daily dealings. It places value upon that thought and that drive. It chooses. After consideration, then there is reflection, which is a strengthening of consideration through identification with the thought, the thought then incorporates with the self, and self image through a variety of degrees. From there, Wisdom, then develops, wisdom is the change of life for the better.

It is from life’s impressions that we ultimately make the choices in our lives.

Xiang Shu and Zang

image26An introduction to Image and number. The study of “Changes” is a very tricky thing. The easiest way to approach it is that it is a tool, and a tool layered with dynasties of interpretation. So when it is stripped down to its essentials, historical chunks come off it in many interesting ways. It becomes quite a daunting task to digest, after a while. To start off, this image is a modern formation of the King Wen arrangement. It was arranged in a fascinating way by Joszef Drazny, it works perfectly with what we are seeing. If you are further interested in its arrangement check out his site or read how he assembled the organization of the relational guas. It works rather well.

Joszef Drazny

As you can see, it can easily be seen as the world and also as a 3d tai ji symbol. The dividing line between the yin and the yang sides are the tidal guas. These guas note the changing of the months of the year. Remember, the ancient Chinese were very determined to be attuned with nature,  in learning the changes of the year, the preparation of their culture revolved around rituals to preserve this accordance.  Just like the relations noted in the guas, as discussed in the previous post, the change heaven has on earth similarly affects man.

This brings us to Xiang and Shu. Which loosely translated means image and number. Xiang/Image has a very layered structure, since there is historical connotation as well as context. It is more than a word and more that just a character, it is qualitative and relational. It denotes space and time. It can be a moment, an event, a decision. It is what a poet works with to create meaning, or what a painter elaborates. It is the artistic endeavor to captivate, the inspiration that solidifies what you are thinking of. Joined with shu, number, connotation is derived, for when the Chinese counted they created mnemonics to carry with them on the palms of their hands, and on the bottoms of their feet. They wrote on the body, which was the intercourse of Heaven and Earth. They became a walking embodiment of what came to pass and what was to come. Shu, wasn’t just quantity but coordination, position, and prestige. It takes years to unravel the collective consciousness that became integral to their life-style in those periods. People tend to get lost in elaborate details of the metaphorical labyrinths of these Chinese gardens, but one has to simply remember that these were just tools that were used in those time to quickly adapt to the changes not just in nature, but also human society. This video by Andrew Nugent Head, lightens the humor, that our over-analytic western minds need to remember, that it is just a human invention, just like our science, trying to put everything in a nicely organized fashion.

Andrew Nugent Head

From these roots, of image and number, then comes Zang which is what becomes internalized in our bodies. Zang is storehouse, what we call our organs. It is what qualitatively and quantitatively gets stored in our extended faculties for existence. I say extended faculties because according to the ancient Chinese our faculties correspond to these vessels of containment, the organs of our body-  Heart, Lung, Spleen, Liver, and Kidney. Sight, hearing, speech, taste, and touch. Each one of our sense can receive Xiang and shu and interpret it in its own way, creating a relating experience that can be communicated not just to each other but to our bodies and our extended interdependent environment.


I’ve been told that the study of changes is an aspect of Chinese Medicine. To know when something is to change, and then to aid the change is to know health.Life is constantly changing and though there may be a pattern to it, it is always in transition. The central tenet is “As above, so below.” A mirror is established between heaven and earth, with man, its junction, in the middle communicating that change. The easiest way that early man had at his disposal to communicate the changes of the times was through the making of a time. Time to the early Chinese was very positional, it was by the changes that occurred in the directions that time could be laid out between days, weeks, months and then years. Time was seen qualitatively in relation to changes of factors in the environment. Elements transformed into one another, and their occurrence was marked with initiations, fixity, and transitions. As the changes in the heavens occurred, the earthly transitions were noticed, and a symbolic relationship arouse through early man’s consciousness. Markers in the sky were grouped and explored, while changes on the earth were also observed. Tools were then developed to further examine the observation. The calendar was one of early man’s first technologies. The Tai ji pole is one of the first developments of it. Essentially it is a very large sundial with positional markers all around. Ancient astrologers examined the changes in the sky and correlated them with the changes on earth to come up with a method of communicating the changes. Strange insight lead to strange developments, as the Tai ji pole evolved into the symbol that it is today, the yin/yang sign. The crest of white shows the height of summer, while the descent of black shows the emergence of winter. The interplay of the two dots in both, show the balancing times of the equinoxes. There is so much depth to this simple symbol, that thousand of years of compounded information gets stored into it as the world has changes. The fact that these changes occur in large scale and then can be compared to that in the small scale shows a continuity of correlation of the interdependence of all things.

The Yi jing, is a study of that relational change. Evolving out of the Zhou yi, the Yi jing is now an amalgam of Daoist, Confucianist, and Buddhist interplay. There are even local shamanic correlations that can be universalized with various ethnographic groups all over the world. Having a rich history, it is extremely difficult to separate and winnow out different particulars out it, since it has had so many diverse interpretations.

I have been tinkering with it for over ten years, and haven’t really given it much due until the past 2 years. It wasn’t until this year that amazingly it simplicity started unfurling. Though I know there is much more to uncover, I know that it simply is an observation that must be experiential in order to comprehend the subtle changes that it has.

My first excitement was coming to know tidal guas. After repeatedly drawing them, I finally was able to tie them to the Gnomen. The Gnomen is a further development of the Tai ji pole where slits were marked on the pole at six positions to show a marker. These were points of definitive change for the  Ancient Chinese. It was at these lengths of the Gnomen that twelve months of the year were designated. These six markers, later became known as the six levels.

The fascination is that the six levels were heavily used by Zhang Zhong Jing in his treatise, The Shan han lun, which is a tome for Chinese Medicine. The Shan han Lun, is one of the classics of chinese medicine and shows the relational progression of illness due to cold damage. There is so much more to uncover as one unplucks the layer of the old in order to grasp meaning from it.




The Ecologic Body Prt 1

Lately, I’ve been delving into the field of cognitive science grasping at parallels in Chinese Medicine. Edward Singerland has been a great influence in guiding a comfortable where-between, that nicely points out where bridges between the two occur and may occur. The new field of Embodied Cognition is a great start.

Embodied cognition is the idea that the body influences the mind. It’s essentially the belief that our ability to gain knowledge, comprehend concepts, remember, judge, and problem solve are not confined to the brain. In this framework, cognition then is influenced, if not determined, by our experiences with the physical world. This is why we say something is “beyond us” when we want to express something we don’t understand: we connect the physical nature of distance with the mental feeling of uncertainty to illustrate our point.

Language was not our first thought. Our thoughts most likely began tactile in nature, most likely gustatory, filled with our hunger needs. Later on we developed visual memory and filled in the picture with the other senses. Our thought essentially were visual based at first and then later developed in to the symbolic language that we needed to express in or were handed to by our social means.

Not only this but our behaviour driven lifestyles determine our language use and choices. In this way we further influence the way we speak, the way we gesticulate, and the way we make our presence to others, through our prior bodily modes. We expect this out of others in the same way. Knowing Oliphant plays rugby and is a fan of the sport, we automatically frame our perceptions toward that way.

Body memory plays a huge part of embodied cognition as out of it cognitive perceptions are developed, arranged, or comprised of.

The ecologic body is a term used by Elisabeth Hsu, who uses the Macro/micro cosmic body of Chinese medicine to explain the visceral emotional body phenomena. The image of the body as a reflection of the macro cosmic plays a central role in Chinese medicine. As the illustration shows, there is an inner landscape, or biologically speaking an interior biome. In different locations in this biosphere, there is a different residence, a different aspect of nature that creates the cyclical changes that our body experiences. It is through the changes of phenomena, Wu xing, that we come to know ourselves and the environment.


We will go further in the next week. mantak-chia-lesser-kan-li-10-728

Sprouts of the Heart

Touching off where I was lost in translation, I discovered a new way of looking at the I ching, through the Wu xing. However, historically I now find myself delving through a Confucian understanding which is in a time period later than the time I wanted to explore. Originally, My intention was to find some works that could point out some of the links of the I Ching to Chinese Medicine. However since a majority of the commentaries to the I Ching are Confucian, I believe I found myself in the right direction just peeling another layer to the onion. The clarity that I did discover was very simple and practical. I’ve read a variety of the commentaries in the past from various books and often found them rather superfluous, and verbose. These may be due to the english translations of the text, now that I have a chance of getting closer to the ancient traditional Chinese, the depth of meaning is profound.

The Confucian paradigm is one that can be used daily on a one to one, and on a group dynamic level. It touches the individuals position in society, how he interacts, and how he should continue in his pursuit of the Dao. Traditional Chinese Medicine consolidated out of various Han texts that set it apart from the Shamanism of the times. A proto scientific thought came about where a logical classification of nature was ordered. Many of the ideas came from a philosophical framework that is very relevant today. As one of my teachers, Arnaud Van Sluys, says “One must get in to the Han mind, to practice the medicine.”
In order to get more of sense of Pre- Han and Han thinking I decied to take a course on Ancient Chinese thought taught by Edward Singerland from the University of British Columbia.

His breakdown was a methodical step by step process leading from the Han to the Warring states period. A chronological sequence of thinkers that progressed from Confucius to Xun zi. Menscius rang a large bell with me. He has had also in the past. The affinity to Menscius, was simply due to my optimistic nature. I felt a kin to his view on human nature. In the arguments of the variable viability of nature vs. nuture the varying degrees between the Philosophers of the period are very nuanced. Menscius with the positive slant of inborn goodness nourished the optimism that has always brightened my path. In this manner I can see the directionality of our own evolution that remains in question in the unknown. The consequences that we experience whether they are in accord our inborn nature or not is only part of the process toward self discovery. My slant has been toward the optimism of our inborn goodness.

Which had led me perchance to find essays on a Guodian text called Xing Zi Ming Chu- Human Nature calls the Mandate. The author is uncertain, may it be Confuscius’s son or his students remains to be, though the work stands in a pivotal period of the times. It examines the role of the Jun Zi, and his own in-born human nature. The layers between intent and action are so colored with an explored intensity of criterion, it is astounding that more than two thousand years ago these were the ways people lived.

I had a prior taste of what I just recently explored from essays by Lonny Jarret and Heiner Freuhauf.
Heiner’s translation of the Bai Hu Ming Tang gave me an idea of what the capacity of a Jun zi is. Lonny out lined a Confucian approach to the five elements. The XZMC substantiated the ideas that I sampled from them. This was not just meat and potatoes, but tempura asparagus, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and sake. Many questions as to how the Heart Mind works connects to what today we argue today with Human nature. Recent scientific explorations as to genetic traits and development can also be paralleled with the philosophical arguments. What still stands out is that Xing- Human nature is only a stepping point for the heart mind. Like sprouts in a garden, as Menscius puts it, the goodness needs to be cultivated.

The cultivation process from Xing, goes through many stages, though the nuanced arguments of growth derive the process. Questions as to whether utility, intentionality, prosperity, or discipline are the best drives for the process to continue. This stems out from a sense of directionality that is inborn or aroused from the external influences. There is no argument that there is a mutuality, and a give and take that is necessary every step of the way. The way Xing develops and then is externalized in the social becomes a cultivation of authenticity that is discovered. The varied traits that gradually develop are Benevolence or Compassion, Propriety, Equanimity, Self-righteousness/Trust, and Wisdom. The path takes on these forms through varied modes of self reflection, and commitment. A sense of integrity, De, is developed, and spontaneity- wu wei is aroused. The Jun-zi becomes the man, the act, and the presence for the moment, for the people, and for himself.

The heart mind strives toward an integrity that is sometimes greater than we allow it.
We just need to open our eyes within and through-out so that the seeds within may grow.

The Bagua

This beginning is all in frustration. The attempt to find the uniting events and ideas behind Chinese Medicine leads one through rabbit holes of translation and lost texts that can only be misconstrued or built into political agendas or personal tirades. I decided to embark on my own. This attempt is one of trying to maintain a spirit of the characters and the text.

Chinese medicine is a philosophical medicine and a way of life, unlike materialistic medicine where the body is constructed of the minute and then adjusted through elimination or reconstruction. Chinese medicine utilizes the natural to find balance and greater wholes to help to body to learn how to adapt in its situation. There are benefits for both, and both have their weaknesses. Here we will not discuss the weaknesses but try to reconcile the language behind Chinese medicine so that it can be easily related into a contemporary experience.

Looking for guidance in understanding the I Ching, after having 5 books already on the subject, and nothing really completely tangible sinking in my consciousness, I sought out someone more versed in the subject. This lead me to Michael Givens, who puts together the Annual Chinese Medicine Almanac to aid practitioners through the coming seasons of the year in order to anticipate prescriptions through the years moments.

His translation of the Shou gua, delves into an anthroposophic interpretation of the Ba gua, where one can conteplate the pre-heaven and post heaven sequences.

To me there is still a story that is missing, something a bit after Fu xi, and something before King Wen, where the idea of the gua had changed and transmuted from a hunter society to that of an agricultural paradigm.

I first stumbled onto the I ching after being introduced to Runes, after feeling that runes were a little out of the scope of my ethnicity, though there is something that binds the two together in similarity and use.