Monday, December 15, 2008


I'm not sure the origin of these pictures, but they were found at, one in the family of lolcat websites.

One of the principles of Daoist medicine is that the body is a microcosm of the universe. Just as there are five planets visible to the naked eye, so there are five major organs in the body, each corresponding to one of those planets (Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, Mercury to go with the Liver, Heart, Spleen/Pancreas, Lung, and Kidney). Click here for a fun website where you can check other Five Phase correspondences.

In some systems of Daoist meditation and cultivation, there are techniques for bringing the universe inside yourself, harmonizing your energy with that of the universe, and ultimately gaining the awareness that there is no separateness between your "self" and everything else that is.

These lofty ideas have not been included in modern, materialist TCM and certainly would seem out of place in any American university science course - it sounds too much like astrology. The closest you'll find is the idea that the weather has an influence on your health. If it's cold, you could catch a cold. But the link is there - if the sun, at least 91 million miles away, can grow plants here on earth, why shouldn't Jupiter and Mars have some kind of influence on us as well? Why not the moon, smaller and colder but so much closer? We already know the moon influences the tides and menstrual cycles.

It's easy to dismiss these ideas because there is no scientific evidence for them yet, but it's quite possible that our instruments just aren't advanced enough yet. In the Daoist tradition, your body can be the most finely tuned instrument in the universe, and physical practices such as qi gong and dao yin are the methods of refinement.

Medical traditions across all cultures, until recently, put higher value on the doctor's ability to wring information from the body with her questions, hands, eyes and nose than the ability to order tests. What will you do if you have no X-rays, no MRI machines? Throw up your hands and give up? In TCM, we learn to pull information by palpation, feeling the abdomen and the pulse, looking at the tongue, even observing a particular patient's odor. There is a wealth of information there - it's just a matter of sorting and ordering it with this system we call Chinese medicine and giving a diagnosis, which then gives us a roadmap for treatment.