Nurturing life through the body, heart, and spirit with the wisdom of Chinese medicine
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Blog

A collection of notes on the topics of classical Chinese, medicine, and traditional culture.
 

This blog is a collection of ruminations, translations, and personal opinions by Sabine and some guest authors. Reflecting my own personality, some posts are academic, some clinical, and some personal, some are excerpts from existing books and some may become part of future books. Please leave comments with feedback, questions, constructive criticism, and differences of opinion as long as you argue your reasons for disagreement logically. Any personal attacks, uncivil remarks, or self-promoting comments will be deleted.

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Posts in reflection
Spiritual Action for the New Year

Inspired by my dear friend Lillian Pearl Bridges and her yearly choice of a Spiritual Action, I have been contemplating my own path. As I am beginning to prepare for a retreat on Virtue Healing in a few weeks, my head and heart are much concerned with the traditional Chinese Five Virtues 五德 or Five Constancies 五常:...All of these are obviously much needed these days, both in my personal life and in the universe at large, and I will spend as much energy as I can find in myself on cultivating each one of these. Nevertheless, I found it impossible to settle on a single one of these. Instead this morning, as I was getting ready to see my beloved daughter off to college a long day's drive away, it came to me...

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Allies: A poetic guest blog by Peter Firebrace

Allies
It seems we all need allies. The Lone Ranger had Silver, his faithful horse.
Davy Crockett had his coon-skin cap as well as his trusty rifle, Old Betsy.
Basho, Japan’s most famous poet, had the moon and a small boy I once saw
on the Moscow metro had a tiny hedgehog, which he kept in his pocket, but
brought out to stroke, much to the astonishment of his fellow passengers.
Maybe he reminded them of the value of friendship in an often hostile world.
Allies bring comfort, company and connection, a little personal touch of life
touching life that staves off that feeling of loneliness that seems such a
common undercurrent in people’s lives.

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Imperial Tutor

"Imperial Tutor: Translating Ancient Chinese Wisdom into Medicine for Today" is the title and subtitle of my newest project, rooted in my desire to share what I have learned from the ancient Chinese classics (medical, philosophical, cosmological, and otherwise) with you all, my students, friends, readers, and colleagues near and far, in a more direct and personal way than is possible in writing. To be sure, I treasure every moment of my new reclusive life on a magical island in the Salish Sea and feel so fortunate to be able to concentrate fully on my writing and translating. And I am very clear that without this peace and quiet I could never do the deep work that I am currently engaged in on my Sù Wèn 5 project, forthcoming as "Humming with Elephants: The Great Treatise on the Manifest Resonances of Yin and Yang" by the end of this year, I sure hope! But as I explain on the home page of my brand new website, which I quote below, I have always loved sharing what I know in small personal circles. And so I have created a vehicle for that in the formats that work best for me.

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"Do Not Blame!" 不怨人!

The past few days, weeks, and months have been difficult ones for many of us, at least in the United States where I currently live, as we witness horrific events in our local communities, the country, and around the world. So much violence, rage, pain in this crazy year of the Fire Rooster! Like many of my clairvoyant, wise, or just empathetic friends and colleagues in the field of Chinese medicine, where the virtue of brightness or vision (míng 明) is the distinguishing mark of the sage, I have been finding the nearly constant onslaught of tragedies hard to digest and have had to consciously force myself to take breaks from the news and allow the soothing calmness of the Puget Sound to heal my heart and spirit. For me personally, a daily swim in the sea has been a life saver, in spite of the dropping temperatures, and I am extremely grateful to be in a position where I get to do that. Let us be consciously kind to each other, come together, and support each other as best we can with unconditional love while we grieve and squint our tearful burning eyes! I need to write a blog about kindness but am too raw emotionally to go there right now. Instead, I want to share an insight by Liu Yousheng from his book "Let the Radiant Yang Shine Forth," inspired by Wang Fengyi's teachings on the toxicity of blame.

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Ode to my Pericardiums

Rose does not ask for a pet, she powerfully demands recognition whenever she needs it or the mood strikes her. Luckily for me, that is actually quite often. At the same time, she is fiercely independent and happily and ceaselessly performs her task of guarding the farm. Our connection is not one of devotion or need but of choice, given as a mutual gift to enrich both of our lives from a place of power and freedom. Having this force of nature in my life serves as a constant reminder to myself of my own animal nature. It also inspires me to exist in the moment in a non-rational presence that perhaps can temporarily transcend the subjective or objective experience of reality, as it is filtered through the divisive activity of the rational mind. This is as close as I come on a daily basis to the ideal Chinese state of “fasting the heart.”

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On Walls, Part Two: The Great Wall of China

This blog is a continuation of my previous post, “Why I Dislike Walls,  Part One,” which you can read here. That post was an attempt to give voice to some of my personal experiences with walls in Germany and on the US-Mexican border, to explain my personal gut reaction. In the present writing, I am putting on my supposedly objective historian’s hat for Part Two, to look more closely at arguably the most famous historical example of wall-building, namely the Great Wall of China. So let us travel far away in time and space, to fifteenth-century China and the construction of the Great Wall in the Ming dynasty.  And here I’d like to add the disclaimer that I am not a specialist in late imperial Chinese history, but merely get to revisit this topic once a year while teaching a survey course on Chinese History and Culture to students of Chinese medicine at the National University of Natural Medicine. My original inspiration for this topic came from a brief lecture that Professor Donald Harper gave more than two decades ago at the University of Arizona in an undergraduate Chinese Civilizations class, for which I served as a Teaching Assistant. All mistakes are of course my own.

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Why I Dislike Walls, Part One

The prospect of yet another wall going up and mercilessly dividing a contiguous region by cutting through towns, communities, families, and friends who I deeply love and care about on both sides, and the reality already of innocent people being torn from their communities, rounded up, marked as different due to some human-made distinction expressed by a piece of paper, and shipped off to a place of no return, breaks my heart and forces me to speak up. The current hateful political discourse on building a wall and deporting “illegals” to “make America great again” touches me more deeply than any other political issue ever has in my entire adult life, and I have been around the block.

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Orientalism, Cultural Appropriation, and Critical Thinking (Part One)

Orientalism is a term and topic that has crept into my thoughts repeatedly over the last few months. I have tried to push this unwanted visitor back out the door, with excuses ranging from “Everything there is to say on the topic has already been said by much smarter, more erudite people than myself,” to “This is just another example of me sticking my foot in my mouth and stirring up a hornets’ nest with no need,” to “Who am I to say anything about this topic, because wasn’t it this very same fascination with the ‘Orient’ that got me started in the field of sinology in the first place?” But alas, the term has gotten a foot in the door and a draft of this blog post has been sitting on my desktop for months now, waiting for me to accept the challenge. Please forgive me if I offend you, dear reader. I’d rather step on your toes than continue tiptoeing around the subject, remaining silent, and smoldering internally as I witness this attitude rearing its ugly head again and again in innocent statements by the most well-meaning people who simply have never critically thought about its historical baggage in the context of learning, practicing, or teaching what is far too often still tellingly called “Oriental Medicine.”

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