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 tagged Daoism
Why I Treasure the "Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica"

It is not just because I am also a farmer with dirt under my nails that the “Divine Farmer’s Classic of Materia Medica” (Shén Nóng Běncǎo Jīng 神農本草經) has always been one of my favorite books. As a critical historian and teacher of classical Chinese medicine, I firmly believe this little book to be one of the most important, foundational texts of this medicine that I love so dearly and have dedicated my life to. For this reason, I produced a bilingual literal translation of this text last year and continue to promote this text and its teachings to anybody who will listen. Whether you are a practicing physician or pharmacist, a fellow “herb head” and plant lover, a historian of early Chinese culture and natural science, or just curious about one of the most ancient texts from early Chinese literature, you may enjoy listening to what the Divine Farmer has to say.

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Frog in the Well

May I introduce you, dear reader to my two new friends?  A cedar and a pine tree living in a secluded corner of the thick rain forest, in a magical grove behind my home. On a recent morning walk, I found them in an intimate embrace with such good strong healing qì that they drew me in and convinced me to pause for a moment and listen to their wisdom. It was much-needed balm for my troubled heart and spirit so I decided to share it. I also got the strange sense that they wanted me to pass this on. Here’s what they had to share with me. 

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Ruminating on Suwen 5... Again...

In an escape from current politics and to regain my balance and faith in humanity, I have been burying myself once again in Suwen 5, which may or may not evolve into the next book-length publication by Happy Goat Productions. What follows is probably the nerdiest blog post I have ever written, but it has brought me great satisfaction. Feel free to share constructive criticism, questions, or any other feedback in the Comments section below. I am perfectly aware that I am trying to put something in written words that is ultimately better approached intuitively. The passage below is found about two thirds through the chapter, following directly after the famous passage where Qi Bo explains the associations of the five directions with the dynamic agents, organs, climatic factors, sounds, flavors, etc etc. I am aware that the references of traditional gender roles in my discussion below may strike some readers as offensive, but I ask you to reserve judgment that comes from a modern Western perspective. Yes, I have opened another can of worms there and I promise to address that can in a different blog post in the future.

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Thoughts on Civility and Humaneness

After a few days of reflection, I have decided to accept the risk of offending some readers with my perspective as a brand-new American citizen, who has nevertheless lived here for most of my adult life, mastered the art of making apple pie, learned to shoot a gun, and raised a thoroughly American daughter all the way through prom and beyond. I feel the need to share my personal story because it may spark a conversation or offer a different perspective. I believe that these times call on all of us to speak truth from our hearts, and to listen to our fellow humans’ truth with an open heart in exchange. For only with honesty and openness to other viewpoints can we start the hard work of overcoming our current divisions and make room for love and reconciliation instead.

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Random Thoughts on "Water is Yīn, Fire is Yáng"

水為陰,火為陽;陽為氣,陰為味。

WATER IS YĪN; FIRE IS YÁNG. YÁNG IS QÌ; YĪN IS FLAVOR.

A commentary on this line from the Lèi Jīng:

類經曰:『故天以日月為水火,易以坎離為水火,醫以心腎為水火,丹以精氣為水火。夫腎者水也,水中生氣,即真火也;心者火也,火中生液,即真水也。水火互藏,乃至道之所在,醫家首宜省察。』
“Thus in Heaven, the sun and moon are water and fire; in the Yì Jīng, [the trigrams] kǎn and lí are water and fire; in medicine, the heart and the kidney are water and fire; and in alchemy, essence and qì are water and fire. Now the kidney is water, and the generation of qì inside water is precisely true fire; the heart is fire, and the generation of fluids inside fire is precisely true water. The mutual storage of water and fire within each other, this is where the utmost Dào is located, and this is what any physician should first examine attentively.”
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The Synchronicities of an early fall morning inspired by Suwen 5

On the wonderful synchronicities of life, here is an early-morning commentary on Sùwèn chapter five (陰陽應象大論篇第五, “The Great Treatise on Yin-Yang Resonating in the Manifest World”), inspired by my walk with the dogs this morning in the first foggy rainy soupy Oregon fall day. Every year, I get to revisit this chapter, which I currently consider perhaps the single most important treatise in Chinese medicine in general, in the course of teaching three Neijing Seminars in the Classical Texts curriculum at the university. We start off with Suwen 5, and invariably some eager students will voice a bit of disappointment, after a quick look at the syllabus, that we are only going to cover a single chapter. Don’t we want to read the entire Néijīng (黃帝內經 “Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic”)? And equally predictably, we run out of time long by the end of the term, long before the end of this chapter. So here are some ruminations on just the first couple of lines.

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The Gift of Imperfection

It's been a long week for me, ever since I received an email from a attentive reader about an inexplicable error in my newly published translation of the "Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica" 《神農本草經》... It is the year of the Fire Monkey, and I knew it was going to be a wild ride. Which is why I had been so determined to publish the book before the New Year. But I guess it was too late, the Fire Monkey did his monkeying anyway, and what a gift that has been for me! Like the gold filling the cracks in the Japanese art of Kintsugi, healing the break, so to speak, and thereby making the final product more beautiful and stronger as the result, I have spent the past week contemplating what happened and how to resolve it. All is well, imperfection is the nature of the world, I just need to chill and read my Laozi. Which I truly have been doing. Words are always just imperfect pointers at the greater truth of reality. The Dao that can be taught, expressed, walked, or transmitted as a path for others to follow, is never the unchanging, constant Dao. We all know this. Empty your heart and fill your belly..

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No Coincidence

While I was really hoping to announce the release of my forthcoming (and over-due) translation of the Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica, we are still fine-tuning it. It is a precious text that needs to be treated with reverence and presented correctly. So please be patient and accept my apologies for the delay. Any day now though....literally!

In the meantime, I have a sweet little story to share with you: A friend recommended that I check out the work of Jane English, translator, publisher, shaman, nature photographer, and apparently just somebody whose work I would really relate to. 

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Love Letter to the Universe

Yesterday afternoon, I had the honor of attending the lineage ceremony for the 2015 graduating class from the School of Classical Chinese Medicine at the National College of Natural Medicine. The students expressed some beautiful sentiments towards us teachers, most notably this sentence: “As students, we may just be your love letters to the universe.” This sentence will stick with me forever because there is such truth, hope, and life-affirming beauty in it. 

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