Tao Experience Foundation 1990: Chinese Dietary Therapy by Wilson Pitts with Dr. Amy Tseng
Wilson Pitts Blog is here: Internal Martial Arts with Taiji Coach
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Chinese Dietary Therapy
“Healers are for general diseases, but a person must take responsibility himself for the important matters in his life. He is one who must live the life he has molded. If he plays the destroyer of his life and then asks others to be the rescuer, can anything be achieved?”- Ni Huang Ching
Chinese Dietary therapy is an ancient and very practical description of the bodies processes based on generations of study of the how, how the body responds to what is put into it. The Tao, the how, of the body has been studied for centuries. The body is considered the microcosm where the principles could be studied on a practical, understandable level. This knowledge can then be applied to the macrocosm.
The history of Chinese medicine is closely tied to Taoism from the Sacred peaks of ancient China. Along with Astrology, Feng-shuai, it was one of the three fundamental areas of study in Taoist monasteries. The prevention of disease was pursued through every avenue available. The Tao Te Ching advises “handle difficulties while they are small.” The essential nature of the universe was discerned through its many manifestations. Everything was studied and understood on an energy level. This subtle energy the Chinese call “Chi” or “Qi” was studied by the ancients. They considered it to be a direct manifestation of the essential nature of the universe, the Tao.
Chi or Qi:
The Chinese have studied foods and the recognized the energy nature of each of them. The chi of the food is considered more important than any analysis of calorie or vitamin content. The Chinese doctor stresses that the patient is responsible for his or her actions and health. Once you have been taught the basics, you will know whether you are eating the wrong thing. This is a most basic, day to day activity that teaches you to nourish your chi, not just dump empty calories to satisfy cravings. The daily introspection on your dietary habits reveals the state of your energy. This study is based on principles that are fundamentally Taoist: eliminate extremes and return to the center.
The West’s unbending faith in material science has blinded many to the subtle energy of their body, the food they eat, and their environment. The west needs this awareness and the information available through it at least as much as the rest of the world needs the products of Western Science and technology. The information is available to us today through Chinese dietary therapy.
The everyday life of the family is the study of the basic unit of study in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The correct diet for each individual member is different. It is based on each person’s “now situation.” The understanding of the energetic of each person’s dietary need, allow the energy of the family as a whole to be adjusted and balanced on a day-to-day basis.
The goal of Chinese dietary therapy is to cultivate positive energy and hold it inside, of each family member, and of the family as a whole, including the energy of the house (feng-shuai). When the positive energy is cultivated and not allowed to disperse, a warm, positive attitude is exuded. This attitude helps to cultivate more positive energy which is reserved in a continuous loop. Master Ni calls this “cultivating yang virtues.”
When the energy is weak and allowed to disperse, the individual feels fear and dread and the family is weak and at odds with each other. This allows the negative energy to take over and expose itself as negative attitudes.
The typical diet in America is not understood in energy terms at all and is only adjusted according to a “mechanical mode” of calories, vitamins, and minerals. In energy terms we tend to combine extremes rather than stay to the middle.
To the Chinese all raw foods are “cold” in energy terms. All foods that are fried or baked are “fire.” In America these extremes are commonly combined and washed down with an iced drink. The result is that the individual’s chi is often weak and the energy of the family chaotic. It is no mystery to the Chinese that the American family unit disintegrated as the fast food mentality took over after World war II.
Food flavor categories: Sweet: enters the Stomach and Spleen, helps to boost deficiency.Pungent: enters the Lungs and large intestines, promote distribution and circulation. Sour: enters the Liver and Gall bladder, helps to arrest the abnormal discharge of fluids. Bitter: enters the heart and Small Intestines, it helps to clear heat and dry dampness. Salty: enters the Kidney and Bladder, helps to dissipate accumulations and nourish blood. Balance your flavors!
The food chart that accompanies the interview should be hung in the kitchen so it can be used. Try to avoid the extremes of cold and hot and stick with the foods in the middle columns that are either steamed or boiled.
Interview with a Chinese doctor
Question: Given the fact that most people in the West do not have access to Chinese medicine, what can they do to help themselves?
Amy: The first question you need to ask yourself is “Are you satisfied with your current state of health?”
If you are not satisfied with your current state of health, then write down a list of your favorite foods. Make your favorite foods forbidden for a period of time. Especially these items if they are on your list: coffee, alcohol, tobacco, any roasted or fried food, all raw food, raw salad, and raw fruits.
The next step is to make a list of what you eat each day for a week. If you are really enthusiastic about improving your health, then ideally you should do this for a month or two.
Note what your physical condition is in relation to your diet. Sometimes you don’t get the cause and effect relationship in one day.
Write your feelings for the two weeks that you record your diet and then eliminate the previously mentioned items and record your diet and feelings for another two weeks. After this introspection you begin to see what agrees with you and what does not. It is true that after your body changes and becomes better, you may be able to eat some of these things again.
I don’t believe in a lot of these food allergies that people talk about. Once the body gets better, you eliminate many food allergies.
Question: can you talk about the basic parameters of fire and cold imbalance in fundamental terms so that a person can learn to tell where they are in regards to the middle?
Amy: The quality of fire or cold in Chinese medicine doesn’t refer to temperature, but refers to an unbalanced state in the body. Some of the clues to having fire are:
· Burning in the eyes before you go to bed.
· Ulcers in the mouth.
· A pasty taste in your mouth even after brushing teeth.
· Dry, cracked lips.
People with a lot of fire imbalance appear to have a lot of energy. They are busying about doing many things, but they are actually borrowing money from the bank. They are using the borrowed or “fake” energy and one day they will find the balance is past due. That makes them a very nervous people.
Now it is time to talk about the cold imbalance. Some of the clues to having cold imbalance are:
· The person is afraid of or sensitive to cold temperatures.
· It is hard for them to get out of bed in the morning.
· They have a lack of energy to do things.
· They are more timid, they are not gutsy as someone with a lot of fire.
· They think about all sorts of things in the mind all day long, but lack the courage to act them out.
Sometimes people with a cold imbalance will have manifestations of fire, but this is empty fire, not full fire, true fire. There is a different treatment for empty fire than full fire. People with the full fire are easy to see because they have the red face and they have a strong personality, but the people with empty fire are thin and weak- they may have some manifestation of fire that we talked about, but they are a different type of person, much weaker. People with empty fire often stay up late at night. Staying up late at night can give you more fire and make you nervous and unable to fall asleep. The people with empty fire will think about a lot of things, think and think, but they won’t go and do it whereas the people with full fire will decide on something and do it without giving it enough thought.
Question: In general terms what has your research shown to be the predominant imbalance in America?
Amy: the population we have seen in the U.S. have been mostly people with empty fire. People who are farmers or are very active have the full fire. People who are thinking, using their minds, and thinking to much have a tendency toward toward empty fire and this is the population we have seen.
Question: Do you think it’s the lifestyle that has an effect on the body?
Amy: Exactly. People who get empty fire have the following habits.
· They like to stay up past eleven o’clock at night.
· They like to smoke and/or drink coffee.
· They drink alcohol.
· They smoke marijuana or take other drugs.
· Most of them are a nervous type.
Another important personality trait of a person with empty fire is the tendency toward perfectionism. It is impossible for a human to attain perfection, so pursuing it creates a lot of stress.
Question: Can you compare the lifestyle in the U.S. to China and and how these different lifestyles manifest different energy?
Amy: The Chinese have a long tradition of knowing what is best to eat. They are less likely to eat the diet that is full of fire like the normal diet in the U.S. They don’t drink as much coffee as in the U.S. and they don’t eat big steaks or broiled foods. They eat more simmered and stewed and drink tea. However the Chinese world is changing and in the larger cities they are now getting habits of the West. The Chinese have a philosophy of taking things as they come. They are not a hurried people as in the West. Good things take time, so that is less stress when you take that attitude. For example: as we have talked about before, if you eat something with a lot of stress when you are eating it, then the digestion will be different than if you eat with a calm mind.
Question: What steps can the average person take, beyond the basic dietary considerations mentioned to help themselves?
Amy: One of the main things someone can do in their life is to decrease the importance of material things in their life. Then the stress associated with trying to get these things will decrease and one will have more time to advance their health and cultivate their spiritual energy.
Question: What foods can you recommend that would be good for most people to eat?
Amy: steamed foods and soups are very good. Most Americans are not suited to eating raw veggies and salad. It may be OK for some people. Cowboys, people working all day by the sweat of their brow, may be more suited to eating steak and salad. People who sit in front of a computer or desk all day, its not really a good thing for them. Raw vegetables may be pure before they get in your stomach. In Chinese medicine, raw vegetables have the cold energy and when they get into the stomach have a cold quality, not a cold temperature. This cold quality decreases absorption of the food in a functional sort of way, so you don’t get the benefit of that raw food. Steaming the hard vegetable will make it soft was easy to absorb.
Question: in attempting to listen to your body, it seems you have to first recognize where you are right now?
Amy: Yes, this is why I said to write it all down, study your present situation.
Question: If you choose to look closely and listen to your body and can recognize a state of imbalance, then it seems that on the face of things the unbalanced body tells you exactly the wrong thing to do or eat?
Amy: it’s true that the body may give you the wrong signals. You may have a craving for chocolate all the time because you are weak and need the energy, but that is just the wrong sort of energy that won’t help you. It will make your fire worse and worse. That is why it is important to write down what you eat and discern the energy response you have to what you eat.
It is only in the state of imbalance that the body will give you incorrect information. Once balance is restored it should give you accurate information. If you have cold imbalance you can’t eat fire foods to restore balance. In Chinese medicine, they stress eating warm foods to restore balance. Just go to the center and forget either extreme. In other words, avoid cold and fire foods, especially when you are not feeling well. Eat cool and warm foods instead. We have a list of various foods and their essential energy nature. This will provide a basic guideline. Tse tse.
Amy Tseng studied Traditional Chinese medicine in Taiwan for 7 years and has practiced in the U.S. and Europe for over 40 years. She is most interested in nutrition and diet as a foundation for good health. She teaches that diet, herbal medicine, acupuncture, Tai Chi, qigong, and meditation work together synergistically to create well-being.
“Try to keep a low fat, low sugar, low salt/sodium diet, get some antioxidants in your diet”- Amy
Additional Information from Chinese Medicine school and more:
Key: LU Lung, LI Large intestine, ST Stomach, SP Spleen, HT Heart, SI Small Intestines, BL/UB Urinary Bladder, KD Kidney, PC Pericardium, TW/SJ Triple warmer/San Jiao, Gb Gall Bladder, Liv Liver.
“Remember….no food is “bad” in chinese medicine, there are just some foods that are not right for you at certain times!”- Dr. Chung
Master Ni Huang Ching, in his masterpiece, “The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth” (a wonderful translation of the I-Ching with Master Ni’s commentary), states, “The ancient medicine is Tao in a narrow way of practice, Tao is medicine in the broad way of practice.”
East and west, ancient and new, must move aside to make room for a global culture based on true understanding. The bridge between these diverse cultures and ways of understanding is Tao, the glue, the unifying principle.
Energy is considered the essential nature of this principle. In his book “The Tao of Leadership” John Heider states, “The Tao is the single unifying principle underlying all creation. Tao is principle. Creation, on the other hand, is a process, how and what. The method of meditation works because principle and process are inseparable. All process reveals the underlying principle.” The principle is universal. It applies to the modern era as well as it did to the ancient mountain recluses in China. The reason why we look to China for information and process to get at the underlying principles is that for thousands of years this information was studied, refined, and past down to the next generation without interruption. A great deal of information developed when spirituality and science were not separated, has been preserved, and passed down. First by the monasteries on the Holy Mountains of China, and then the families associated with monasteries.
In the epilogue to his book, “The Book of Change and The Unchanging Truth”, Taoist master Ni Huang Ching states, “I am willing to work with a group of advanced scientists to conduct thorough research into the truth of human life and to offer the methods of the ancient sages which are the key to unlocking the knowledge of those elements which really and ultimately constitute life”