Blog – Qigong & Daoist writings from my Daoist Practice Journals
This blog will contain entries from my books, A Daoist Practice Journal: Come Laugh With Me, 2013; A Daoist Practice Journal, Book 2: Circle Walking, Qigong, and Daoist Cultivation, 2016, and A Daoist Practice Journal, Book 3, Qigong, Seasonal Food Cures & Daoist Cultivation.
From Book 3, Qigong, Seasonal Food Cures & Daoist Cultivation
January 12, 2018
I missed writing on the first day of the next winter node, that of, Minor Cold, which started on January 5th. but don’t let the name of this node trick you. This year, 2018, the East Coast of the US was hit with a deep cold that set records for the lowest temperatures. Even my daughter, Ashley who now lives in Alexandria, Virginia had temperatures in the single numbers and had to deal with broken water pipes throughout her house. One of my priest students who lives in Ontario, Canada, put on Facebook pictures of himself and others jumping into a frozen lake that had a hole cut out of the ice. The temperature there was -30 degrees F. So, while it may be called a Minor Cold node, it was nothing less than a major freeze.
The guidelines for this node are the same as the previous Winter Solstice node: keep the Kidney system warm; protect the Spleen and Stomach from getting cold, and store as much Qi as possible. One practice to continue is to get extra sleep, just like the hibernating bear. Eat foods that are easy to digest and perhaps decrease heavy meats. For those people who are having a difficult time because of the extra cold, or have an underlying Yang deficiency (feeling cold, fatigue, heaviness of limbs, edema of the limbs, pale or frequent urination, craving extra sleep) they need to take additional precautions. Take in Yang-warming foods, like cinnamon, some alcohol, and avoid cooling foods like mint, milk, yogurts, and even cold-damp foods of the citrus family – oranges and orange juice, other tropical fruits and cut way back on refined sugars. How many of us were guilty of these violations during the holiday celebrations? I know I was.
For those of my readers who do have actual winters, unlike those of us here in northern California where we feel desperately cold whenever a frost is predicted for overnight. I suggest some extra tonifying winter congees or soups. I suggest adding plenty of warming ingredients, like chicken, black pepper, ginger, carrots, shitake mushrooms, chestnuts, and a little salt. Feel free to vary the ingredients with all of the warming foods I’ve mentioned so far. There is only one more winter node to follow before we enter a new seasonal cycle on Chinese New Year in February. Hopefully, the East Coast of the US will be spared another harsh winter freeze. Who knows, anything is possible with the unpredictable weather patterns created by the Global Warming crisis.
January 12, 2018
The following entry is from an email exchange between one of my new Qigong Certification students, and myself. My student was telling me of an experience she had while meditating on her Lower Dantian, and then shifting to her Middle Dantian. This was part of her studies on the different stages of the Qigong State.
Those experiences all sound good, but they are just steps. In the final stages of the Qigong State, like in Authentic Zuowang, there are no focal points. Everything dissolves away. Did you get to page 37 (my Qigong Certification manual) in the manual? It mentions what I just said. I’m not trying to discourage you but to advise you to not get attached to even the blissful moments of Qi experience. There is always more to come.
Pursue the goal – It’s like being on a train ride to a specific destination. You don’t get off at one of the rest stops thinking that is your destination – you get back on the train when the whistle blows, despite how pretty the scenery is.
January 20, 2018
Okay, we made it to the last of the winter seasonal nodes, Major Cold. Most of the US is still deep in their winter cold and some areas, like our Sierra Mountains of northern California are just beginning to get their first winter snowstorms. Here in Sonoma County, we are getting some cooler temperatures in the low 30 degrees.
According to Dr. McCann (Winter issue of Qi Journal, 2017) during this last phase of winter, we should concentrate on eating light and easy to digest foods. He explains that the organs easily weakened at this time are the digestive organs, like the Spleen and Stomach systems. These organs are supposed to begin their Yang transformations at this time, despite the frigid temperatures. But if we are eating overly greasy or sweet foods, the job of transformation is damaged. Some foods that are recommended are rice, yams, peanuts, clear soups like chicken soup, and cooked vegetables. It’s also a good time to make some rice congee with chicken and ginger. And of course, the warning to avoid raw vegetables, cooling fruits, greasy meats and very sweet deserts is still in effect.
The other precaution to take during this cold and snowy seasonal node is to guard against becoming dry. The natural moisture in the air is bound up in snow and ice, making the air very dry. The dryness affects both the lungs and the skin. What can we do about this? Dr. McCann suggests things like using a home humidifier and drinking more herbal teas. He recommends a simple herbal formula of Goji Berries and small red dates combined with boiled water, and steeped for a few minutes. This will tonify the Kidney and Liver and strengthen the Spleen. (Again, thanks to Henry McCann for giving me permission to quote from his article in the Qi Journal, Winter issue, 2017-2018, 18-29.)
We are almost at the end of the winter season. The next seasonal node will be the beginning of the spring season on the Chinese New Year. The Yin and Yang continue to evolve as the year progresses. I often wonder how the talk of global warming will impact these ancient ways of interpreting the seasons. I recently heard of a report on global warming that the past few years have been the hottest in recorded weather science. Accompanying hotter summer temperatures are colder winter temperatures. Perhaps the extremes of the Yin and Yang seasonal energies will be the new normal. Who knows?
I recently purchased a used book from Amazon.com that I came across in a retreat center library. I thought I should have it in my own library since its main subject matter is on silence and solitude. It’s not a particularly spiritual book but it highlights that aspect of solitude that is appealing to the sensitive type of person who craves a simple life. The book is Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton. She varies her time between living in a simple cottage in New Hampshire and living in New York City. She passed away in 1995 in her 80’s. Even though she led a full life as a writer, her love of solitude was expressed throughout her life. From her journal writings, she says, “The value of solitude – one of its values – is, of course, that there is nothing to cushion against attacks from within, just as there is nothing to help balance at times of particular stress or depression” (Sarton 1973, 16). She also connects her love of solitude with her mental states, which were sometimes marked by depression and even suicide. “Later on in the night I reached a quite different level of being. I was thinking about solitude, its supreme value. Here in Nelson I have been close to suicide more than once, and more than once have been close to a mystical experience of unity with the universe” (1973, 57). I have often said to others when they ask me about my own experiences in solitude, that the solitary experience reveals to the person who they really are. There is no one to play games (that is, psychological ego games) with, and you just have yourself to confront. You can be totally honest with yourself, or you can be self-deceptive. In either case, you’ll know which of these is your real self.