William Potter is a licensed acupuncturist and has a Masters of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, CA. He is also an Advanced Food Healing instructor certified by Supreme Science Qigong with a history of studying Internal and External Martial and Healing Arts since 1992. In today’s interview we’ll be diving into some of the details behind Chinese medicine.
In this interview we deliver an introduction to the Chinese models of:
- Yin and Yang
- Three Treasures
- Five Elements
- Twelve Meridians and Organ Systems
- Six Pathogenic Evils
You’ll discover tips like:
- Simple Breathing Methods to Enhance Yin and Yang
- Two of the Most Common Elemental Problems: Wood Overacting on Earth and Fire and Water Not Communicating
- The Change of Seasons Affecting Your Health and What to Do
- The Spleen/Stomach School of Thought
- Just How Far Pulse Diagnostics can go…
- And Much More
For more from William check out Fire Water Acupuncture.
Click the link below to access the complete transcript.
Logan: Welcome to The Vital Way podcast. I’m Logan Christopher and today we have an exciting call in which we should be diving into some of the details behind Chinese medicine, sort of the philosophy behind it and then of course how you can apply that into your everyday life so you can have better health, performance and those sorts of things. Joining me on the call today, we have William Potter who’s a licensed acupuncturist and has a master’s of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, California. He’s also an Advanced Food Healing Instructor certified by Supreme Science Qigong with a history of studying Internal and External Martial and Healing Arts since 1992. Thanks for joining us today, William.
William: You’re welcome. Good to be here.
Logan: So if we’re talking about Chinese medicine, should we start with the Dao? Where do you begin in explaining some of these ideas to a person that may not be familiar with this at all?
William: Probably the simplest place to start is the yin and yang so maybe the next step down from the Dao.
Logan: Right. Can you briefly explain yin and yang? I imagine most people have heard of that but may not really have a feel for how it works.
William: It’s true. Just the basic two forces of everything really. There’s a yin side and a yang side. It’s easy to think of it as the day being yang, the sun’s out, very active, warming, tend to be up and doing things and the yin side being the nighttime where you rest and recharge. That’s a good place to start.
Logan: Some people are naturally more yin. Some people are naturally more yang. Of course, there are changes over the course of their lifetimes but how would someone get sort of an idea of where they may be and of course then this could direct things they do in their lifestyle, taking herbs and all that?
William: Well, you can look at your body type to start with. If you’re a heavier set person, you have a tendency to carry a lot more yin. Generally speaking, let’s say women are more yin than men. If you’re a thin, wiry person, you have a hard time gaining weight, you’re more of a yang type, the first looks. You can also separate it into—our culture is kind of based on yang culture. It’s very mind-dominated, very active. We like to be busy doing things so you’re that type of a person, you can look at your life and we’ll often recommend meditation, which is a very yin activity. If you can’t sit still, it’s probably a good time to sit still.
William: So you can look at those things in your life and generally speaking, a lot of people that come to my practice that have never heard of meditation or some other sort of yin activity and a lot of forms of yoga will fit into that but of course qigong and tai chi being the very balanced, predominantly yin type of activity that includes the yang. So you start to get the visible end of yin and yang. You want to try and keep it balanced. That’s the whole idea.
Logan: Right. So that’s sort of the angle you’re aiming for, to achieve an exact balance of yin and yang or is it more of a balance of yin and yang that sort of works for that individual?
William: Yeah, exactly. I guess if you take a high performance athlete, he’s going to find balance at a difference place than say computer scientists who spend most of their day or like the Rock is going to be a different yin-yang balance than somebody who just works out three times a week. So yeah, you look at of course the individual all the time in Chinese medicine, which is one of the great things about Chinese medicine. You not only look at the individual in a holistic and totally unique presentation each time you see them, you look at that picture right then and you make small modifications.
Now we kind of modify yin and yang even with stuff as simple as breathing. In qigong, the inhale is considered very yin and the exhale is yang. So the inhale, you’re taking in, you’re storing, you’re bringing in the qi, bringing in the oxygen. On the exhale, you’re actually pushing out the carbon dioxide, what you don’t need, but you’re also sending the energy so one way to modify yin and yang in your body is to explore and practice different types of breathing.
Logan: Could you give an example? Let’s say for someone to cultivate more yin, what would one way of breathing be?
William: There’s a great breathing technique called the nine-breath method although you don’t have to do nine of them. Wim Hof has some breathing but you really focus on the big inhale with sound through the nose. Take nine of those breaths, hold for a brief moment then do a very, very slow exhale and that’s a very to activate—
Logan: Is it exhale through the nose or the mouth?
William: It really could be either but traditionally the nine-breath method is through the mouth always but you could do it either way, essentially the general point being you’re focusing on the inhale. Even though it seems like a yang activity of that like big breath, you’re essentially at the end of that round of how many breaths you do—you could do 9, you could 30, you could do 5, you could do 3—but if you hold for just about three to nine seconds and then slowly exhale, you’ll find yourself calming down.
Logan: And what would someone do as more of a yang type of breath?
William: Well, in the yoga tradition there’s the breath of fire which is a perfect example of how make your body more yang, how to generate heat and that’s that very quick exhale and forceful exhale, focusing only on the exhale and letting the inhale take care of itself. So it sounds a lot more like so you’re really using the diaphragm and the belly muscles to push out the air and let the inhale take care of itself. If you do that for about 30 seconds, you will definitely generate heat in your body and feel the heat moving out to the extremities. So yeah, we see it when we lift weights or something like that. If you’ve ever seen anybody take a big inhale while they’re trying to push up 350 pounds of bench press, now you’re going to exhale out, right? You want to push that energy out. Yup.
Logan: Yeah, I know we have a lot of athletes listening to this and I definitely count myself as one of those, that sort of the workout itself is much more of the yang activity although of course you have sort of the resting in between sets. Well, that’s the workout but really the part you need to focus on I guess as equally if not more so is the yin aspect, resting and recovering, allowing your body to rebuild after that time.
William: Absolutely. That’s probably the most overlooked in training and stuff. When I was training like at least six or seven hours a day, it became necessary to find something to recover because if you do that for five or six years, you’re like wow, I’m really losing energy somehow. You start to modify based on that and that’s kind of where I really amped up my tai chi practice, my qigong practice after workouts right away. I started to get into a very more relaxed stretching yoga set of like 15 to 20 minutes at the end of this really long day. I just needed it. Non-negotiable. I definitely recovered faster and had less pain and feel just more peaceful and ready to do it again the next day.
Logan: Would you say that I guess based on time you need to balance these things out? Like if you do an hour more yang activities, you do an hour of yin activity? Or is the time inconsequential in that?
William: I think it’s probably more inconsequential. I think if you’re truly really getting to the space of deep yin, you can use less time. I think what happens when say you practice just simple sitting meditation and you really get a sense of going deep. One way to gauge this is your thoughts are just less frantic or they stop altogether. You can notice your body charging up or you feel different sensations which we won’t get into that can be considered spiritual or whatever but very, very deep relaxation. Sometimes like five minutes of that can be worth an hour of yang activity in my opinion.
Logan: Excellent. So I guess that covers the yin and yang easily enough. Where should we move next, the three treasures?
William: Sure. Love them.
Logan: Okay. Well, can you explain what the treasures are?
William: Well, we have jing, qi and shen and they’re essentially related to body areas, the jing being located in the lower dantian, which is your lower abdomen up to a little bit above your solar plexus. Then we move into the qi aspect which includes the lungs, the heart area and then the shen which includes the head and around it. The jing being the substance of the body, I think initially or traditionally in Daoist early references, it only referred to the sexual fluids and later it started to incorporate all of the hormones and the substances and you could extend it really to the body itself or the physical component to a certain degree.
The qi aspect is this layer of energy that moves through the body that’s like invisible. So we often translate it into energy. The symbol for qi or the word for qi, the character is there’s a pot of rice and it’s actually the steam coming off the rice. That’s the character for it. So it’s slightly tangible but invisible energetic that you can feel and really that’s a lot of times associated with the breath and the lungs. You can get qi from the air. You can also get qi from the food. And then shen is associated with consciousness a lot of the times. Another translation of it is really spirit but we tend to think of it as consciousness, your mental activity, and the level of peace that you feel in there. It’s also associated with the heart in Chinese medicine so they’ll say when you go to sleep, the shen rests in your heart, which you can relate back to yin and yang. If you don’t have enough yin in your body at night, there’s not enough yin to anchor the shen in the heart so you have restless sleep. So that’s very general.
Logan: With jing, I guess, where do you stand? Because different schools of thought talk about there’s that primordial jing, just kind of what you’re born with. You have that. When that runs out, you’re dead versus other schools of thought where through energy, herbs or some food, you can kind of restore or even build up the jing that you have.
William: I subscribe to both. I think that there is truth that you come into—in Chinese medicine proper, not Daoist philosophy but with traditional Chinese medicine, they call it kidney essence. You come in with a certain amount of kidney essence and it sort of peaks at puberty and then starts to sort of wane for the rest of your life. All of the Daoist practice and tonic herbalism, for that matter, is kind of geared towards like let’s figure out how to not lose jing. Let’s not lose our essence. What are the practices you can do to first, not lose it, stabilize all the leaks of your jing and then second, how do we build it up? Obviously, you’re totally into herbs so there’s a lot of jing tonic herbs but qigong itself has a philosophy that if you build up enough qi, you can store it in the lower dantian beneath your belly button and with an abundance of qi, you can store and also that will transform it back into jing, thus lengthening your life or at least slowing down the process of aging.
Logan: Yeah, that actually describes it. So qi is your everyday energy and obviously that’s kind of the connection to food and the breath things that we obviously need each day to go on but the jing is kind of more of that more powerful type of energy, tapping into that—one of the things I really like is it’s okay to get tired but never get exhausted because if you’re getting exhausted, that’s like you’re tapping into that jing, that reserve of energy and it’s sort of accelerating the aging process.
William: Absolutely. I agree with that.
Logan: Yeah, it made a lot of sense to me and that kind of goes back to that whole yin and yang thing. If you’re always just doing the yang, working out harder, or you’re stressed with working without having those yin activities, that’s depleting the jing, all the qi and the jing.
William: Yeah, you basically think that you’re evaporating the watery substances of your body and you’re losing the base, which is another way back to yin and yang real quick. It’s a simple way and we’ve all heard it. If we exercise or how many times have you heard the talk of are you drinking enough water, which is obviously a yin substance. You can never hear that enough. I think it’s a very, very difficult to overhydrate. It is possible but as I practice in the area of acupuncture, a lot of people come through and really the solution is drink a few more glasses of water and you’re not going to have those headaches. What do you mean you don’t like to drink water?
Logan: Yeah, it’s interesting, that directions that cultures go in some ways. Yeah, I’ve heard it, sort of that yin aspect that’s kind of all the fluids of the body from like blood, lymph, I guess the hormones and with those traveling and all that, mucus, all of those things there’s more of that yin aspect.
William: I think that’s a good description of it, although traditional Chinese medicine separates blood and yin into two different categories.
Logan: Right. Can you just talk a little bit about that?
William: I think ultimately though you would say blood is yin and qi is yang, still you have to shift paradigms a little bit. It’s a way to differentiate certain diagnostic characteristics it’s like where the person could be blood-deficient but not yin-deficient. It’s just a different component that’s being depleted is the blood due to malnutrition or trauma, something like that. I would still generally say that blood is yin. So a lot of times, even though we categorize blood tonics as something different than yin tonics, they work together a lot and most blood tonics are yin tonics. So generally speaking, I think you can lump them together but there is a difference diagnostically.
Logan: The blood is said to be like more of a substantial form of qi, right? The blood tonic is a qi tonic but not vice versa?
William: What was the last thing you said?
Logan: Any blood tonic is going to be a qi tonic but not vice versa.
William: I don’t know if I would totally agree with that. Indirectly, yes, I guess. Because the way that I studied and learned it was the blood and the qi are married. The blood carries qi and the qi moves the blood so the movement side of the blood is—but if you’re just saying in general energetic terms, yeah, you have to say that everything is energy so at one level or another, yes, you would say it is a more gross, close form of qi, just like the rest of the body would be, if you want to get into quantum mechanics and stuff.
Logan: Right. I guess another question regarding jing, you mentioned that hormonal aspect of it is really I guess the jing kind of governing or just obviously a model of looking at that hormonal aspect but thinking about it, there are all kinds of different hormones in the body but really the sexual, the reproductive hormones. You mentioned that whole thing sort of peaks at puberty if they’ve got growth hormones in but then a lot of these hormones naturally decline with age so there does seem to be a pretty big corollary between hormones and jing.
William: Absolutely. I know Super Man Herbs, we talk about testosterone and it’s really valid. You can say that that’s a huge component of jing depleting, especially over 40, 45, 50, that sort of thing.
Logan: Would you say it’s the same for women? Obviously, different ratios of the hormones are at play but we see the similar sort of thing where certain hormones go down with age. These hormones are closely related, testosterone, estrogen, progesterone. It’s all formulated from cholesterol.
William: Absolutely. Generally, women lose blood every month so they’ve got another battle going on, unlike men. Generally speaking, women tend to show signs of blood deficiency more than men simply by their cycle. They definitely have a different and more complex hormone balancing system than we do.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. For someone that has researched the topic, it is quite a bit more complex. Not that men’s isn’t. I mean men’s is fairly simple in comparison but yeah, women, that whole monthly cycle just makes things way more complex.
William: Yes, god bless them.
Logan: Okay, so we’ve talked a bit about qi and jing. What would you tell us about shen? How does someone work with it? I guess an analogy is sort of the Daoist ideas, you’ve got to make sure you’re supporting your jing, that you’re not really tapping into that so that you can live a longer life and be healthier overall. You kind of have that qi, make sure that it’s circulating and going well, everything is working basically smoothly there. Then you can really focus more on that shen aspect, whether the mind or the spirit, just focusing on growing that capability. I guess the first question: do you really need a good foundation of jing and qi in order to really focus well on that shen aspect?
William: I think ideally yes, although you can certainly experience the shen aspect without focusing on that mostly. Yeah, I really think that the way the whole Daoist sort of philosophy goes is you’re really, really building the bottom of the pyramid up. You take care of your jing, you take care of your qi and then you start to experience your shen a little bit more. But you can work with the other side of it, too, because—one easy way to work with sort of the shen aspect is to look at your belief systems and look at your thoughts throughout a day because you want the clear, peaceful mind that can decide to do things. That’s a clear shen. So you can go into it that way, too. We associate a lot of the mental component with shen as well and it’s like what really guides your consciousness is what you’re believing. The first step would be to be aware of what you’re believing in. Because you can get your jing full or at least not leaking and you can get your qi up but if you have a really negative belief pattern in place, you would say you were disturbing your shen. You would take all that energy and drive yourself down.
Logan: You mentioned disturbing this and I’ve heard some of the herbal tonics like ones support shen disturbance or stabilizing that while other ones are more uplifting to the shen? Could you explain the difference between these two?
William: Can you give me an example of an herb you’re talking about?
Logan: Let’s see. Let me think. Well, I guess reishi kind of does a bit of both in the terms I’m talking about. Just kind of the difference between sort of the mental things like anxiety or depression where there’s some disturbance in that shen versus just maybe a normal person but just sort of expanding that spiritual awareness out there.
William: I would say that it’s a different paradigm that you’re looking at because those two terms are looking at it a different way. Shen tonics are the way that the Daoists classified some of the same herbs. The disturbed shen could be caused by many other things besides so when you hear that an herb might clear the disturbance of shen, it might be working on the spleen. But essentially, I would say things like reishi is a good example. It’s really a heart tonic, right? That’s where the shen lives at night so you’re kind of building up a house for the shen. So that’s a tonic. You can take that. That’s a really good herb that you can take on a daily basis.
When we talk about disturbed shen, it’s usually caused by some other system going out of balance. In other words a simple example would be like the person is super yin-deficient. So what happens if someone is really yin-deficient? You start to generate heat in the body and you start to get more agitated. You start to get things like insomnia so if you follow that, it’s really going down this path of just burning out all their yin, you start to get mania. That would be considered really disturbed shen. The mind isn’t able to function anymore. It’s got no anchor.
Logan: So I guess that kind of leads to the sort of next model of Chinese medicine, the five elements. I guess we can talk about those a bit more, diving into the yin and yang organ systems of the body.
Logan: What are the five elements and how does this model work?
William: Fire, earth, metal, water, wood. So we have five elements, five seasons. Each element has a taste, a color, a sound. There’s a cycle of the five elements. Fire creates earth. Earth creates metal. Metal creates water. Water creates wood. And then we have a controlling cycle where each of the elements controls another element. So the circle graphic that probably a lot of people have seen, there’s fire at the top and it goes around in a circle. Then we have the star in the middle which is the controlling cycle.
Each of those elements is associated with two organs, the yin and yang organ. Fire is heart and small intestine. Earth is stomach and spleen. Metal is lung and large intestine. Water is kidney and urinary bladder and wood is liver and gallbladder.
Logan: And fire also has the extra meridians, the pericardium and the triple burner.
William: The pericardium and the triple burner, yeah.
Logan: Sometimes though
Logan: Do you know why that is? Why it kind of got added there? It was just we’ve got 12 meridians and only 5 elements so we’d got to stick some extra ones somewhere or is it part of a close relation, like the pericardia, like the sac around the heart.
William: Yes, and I would say that the element version of the triple burner, which isn’t an organ at all, is considered kind of your heating/cooling system in a lot of ways in the body. I can’t say exactly where it comes from though or why they determined that that even exists other than watching more of a process of a body.
Logan: So we have the five elements, which kind of break down into so many different things. There’s a sense organ associated with each one, a taste associated with each one, different personality types. A person may not be just be more yin or yang, as they talked about before, but they can fall into these five different elements. What do you see as kind of maybe some of the more important aspects of this five elemental model that may be useful for people looking at life?
William: Well, I can start by saying the way Chinese adopted some of the five element model and then there’s also within Chinese medical practitioners, some of them are only five element practitioners. But one of the most common patterns in the five element system, and this is something to look at in your own life, one of the most common patterns is wood overacting on earth. We’re talking about the liver system is responsible for the organized flow of qi throughout the body. It’s also how the system can go out of the balance the most. The emotion associated with liver is anger and a lot of times when we get stressed, we get frustrated, we get angry and maybe we click on that system and it’s going on for too long and the first thing it will do is overact because in the five element system, wood controls earth but then we have this thing that goes out of balance so that wood overacts on earth. What you get are digestive problems most likely.
That’s a pretty common pattern in our control and it is one that most TTM practitioners have adopted from the five element system because it comes up a lot in our culture. In fact, we kind of click on our fight-and-flight and live there, it causes a lot of anger. Anger, the liver qi isn’t flowing orderly anymore so it starts to overact on earth element. And then their digestion goes down and digestion, the earth element, the stomach and the spleen, if those aren’t operating you can’t get the qi from the food. So you get these digestive systems. One whole school of Chinese medicine, a whole sect that came about thousands of years ago is the spleen and stomach school because they were just like if you get the spleen and stomach right, then you can get all those nutrients. Then you can build jing. That’s a really common pattern that happens in our culture.
Again, it’s back to meditate, find the yin. Next is you calm down the liver qi or find the yin activities that can calm that down a little bit because another attribute of wood overacting on earth is that you tend to get very fatigued, depressed. You won’t be able to think clearly because in Chinese medicine, the spleen is associated with thinking, overthinking and worrying. So it could be this really weird, vicious cycle, like a crazy eight pattern where people get angry then they get depressed, then they get angry then they get depressed.
Logan: Right. And then that whole time because they’re eating in those modes where they’re not relaxed and that then just further impairs digestion which exacerbates the problem.
Logan: Okay. Are there any other common patterns that we see from the five element model?
William: I think another common one is fire and water not communicating, which is heart and kidney not communicating properly. If you think of it in simple terms, the heart warms the kidneys, the water from the kidneys cool the heart. So if they’re not communicating properly, a lot of times you’ll see heart fire pattern which will be kind of a mania, kind of an out of balance pattern. Our culture, if you look at it, you can see another manifestation of that would be like oversexed. If the heart fire isn’t warm enough, there’s no compassion in lovemaking. It’s just porn. So I think that it’s another common pattern of that miscommunication, the heart and the kidney being imbalanced. Oddly again, qigong is a good way to balance those out, the breathing techniques.
Logan: Right. Are there specific techniques basically to balance each of these elements in qigong and acupuncture as well?
William: Acupuncture, for sure, and definitely in qigong there are specific exercises. There is even I think taichi has got like a really detailed fire and water meditation practice, like two books on it.
Logan: I’ll have to look that up.
William: Simply speaking, that same breath pattern of being a little bit more yin is when you’re breathing the big inhale into the lungs and the heart and then send that warmth down to the kidneys on the exhale. That’s very simple. So it becomes like an intentional practice but yes, it can totally be balanced with both of those.
Logan: Right. I guess going a little more into like diagnosis and looking at the problems, could you explain a little bit about heat and cold, damp and dry and also wind as that relates to how these organ systems functions.
William: So yes, we have six evils from Chinese medicine. You actually have wind, summer, heat, dampness, dryness and cold. There’s a predominant season as well for those. Spring is the time for the wind and wood. Summer is obviously the heat component. Late summer you get dampness and damp heat. Autumn you get dryness. Winter you get cold. So in the Chinese system, those would be the pathogenic evils, they are called, the things that are outside of you that are causing you to modify—extreme cold is obviously going to do something to your body. It’s going to contract everything. Things are going to move slower so a long exposure to that, you can get really stagnant. You can get all sorts of problems. Of course if it was extremely cold, you’d freeze to death, right?
The interesting thing about this is during the season—I think one of the helpful things overall—let me just back up and look at that, if you look at those as external factors that affect your health, it really pays to be very mindful of the changing of the season and modify your behavior and your practices accordingly as we move into winter, which essentially is a Daoist philosophy. Observe nature. What is nature doing in the nature? It’s contracted. It’s still. It’s calm. Nature is telling you to maybe amp up those yin activities a little bit. Rest a little bit more. Meditate a little bit more. Don’t work as hard, as frequently as you do in the summer. You can still do all the things that you do but you sort of turn up the volume on your yin, winter being the time of the year that is most yin. So nature is telling you what to do.
Logan: Right. That makes a lot of sense. So beyond winter, let’s go to flipside, summer. What are some of the things? It sounds like a lot of this is stuff we naturally do, right? We tend to eat more warming foods in wintertime while it’s more cooling in the summertime but what are some of the other things that kind of reflect the seasonal change and what we should do?
William: In the peak of summer, obviously you’re super social. Usually, you’re more active. You have more energy. It’s the highest time of yang so you should be doing all those things. The trick of it all is to what the change of the seasons. Summer is a really good example because summer rocks, right? It’s just like oh my god, we’re alive, we’re doing all this stuff, and it’s sunny out! When nature starts to turn to—Chinese medicine has another season called later summer—it starts to go into late summer, things start to slow down. You get a little downshift going. I think in between those changes of season are where to pay the most attention because what happens in a normal person, including myself, is we resist that downshift like from the high activity of the summer moving into late summer, autumn and winter.
Oftentimes, we’ll fight against nature as much as we can instead of accepting that things are changing. That’s where problems, that’s where you get the overabundance of yang. As it gets cooler and cooler, you want to maintain the high activity of the summer so you start maybe drinking a few more cups of coffee or whatever it is just trying to maintain this energy level when in reality the energy is just not as available. So it doesn’t mean that you have to shut down completely or anything like that but a little bit of acceptance that maybe you’re going to do just a little bit less is a good practice. So watch the seasons.
Logan: I’d say overall people probably aren’t paying much attention to nature at all. With our extremely busy lives and the yang culture, there’s no real awareness. Obviously in some places, the season changes are much more clear than say where I’m living but overall I’d say we don’t observe nature for the most part anymore. With that lack of awareness then it’s hard to know when to shift these things a bit more.
William: Absolutely. That’s why you go to your acupuncturist every change of season.
William: But it is interesting as a practitioner. You see the same thing happen at the same time of year for a lot of people. It’s like each season has its emotional component, which is associated with its respective organ system. So you’ll see people come in during the time of the fall and they’re just like I don’t know why but I’m sad. I didn’t really lose anything or do anything but I’m sad. One of the other little key things is just if you can get yourself aware that the seasons are changing and now you’re in the emotional zone of the lung and the large intestine, in which the emotion associated with it is grief and the season is the fall and things are dying, if you’re aware of that, that it’s like normal to maybe feel a little bit more sadness, it becomes much easier to navigate just like everybody
Logan: Right. You don’t beat yourself up over it. I guess beyond observing the seasons and visiting your acupuncturist, are there any other practices or things that people should do especially around those season changes?
William: Again, there are certain exercises that you could always do a little bit more of around those seasons, especially if you’re like a high performance athlete. You can take up a good yoga practice, a meditation practice, a qigong practice or a tai chi practice. If you found a type of yoga that’s very meditative in its nature, you can take up those practices a little bit more during that seasonal change and you’ll find yourself making those observations in yourself. So I’d highly recommend one of those, whatever the flavor is for you and then you watch like okay, this is the time, you know seasons are changing; I can practice this a little bit more. I think through that, you start to understand the dietary shifts a little bit more as well.
Logan: Though ultimately, all this stuff should be fairly intuitive for us and our bodies tend to know what they want. It’s just the matter of actually cultivating awareness to listen those things and not override it with sort of our mental chatter and things we think we should do.
William: Absolutely. I think everybody is inherently capable of recognizing and intuiting that.
Logan: The one thing that I like, I think this is in the book Between Heaven and Earth, is they sort of look at the body. In the sort of the western approach is it’s like a machine. If we have a broken part, we’re going to cut it out and replace it whereas the Chinese medicine model is much more about the ecology. So we have these internal conditions, which is why these external conditions really sort of influence us and it’s finding the balance between the two so as the external conditions change, that has to change your internal conditions. But if you modify the things you’re doing then you can do that in a graceful sort of way rather than there being these issues, symptoms that come up at that time.
Logan: So coming to the end here, we’ve covered probably a pretty good introduction that may be unfamiliar with these concepts. One thing I wanted you to share just because we were talking the other day and found it super fascinating was this idea of the pulse diagnostics. This is one way in which Chinese practitioners can find out where these elemental or meridian imbalances may be occurring so you could speak a little bit about that and share that story of just how deep this sort of training can go?
William: Generally speaking, where you see people take a pulse on the wrist, in Chinese medicine there are three positions with six organs on each hand. So they’re feeling the relative difference in quality of flow through that vessel in three different positions. There are a number of ways in Chinese medicine to read that. But I think the story you were talking about is I worked with a guy in New York who comes from a Korean Daoist fact and he is such a master at reading pulses, he spends ten minutes on each side and just writes on a piece of paper feverishly and he can literally tell almost everything about you. He can just say when you were six years old, you fell off your bike and you scraped your knee and this started to cause this and then here’s where this happened. It’s really uncanny how much he can tell from a pulse. Most practitioners that have practiced throughout school can tell basic things from a pulse. One of the examples I was using was vegetarians most of the time, from the perspective of Chinese medicine, feel blood-deficient. It’s a very easy quality to feel in a pulse.
Logan: Very fascinating.
William: Actually, very, very quickly, my very first experience with Chinese medicine, I was studying wushu at a martial arts school and I fractured my heel. My teacher sent me to Chinatown and I go down to Chinatown to a grocery store. In the back of the grocery store is this old Chinese guy. I had never been there before. I didn’t really know much, if anything, about Chinese medicine and I didn’t know they were going to read the pulse. But I went there on crutches and I sat down. His daughter was translating. I was chewing gum. He made me spit out my gum. He felt my pulses and said a bunch of stuff in Chinese and then just gave me about 12 bags of herbs. And that was it.
I was like what the heck is that? He didn’t even look at my heel! He didn’t even look at my heel! How is that going to help? I was pretty skeptical about it. I took the herbs home and I was like well, I might as well try them. I paid for them. I boiled them for two hours. They smelled horrible. I was like okay, I’m going to drink it. I drank one cup of this tea and I’m not going to say that I healed instantly or anything like that but I know from drinking it, I was like oh my god, this is going to help out so much. I felt so good and I definitely know that I healed a lot faster from that formula. That was my intro to Chinese herbalism, which was pretty amazing.
Logan: I love stories like these just because a lot of people are still on this western paradigm and think they know, these systems from thousands of years ago they didn’t have science so they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Logan: In our western scientific terms, we can’t really explain quite how someone could read the pulse and know that you chipped your knee or whatever when you were six years old. But I love that stuff.
William: Yeah. Me, too. It’s why I do it for a living. There’s always something more to explore and something to learn. I’ve definitely seen the value of helping a lot of people and I love what you’re doing with the herbs and bringing in also some of the Ayurvedic herbs. It’s just such a treat to have access to it nowadays.
Logan: Very cool. So where can people go to find out more about you and I guess what area are you in because some local people listening might want to check out your services?
William: I’m in Encinitas, California and website is FireWaterAcupuncture.com. I have a private practice. Yeah, just go to website.
Logan: Well, thanks so much for sharing all this knowledge with us there. I think people will enjoy it if they haven’t learned these things and I’ve definitely picked up a few new ideas myself here.
William: Excellent. Well, thank you for having me.
Logan: Yup. Thanks everyone for listening.
William: Okay, may your qi be balanced.
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