In the wake of another tragic moment in history where innocent lives have been lost, we find ourselves again in the same position; on our knees both mourning and pleading for answers and change. Knees bloodied, voices strained, we feel lost and confused as to why we constantly find ourselves again and again in this submissive posture. We seek answers. We seek change. We seek safety.
The recent and horrific event at a Florida school has called us all to action. Consider this my small drop in the ocean moved by emotional waves of fear, confusion, and loss of life. This offering of a small drop is hopefully enough to temporarily quench our thirst for change. And within this drop is a small reminder of an ancient practice that will hopefully nourish an internal state of ease we all yearn for at this moment.
This unimaginable event in Florida has re-ignited an ongoing debate, which I will not continue here as my specialty is health rather than school safety or gun legislation. However, it reminds me of an important ancient practice that can begin to heal our society and potentially prevent events such as these from happening again by focusing internally on the one person we truly have the ability to change; ourselves.
The students of this school of thought were able to transform their ways of life and contributions to society in a way that sculpted their culture into a living work of art.
You might recall from ancient Chinese society a school of thought called Confucianism. Now, I am not an expert in this school of thought, but I am certainly curious about one specific objective that was the overarching goal in this ancient and wise way of life that has been practiced for more than two millenia. This practice is referred to that of being a Hao Ren (好人) or "good person". By regularly practicing the ethical and humanistic beliefs of Confucianism, the students of this school of thought were able to transform their ways of life and contributions to society in a way that sculpted their culture into a living work of art. In other words, they learned to become good people. Sadly though, these beliefs have slowly disappeared over time and are virtually absent altogether in modern society erasing away our overall sense of humanity.
It is time to resuscitate these practices once again and revisit the basics of humanism and the essentials of life. For in the presence of mass suffering, we are vividly reminded of the emotions that connect us to one another and those that separate us. Hence the reason for people joining together in solidarity aiming and hoping for a similar outcome; in this case, the protection of human life, which will eternally outweigh the desire to protect material belongings, e.g. weapons.
This is not an article of blame, nor is it a conversation leading to more pain or destruction. Think of it as an opportunity to expand our wherewithal by beginning with an internal, personal conversation. One leading to the development of self in a positive direction that will ultimately guide the development of others. By embodying the fundamental values of this ancient practice, we can relearn that which has been forgotten. This does not mean you must adopt a new religion and belief system altogether. It is simply a nudge in the direction of positive change and development starting with ourselves as individuals. The Five Constants and Four Virtues are the essential values needed to become a Hao Ren through the lens of Confucian philosophies. And if we were to instill these values within a modern mindset, we could virtually eradicate the suffering we constantly inflict upon ourselves and others.
The Five Constants are:
The Four Virtues are:
Of course there exist more values than these alone, but these Constants and Virtues are the essence of our humanity. Practice them religiously and your mind and body will transform. Embody them holistically and the people around you will transform. Exhibit them effortlessly and the world we live in will transform, allowing us to achieve an harmonious level of coexistence and that of a Hao Ren. The painful steps taken to achieve progress in difficult times like these are nurtured by nothing other than the quality of our learned beliefs together with our persistent effort towards living the life of a good person. And I pray that by coming together we can, for the sake of the lives that have been lost, discover our potential of becoming good people long enough that we remain as living examples for all the future generations to come.
Throughout the course of history, there has long been a connection between martial artists and medicine. Traditionally, it was not uncommon to find a martial arts master who was also a physician or, at the very least, a highly-skilled healer. The reason behind this is simple being that by understanding how to control the mind and body in either role, one can also understand how the mind and body control an individual.
Probably one of the most famous martial arts masters was Huang (Wong) Feihong who "developed a reputation as a peerless fighter and skilled physician". He also "founded a clinic known as Po Chi Lam, 'Precious Iris Woods', [which was] a reference to his skill with herbal medicine". Another notably skilled martial artist and physician was Hua Tuo, who was arguably the most famous doctor to have lived during the period of the Han Dynasty in China (206 BC-220 AD). As a physician, Hua Tuo would perform surgeries using anesthetics made for herbs. Additionally, he was renowned for his development of a series of health exercises that are based on the movements of animals and the principles found in martial arts traditions (Wu Qin Xi Qi Gong or Five Animal Play Qigong). Marshal Yue Fei, a famous military leader, is another perfect example of martial artist/physician who created the famous Eight Brocades Qigong Exercise.
Learn these two famous Qigong forms online via the Personal Mastery and Growth Academy (Contact me for purchase details)
Like most things over time, these arts transformed into new styles adapting to the changes of society and the invention of new types of weaponry, e.g. firearms. These transformations, together with the secrecy of familial styles of martial arts, the illiteracy of legendary masters, as well as the Cultural Revolution, slowly divorced these two arts that were once seen as inseparable.
In today's society, there is a clear disconnect between martial arts and medicine in both education and in practice. I can recall learning, as part of the curriculum, Tai Chi and Qigong when I attended Oriental Medicine school. At the time, with a background of over a decade of practice in these arts, I entered the classroom with a sense of humility together with an old phrase I heard repeatedly during my training, "Any three people walking, [at least] one of them is your teacher." Needless to say, I was ready and willing to learn. Much to my surprise, upon the completion of the first set of classes, I can still recall the speed at which my jaw hit the floor. I was absolutely dumbfounded by how superficial and dissociated the information was from medicine, let alone martial arts. What happened to the knowledge that had been so powerfully transmitted through the ages of military warfare and medicinal advancement? Given this experience, I unfortunately have anything but high hopes for the remaining programs across the country. Even if the programs are strong in terms of the quality of information being disseminated, there is still an absence of knowledgeable Oriental Medicine practitioners being produced who can utilize martial arts and its principles with a medicinal approach.
All disappointment aside, I do have faith that there still exists a strong connection between both martial arts and medicine. How? Simply because when people practice, they notice positive changes in their bodies and their minds. Additionally, the two arts themselves are based in theories and principles that align perfectly together. And personally, as an acupuncturist and a seasoned martial artist, I can see a clear connection between these two and apply them accordingly in my practice.
Simply put, martial arts is an exchange between two or more people when being applied, whether fighting or "playing". It is also an exchange between one's external environment and internal environment. Medicine is the art that facilitates these exchanges by correcting them when they cannot be completed innately on their own. The natural laws of these exchanges were discovered through the observation and understanding of nature's affect on the health of living beings. Therefore, by expanding upon this knowledge and applying it, martial artists and physicians can potentially marry these two art forms once again.
I suppose the title of this blog could also be reversed: Acupuncturists were also born to practice martial arts. For from the branches of the tree where martial arts and medicine coexist, they feed from the same root, bear the same fruit, and nourish all those who consume it. We as martial artists and Oriental Medicine practitioners are their gardeners as well as their guardians, and their survival depends solely upon us to keep them together.
If you would like to learn more about how to use martial arts together with Oriental Medicine, you can contact me anytime via email or social media.
You can also join our Tai Chi class on Saturdays or send you kids to our Martial Arts class on Sundays.
Reference: Bisio, Tom. A Tooth From the Tiger's Mouth. New York, NY: Fireside, 2004.
Right now, we live in a culture of wasting. We waste water. We waste food. We waste gas. We buy the most unnecessary products, which we end up throwing in the trash most of the time anyway. Do we really need gigantic SUVs that burn less than 20 mpg to carry all your passengers and everyone's waste with it? Does The Cheesecake Factory really need to serve portions that could quite literally feed an entire village for a week? People of the world today are all experts in wasting. And worse, this destructive skill is tearing our world apart. We even have challenges figuring out what to do with our waste.
By covering up our waste, it doesn't mean it will disappear forever, no matter what we build on top of it. Trash cans and landfills are not black holes, but yet we treat them as such. It's kind of like dealing with a problem in our personal lives. Sometimes we just cover it up and hope it will either disappear or resolve itself. Out of sight, out of mind. Right? Wrong.
All three of these resources are infinite on a macro scale, but as individuals, they are as finite as life and death.
The good news is there are three resources you have complete control of simply by making a decision and sticking to it. These resources are:
Since we are experts at wasting material resources, it comes to no surprise that we are also experts at wasting immaterial ones. Therefore, it should be our sole responsibility in life to focus on conserving these three as much as humanly possible. It is easy to waste your BREATH by arguing about something pointless. It is easy to waste your ENERGY by either using too much or by not using enough, the latter of which is more a pity than a waste. And perhaps the worst of all is wasting your TIME, because it can happen at any moment. Especially when we consciously decide to participate in actions or interactions we have no desire to join in the first place. For example, going to a job you completely and utterly hate but continue to go to anyways.
Once your resources are depleted, it will be too late.
All three of these resources are infinite on a macro scale, but as individuals, they are as finite as life and death. How you use them, and how well you can conserve them, may ultimately determine the quality and duration of your life on this planet. So, I urge you to focus on the important elements of your life; your health, your family, your passion, and anything else that provides you with the ultimate life experience. Because once your resources are depleted, it will be too late.
Isn't that enough to make you think twice about how you use your breath, energy, and time?
I certainly hope so.
Join us for a free 15-minute consultation, a personalized acupuncture appointment, a Tai Chi class, or one of our events as we teach people this month on how to avoid wasting these three life resources. We guarantee you we will stop wasting them if you do. But we can't help you if you don't! So, come on by. We're ready to eliminate all waste!
In case you haven't heard, there is a food craze going on at the moment, and it is growing by the jar!
That food craze is all about one dish: Kim Chi.
Kim chi (김치), pronounced kim chee, is a staple food in Korean cuisine and is served together with other banchan (반찬), or side dishes, at nearly every meal. On average, a Korean person consumes about 40 pounds of kim chi each year! There are various types of kim chi that can be found throughout the year made from all kinds of vegetables including radishes, cabbage, scallions, cucumbers, and many others. Each of these types of kim chi usually require different ingredients to create specific tastes and consistencies in addition to a long fermentation process. It truly is an art form that has been mastered by the Koreans.
Perhaps you have already tried this famous food. But if you haven't, then you probably don't quite grasp the popularity and importance of kim chi and its place in Korean culture. Don't worry, it's okay. Think "ice water" in the United States. At nearly every restaurant you eat at in the U.S., your server almost always brings you a cup of ice water before you eat, whether you want to drink it or not. (Why we all need ice water is beyond me...) This is just a comparison of how common kim chi is at mealtime for Koreans. The difference is that kim chi actually has numerous health benefits as opposed to ice water. Also, kim chi is a great accompaniment to whatever main dish you are enjoying, again, unlike ice water. Many people also enjoy it with rice alone. (These people are hard core Koreans usually!)
So, why is it that kim chi is so popular? What benefits does it actually provide?
Aside from its distinct taste and smell, like yogurt, kim chi contains a TON of probiotics, such as lactobacilli, that keep your digestive system functioning at its best. It is also filled with antioxidants and carries a little kick from all the ground red pepper flakes it is made with, which contain lots of vitamin A and vitamin C. These are just a few health benefits from a list that goes on and on. In fact, there are even research studies about the effects of kim chi on cancer and other diseases.
So, if you want to eat this delicious food, you don't need to travel to Korea to enjoy an authentic version. Visit any of the fantastic Korean restaurants in Northern Virginia, and you can get a little taste of home/Korea. Then you will understand why people love kim chi so much that they even say "Kim Chi" instead of "Smile" when they take pictures!
How to Make Your Own Traditional Kim Chi:
If you're interested in braving the process and making your own traditional Kim Chi at home, here's a great place to start. (Recipe courtesy of Korean Bapsang)
1 large napa cabbage (about 5 to 6 pounds), or 2 small (about 3 pounds each)
1 cup Korean coarse sea salt for making kimchi
5 cups of water
1 pound Korean radish
1/4 Asian pear
3 - 4 scallions
1 tablespoon glutinous rice powder*
(*Mix it with 1/2 cup water, simmer over low heat until it thickens to a thin paste and cool. Yields about 3 - 4 tablespoons.)
1/2 cup Korean red chili pepper flakes, (adjust to your taste)
1/4 cup salted (mini) shrimp, finely minced
3 - 4 raw shrimp (about 2 ounces), finely minced or ground
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 cup water
2 large bowls or pots (7 - 8 quarts)
1 large colander
3/4 - 1 gallon airtight container or jar
1. Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters by cutting the stem end in half only about 3 - 4 inches in and then slowly pulling apart to separate into two pieces by hand. Do the same for each half to make quarters. Running the knife through all the way would unnecessarily cut off the cabbage leaves.)
2. In a large bowl, dissolve 1/2 cup of salt in 5 cups of water. Thoroughly bathe each cabbage quarter in the saltwater one at a time, shake off excess water back into the bowl, and then transfer to another bowl.
3. Using the other half cup of salt and starting from the outermost leaf, generously sprinkle salt over the thick white part of each leaf (similar to salting a piece of meat). Try to salt all the cabbage quarters with 1/2 cup salt, but you can use a little more if needed. Repeat with the rest of the cabbage quarters. Pour the remaining salt water from the first bowl over the cabbage. Set aside for about 6 - 8 hours, rotating the bottom ones to the top every 2 - 3 hours.
4. The cabbages should be ready to be washed when the white parts are easily bendable. Rinse thoroughly 3 times, especially between the white parts of the leaves. Drain well, cut side down.
5. Meanwhile, make the glutinous rice paste and cool. Prepare the other seasoning ingredients. Mix all the seasoning ingredients, including the rice paste and water, well. Set aside while preparing the other ingredients in order for the red pepper flakes to dissolve slightly and become pasty.
6. Cut the radish and optional pear into match sticks (use a mandoline if available). Cut scallions into 1-inch long pieces. Transfer to a large bowl and combine with the seasoning mix. Mix well by hand. Taste a little bit. It should be a little too salty to eat as is. Add salt, more salted shrimp or fish sauce, if necessary. If possible, let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavors meld nicely.
7. Cut off the tough stem part from each cabbage quarter, leaving enough to hold the leaves together. Place one cabbage quarter in the bowl with the radish mix. Spread the radish mix over each leaf, one to two tablespoons for large leaves. (Eyeball the stuffing into 4 parts and use one part for each cabbage quarter.)
8. Fold the leaf part of the cabbage over toward the stem and nicely wrap with the outermost leaf before placing it, cut side up, in a jar or airtight container. Repeat with the remaining cabbages.Once all the cabbages are in the jar or airtight container, press down hard to remove air pockets. Rinse the bowl that contained the radish mix with 1/2 cup of water and pour over the kimchi.
9. Leave it out at room temperature for a full day or two, depending on how fast you want your kimchi to ripe. Then, store in the fridge. Although you can start eating it any time, kimchi needs about two weeks in the fridge to fully develop the flavors. It maintains great flavor and texture for several weeks.
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.