The Eight Branches of Chinese Medicine
Meditation: As long ago as the fifth century B.C.E., Taoists practiced meditation as a tool for cultivating inner peace. There is always an aspect of the mind that is quiet, calm, and present; however, it can be masked by thoughts, stories, and emotions that pull us out of the present moment. The mind can be like a toddler, running around from place to place, with an attention span of about one minute. It can easily switch from one emotion to the next. Meditation is not simply the practice of stopping all this chaos and quieting the mind; rather, it is the building of awareness about the mind’s habitual nature and the reduction of its distractions.
Exercise: Moving our bodies daily is vital to our overall well-being. Physical activity also moves our blood and cleanses our organs. Tai chi and qigong are both ancient forms of exercise used in Chinese medicine for the cultivation of energy. When visiting east Asian countries, you will see groups of people coming together to practice these movements every day. Even if you don’t know these two ancient practices, walking, running, swimming, dancing, hiking, playing sports, and even stretching are all wonderful forms of exercise.
Nutrition: Food is like medicine. It can nourish us to our very bones, bring us back from illness, and give us a tremendous amount of energy for living. Many of us are getting sick. Returning to natural, unprocessed, whole foods that match your constitution, align with the season, and support you through any imbalances you may be experiencing is the most direct way to find balance. Through this lens, each meal provides an opportunity to heal from the inside out and to prevent illness rather than be vulnerable to it.
Cosmology: Cosmology refers to the foundation of any spiritual tradition that reveals the core beliefs of how we human beings came to exist and what helps us to thrive. In Taoist cosmology, human beings are not seen as separate from the natural world but rather as a manifestation and integral part of it. Therefore, to cultivate a state of balance, we must look to the natural world around us and mimic the rhythms and cycles we see.
Fang Shui: Just as we can benefit from finding balance inside ourselves by meditating, exercising, and eating a diet that is aligned with nature, we can benefit from creating a similar balance outside ourselves. This is called feng shui, and it encompasses the practice of enhancing health through the environmental balancing of the home, office, garden, and other sacred spaces.
Bodywork: Touch is vital to our overall health. The physical practice of being touched in a therapeutic way allows us to relax deeply and experience the release of tension on all levels. Bodywork gifts us with a number of amazing endorphins (feel-good hormones) most especially, oxytocin.
Herbal Medicine: Chinese herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years as a vital tool for maintaining health throughout the life cycles and seasons. Eating medicinal plants from the earth allows us to be in direct relationship with the earth. In addition to a diet that is in sync with our nature, herbal medicine can target specific health imbalances and enhance the healing benefits of meals.
Acupuncture: The final branch of Chinese medicine is also the newest of the eight (though still more than two thousand years old)—the practice of acupuncture. Acupuncture is the art of inserting very fine, sterile needles just under the skin in strategic places to nourish, calm, or otherwise direct the movement of energy. This ancient art form has been found not only to reduce pain but to influence myriad systems in the body, mind, and spirit. From anxiety to leaky gut syndrome to depression to inflammation, acupuncture treats us on many levels. While this practice can certainly address everyday imbalances, I have found it to be most beneficial when used as a tool for prevention.
Source: Everyday Chinese Medicine.