Secrets to “Nourishing Life” from 2,200 Years Ago
On the very first page of one of the earliest foundational texts of Chinese Medicine, written over 2,200 years ago,* is a conversation between the Yellow Emperor and his Daoist master physician, Qi Bo. It goes something like this:
The Yellow Emperor: “I hear that in ancient times, people lived to be strong and healthy even until 100 years old. These days, most are not doing so well even at 50. What gives?”
Qi Bo, the physician, explains:
“Back then, people followed the rhythms of nature and the principles of yin and yang. They kept regular patterns of eating and drinking, at regular times, and didn’t overindulge. They never overworked. (!) They concentrated their spirit internally, and cultivated their minds and emotions so they wouldn’t undermine themselves. That’s how they stayed healthy until 100.”
There’s a whole tradition within Chinese Medicine that’s about “nourishing life” (“yangsheng“) that focuses on:
- Proper diet (eating what you can digest, eating with the seasons, paying attention to the energetics of food, stop eating before you’re full)
- Cultivation of the mind and heart (think meditation, getting a handle on our attachments and desires)
- Cultivation of the body through rest, exercise, and sexuality (and not overextending in any of these)
- Connecting to and following the rhythms of nature
These are what we can do to prevent disease. And the time to implement them is before you need them.
Waiting until after your blood sugar creeps into the pre-diabetic range, after you’re so stressed you can’t sleep, so hormonally irritable that it affects the people around you, after you’re popping ibuprofen like candy, is “akin to waiting to dig a well until after you’re dying of thirst, or forging weapons as you’re headed into battle. Wouldn’t these actions be a bit too late?**
The good news is that lifestyle is the most important lever we have in changing how we feel, and preventing the diseases of modernity. This is why I offer my Level Up Your Life course, my support group for Nourishing Life, creating the habits of resilience that we all need.
It’s not for everyone: you need to be willing to prioritize on your mental, physical, and spiritual health for 11 weeks. We start in just 2 weeks, so now’s the time to act.
Now most us know what it means to get good sleep and eat right and exercise, but the “aligning with rhythms of nature part” is where people usually get confused, because for most of us with jobs, kids, responsibilities, things don’t really slow down in the winter and accelerate in the summer.
So at the risk of being Captain Obvious, it’s winter (at least here in the northern hemisphere), and nature is in dormant, do-not-disturb mode. It’s a time of being still, conserving energy before the next season of growth.
It’s the peak season of yin, where the focus is on Being, not Doing.
I recommend embracing hygge: any simple, little thing that makes you feel cozy, comfy, and content. For me that’s a cup of hot cacao by a fireplace with a good book, minus the guilt for not doing enough.
For encouragement on this, listen here to this interview I gave for the Peaceful Power podcast with Andrea Claassen on Permission to Slow Down.
*The classic text I’m referencing is the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine.
**Still paraphrasing here
***Oh, and if you want to work with me, Level Up is a great way to do that. Apply now.
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