A brief history of Chinese Therapeutic Massage
The 6 Healing Sounds
Daoist Tree Meditation
Qigong and Meditation
The Science of the 52 Cards
A Brief History of Chinese Therapeutic Massage
By Matthew Miller, L.Ac.
The therapeutic massage branch of traditional Chinese medicine is called "tuina" in modern Chinese, which literally means "pushing (and) grasping." However, this term did not occur in the Chinese literature until the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) where it first appeared in a book on pediatric tuina (a specialized branch \of Chinese massage). Prior to this period, the most popular term for therapeutic massage was "anmo" which literally means "pressing (and) rubbing."
Anmo has played an important role in the practice of medicine in China since ancient times. Archeologists, studying the inscriptions found on bones and tortoise shells used in divination practice, have found references to massage treatment for illnesses written in jiaguwen, the earliest extant form of writing in China, dating back to as early as the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th centuries BC). For example, on one such bone a question is inscribed: "Can the querent's abdominal pain be successfully treated with massage?" Another asks whether or not a certain female massage practitioner named Zao can cure an illness and thus should be sent for.
During the excavation of the Ma Wang Dui tomb (dated 168 BC) in the Hunan Province, numerous medical texts on silk scrolls and bamboo strips were unearthed. Many of these (including Fifty-two Medical Formulas, Illustrated Health Exercises, Health Preservation Formulas, Formulas for Miscellaneous Illnesses and Concerning the Way of Everything Under Heaven) contain references to anmo, gymnastics and breathing exercises. The Fifty-two Medical Formulas contains references to specific anmo techniques such as compression (an), gliding (mo), scratching (sao), scraping (gua), rubbing (fu) and percussing (ji). Anmo is indicated for illnesses in 17 different branches of medicine, including traumatology, pediatrics, internal medicine and gynecology. For example, one prescription in this text for the treatment of anuria is to massage the sacrum while applying burning moxa leaves to points on the back. Another passage describes the treatment of bleeding disorders by massaging topical agents (specifically, charred human hair!) into the skin. Elsewhere, several anmo instruments are described, including various mallets, pestles, a metal spoon used to treat infantile convulsions, and a feather used to lightly brush the site of an insect bite.
The silk scroll text entitled Illustrated Health Exercises contains 44 illustrations which include drawings of specific anmo techniques, gymnastic instruments (such as discs, canes, balls and sacks), breathing techniques and self-massage. Other passages describe the use of anmo in the treatment of various illnesses, including deafness, pain in the joints, "lumps" in the axilla, neck problems and knee pain.
In 1964, excavations at a tomb in the Henan province of China discovered a round, concave stone which is believed to have been used for anmo treatment. The stone includes a depression on its concave surface where the practitioner's finger was inserted in order to assist in applying force. Also found at the site was a series of stone instruments (rods, hammers, pit-shaped stones, cups) used in percussing massage.
The earliest biography of an individual physician in the history of China is an account by Han Dynasty historian Si Maqian of the life of Bian Que, a doctor who probably lived around 500 BC. Bian Que was allegedly a master of all medical trades, skilled in the use of herbal formulas, acupuncture, anmo, therapeutic exercise and even surgery. In one passage of his biography it is written that he could cure an illness "without herbal decoctions or wines, only using stone needles (an early form of acupuncture), exercises, pressing, rocking and applying topical agents."
Several references can be found in the Chinese histories to a 10-volume work entitled Huangdi Qipo Anmo, which was supposedly the earliest Chinese medical text devoted entirely to the practice of anmo. The original is unfortunately lost, but quotes from the text can be found in other books. These include a reference to "cai bei" or massage using the feet, stepping on the recipient's back. In combination with heated topical agents, this treatment was reportedly used to resuscitate unconscious patients.
The Huangdi Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic, c. 200 BC?) is the earliest surviving canonical text of traditional Chinese medicine. Anmo is referred to in 30 different chapters of the Nei Jing. In one chapter, anmo is said to have originated in the central area of China (Henan, Luoyang). Elsewhere, anmo is indicated for the treatment of various disorders, including joint pain, muscle weakness and atony, facial paralysis and stomach pain.
Other parts of the Nei Jing describe the therapeutic mechanism behind anmo treatment using the physiological language of the time. First, anmo is said to have the effect of "moving qi and invigorating blood." It is written: "When cold qi lodges in the vessels of the back shu points, the vessels constrict; the vessels constrict, thus blood is deficient; blood is deficient, thus there is painä massaging causing hot qi to arrive; hot qi arrives hence the pain ceases." (N.B. this contains a remarkably accurate description of the role of local ischemia in pain syndromes!) Another mechanism of anmo described in the Nei Jing is the stimulation of acupuncture points and conduction of that stimulation along the channels. It is written: "The points along either side of the spineä if pressing them causes the pain inside to resolve, then one has accurately located the point." Finally, the Nei Jing ascribes to anmo the effect of eliminating pathogens and "dispersing heat," thus abating fever in certain cases.
The Nei Jing also describes the intimate relationship between anmo and acupuncture treatment. For example, manually pressing acupuncture points to bring about the alleviation of a patient's symptoms is considered an important criterion for accurately locating these points. Also, in the Lingshu section of the Nei Jing, it is written: "First massage the area to be needled, then insert the needle, then massage again after withdrawal." In a chapter entitled "On the Regulation of the Channels," the Yellow Emperor asks his doctor Qi Po, "How should mild invasion by external evils be needled?" Qi Po replies: "The massage time should be increased, and the needling should not be too deep. By bringing qi to the area of insufficiency, the spirit will recover." Even today in China, the acupuncture major in TCM universities is actually a combination acupuncture/tuina major, which further indicates the close relationship between these two disciplines.
In his medical text Jinkui Yaolue, the influential Han Dynasty physician Zhang Zhongjing describes what may be the earliest recorded example of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He tells about his successful experience reviving a patient who had hung himself by the neck. He used compression of the cardiac area and abdomen combined with artificial respiration to revive the patient.
Another famous Chinese physician, Hua Tuo (d. 208 AD), was reportedly a skilled surgeon. He advocated the use of anmo for post-surgical recovery. Hua Tuo also created a well-known series of gymnastic exercises based on animal movements, known as the Wu Qi Xi (Five Animals Exercises). The Wu Qi Xi is still popular today in China.
From the Three Kingdoms period (220-280) up until the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the imperial medical schools included anmo as a specialized branch of medicine. Practitioners who specialized in anmo during the Tang dynasty were divided into 3 levels: anmo doctorates, anmo masters and anmo technicians. At that time, the scope of the anmo specialty included therapeutic gymnastics and orthopedics (bone-setting).
Historical records suggest that the Tang dynasty was a period in which great developments were made in both the techniques and range of application of anmo. One popular therapy at this time (which continues today in China) was the combination of anmo with herbal ointments, liniments and salves derived from the Chinese materia medica. A number of "anmo ointments" are described in Tang literature, such as Dr. Fei's Five Toxins Spirit Ointment, Hua Tuo Tiger Bone Ointment, Salvia Ointment and Aconite Ointment.
Tang textbooks prescribed anmo for a wider variety of disorders than ever before. Internal medicine indications for anmo included colds and flu's, hemiplegia, cardiac pain, abdominal pain, fever, convulsions, dementia, anuria, edema, headache and arthralgia. Dermatological indications included furuncles, urticaria, and lymphoid tuberculosis. Otorhinolaryngological indications included nasal congestion, deafness, and toothache. Pediatric indications included fever, abdominal distension, and "failure to speak." Gynecological indications including difficult delivery, infertility, and amenorrhea.
In Tang literature, there are many references to the manual compression of specific acupuncture points (that is, "acupressure"). The most famous example, perhaps, is Ge Hong's use of the thumbnail to compress Renzhong DU26 (in the groove above the upper lip) to treat loss of consciousness, a technique which first appeared in his book Zhou Hou Jiu Zu Fang. It was also at this time that Chinese anmo was first brought to Korea, Japan and other Asian countries where separate developments began (i.e. Japanese amma and shiatsu).
In Tang medical textbooks, anmo was often prescribed for disease prevention. For example, in Qianjin Yaofang, Tang physician Sun Simiao reports that pediatric colds and flu's ("invasion by wind cold") can be prevented by massaging the fontanels, palms and soles of the feet of young children. Self-massage techniques can also be found in Tang literature, usually with an emphasis on their role in prevention. One self-massage technique described in Yang Xing Yang Ming Lu is tapping one's teeth 36 to 300 times in order to "strengthen the teeth and prevent toothache." Another technique, used to "brighten the vision," is warming the hands by rubbing them together, then pressing the palms over the eyes, followed by gently rubbing the canthi with the fingers. Sun Simiao also recommended that after meals one should massage the abdomen with warm hands and go out for a stroll. He wrote that this would help digestion and "prevent a hundred illnesses."
In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), there were several developments in the practice of anmo in China. The first was primarily theoretical. Song was a period of great philosophical speculation and scientific inquiry in China. A number of medical texts began to differentiate the effects and indications of different anmo techniques (i.e. compressing versus gliding). Attempts were also made to explain the physiological mechanisms behind anmo's therapeutic effectiveness. The principal effect of anmo was described as "warming, disinhibiting and releasing blockages and stagnation in the channels." Anmo "mobilizes and free up the joints and opens blockages so that circulation of the defense qi can be restored," which suggests that it helps strengthen the immune function through improving circulation. Certain forms of anmo were recognized as having a diaphoretic effect which "releases the exterior" (hence its use for colds and flu's, which TCM theory sees as evil qi "binding" in the exterior layers of the body ã skin, subcutaneous layers, muscles). In Ru Men Shi Qin, Zhang Congzheng described how percussing the point Fengfu DU16 (at the base of the occiput) until sweating is induced can "release the exterior" and thus treat colds and flu's.
During the Song dynasty, anmo was especially important in the treatment of bone fractures and dislocations. At this time, Chinese anatomical knowledge made great strides, to the benefit of anmo practice. Books such as Ou Xi Fan Wu Zang Tu and Cun Zhen Tu described the location of the all the internal organs, and gave fairly accurate descriptions of the spinal vertebrae and the joints of the limbs. During the Song period, Song Ci (1186-1249) wrote what is probably the earliest systematic treatise on forensic medicine in world medical literature, Xi Yuan Ji Lu ("Collected Records for Righting Injustice"). Anatomy figured prominently in this work. In Shi Yi De Xiao Fang, Song orthopedist Cui Yilin not only described the structure of the elbow and hip joints, but also went into great detail in recording the manipulations used for setting various types of fractures. These manipulations included the use of suspended traction in the treatment of vertebral fractures. Elsewhere, Song physician Pang An described the use of anmo techniques in turning breech babies and assisting in difficult deliveries.
Many self-massage techniques for "nourishing life" (what modern English speakers might call "wellness") were described in Song literature. These included pinching the bridge of the nose 5-7 times a day, combing the hair 100 strokes, and rubbing the soles of the feet together (at the acupuncture point Yongquan K1) until they sweat. Rubbing the soles in this way everyday could supposedly ensure that one's "step would be light and easy." Rubbing the acupuncture points along the paraspinal muscles in the lumbar region was said to relieve frequent urination.
In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), pediatric massage (which, for the first time, was referred to as "tuina") evolved into a highly systematic treatment modality which is still popular today. Some sources have suggested the term "tuina" (pushing and pulling) was originally a description of the movements required to pin down the squirming young recipient! In any case, pediatric tuina has a number of unique characteristics. Unlike traditional acupuncture treatment, which is primarily directed at individual points (connected together into "channels"), pediatric tuina recognizes three types of active zones for anmo application: points, lines and surfaces. The "points" include all the traditional acupuncture points. The "lines" include the "Three Gates" line and the "Six Viscera" line, among others. The Three Gates is a line along the anterolateral aspect of the forearm. The line is gently stroked 100-300 times, in the direction of the elbow, using the thumb. The effect is warming and tonifying. The Six Viscera line lies along the medial aspect of the forearm. Gently stroking in the direction of the wrist 100-300 times has a cooling effect and can treat various "heat" diseases (fever, agitation, thirst, mouth sores, mumps, constipation, and so on). "Surfaces" in pediatric tuina include the anterior aspects of the fingers, each of which is correlated with a different organ. Circular gliding of the thumb over the surface of a particular organ's finger is said to warm and tonify the qi of that organ in cases of deficiency. In cases of excess, unidirectional stroking toward the tip of the finger is said to cool and subdue hyperactivity of that organ.
The Qing dynasty (1644-1911) saw the publication of a number of books on tuina, and especially saw the development and refinement of the use of anmo in traumatology and orthopedics.
Anmo has always been (and continues to be) a thriving part of Chinese folk medicine (which, besides using acupuncture points and channels, often has no relationship with TCM theory). Many of these folk practitioners, like the traditional Japanese acupuncture practitioners, were blind. Even today, on street corners across the country, one can still see signs outside small Chinese massage clinics which read "Blind Person Anmo." During the Qing Dynasty, several prominent schools of folk anmo arose. One of the more well-known schools is the "nei gong" (internal art) massage associated with the martial arts masters of the Shao Lin Temple. Many martial artists in China are trained in anmo techniques, especially for treating trauma (including bone-setting).
Another Qing Dynasty school called the "Rolling Method School" derived their therapy from variations on a single technique, "yi zhi chan," a form of oscillating compression using mainly the thumb. Yi zhi chan (literally "one point Zen" or "one finger Zen") is a Buddhist term which means "all things are of one nature." There are no historical records of the Rolling Method School, so all we know of it comes from modern heirs to the tradition, especially the students of Dr. Ding Fengshan, many of whom still practice in the Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. Another school ("the Spine Pinching school") evolved around the technique of rolling the skin between the thumb and fingers over the vertebral column.
Like all areas of traditional Chinese culture, anmo suffered its share of setbacks during the tumultuous years of the twentieth century. Perhaps the greatest blow was dealt during the Nationalist period (1911-1949) when the government led a campaign against traditional Chinese medicine. In 1929, at the first meeting of the Central Health Committee, the policy of "throwing out the old medicine and sweeping away obstacles to medical activity" was instituted. In 1936, the government announced that "traditional medicine has no scientific foundation" and its practice was banned. During this time, very few physicians went into anmo practice. Nevertheless, anmo continued to be a popular form of healing amongst the common people, and its techniques were preserved outside the halls of officially-sanctioned medical practice.
After the Communist Revolution in 1949, the new government began a policy of promoting traditional medicine. The disparate and often contradictory theories, techniques and schools which made up traditional medicine in China were standardized and systematized into "zhong yi" ã literally "Chinese Medicine" or, as it is known in the West, "Traditional Chinese Medicine" (TCM). In recent years in the People's Republic of China, there has been a tendency to use the term "tuina" to distinguish massage therapy based on the theories of TCM from popular folk massage, which is now simply called "anmo." If you look up "massage" in an English-Chinese dictionary, you will likely find the word "anmo," whereas "tuina" has become a more specialized TCM term, indicating its foundation in TCM theories of yin/yang, jingluo, zangfu, and so on. In 1956, a government-sponsored tuina training program in was set up in Shanghai. In 1958, the government established both a tuina clinic and a tuina school in Shanghai. Although the practice of tuina/anmo suffered further setbacks during the Cultural Revolution in the 60's and 70's, it continued to develop throughout the rest of the 20th century.
In the modern era, the practice of anmo has evolved into a rich repertoire of techniques, many of which are also found in the classic Western massage developed by Ling, Mezger and others. These include effleurage (gliding), petrissage (kneading), vibration, shaking, rocking, tapotement (percussion), friction and foulage. They also include a number of unique techniques, especially the oscillating compressions, such as "yi zhi chan" and "gun fa" (rolling). In performing anmo techniques, practitioners use their fingers, thumbs, palms, knuckles, forearms, elbows, knees, and feet. One of the trademarks of Chinese anmo, and of the other Asian massage therapies that evolved out of it, is the extensive use of compression, particularly of acupuncture points. Anmo therapy also includes joint manipulations, such as traction, circumduction, stretching, and "mobilization with impulse" (a.k.a. "cracking" or, in Chinese, "ban fa") "Ban" literally means a trigger, wrench or lever. It refers to sudden mobilization ("wrenching") of the vertebrae or other joints following relaxation of the surrounding soft tissue with gliding, kneading, etc. It is traditionally performed with the patient in a side-lying position, seated position or even borne on the back of the practitioner (back-to-back, with elbows interlocked). When done with the hands, the practitioner often uses palpation skills to direct the impulse to a specific vertebra.
In recent years, anmo has seen a renaissance in China. The range of conditions treated by anmo has once again expanded to include most branches of medicine (internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, traumatology and otorhinolaryngology). Experimentation has also been done in the field of anmo anesthesia. In 1979, the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine established an "acupuncture/tuina" major. In 1982, Beijing and many of the other colleges of TCM across China followed suit. Most of the Chinese-language journals of traditional Chinese medicine regularly feature articles and research on anmo, and at least one national journal (Anmo Yu Daoyin) is devoted exclusively to news and research in the field of anmo. A good deal of research has been done in China on the biomechanical and physiological principles of anmo treatment, and numerous trial studies have been done on its clinical applications. Unfortunately, very little of this modern Chinese research on anmo has been translated into English (the same is true of Chinese acupuncture research). As more of this material is translated, it will probably prove to be of great benefit to the development and understanding of similar manual therapies in the West.
Dr. Matthew Miller, MB(China), L.Ac, is a doctor of Chinese Medicine and a licensed acupuncturist. Dr. Miller received his medical training in China, where he lived for nine years. After completing his undergraduate studies at New York University, he became fluent in the Chinese language and went to China to study traditional Chinese medicine. He attended the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Sichuan province, where he took all of his courses in Chinese, alongside the regular Chinese medical students. Matthew earned his Chinese medical degree with a specialty in acupuncture. After graduating in 2002, he returned to his hometown of Lynchburg, VA, USA to set up his medical practice, East West Acupuncture.
The material in this article was translated and synthesized from several Chinese language sources including:
1. Notes taken by the author from lectures given by faculty members of the Chengdu University of TCM Tuina Department, including Drs. Peng Dezhong, Liao Pindong, and Zeng Wenwu.
2. Yu Dafang, et al., Tuina Xue, Shanghai Science and Technology Press, 1984.
3. Bao Laifa, et al., Baijia Tuina Jingyanji, Shanghai Science and Technology Press, 1993.
4. Zhao Ao, et al., Tuina Liaofa Yu Yiliao Liangong, People's Health Press, 1996.
5. Zeng Zhiya, et al. Zhongguo Yixueshi, Shanghai Science and Technology Press, 1983.
6. Li Ding, et al. Jingluoxue, Shanghai Science and Technology Press, 1994.
The 6 Healing Sounds
See youtube video on Caryn Diel channel
The practice of the six healing sounds for nourishing a healthy life has a long oral and written history. During the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) there was a record of this practice, and in the Han Dynasty (207 BC- 220 AD) we find written records buried in tombs. In the Tang dynasty (618-906AD) Sun Si Miao, and esteemed TCM doctor, wrote in the “Song of Hygiene” about the six healing sounds and outlined their specific benefits to the internal organs and their associated sense organs.
Healing practices that were passed down orally for centuries were eventually recorded on silk and bamboo and later unearthed in tombs. Many modern day practitioners in China know of this practice and when I was in China in 2011 I met a Taoist Abbot who told me that this was, indeed, an advanced practice. He stressed the need to make the sounds gently and sub-vocally. Clearly the most basic practices are advanced practices, affording the practitioner immediate internal alchemical results.
This is a classic Taoist foundation practice in that the most simple of practices become the most profound.
This practice is flexible and adaptable to each individual’s needs. You may practice them in order, (starting with Wood and proceeding through the creation cycle, ending with the endocrine or triple burner sound) or only practice the sounds you need to treat specific conditions in the body. I like to focus my practice seasonally, meaning that in spring I would give specific focus to the Wood element and the Liver sound.
Many esteemed Taoist sages advised that the first step in practice is to subdue one’s emotions, and then to harmonize the mind. Chen Tuan marks these as the first 3 of 12 steps to attain the Tao.
Be free from grief and anxiety.
A solitary cloud and wild crane beyond constraint.
Within a thatched hut,
Leisurely read the golden books.
Forests and streams outside the window,
At the edge of the rolling hills, water and bamboo.
Luminous moon and clear wind;
Become worthy to be their companion.
Taoist practitioners realize that humans have desires and emotions, however they provided us with alchemical formulas to transform this energy into pure chi.
As a healing practice the 6 Healing Sounds meditation is unequaled in its ability to identify dense emotional energy/chi in the body; specifically in each organ, and to then diffuse it and break up patterns of stagnation which form disease and behavior problems. Communicating with color and sound to clear and tonify the organ’s chi is a very old archetype of healing. You are connecting to the subtle energy/chi field by using your ability to visualize and guide the chi with sound and color. This practice recycles chi into its original pure form therefore bringing balance and harmony back into the body mind as is was in a primordial state.
If you are restoring your health it is important for every cell to be functioning at a high level of clarity, unencumbered with emotional toxins. The environment of the cell, the cell wall, is affected by your thoughts, emotions, and sounds. Women, pay close attention to the Sounds and Color used in this practice for balancing and strengthening the endocrine glands.
Sound and Color are ancient archetypes of healing. Sound breaks up stagnation and patterns of disease, in this case stuck emotions. Color tonifies the cells of the body. True colors signify vibrant health.
See the 5 elements graph below to see the colors. (the Metal element color is White)
We begin the 6 healing sounds meditation with the Inner Smile practice which lifts the frequency in the cells to a higher vibration. Then visualize each organ filling with a pure color that is associated with it’s element. The sounds will purge any low vibration emotion from the body. (the sounds are always sub vocal, like a whisper) For the Fire element the sound is Haaaaa. Feel the sound emanating from the heart and small intestines, removing stagnation. The sound for the Earth element is Hoooooo, very guttural. Metal element sound is Ssssssssss. Water element sound is Chooooooooo, like a wave crashing. Feel the contraction in your core around the kidneys as you make this sound. Wood element sound is Shhhhhhhhh. And the 6th healing sound is for the Endocrine glands; pituitary, pineal, thyroid, thymus, adrenal, pancreas, ovaries and testes. The color with will tonify them is a deep night sky violet/purple. The sound is Heeeeeeeee. The virtuous behavior that comes from balanced endocrine glands is effortless and harmonious communication.
Practice at least once a day, more if you are recovering from illness. Doing the 6 healing sounds before bedtime is excellent for harmonizing the organs’ chi and assisting you to sleep peacefully. Do this meditation daily to clear your body/mind of low vibrations.
This is a foundation practice which will prepare you for other practices. The graph below explains which organs manifest specific emotions and which color is used to tonify the organs. (color used to tonify the Metal element is White)
The endocrine glands are included in the 6 healing sounds, and in the 24 hour meridian cycle they are active in the late evening, but have no season. Taoist considered the hormones to be “spirit molecules”; very fine and very powerful, and were therefore given the color Purple to match the North Star.
The 5 seasons and the 5 Elements as they relate to the paired organs. It is wise to be mindful of the organs during their associated season. Nurture them with the proper foods and qigong practices. Slow down in the Winter, rest more.
Triple Heater relates to the Endocrine Glands, hormonal balance, sexual chi.
The 6 Healing Sounds practice is useful in healing and it is also a Long Life/Yang Shen practice. One of my teachers, Master Mantak Chia, claims that this practice will cool down the organs’ chi and allow the body to be more at ease. Emotions affect the organs, and unhealthy organs create unhealthy emotions.
See Youtube video on Caryn Diel channel
Classic Daoist self-cultivation practice for health and longevity
Tao yin, also pronounced Dao-in (dow-een)
For thousands of years people have been guiding chi.
A record of Tao Yin moves is found in the Taoist canon, a large collection of ancient books written and compiled in china around 1436-1449 AD. This practice was not taught to the general public, but to special individuals for spiritual attunement. During the Tang Dynasty 652 ad, Tao Yin became an official part of Court Medicine. The famous physician, Sun Simiao (581-682 AD) compiled “Prescriptions of a thousand ounces of gold” in which he outlined many qigong and tao yin prescriptions.
Lao Tze (500 bc) called it regulating the respiration. Some say the Lao Tzu lived to be 260 years old.
Lao Tzu says in chapter 76 of the Tao te Ching,
When people are alive,
Their bodies are soft and supple.
When people die,
They are stiff and hardened.
When tree, grass and animals are alive,
They are soft and pliable.
When they are dead
They become dry and brittle.
Ancient peoples lived simple lives and did not care so much about abstract thinking. They preferred practical things to improve their lives. Thousands of years ago the people living by the Yellow River developed movement practices to enhance a healthy and long life. People lived simply, they sat but had no chairs, they ate but had no tables. Just as we experience today, too much repetition can create stagnation, poor health and pain.
Ni Hua Ching, a current day Taoist teacher, says to imagine you have been lying in a cave for a thousand years, you are completely relaxed and as you wake up you realize that you are a spirit who has awakened in a physical body. You take a deep breath and begin to make physical movements. There is no rush, slowly turn your attention to the life force in your body.
Huang Di, The Yellow Emperor from 2500 BC, asked one of his ministers, Qi Bo, about the meridians of the human body. His response was, there are six celestial vibration patterns and from these arise the Yin and Yang meridian system. The twelve meridians correlate with the twelve months of the year and the twelve (two hour) time periods of the day. The organs in the human body resonate with the Dao when chi in the meridians flows freely.
Chen Tuan (born 870 A.D.) was a student from the lineage of Lao Tzu. Chen Tuan is known as the dreaming priest. He perfected Taoist Dream practice and sometimes slept for hundreds of days at a time. He was also a respected sage who performed divination practices at the court for emperors. His chi had to be clear and supple to achieve all that he did. The gentle stretching postures of Tao Yin allow fluidity to return to the connective tissue which encompasses the meridians.
Wise people like Chen Tuan developed postures to counter repetition and bring more fluidity into the mind and body. He was also mindful of the movement of the seasons and developed movements that harmonized the human body with the movement of nature.
Some of these movements appear to mimic the movements of animals, others look like yoga postures. Tao Yin postures are meant to gently stretch open the meridians while not overstressing any joints or ligaments.
There are many postures and movements that you can choose from, it is not necessary to do them all. The goal is to rebalance your chi and harmonize your mind and body. Imitate the flow of water, or bamboo moving in the wind. Sit like a tiger resting in the grass, and stretch like a dragon reaching for heaven.
1. Guides the chi through the meridians and harmonizes the organs
2. Supports the tendons and joints
3. Relaxes the psoas and diaphragm
4. Improves overall body flexibility
5. Releases toxins with the breath
6. Strengthens the lower tan tien
7. Prepares the external foundation for internal cultivation
8. Supports mental clarity
You do not need to know all of the meridians to receive the benefits of Tao Yin, however, sometime you may like to look at the meridians in a book. For now, Guide the chi with your intention, and it will move during the resting phases. Your active intention as you move into each posture initiates the yang phase and uses the breath to stretch the tissues.
Using your breath to complete the extension of chi is key to making these movements successful and enjoyable. Hold each pose for 5 or more breaths, being certain not to create any pain. Allow the breath to move into the meridian and guide the chi to move with your mind’s eye. Take a resting breath between postures. This allows the chi to flow. This is the Yin phase.
In modern day terms we could say that this type of gentle exercise will reduce stress and energy blockages. Tao Yin is an excellent practice to do at the end of a day to bring balance to repetitive postures that you have held. It is also a great warmup in the morning to enliven the body before you start your day. Tao Yin can be done by anyone, at any age, and with all health backgrounds.
It is very gentle and can be done sitting or lying on the floor, or sitting in a chair. In China, Tao Yin is prescribed for healing and prevention of disease. Among Daoist practitioners self-massage and Tao Yin are a common practice after long periods of sitting meditation. Enjoy the benefits of Tao Yin if you have been sitting too long at a desk, standing for work, have been ill and lying down a lot, riding in a car, or sitting a long time in meditation. Tao yin is great to practice after your chi cultivation practices. The gentle movements smooth out chi flow to the entire body and moves chi back and forth to the organs and the extremities.
Many of our modern day complaints and physical symptoms are a result of stagnation; not moving the body enough. Traditional Chinese Medicine prescribes herbs and movements like Qigong, tai chi and tao yin, to re balance the movement of chi throughout the body.
Focus on the meridians, for what supports the meridians also supports healthy organs. In turn, healthy organs support positive emotions and behaviors. We are opening the connective tissues which are the environment for the meridians. Please never over stretch tendons or ligaments.
Use your breath to open the tissues. Move into a posture and take 5 long deep breaths before moving to the next posture. This gives the tissues time to open and allows chi to flow. Tao Yin is suitable for all ages, you can do the entire set, or choose a few to fit your needs and time available. Tao Yin is available to view on the "Caryn Diel" Youtube channel.
Taoist Tree Meditations
By Caryn Boyd Diel
first published in Epic Magazine May 2020
It is an epic time on our planet, when social distancing is becoming a ‘thing.’ As a Taoist practitioner I can assure you that there is one resident species near you that is welcoming closer contact: a tree. The Wood element in Traditional Chinese Medicine engenders the higher virtues of expansion, growth and generosity. These virtues are easily seen in the patient yet tenacious life force of a tree. Taoist tree meditations connect you energetically to a forest, or to a specific tree, with the intention of circulating your chi for physical and emotional healing.
Trees are masters at transforming chi from the sun, soil and atmosphere. Each day we humans also need to transform our chi, by either cultivating the quality and quantity of our chi, and/or releasing negative chi. Trees lend themselves to this process generously. The earth energy from which trees draw their strength is enormous, much larger than our human minds can actually grasp, and therefore the transformative power of trees (and the earth) is inexhaustible.
Perhaps you have a favorite tree that you remember from childhood. There are trees that I recall with great fondness for their rightness-of-being; whether in cities, forests, or near rivers, they add beauty to their surroundings. As you learn to circulate chi between yourself and a tree, many thoughts and emotions may arise.
Soon you realize that trees are not solitary beings, they are connected to everything around, above and below them. The sun, moon, stars, air, rain, clouds, wind, soil, fungi, creatures in the air and on the land are all in relationship to the trees. Trees have personalities just as people do, with varying shapes, sizes and qualities; and, like people, they contribute to their communities.
Trees emit color, just as humans emanate color in their auras. Pine trees radiate green, which relates to the Wood element and the liver. Cedar trees exude red, which relates to the Fire element and the heart. Willow trees emit yellow for the Earth element and stomach. Poplar trees give off a White color, which is related to the Metal element and the Lungs. Cypress trees emanate a dark blue/black color, which represents the Water element and assists the kidneys. Some people see or sense color; others may feel color. However your senses have developed is right for you.
You may sit or stand quietly and absorb the essence of a forest grove. Allow deep stirrings of intuition to arise within you. Open and begin to feel its vibration, even sensing subtle movement. Or you may set a specific intention to commune with a particular tree, sensing its flow and color.
Once a tree has chosen you, or you have decided upon a tree to meditate with, move into the energetic chi field of the tree. Open yourself and the palms of your hands to sense the aura of the tree, and step slowly forward to a comfortable distance. Begin breathing with the intention of absorbing the essence of the tree (and all nature around you). Inhale through your nose. As you inhale, sense or imagine that you are inhaling through every pore in your body. Exhale from your mouth, and release toxins from every pore in your body. Conclude your tree meditation by leaning your spine up against the tree for a few minutes. Relax into the presence and stillness of the tree.
Another method of working with tree medicine is to circulate your chi out of the soles of your feet into the roots of the tree, and then bring tree energy into the crown of your head from the top of the tree. Slow down your respiration to match nature and the tree that you are connected with.
Recently, as I was getting to know a specific tree in the forest near my home, I sensed a stillness in its life force, which conveyed a realization of the Stillness and the Tao. Stillness is not simply the lack of movement, but the deep, unmanifested creative force, which gives birth to the balance of yin and yang. Of course trees move as they grow, but very slowly and in keeping with right timing.
One of my fondest tree meditations happened earlier this year. Every day I look out upon two tall trees that were planted 40 years ago by my neighbor: one a Sequoia and the other a California Redwood; I can see them now as I write. Every day I gaze out at those trees and notice if the wind is blowing, or if there is an eagle or a hawk sitting at the top of one of them. On this particular day I went out early in the morning to catch the sunrise over the lake. I walked down to the trees and at that moment the sun rose over the hills. I soaked in the sunshine as I stood next to the trees (which I have permission to visit any time). I stood under one of the trees and filled my body with sunlight. I sensed a vibrant pink aura enveloping the tree and me. For the rest of that day and night, every cell in my body was with humming with light and the higher frequencies of Nature.
Soon I will return to the tall trees of Colorado and New Mexico. I look forward to my annual retreat in Pagosa Springs, and the fragrance of the pine trees as the high mountain sun heats up their needles. There are many trees in the world, so have some fun finding what each of them has to teach you.
Like each of us, trees impact the integrated unified field of all life. It gives us food for thought as we ponder our own contributions to life. We may not be as famous as the giant Redwoods of California, or Tane Mahuta, (lord of the forest) revered by the Maori of New Zealand, but we are each participate in the evolution of our own destiny and consciousness. It is this refined consciousness that engenders immortality.
Winter Solstice offers us a chance to cross the veils of space and time to gain benefit of celestial alignments. The portal, or vortex, is open and this is a great time to meditate. Aligning one’s chi field with the energy of the Hexagrams of the I Ching and their movement as a calendar of the year is a deeply revealing practice. Every 5 or 6 days, the direction and quality of chi changes. We begin with 0 (zero) degrees North at the Winter Solstice. From Dec 17-22 we are working with the energy of Hexagram #2. Pure Yin. We sit facing North during this time to pick up the celestial energy emanating from the North. The 64 Hexagrams introduce us to the powerful forces of Nature. As an immortal practice there is nothing more refining than to merge one’s chi field with the Universal Chi Field of nature.
Fu ? Internal Alchemy Meditation (from Master Wu)
This a powerful practice for the winter solstice itself, but you will also gain great benefits from adding this simple practice to your daily schedule throughout the winter. It is vital that you find a place of stillness now so that you will become aware of the changing of the seasons. When the Water element, kidneys, experience rejuvenation in winter, the spring season will naturally come to life through the liver, Wood element, and you will feel a surge of new chi in the Spring.
Please light a candle in front of you and place your hands in the Fu mudra, which is made by touching each thumb to the base of the ring fingers. The palmar crease of the ring finger is associated with the hexagram Fu, #24, Turning Back. This hexagram explains to us the natural forces that occur this time of year. The light is returning.
“Attain the highest void;
Maintain the deepest stillness.
When ten thousand beings rise and fall,
Watch their turning back”
Make sure to keep your fingers together and relaxed. Then, place your mudra with palms on your belly and middle fingers touching the navel.First, open your eyes and look directly at the candlelight. Then close your eyes and imagine the candlelight is radiating from your DanTian (lower belly). Adjust your breathing to be slow, smooth, deep, and even. Feel how your DanTian grows lighter and brighter with each breath. Meditate in this way for as long as you can. At the end of your meditation, offer a short blessing:
“May the Spiritual Lights shine within my heart and body,
May the Spiritual Lights shine within my family and friends,
May the Spiritual Lights shine within all beings,
May the Spiritual Lights always shine with peace and harmony for the World.”
Qigong and Meditation
see several videos on youtube Caryn Diel channel
Qigong and Meditation instruction are included as a part of most of our classes and retreats. Sometimes there is a Seasonal Qigong and Meditation class offered, so please join our mailing list to be informed of current class offerings.
What is the benefit of Seasonal Qigong forms?
Humans are Nature. Our rhythms move naturally with the movement of the sun, moon, (light and dark) planets and stars, tides and rivers, the flowering and fruiting of plants, the movement of animals and birds. Even the digestion of our foods is dependent on what is available each season. Everything that we need to know about our world and keeping healthy can be found simply or metaphorically in nature.
Our breath is just right for a human body. The respiration of a tree is just right for the tree. Both have consciousness and ways of communicating. The planet has one breath each year, an inhale and an exhale. Drawing in chi and letting go of chi as the earth moves on its axis. The hummingbird has a quick movement, the galaxies a much slower movement.
Qigong movements create a flow of chi through the body and its structure; the meridians. Each meridian is a river of chi moving between the interior and the exterior of the body, from organs to the extremities and back. Every organ has it’s season, sound, and color, and time of day. And therefore we can use qigong to strengthen the organs and our overall health by choosing a movement which recognizes the organ and brings more chi into the organ. Sound and color produce a quality of chi. Movement creates a flow of chi.
For example, during the Spring it is a great idea to choose movements that clear and tonify the Liver chi. Locate the liver and gallbladder meridians and make some movements, or do some stretches and massage for the liver and gallbladder meridians. Make it fun. And send some vibrant spring green color from your mind’s eye into the liver and gallbladder to tonify them. Sounds will break up stagnation and move out stuck chi. Try the sound Shhhhh and see the old chi moving out of your liver to be recycled by the universe.
Each Season/Element has a movement. Winter/Water brings us to a still point; a place of rest and rejuvenation. When we give ourselves the gift of stillness our entire being has an opportunity to become refreshed. Winter Qigong forms that I teach focus on slow movements to open the kidney and bladder meridians, and have longer quiet sitting meditations. I allow the natural darkness to fill the room. Pearl of the Night is a Winter Qigong form that I created. It is very simple and restorative.
Spring/Wood begins the movement upward and outward like the sap rising in the trees, stimulated by the wind moving the woods. Traditionally we use this time of year to detoxify our bodies. Nature, and our liver, is pushing chi up and out through branches and meridians. Qigong forms that stimulate the liver are great for Spring. I like forms like Swimming Dragon which open the spine and Jade Woman which clears liver chi.
The Science of the Cards
Look for upcoming classes, and call for a personal reading
The Science of the 52 Cards is a powerful tool for self-discovery and inner transformation. Most students use it initially to help forecast their future, understand their past and unravel the many facets of their human relationships. However, this system can be used most effectively as a guide to plan and execute many important aspects of our life. A person fully utilizing the information found in this system can walk forward in life with full confidence, knowing that he or she is in harmony with the universal energies and the cycles of his or her own life.
In a workshop, you will learn about your individual Birth Card and Planetary Ruling Card, your relationship to others, and your life’s plan in the Book of Destiny. Learn how the 52 cards can help you more clearly define your life’s purpose and how they provide you with a blueprint for continual success.
Bring your life plans and dreams to class and lets see if we can get you on track to your highest potential.
Instructor Caryn Boyd Diel has been a student of this system of divination and card reading for 20 years and studied with author and Grand Master Robert Lee Camp. She offers Private readings to individuals on Career, Health, Relationship compatibility and Yearly life planning.
The Little Book of the Seven Thunders
Revelations X, Verses 4, 10 and 11
And when the Seven Thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write and I heard a voice saying unto me, “Seal up those things uttered by the Seven Thunders, and write them not.” And I took the little book from the angel’s hand and devoured it and to my taste it was as sweet as honey; but as soon as I devoured it, it became bitter unto my inside.
And he said unto me, you must prophecy again before many people and nations and tongues and kings.
The Order of the Magi, the brotherhood of astrologers, mystics, and priests of the temples of Egypt, was instructed to keep secret the ancient knowledge of the Seven Thunders (the seven visible planets) and the location of this little book (the cards) until the time when humanity would be of the consciousness to understand of this occult system of knowledge and the true magic of life. The first book, The Mystic Test Book by Olney H. Richmond, was published for the public in 1892 in the USA to reveal the secrets of the little book of knowledge and prophetic wisdom–what we refer to today as our “common” deck of playing cards.
History of the deck of Cards
With its origin over 20,000 years ago in the early days of Atlantis, The Order of the Magi is probably one of the oldest spiritual organizations that has ever existed. No one knows the exact origin of the group, but evidence shows that they have maintained and preserved some of our most valuable and important spiritual sciences. These are the Magi of ancient Egypt and before, those who study the laws of nature and our cosmos, those who know the secrets of our planet as no others do and those who are dedicated to the preservation and sharing of these ancient truths. It has been said that the wise men and prophets written about in the Bible were among its members, even that Jesus himself was one of their ordained and trained leaders. And it is only now that the world is ready for the information that has been kept completely secret for thousands of years. It was in 1894 that the very first book was made public that revealed some of their astounding information.
The Ace of Spades has always been the symbol for this ancient group and that is why, to this day, the Ace of Spades always appears larger in decks of cards throughout the world. The Ace of Spades represents the secrets that lie behind what appears to be the truth. It represents the veil that separates the material and spiritual worlds and the power that we have to make a personal transformation to a higher level of consciousness. It is the symbol of the Mystery Schools and ancient teachings.