Celestial Immortals

Zhi Xian Tang or the Celestial Immortals formula has an intriguing name and I am often asked who these immortals are and, why is the formula named for them.

Two of the main ingredients in this formula have xian (immortal) in their names: Curculigo (xian mao) and Epimedium (xian ling pi), explaining, most simply, how the formula got its title. Other formulas are named in a similar way, such as Er Dong tang, comprised of Ophiopogon (mai men dong) and Asparagus (tian men dong). But, in that case, the name is not quite as interesting: dong (winter) was used in the name for Ophiopogon because the plant can be used through the winter and was used in the name for asparagus because of similarities in its uses to that of Ophiopogon. In the case of Curculigo and Epimedium, the common term xian (immortal) applies to an interesting and important part of Chinese culture.

Xian mao was named in the book Ben cao gang mu (Li Shizhen; 1596) as one of the herbs believed to contribute to immortality. This property was described as ‘making the body lighter’ when taken over a period of time. Xian ling pi alludes to the immortals’ intelligent nature (pi refers to the spleen, which is, according to the Chinese, a source of wisdom); this name appears to have been a popular designation for the herb that was originally called yin yang huo (which describes it as a sexual tonic).

The Daoists who undertook the effort to become immortals were thought to become lighter and lighter, through meditation, cultivation and herbal medicines, until they could float up into the clouds. The Chinese character for xian (immortal) is the combination of man and mountain referring to those mountain dwelling Daoists.
Around 400 BCE, a poem about attaining immortality, the ode Yuan Yu (Roaming the Universe) was written. It depicts the transition to immortality thus:

Having heard the precious teachings, I departed
And swiftly prepared for my journey.
I met the feathered ones at Cinnabar Hill
I lingered in the Land of Immortality.
In the morning, I washed my hair
In the Hot Springs of Sunrise.
In the evening, I dried myself where the suns perch
and sipped the subtle tonic of the Flying Springs,
I held in my bosom the radiant jade.
My pallid countenance flushed with brilliant color,
Purified, my essence began to grow stronger;
My corporeal being dissolved to soft suppleness,
And my spirit grew lithe and ready for movement.

The writer then describes clinging to a cloud and riding it aloft, to “the very spheres of the storied heavens” where he entered the court of the Supreme Ruler (Heavenly Emperor), and entered the precincts of the Great Beginning. The various stops along the way, at Cinnabar Hill, Land of Immortality, Hot Springs of Sunrise, etc., are the meditative goals in his efforts at cultivating his qi and jing. The tonic of the Flying Springs is his alchemical herbal potion of immortality. Jade was his amulet of spiritual freedom. First among immortality tonic stones is Yu Xue or jade dust whose attributes are to limber the sinews, strengthen the bones quiet the ethereal and corporeal soul, boosts the qi and combined with the appropriate practices helps one to become ‘a non aging immortal’. Though he began pallid, his complexion became radiant, and his jing (essence) was supplemented. Then his physical weight dropped away, allowing his spirit to roam free. The removal of corporeal weight is one of the signs that immortality is at hand and is mentioned frequently in the Shen nong ben cao jing as a property of certain herbs. Epimedium, listed in that text, was not included among the herbs that caused the body to become light, but it apparently gained a reputation as valuable for the immortals at some later date. Even in the ancient text, it was noted the Epimedium boosts the qi and strengthens the will, important contributors to the path to immortality.

Stories of the immortals date back to at least 4000 BCE and have continued through to the 21th century though their halcyon days were during the period from the Han Dynasty up to the first part of the Tang Dynasty. The early Chinese Emperors were quite interested in gaining immortality; but tending to lack the discipline to pursue the Daoist mental and physical exercises, they supported the study and development of tonics that they could take.

The term xian, with the meaning of an immortal, appears in several other herb names, aside from xian mao and xiang ling pi, including

Xian He Cao: Agrimony (hemostatic)

Xian Mao Shen: Scorzonera (qi tonic)

Xian Ren Zhang: Opuntia (vitalize blood)

Jiu Xian Cao: Thesium (clear heat purge fire)

Tian Xian Teng: Aristolochia (vitalize blood)

These herbs have varying uses and their linkage to immortality tonics, if any, is unclear. Dozens of herbs that had names established prior to their use in attaining immortality or named by other methods to designate their origins have been used in alchemical tonics. So, this designation is not necessarily the only indication of the importance of the herb in relation to this rarified use by the Daoists.

The term xian also appears in some names of well-known formulas, such as Xian Fang Hou Ming Yin (Immortal’s Formula for Preserving Life; Angelica and Mastic Combination), which is not an immortality formula per se, but one that was said to have been relayed by the immortals. Indeed, there are numerous stories of herbs and formulas being handed down from or influenced by mystical sources. For example, Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan was said to come from the Heavenly Emperor (Tian Wang) and Si Shen Wan, often translated as Four Immortals Pill, makes reference to the intervention of divine spirits to yield a miraculous recovery. So, the formula Zhi Xian tang takes part in this ancient tradition of connecting to China’s spiritual and mythic icons.

Zhi Xian tang imbeds the formula Er Zhi Tang Ligustrum plus Eclipta, a formula for yin deficiency. The pair of herbs, Ligustrum and Eclipta, can be used as a standalone formula, but more commonly they are incorporated into somewhat larger prescriptions like Zhi Xian tang. The formula name, Er Zhi Tang might be better translated as Two Solstices Pill and refers to when the herbs are customarily collected. Each of the herbs is picked near the time of the solstice, the ultimate manifestation (zhi) of the annual cycle of yin and yang. Specifically, Ligustrum is picked at the winter solstice (ultimate yin, the end of winter, before the weather warms) when its fruits are ripe, while eclipta is picked at the summer solstice (ultimate yang, at the end of summer, before the weather cools) while still in flower.
These and other herbs that are picked or processed at particular phases of the sun and moon or under the auspices of other celestial phenomena are part of the great legacy of Daoist medicine. These practices, along with Lunar Tidal Balance Acupuncture are part of the continued application of Daoist medicine in the 21st century.

Yours in good health,
Robert Kienitz, DTCM

Daoist Nutrition & Digestive Overview

The following is a top down synopsis of Daoist views on the digestive process and general nutrition.

The Mouth is greatly influenced by the Stomach, Ren, Du, Spleen, Kidney, Liver and Large Intestine channels. Because of these complex interior/exterior channel and network relationships the mouth is influenced by and influences all of the other organs and channels.

The tongue belongs to and is ruled by the heart but on inspection primarily manifests the digestive system. This is why the Chinese doctor will always perform a tongue analysis as part of the ‘four inspections’ diagnosis process.

The teeth belong to the kidneys and ‘the back teeth are for grinding  grains the front teeth are for taking fruits and vegetables, the dog teeth are for flesh’. Because fewer of the teeth are canine or dog teeth, less animal flesh should be consumed in favor of more vegetables, fruits and grains whose use teeth make up the majority of dentition.

Clacking the teeth together 36 times promotes saliva which in itself nourishes the Dan Tian and is essential for digestion, never spit saliva, and always swallow it in thirds. The clacking of the teeth also promotes the secretion of fluids of all of the Yin organs.

Chewing the food in a thoughtful meditative manner 36 times per mouthful allows full connection with the five flavors. Eating one food at a time also strengthens the awareness of the five flavors and is the way children instinctively eat.

Humans do not normally eat anything that is not sweet. It may be sweet and sour, sweet and bitter, sweet and acrid, sweet and salty but is still sweet

The sour flavor travels to the liver and the tendons pungent or acrid travels to the lungs and qi, bitter travels to the heart and blood, salt travels to the kidneys and the bones sweet travels to the spleen and flesh.

A little of each flavor will enhance the normal function of the organs and their related tissues but;

Too much salt causes the pulse to become sluggish and the complexion to lose its vitality, the bones become weak, the muscles and flesh wither and the function of the heart becomes suppressed.

Too much bitter causes the skin to dry and the hair to fall out, the function of the spleen will not be able to transport fluids and the stomach will become tense.

Too much sour causes the liver to over produce saliva which stifles the spleens function.

Too much sweet damages the function of the heart and causes difficult breathing, chest distention; a black tongue and the kidneys will be damaged.

Too much acrid causes the muscles and pulse to become slack and the spirit will be injured.

Another function of the mouth is to regulate the mean temperature of foods, warming the cold and cooling the hot so that the food is closer to body temperature when swallowed.

When swallowing the food, follow its passage down the throat before taking the next bite.

The Stomach is the sea of water and grains, qi and blood. It separates the pure matter from the turbid, when the stomach is in harmony it sends the pure substances to the spleen and transports the turbid down to the small intestine. The proper movement of stomach qi is downward and it has the strongest downward momentum of Qi in the body.

The Ling Shu states, “The middle burner originates in the stomach. After receiving qi, it separates wastes, steams the fluids and humors and transforms them into purified essence. It conducts this essence up to the lungs where it is transformed into blood for the whole body. There is nothing more valuable than blood.”

Stomach has a preference for warm and sweet foods.

Stomach has a preference for yellow foods as yellow is the color of earth.

The stomach dislikes cold and heat alike. The natures of food are cold, cool, even, warm and hot.

The stomach will comfortably hold the contents of a ‘begging bowl’ but the being bowl needs to be replenished often.

Ming Men is the life gate fire is generated by the dynamic tension of the kidney yin, yang, and jing (prenatal essence combined with post natal essence), and is the source or spark for the middle burner fire which in turn heats the cauldron of the stomach. Because the Ming Men depends upon post natal essence, the health of the stomach and spleen is in direct proportion to how brightly the life gate fire burns.

The digestive function of the spleen is transformation and transportation, further separating the essence of the pure from the turbid of the pure and ascending the purified nutrient to the heart and lungs where it is transformed into qi and blood. As with the stomach, the ascending nature of the spleen is the strongest in the body.

Stomach separates pure matter from turbid conveying the turbid down to the intestine and passing the essence over to the spleen. The spleen separates the ‘essence of the pure’ from the ‘turbid of the pure’ and sends the turbid down to the small intestine and ascends the essence to the lungs.

The lungs combine this pure nutrient with clear air qi to form blood. Blood is moved onward to the heart and is turned red.

Some of the heart blood is sent to the liver where it is stored and part is transformed into liver blood, blood is impelled throughout the body via the hearts beating/pumping action and the liver function of dispersing and discharging.

The blood is circulated throughout the whole body, the blood and qi filling every organ to capacity.

When the five viscera become over full, the excess is shunted to the kidneys where it is refined into ‘post natal’ or acquired essence.

Post natal essence is the most rarified and concentrated matter of the body and is the chief component of post natal Qi.

The Small Intestine receives the turbid fluids from the stomach and the turbid fluids of the pure from the spleen. The small intestine further divides the turbid from the pure. The pure fluids are transformed into Jin and Ye, thin and thick body fluids. The turbid fluids are conducted to the bladder for excretion.

Large Intestine receives turbid matter and any residual turbid fluids from the stomach and further separates pure from turbid, the pure is used to nourish the kidney yang. The remainder of the turbid matter and fluid is held as feces in the colon and then excreted through the anus at the proper hour, 0:500-07:00 using the clearing and descending action of the lungs. Any time there is an excretory process like a bowel movement there is a loss of qi. It is of vital importance to keep the anus closed, especially when performing any exercise that drives qi downward.

Qi foods are light and easy to digest but not very nutritious, they tend to transform most easily into qi within the body and are essential for the metabolic function of the body. Wei foods are denser and more difficult to digest, they are very nutritious and tend to transform into blood and other material substances in the body.

Raw foods whether Qi or Wei are difficult to digest and therefore the net gain from consuming them is less than cooked foods. The exception to this is fruits which are ‘predigested’ because of the enzymes contained within them that help with quick breakdown and absorption.

Cold Foods hamper digestion by bringing the stomach temperature down, the middle burner cannot ‘cook’ the food before transit time moves food to the next phase of digestion.

In summation; selecting foods from a wide variety of flavors and sources with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits and whole grains that are properly cooked, eating small quantities often and chewing foods thoroughly are some of the simplest and soundest ways to achieve proper nutrition.

Yours in good health,

Robert Kienitz, DTCM

 

 

The Perfect Chord

As the illumination of the moon grows and recedes, ebbs and flows, rises and falls throughout its twenty eight day cycle so too does the moons influence on the body and its energetic channels and acupoints.

During the time preceding the full moon the energy in the channel systems increases in its influence and specific acupoints become stronger in their effect. As the illumination of the moon recedes toward the new or no moon phase, again acupoints within the channels change their dynamic affect on the body. This rhythmic cycle is continuous and unceasing and is called the Lunar Tidal Effect.

Just as there are twelve visible changes of the illuminated phases of the moon each month, so there are acupoints that follow that same pattern in their relative influence. Only the acupoints that correspond most with specific lunar phases are chosen in the Lunar Tidal Effect acupuncture protocol.

The twelve channels of the body have anywhere from nine to sixty-seven acupoints each depending on each channels length, breadth and depth. Of those points the most powerful on each channel exist between the elbows to the fingers or the knees to the toes and of those points there are only six that are always the most influential on each channel. These six points per channel are the places where the power of the Lunar Tidal Effect is the greatest and these are the points chosen for the Lunar Tidal Effect acupuncture protocol. As bodies of water are affected by the pull of the moon as tides, so the channels and points are likewise affected. It is interesting to note that these acupoints are named after bodies of water like well, spring, stream, river, marsh and sea.

Because the points of influence change every two-ish days, if you are receiving regular weekly or twice per week acupuncture using this protocol, the pattern of points used will rarely be the same.

In music, the twelve notes in an octave (I know it’s counter-intuitive but trust me there are) follow a pattern similar to that of the lunar cycle. With stringed instruments like the guitar and piano the changes in the notes are due to changes in the tension, length and gauge of the instruments strings. That tension is not unlike the influence that the moons gravity exerts on our channels and acupoints. In ancient times there were tonal sounds ascribed to each of the organs and their channels, these were later simplified to the ‘six tones’ but there are in fact twelve, six going up and six going down, that again follow a pattern similar to the Lunar Tidal Effect pattern. The twelve octave notes and the twelve tones in Chinese philosophy were all calculated representations of harmony. Harmony is balance and balance is what we are trying to achieve in the practice of acupuncture medicine.

In acupuncture the selection of points based on the Lunar Tidal Effect give us the most appropriate point selection possible at any specific phase of the moon in relation to our channels and those harmonious points. When activated in unison these points give us perfect ‘chords’ for that day and time. The perfect chords of lunar Tidal balance acupuncture harmonize our channels and tune our organs and tissues for a perfect balance of yin, yang, qi and blood.

There are many ways that various schools of acupuncture philosophy try to find the most harmonious combination of points for each treatment but the Lunar Tidal Effect gives us the perfect chord for every treatment every time.

For more information on the Lunar Tidal Effect and Acupuncture see my e-book in our online store https://www.atlantic-acupuncture.com/store/?model_number=Lunar-Tidal-Balance-e-book

Yours in good health,

Robert Kienitz, DTCM

Vitaminology & Orthomolecular Medicine

Vitaminology is the branch of medical science dealing with the study of vitamins, their nature, actions and use.

When vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes are used medicinally they are referred to as orthomolecular supplements. Orthomolecular medicine is the theory that disease may be cured by providing optimum amounts of substances, such as vitamins, normally present in the body. One of the early proponents of orthomolecular medicine was two time Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Linus Pauling who posited that mega doses of Vitamin C and Zinc were essential for the prevention of colds and flu’s during their prevailing seasons.

Orthomolecular supplements are essentially concentrations of nutrient substances that are normally found in the food we eat. I am often asked, “If vitamins and minerals are found in the food I eat, why can’t I get enough of them in my daily diet?”

There are five main reasons for the need for supplementation of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

First, many people just do not eat a healthy and balanced diet. We tend not to eat enough fresh vegetables and in the West we tend to eat way too much refined sugar and animal fat. These foods cause us to use inordinate amounts of other nutrients to balance and compensate for the over consumption of sugars and fats. For instance if one eats a lot of refined sugar there is an overuse of zinc for compensation and too much animal fat consumption leeches high levels of calcium from the system.

Secondly, many of the foods we eat are often grown in poor soil due to excessive use of tillage, chemical fertilizers and other short sighted and unsustainable farming practices. This compounded by the fact that many people eat foods that have been prepared or stored improperly, causes significant loss of vitamins and enzymes.

Third, in North America we are exposed to toxic chemicals in our air and water, hormonal additives in our food place extra stressors on our systems, and our bodies require additional vitamins and enzymes to neutralize and re-stabilize.

Fourth, those of us who live in an urban environment are subject to large doses of mental and emotional stress. The urban landscape is excessively assaultive on many levels and our nervous systems are unable to cope with this unrelieved stress which in turn uses inordinate amounts of B vitamins and minerals.

Fifth, if one consumes excessive amounts of caffeinated beverages, alcohol, uses tobacco products in any form, is exposed to radiation. Or if one is taking certain pharmaceuticals such as oral birth control or is suffering from chronic illness, especially digestive illnesses, these tend again to use up abnormally large amounts of certain nutrients for stabilization or in the case of digestive diseases; the nutrients may not be fully absorbed.

For all of the above reasons one may need to supplement particular nutrients which may not be found in sufficient amount in the diet. This is not to say that if one takes mega doses of vitamins and minerals that will make up for good basic nutrition but is does mean that given the stressful and polluted world of the 21st century we may not be getting enough vital nutrients from our diet.

From a Traditional Chinese Medical viewpoint, vitamins minerals and enzymes are classified as herbal medicines and have the same hierarchical classification as ginseng, ephedra, bupleurum and angelica. The concentrated dosages of vitamin supplements make them more like medicines than foods even though absorption rates vary from person to person.

The TCM functions of vitamins and minerals have their own minor materia medica and just as there are some herbs that are very widely used and well known to every Chinese doctor for their wide spread efficacy and almost universal benefit so too are there vitamins that are foremost on the list of panaceas every person can use.

B-12 is one such vitamin. In TCM, B-12 has the function of nourishing and coursing the circulation of the liver, which is in charge of circulating the Qi and blood of the entire body. B-12 also supplements the Qi, nourishes the blood by fortifying the spleen, and harmonizes the stomach. B-12 clears heat from the whole system, is anti-inflammatory and improves blood circulation which in turn resolves physical and mental depression.

While B-12 is widely available in foods and as a supplement there are several different types of B-12 available. All B-12 are cobalamin molecules and will have a similar function but methylcobalamin is the most bio-available form of B-12. Bio-availability is important because when you eat food containing B-12 you absorb about 25-30% and when you take a pill or capsule form of B-12 at best 40-50% is absorbed, the remainder is excreted through urination. The greatest absorption of B-12 comes through injection where 95% absorption occurs. When coupled with injecting the B-12 into an acupuncture point such as Taichong LV-3 or Sanyinjiao SP-6 the injection site supercharges the effects of the B-12 on the Qi, blood and circulation of the whole system.

APIT coupled with orthomolecular medicine are very powerful TCM modalities but it must be stressed that all modalities in TCM are based on our diagnostic protocol. Just as a person needs to be confirmed having a spleen and kidney vacuity before we prescribe ginseng as an herbal remedy, so too does a person need to have an appropriate pattern conformation before being treated with injectable medicines.

Orthomolecular medicine regulates the immune, cardiovascular, endocrine and nervous system and can potentially treat chronic pain and inflammation, auto immune disorders, chronic fatigue conditions, chronic and latent viral diseases, colds and flu, sports injuries and most importantly perhaps, APIT assists the holistic  rejuvenation and regeneration of mind and body.

Yours in good health,

Robert Kienitz, DTCM

Acupuncture Point Injection Therapy

Developed in China in the 1950’s APIT is the injection of sterile biological substances into specific acupuncture points for the regulation of Yin, Yang, Qi and Blood.

Acupuncture and its adjunct therapies are all regulatory in nature but APIT allows Doctors to tonify and enhance acupuncture points, channels and the organ systems governed by those channels and points.

Prior to the introduction of APIT, the only way to supplement and actually add any substance to the channel system was with electrical or laser stimulation of the acupuncture points. The use of electro and laser stimulation moderately increases the Yang Qi of the system but not Yin Qi, blood or essence. Otherwise, to introduce Yin, Qi, blood and essence into the system, Doctors needed to prescribe herbal medications and biological supplements to augment the organ systems via the digestive process.

APIT is not intravenous (IV) therapy and the sterile biological substances are never injected directly into the vascular system. APIT stands apart from all other types of injection therapy because of its reliance on the use of acupuncture points. The inclusion of acupuncture specific points for injection provides multidimensional therapeutic dynamics because stimulation of the points themselves are already responsible for a myriad of local and systemic therapeutic results. The combination of the point stimulation and the appropriately prescribed sterile biological substances supercharges the healing effect.

The Hypodermic needles used for APIT are 27-30 gauge (about the same gauge as a regular acupuncture needle). The sterile biological substances used in APIT include but are not limited to 5-10% glucose solution, sterile saline, vitamins such as B-12, C and D-3, various single Chinese herbs and Homeopathic remedies such as Arnica and Traumeel.

APIT can be performed as a stand-alone therapy such as a weekly or monthly injection of vitamin B-12 or in conjunction with other acupuncture modalities such as acupuncture, gua sha, cupping or moxa therapy. Because of the very powerful effect of APIT it is typical to inject only one to four sites per session depending on the sterile biological substance being used. When using saline or most homeopathic substances the four injections can be performed more frequently up to several times per day on different acupuncture points.

APIT regulates the immune, cardiovascular, endocrine and nervous system and can potentially treat chronic pain and inflammation, auto immune disorders, chronic fatigue conditions, chronic and latent viral diseases, colds and flu, sports injuries and most importantly perhaps, APIT assists the holistic  rejuvenation of mind and body.

Whether a person is suffering from seasonal colds & flu, a chronic health condition, is a wounded weekend warrior or just wants to live forever, Acupuncture Point Injection Therapy is a potent modality in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Yours in good health,

Robert Kienitz, DTCM

Breathe…

Many years ago a man came to me and said he wanted to learn to meditate and could I help him.

He told me that he had heard that chanting and mantras were a good way to meditate but that he was uncomfortable with chanting in a foreign language or reciting a mantra that did not make sense to him.

I  advised him to slowly  inhale and think the word “Breathe”

Exhale slowly and think the word “relax”

Inhale and think the word “release”

Exhale and think the words “let go”

I advised him to sit in a quiet place and for twenty minutes once or twice per day and mentally recite this “mantra” while following his breath

The man came back the next week and said that he had been reciting the mantra every day for twenty minutes but didn’t like the word “release” and could he change it to “realize” making the mantra

Breath

Relax

Realize

Let go

I said sure, try that for a week and see how it goes

The man came back the next week and said that he had been reciting the mantra every day for twenty minutes but the word “realize” wasn’t working for him and could he change it to “awaken” making the mantra

Breath

Relax

Awaken

Let go

I said sure, try that for a week and see how it goes

The man came back the following week and said that he had been reciting the mantra every day for twenty minutes but decided that he was going to change the word “awaken” back to the word “release” because he felt I had been right all along, making the mantra

Breath

Relax

Release

Let go

I said sure, try that for a week and see how it goes

The man came back the next week and told me that he realized he had been meditating every day for a month and he felt much clearer and calmer overall

I said great, try that for your life and see how it goes

Mid-line Therapy

Anatomically there are three main planes of the body. These are imaginary flat surfaces that pass through the body and help us differentiate upper from lower, back from front and side to side

These three main planes are

The frontal plane, divides the body into front and back (anterior and posterior).

The horizontal or transverse plane, which divides the body from top to bottom (superior and inferior portions)

The mid-sagittal plane, divides the body into equal right and left halves (this plane represents the Mid-Line.

The mid-sagittal or Mid-line plane is the subject of this article. Imagine a thin, three foot wide by six foot tall sheet of ‘magic’ glass we will use as our dividing tool. Facing the edge of the glass step forward and allow the magic glass to pass through you from top to bottom dividing you evenly into left and right halves. The mid line created by the glass represents the mid-sagittal or mid-line plane.

 The importance of Mid-line learning

I have trained for over forty years in various martial arts systems and in that time the most impactful teacher I have had was Master Randy Miskech. In addition to holding the highest rank possible in Korean Tae Kwon Do (seventh degree black belt), Mr. Miskech has a Masters degree in Physical Education.

As an instructor, Mr. Miskech would take one Tae Kwon Do movement and teach it progressively. That means that a single movement was broken down into many smaller motions. Most movements (if not all) had a chamber position (starting point) and an execution position (stopping point). Within this structure lies what he called the method of the mid-line. Most blocks, punches, and kicks cross the mid-line point of the body (mid-sagittal plane). Many times these movements are set to opposite sides of the body. That is, in order to perform a right low defense block I am required to place my right hand across the mid-line to my left ear, (the right hand must first cross the mid-line of the body) to be in the proper chamber position. Then, during the execution phase the hand again passes downward and to the right of the body through the mid-line to finish in the proper execution position.

Each block, punch and kick requires conscious thought to start and stop in the right position and each movement is then mirrored to match its opposite.

All Asian martial arts as well as boxing and to some degree fencing consistently rely on the focused intent of crossing the midline of the body.

Until recently we did not know that crossing the mid-line forces your brain to ‘rewire’ itself to compensate for the confusion of the movement.

Studies have shown that the percental gyrus of the frontal lobe of the brain, controlling the primary motor functions of the body, must produce neurons and create new neural pathways to compensate for cross-midline movements. Science and technology meet 2000 year old training methods.

To summarize, the more you force your limbs to cross the mid-line plane to a focused end, the more neural pathways your brain will create to compensate for the ‘confusion’ of the movement. More neural pathways will translate to better defined movement, improved motor skill development and increased cognitive capacity. Essentially, it is fitness training for your brain.

‘It has been scientifically substantiated that your brain produces more neurons and creates neural pathways that expand your ability to move and process information. This production of neurons is a direct result of activities that requires the one to consciously cross the mid-sagittal plane (mid-line) of the body.

For thousands of years, masters knew the benefits of martial training, however, all or most of the growth was attributed to self-discipline. Another way it had been described is that repetition created focus. Now we have evidence and a name for that focus, it is what has been come to be known as Mid-Line Training.

Recently, Neurologists have seen evidence that when the body is placed in a situation that forces it to cross the mid-sagittal plane (mid-line) the brain develops new neural pathways to deal with the confusion of the movement and have begun prescribing boxing training to patients with Parkinson’s and mild forms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

One of the martial arts that can be of particular benefit on many levels partially because of its crossing mind-line movements is Tai Chi Chuan.

Tai Chi is a form of exercise that utilizes visualization, breath control, posture and movement to systematically organize and orchestrate the various functions of tissues and organs in the human body.

Tai Chi as a form of exercise has been in continuous practice from the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty (1028 – 221 B.C.E.), to the present day. In China, Tai Chi has been used therapeutically in modern hospitals and sanatoriums since 1955 and in 1956 Tai Chi was introduced as part of the regular curriculum at the four top Colleges of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Research studies have been conducted at the Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Guangzhou Colleges of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In 1986 the China Research Society for Tai Chi Science was founded to oversee research protocols at the colleges and universities. Tai Chi research has also been conducted by colleges and scientific institutions in Japan, Korea, Europe and America. This is a sampling of some of the findings of that research.

  • Cardiovascular: Lowers resting heart rate, less abnormal EKG, greater cardiac efficiency, stabilized blood pressure, less LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, more HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
  • Circulation: Improves microcirculation, peripheral circulation, prevents vascular spasm, very helpful in Reynaud’s syndrome, angina, migraine.
  • Digestive: Improves peristalsis and digestive absorption, fewer pathogenic digestive bacteria (candida), positive effects on ulcers and constipation.
  • Respiratory: Slower respiratory rate, improved gaseous exchange, significant positive effects on asthma and bronchitis.
  • Immune System: greater count and more active T cells, better targeting of antigens, deactivates harmful free radicals causing significant anti cancer effect.
  • Musculo-skeletal: Increases strength, flexibility and bone density, improves coordination, beneficial for arthritis and osteoporosis.
  • Brain: increases slow, high amplitude brain waves, improves cerebral blood flow, less incidences of stroke, helpful for paralysis and seizure disorders.
  • Mental Health: Decreases in; stress response, Type A behavior, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder. Improvements in memory, concentration, interpersonal sensitivity

Another important factor in continued long term mental acuity is the use of specific Chinese herbal medicines. The use of herbal medicines for specific conditions should be managed by a doctor of Chinese medicine, but for prevention of senile conditions there are several herbs that can be very helpful.

Herbs like acorus, ginkgo, Siberian ginseng and many species of edible mushroom all have shown to increase cognitive function and memory in numerous scientific studies.

Although often marketed individually, it has been found that using these herbs in specific combinations actually give the best results. For instance, the leaf of the ginkgo tree is particularly useful for increases in long term memory but not so much for short term, while acorus root is very good for short term memory but not as good the gingko for long term memory.

Edible mushrooms like hericium, ganoderma, reishi, shitake and miatake have long been used for longevity and mental acuity in Asian cultures and for the past sixty or so years we have learned that about any edible mushroom produces these same benefits to some degree.

Here at Atlantic Institute, we have developed a formula we call “Brain Food” that is made up of the most effective balance of the four major brain enhancing herbs. In a concentrated (5:1) formula we have engineered a blend of acorus root, gingko leaf, hericium mushroom and Siberian ginseng into a formula that has the best potential for deterring all of the thirty-one patterns of diagnosis that are associated with dementia, senility and Alzheimer’s.

You can order my DVD on Tai Chi & Qigong by going to our Store tab at the top of this page or get a streaming video by going to http://soenlightening.com/rk-jade-dragon.html

You can also order Brain Food by going to our Store tab at the top of this page or by contacting us at info@atlantic-acupuncture.com.

Yours in good health,

Robert Kienitz

First and Foremost, Protect The Middle

COVID-19 first erupted late in the year Ji-Hai (2019), which represents the warmest period in the entire 60-year Jia-Zi cycle designated by the traditional calendric system of the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches. Winter is normally characterized by cold weather, but this year’s winter was warm instead, creating an abnormal climate pattern that most likely aided the eruption of this disease. The Treatise on the Differential Treatment of Warm Disease (Wen bing Tiao bian) states: “Winter is supposed to be cold, but if it turns out to be warm instead, then yang is not going into its customary state of storage and the populace will fall ill with warm diseases as a result.” The author Wu Tang (1758-1836) also remarked elsewhere “Warm diseases can be differentiated into wind fevers (feng wen), heat fevers (wen re), and epidemic fevers (wen yi)… All pathogens that cause warm disease enter through the nose and mouth, and advance deeper and downward from there.” In similar fashion, the government’s standardized treatment approach has made it clear that this disease is transmitted via fine droplets originating from the respiratory tract. The disease first erupted in winter moreover, and was caused by the novel corona virus a pathogen that exhibits highly contagious and pandemic qualities. Just like in Wu Youke’s (1582-1652) classic definition of an epidemic “Epidemic febrile diseases can occur during any season. The epidemic soaks up the pestilent qi between Heaven and Earth… and when it arrives, everyone who comes in contact with it—no matter whether old or young or weak or strong—will become infected.”

Most importantly, what an investigation of  COVID 19 by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can reveal for us in the face of a widening epidemic are the keys to its prevention.  In addition to good hygiene practices and social distancing regulations that are being widely enacted, TCM can inform us on the actions that we can all take right now for ourselves and our patients to increase resistance to Covid-19.

FIRST AND FOREMOST, PROTECT THE MIDDLE.

A virus must find the appropriate terrain within which to take hold and replicate. This particular one seems to prefer damp, stagnant conditions. This means adjusting dietary choices to prevent damage to the Spleen and Stomach yang qi by eating lighter, easy to digest, mostly warm, cooked foods. Visiting the supermarket yesterday, I noticed that the very foods we should be cutting back on were the ones that had been completely bought out, namely meat, milk, yogurt and eggs.

Cut back on or completely avoid processed foods, sweets, alcoholic beverages, and any cold and frozen items from the refrigerator/freezer.

Augment meal preparation with plenty of fresh herbs and fragrant spices. If juicing is part of your daily health regimen, stick mostly to vegetable juices and supplement with fresh ginger, turmeric, pepper, parsley, coriander and small amounts of garlic.

Keep up with basic daily supplements like pro-biotics, Vitamins C and D and trace minerals.

Add Chinese herbal medicine into your daily health regimen: ask Dr. Kienitz about preventative formulas for the respiratory system, colds and flu’s

MAINTAIN APPROPRIATE DAILY EXERCISE.

Exercise helps alleviate all forms of stagnation, dispel constrained heat through sweating and keep the surface open to alleviate pressure on the respiratory system.

Those with an established exercise routine should stick with it; those who don’t can start with something as simple as brisk walking 30-40 minutes a day.

If you feel more comfortable exercising at home, there are any number of  YouTube channels dedicated to body weight interval training circuits, yoga and calisthenics; 30-45 min of sustained elevated heart rate to break a light sweat is sufficient.

MAKE TIME FOR AT LEAST ONE EXTRA HOUR OF SLEEP EVERY DAY.

With all of the cancellations and closings going on, invest that time in recharging your vitality extending that opportunity for the Kidney to store. Sleep is the foundation of immunity; aim for 8-9 hours of good quality sleep each night and schedule in a short nap period during the day.

LASTLY, REMAIN PRESENT AND GROUNDED IN THE FACE OF GENERALIZED ANXIETY AND UNREST.

TCM emphasizes the importance of the intimate connection between spirit ( shen) and essence (쑹 jing) as the foundation for the orderly function of vital qi. When the spirit is strongly identified with essence, meaning we are calmly present and attuned to our life situation, immunity will flourish. Our body’s natural discerning wisdom will clearly distinguish “what is you from what is not” and your immune system will take action accordingly. Nothing disturbs the clarity of this integration of mind and body like the cascading effects of continuous adrenal stimulation brought on by fear and panic. The simple fact is that while highly communicable, the virulence and mortality risk associated with this virus is fortunately low for otherwise healthy individuals. News and social media rely largely on a negative emotional response in order to keep their audience engaged; try not to get caught up in this circle of fear and frustration.

As we all know from experience, decisions made from a place of anxiety for ourselves or others are often likely to produce unsatisfactory outcomes. This includes rushing to apply treatment strategies, whether eastern or western, those have been published as effective for “fighting the virus” without first pausing to assess the current state of our personal health. Begin with a clear and careful assessment of your own vulnerability as well as that of immediate family members and exercise an appropriate corresponding level of caution in deciding how best to proceed. If you are feeling vulnerable and unsure of how best to apply these recommendations to your personal situation, please reach out to myself or another qualified medical provider or schedule a tele-medicine session.

I would like to conclude with the simple reminder that no effort is wasted when it comes to encouraging health and vitality both in ourselves as well as in those around us in order to bring this public health challenge to a timely conclusion. It is abundantly clear from the classical emphasis on the relationship between unseasonably warm temperatures and the failure to store yang qi both on an individual and universal level as an essential precondition for an epidemic of this nature, that as the rate of human induced climate change continues to accelerate, episodes of this type are only going to increase in frequency. It is yet another way we see the inextricable bond between humanity and nature manifest (天 人 合 一 tian ren he yi) and in moments like these, feel the sense of shared responsibility to care for the well-being of ourselves and one another.

Yours in good health,

Robert Kienitz, DTCM

Cultivation of Mind

Se shen is the cultivated mind, yang shen is the conservation of mind and tao shen the regulation of mind are methods of keeping physically and mentally healthy by regulating the spirit, consciousness and thinking.

A sound mind can be kept, disease prevented and life prolonged by cultivating the mind. To be specific, this entails preserving a tranquil mind, taking care of emotional activities and cultivating mindwill in conformity to the four seasons.

Preserving a tranquil mind means to keep peace, quiet and implement that rationally. This is the principle of maintaining a sound mind and includes the following aspects.

First, being free from hedonism and yearning, when improper thoughts and desires come to the mind unchecked the mental qi becomes disturbed. Keeping a peaceful and carefree mind and ridding oneself of improper desires as a way to prolong life. The lessening of desires will erase an unnecessary load on the mind and help maintain generosity and unselfishness and keep a peaceful and sound mind which keeps one physically and mentally healthy. Being free from hedonism and yearning is the guiding principle of health conservation; the so called maintaining in the state of quietness is the most important tasks in keeping fit. To be free from hedonism and yearning one must convince oneself with reasoning, i.e., to understand well what the addiction to desires may inflict on the human body. If one keeps a clear and quiet mind, abstains from improper desires and understands that fame and position will harm virtue and not seek them instead of forcefully suppressing ones longings. If one tries too hard to suppress the desire for fame, wealth and position, those desires will not cease and one will fail in creating a state of quietness and peace of mind.

It is therefore imperative to cultivate noble ethics and foster lofty values, fully understanding the harms of seeking fame, wealth and position may bring about in order to have a change in ones worldview and see the substance of human affairs of life. If one adheres firmly to the rules of the development of things the improper desires will diminish by themselves resulting in a fresh and happy mind and peace and quiet will be will be obtained without striving for it. Besides being free from hedonism and yearning, the extermination of the six evils and adopt a correct attitude towards personal gains and losses. The six evils refers to fame, wealth, sexuality and ‘song’, gold, silver and other treasures, delicious food, flattery and arrogance and jealousy. Unless the six evils are exterminated, various anxieties will entangle the mind and keep the mind from peace and quiet. Seeking fame and wealth, indulging in sexuality and song, wishing for gold and other treasures will keep the mind always highly nervous and agitated leading to premature senility which shortens life and may result in incurable illness and premature death.

Second, it is recommended to ‘look but see not, listen but hear not’. To keep a sound mind, care must be taken to avoid harmful stimuli from the outside world that may have negative effect on the mind. Eyes and ears are the principle organs to receive outside stimulus and their functions are controlled and regulated by the mind. Man lives in society and what one hears and sees will inevitably reflect in the brain and exert influence on the mind. If the eyes and ears are kept away from worldly things the mind will be sound and quiet and the heart will not be impaired by over strain. Otherwise the mind will be troubled and the emotions will never be in tranquility. ‘Eyes greedy for sex can be likened to an axe cutting at life, ears intent on obscene music is like a drum beating to attack the heart’. It is advocated that restraining the eyes and censuring the ears, ‘seeing nothing and hearing nothing’ to keep the mind in a peaceful and quiet state. Though seemingly passive and impractical at first, keeping the mind in peace and quiet to a moderate degree lessens the harmful irritations of the outside world on the mind and is beneficial to mental as well as physical health. The great physician Sun Simiao wrote “the key to conservation for old aged lies in refraining from improper hearing, rash speech, irrational motion and preposterous thoughts”.

Third, concentration of the mind. To keep a sound mind it is not enough to maintain mental tranquility, it is also necessary to employ rationality, namely, to fix attention and concentrate the mind on one thing. When employing the mind, avoid putting it to more than one thing, otherwise attention will be diverted resulting in impairment and over strain. This of course refers to multitasking. Only through concentration of mind can we avoid mental stress in spite of employment because the attention is fixed and the mental activities are concentrated. Therefore keeping a clear and quiet mind requires not using it excessively, over thinking, not to involving it with selfish ideas and personal considerations. Using the mind so as to act without rashness can achieve a goal of keeping a sound mind. Moreover, as one lives in society, the mind will receive all kinds of stimuli, a state of absolute quietness is hard to accomplish. Accordingly, while keeping a clear and quiet mind, it is necessary to cultivate vitality in motion in conformity with the principle of tranquility being the foundation if motion and motion being the employed to stay tranquil. Concentration of attention in study and work can help keep a sound mind, dismissing desires for fame and wealth Sustenance of spirit after work or study in a skill, art, poetry, flowers, grass, and full of interest with fixed attention wards off disturbances and relieves mental unease. This is called the method of creating a state of tranquility in motion.

Cultivating ones mental faculties’ means; maintaining a positive state of mind, controlling the emotions to be in conformity with the changes of external stimuli in order to regulate mental activities. This is accomplished in the following ways.

Maintaining a gentle and pleasant temperament, maintaining high spirits and adopting an optimistic attitude toward life are accomplishments indispensable in life and an important factor in conserving health, preventing disease and prolonging life. Given a choice, cultivating temperament would be better than preserving health. One should foster noble ethics, ideals and values while refraining from anxiety, fury, sorrow, shock, and unnecessary talk and impatience in the satisfaction of desires. One should never nurse hatred. Even if something makes you angry, think which is more important, the issue or your health, in an instant the anger will be dispelled. Again, Master Sun stated, “life comes to man but once and the past will never come again, why not control the seven emotions and cultivate the temperament to protect you against disease?” Those who constantly keep the  mind at ease, the genuine qi in smooth flow and the blood in free circulation can prevent themselves from disease and live their full span of life The aged, in particular, should do something to get rid of the sense of old age and keep optimistic. A popular proverb states ‘laughter makes you ten years younger and distress causes your head to become grey’. ‘Anger speeds aging while laughter makes you young.  Li Ying, in the Song Dynasty was appointed head of the Supreme Court at the age of seventy but looked like a man in his forties or early fifties. When asked about his inspiration for health conservation he replied, “The only thing is that I never fret over anything. Even if I may go hungry tomorrow, I do not worry about it today. Whatever happens to me, I dismiss it and never take it to heart, and thus I always feel at ease”. It has been shown that most of the aged who enjoy longevity are broad minded and magnanimous, always cheerful, kind hearted and rarely depressed.

Yours in good health,

Robert Kienitz, DTCM

A Warrior’s Way

This blog is based on a letter I wrote to my sons on each of their eighteenth birthdays as they began their journeys into Manhood. I called it Manhood instead of adulthood because there is a distinct difference between being a male who is an adult and a male adult who is a Man.

I have broadened the terminology to include both (all) genders by borrowing from the lexicon of Don Juan Mateus and referring to those who have chosen to follow this path ‘warriors’. The warrior’s way is a way of integrity, the ‘war’ is the lifelong conflict we all face between behaving in accordance with a high personal ethical and moral standard and choosing a pattern of behavior, for whatever reasons, that is not.

There are far too many adults who have not taken the path of the warrior; you know them by their ethics, or rather, their lack thereof. Adults who do not behave well are highly visible in our society, to see them you only need to turn on the evening news and you will see adults embroiled in unethical business practices, coercive personal relationships and misuse of power.

People who have taken the path of the warrior are often less visible, in part, because the path of a warrior is often what one doesn’t do. But rather than have a conversation about what not to do, let’s talk about what a warrior does.

A warrior tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can depend on him because they know he is honest in his personal and working relationships and, because people value honesty, they will tend to reward that with honesty back to him so he in turn can depend on them. This honesty builds community and leads to peace.

A warrior is true to family, leaders, friends and community. He is true to those above him as well as those below. He does not make preferences based on social order, wealth, power or fame.

A warrior is concerned about other people. He does things willingly for others without concern for pay or reward. This includes volunteering his time and effort to uplift and aid those in his community as well as those in his family. A warrior puts himself second in relations with others and, trite though it may sound, he knows that there is no ‘I’ in TEAM.

A warrior is a friend to all. He is a brother to all other people. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own. A warrior is blind to color and creed and untiringly seeks fairness, justice, equity and compassion for all other people.

A warrior is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. Good manners are social lubricant they make relationships of all kinds work better and run smoother. He never forgets his ‘yes Ma’am’s’ and ‘no Sir’s’.

A warrior understands there is strength in being gentle. He doesn’t use force or bravado to get what he wants. He engages in honest and fair negotiation and looks for win-win solutions to problems so that everyone walks away satisfied with the solution. He treats others as he wants to be treated, this is the golden rule taught by every philosophy and religion on the planet.

A warrior follows the rules of his family, community and society. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he works to have them changed in a fair and orderly manner rather than disobey them.

A warrior looks at the bright side of life. He cheerfully takes on tasks that come his way. He tries to help others to adopt the same optimistic attitude. This optimistic attitude is expressed in action and word, if he doesn’t have a positive way to express himself he holds his peace until he does.

A warrior works to pay his own way and to help others. He saves for unforeseen needs. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property. He is generous when there is abundance and when there is want. He donates his skills and money to good causes that help the community, society, the environment and the world.

A warrior is brave and can face adversity even when he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right regardless of the common opinion and he stands for those who are too weak or fearful to stand for themselves.

A warrior is reverent toward God, nature and his own spiritual nature. He is faithful in his spiritual cultivation and duties. He respects the beliefs of others. Even a person who does not believe in God or spirituality will adopt a way of life as though he did.

Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a warrior needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honor, courage and virtue mean everything. That power and money mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. That true love never dies. It doesn’t matter if they are true or not, a warrior should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in. And a warrior acts on what he believes in.

Yours in good health,

Robert Kienitz, DTCM