My Sister, The Moon

THE BOSTON WOMEN’S JOURNAL, June/July 2002

MY SISTER, THE MOON -­

THE TRADITIONAL CHINESE APPROACH TO WOMEN’S HEALTH

By: Zhang Yuanming and Stephen Jackowicz M. AC., Lic.Ac.

The current trend in women’s health is focused on holistic ap­proaches to concerns that have existed for hundreds of years. Within this movement, traditional Chinese methods such as herbs and acupuncture have been included under the rubric of holistic medicine. However, the view of what is holistic in the ancient and modern day is very different.

Modern Medicine and Holism

The modern un­derstanding of an holistic approach is one that in­tegrates all the systems of the body into a coherent and consistent system of understanding, to fully address the health con­cerns of the patient. In this sense, the emphasis on women’s health in the past few years haspushed toward appreciat­ing the impact ,of previ­ously ignoredcompo­nents of environment, heredity, and lifestyle which impact the state of health. Medical practitio­ners have sought far and wide in quest of alterna­tive techniques to more fully address the body’s complex interactions. This has even led major universities to begin to examine alternative ap­proaches to care. Yet this understanding is intrinsi­cally a modern one, wherein the various ap­proaches are combined to promote better health and recovery; attempting to address the “whole” of the body.

Traditional Medicine and Holism

However, unlike the modern understand­ing of holism, the tradi­tional view was quite different. According to the traditional Chinese world view, the, human / being and the universe were intimately tied together. This was expressed as a principle known as tian ren he yi (nature and humans are combined as one). This principle was the basis for the traditional medical, model. If there was disease, the formation of the disease was considered to have occurred through the generation of xieqi, which translates as “un­cooperative energy.” In that sense, the person had developed a part of her internal energy flow which did not cooperate with the rest of the body, thereby making it a non integrated unit. This dis­harmony did not at first cause physical disease but rather caused a divorce from the universe, thereby impairing the visceral connection to the universe originally im­plied by the principle of tian ren he yi.

The Regaining of Original Nature

Once disconnected from the universe, the uncooperative energy will slowly impede the function of the internal organs leading to what is called bingqi, or “patho­genic energy.” The accu­mulation of this patho­genic energy will slowly manifest the symptoms of disease.

This can be a very slow process much like the growth of weeds which bit by bit overtake a formerly healthy lawn. But how do we stop this process and recover our original nature? The first step is to cultivate more zhengqi or “upright en­ergy. This can be accom­plished through breathing exercises, meditation, internal martial ants, or treatment. The next step is to begin the process of purging out the patho­genic energy and then the uncooperative energy. This may be possible in mild cases with simple exercises, however in complex or, chronic cases this would require treat­ment from, someone steeped in the ancient methods. As the body returns to a balance, then the symptoms of disease wilt fade, yet more imp­ortantly, if the original ho­listic integration of the individual and nature is rectified then the person win reconnect to the joy of life, to that childlike exuberance of being a vibrant part of the uni­verse. This is the goa1 of traditional holistic medicine to become a part of the “whole” of the universe again..

Women’s Inner Nature

This traditional understanding gave birth to a series of techniques for the maintenance of women’s health in tradi­tional China. Many of these practices were secret since they were Taoist methods that were too progressive for the gov­ernment of the time. Yet although the Chinese Dnastic Government was infused with Confucian conservatism, the populace was intimately tied up in the naturalist Tao­ist ideals. As such, even the vocabulary of traditional Chinese medicine carries with it an under­standing of the integral relationship of humanity and the world. The men­strual cycle was called yuejing, the “flow of the moon (through, the woman).” This is a big difference from the conception of the menstrual cycle as cyclical with the moon. Rather the idea is that the moon enters and flows through the woman’s body. This makes women innately a part of the celestial divin­ity made flesh, with their menstrual cycle the evidence of such an honored connection. Is it then any wonder why so much of traditional Chinese medi­cine is devoted to the understanding of this connection and the treatment of any unhealthy changes to it, since these changes would not only affect the individual woman but the very moon and heavens themselves — which could not find expression in humanity if the connection were impeded.

By extension is it any wonder that today, with so many women in fluencing their menses with hormones and medication that the result is not only, physical dishar­mony but a spiritual dis­connect to our greater place in the universe? Therefore must we not seek to find again our sis­ter the moon, both for our own health and for the balance the universe can only manifest with us as an integrated part.

Stephen Jack­owicz is an acupuncturistand Ph.D. candidate at Boston University, who is founder and Clinical Di­rector of Jackowicz Orien­tal Medical Therapy-y Asso­ciates. Both are available for private consultation and treatment.