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 Dynastic 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 acupuncturist. and 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.