What made you believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine?

I studied and practiced Daoism seriously for several years before I started studying Buddhism seriously. I did a one-year immersive (meaning I lived at a rural community with cultivators, teachers, and students, where we practiced and studied every day) training in classical Chinese medicine, Qigong and Taiji, Internal Alchemy, and Daoist meditation practices. Although I have since studied Indian yoga and Tibetan Buddhism as well, I have maintained my Daoist training and practices for over 15 years. While there are philosophical differences between these systems, personally I find no conflict between these systems: I think of them as symbolic frameworks for living well—each framework has internal consistency, and it’s best to not try to apply one framework to analyze another—but when contemplated deeply, and practiced in one’s own experience, they all provide fruitful insights.

I don’t think of it as something to “believe in” or not—I think of it as something to experience and discover. I found the concept of qi easy to grasp: the interconnected flow that interacts with and influences everything. A principle of Daoist medicine and Internal Alchemy is that the outer world and the inner world reflect one another, so we can learn about our inner world—our body, organs, mind, etc.—by studying the outer world. Specifically, the constant process of transformation, how the elements interact and influence one another, is part of the cosmos, the ecosystem, the community, and our own inner environment. While this is obviously complex to understand, the more one contemplates it, the better one is able to live in harmony with the world. Everything we eat—both foods and herbs—influence our organs according to predictable patterns. So I “believe” in it because it is observable, testable, predictable.

Chinese medicine is an officially recognized form of general care in many states, including California. While western science and medicine do not accept the psychosomatic relationships between organs and emotions, or the flow of qi through the meridians, Chinese medicine can respond by saying “those are metaphors that guide treatment.” Simply think of “qi” as circulation, and consider that healthy organs lead to wellbeing. Western doctors can accept that acupuncture, cupping, and moxibustion improve circulation and reduce pain—and maybe that’s enough for them. Western medicine does not understand nutrition as well as Chinese medicine does. And herbs can be very powerful for promoting wellness and prevention.

Gautama: Man vs. Cosmic Being

In studying Buddhsim, I’m struck by the apparent friction between Siddhartha Gautama the man, and Shakyamuni Buddha who has conquered birth and death. Was Gautama a normal human who, through dedication and persistence, made the discovery of Enlightenment? Or was he a supernatural Being who incarnated in a human form merely for the purpose of teaching? The answer is, paradoxically, both.

There is the interesting incident of the fortune-teller, a Brahmin mystic consulted by the king to predict the future of his unborn son. The Brahmin had insight into past lives and karma, and he was able to see that Gautama had amassed such vast amounts of merit—amazingly good karma created through altruistic deeds in his past life—that he would become a powerful and influential person who would have a huge impact on society: he would become either an emperor who would unite all people or a spiritual master who would influence the entire world. Gautama, because of his massive kindnesses in past lives, had no choice but to live a blessed life; his father wanted him to become a world-emperor, and we know that he tried to shelter Gautama from any harsh realities. That technique backfired, and when Gautama saw tragedy for the first time, he was so powerfully moved that he renounced pleasure and power to seek true freedom. So: Gautama was a “mere mortal” but was forced by his stockpile of merit to become something great.

At the moment of his Enlightenment, Gautama perceived all of his past lives. He told these stories to his followers, and they were recorded in a body of literature called the Jataka Tales—these tell of how Gautama’s previous lives amassed that amazing merit. For example, here is a brief summary of his last life before he was born as Gautama:

“In the story of the Hungry Tigress, a human, brahmin Bodhisattva stumbles across a starving tigress with her cubs while out meditating in nearby caves. Shocked and saddened upon seeing the dying creature; attempting to eat her own kin, the Bodhisattva deliberates how he can save this beautiful creature. He decides in a moment of passion and emptiness to hurl himself off the mountainside to where the tigress is so she can be saved by eating his body. His disciples become aware of this awe-inspiring act and are moved by the loving and kindness of this Bodhisattva.” (source)

This profound act of self-sacrifice, and the inspiration it caused in the Brahmin’s followers, was the final trigger for Gautama to be born with the merit to become either a world-emperor or a Buddha; only a Bodhisattva has the capacity for this level of compassion—so this brahmin was somehow a bodhisattva, but not a Buddhist per se. (You can read some more Jataka Tales here.)

However, that’s not the whole picture. We learn with the introduction of the Mahayana in the Lotus Sutra, that Shakyamuni Buddha has *always* been enlightened, and in fact there are countless Buddhas that exist beyond space and time, which are only mental constructs. From this perspective, Gautama is simply modeling the path that we all must follow to realize Enlightenment ourselves.

With the former explanation, Gautama simply had the right ingredients to create the recipe for awakening, amassed from many lifetimes of accumulating merit. From the latter explanation, that entire process is a play put on to inspire unenlightened beings to pursue Enlightenment. I think we can hold both explanations simultaneously!

But that doesn’t satisfactorily explain for me whether Gautama was born self-aware, able to speak and walk, and self-proclaim himself as a future Buddha as a newborn. I feel that was an embellishment introduced in the Buddhacarita by Asvagosa. So our speculation is left open-ended.

Choices Based on Love or Based on Fear…

As I walk, I contemplate identity and evaluate life choices based on love versus choices based on fear.  I sit quietly and deconstruct the ego/identity complex and analyze love versus fear.  I wonder: could there be a third option?  Perhaps it would feel like ambivalence, making choices based on the most appropriate action.

Nonetheless, I examine my life choices.  I intend to pursue the martial arts as a life path. I choose this because I believe that practicing and teaching martial arts is a direct way to help people empower themselves and develop a mind/body relationship.  The martial path is inherently about warriorship and individuals taking personal responsibility.  Thus, through mudra and combat exercises, practitioners are led to discover a spiritual path and deeply grow as beings.  Or perhaps I choose this because I fear for my physical safety and want to be competent at beating people.  The latter doesn’t seem likely.

Ultimately, I want to be unconcerned for the fate of my body or identity.  Regardless of opinions about any supposed afterlife I may have, I prefer to not fixate on the attachment to being alive, and sharpen my ability to appreciate life as it is.  This seems pragmatic to me: death is deeply unknown, which is frightening – however, it is universally unknown to all mortals, ultimate, unfathomable, so, let it be.  Not particularly fearful, but neither driven by love.

My approach to nutrition follows these lines.  My choice is to eat all food as fresh and whole as possible, and in accordance with nature’s food-chain.  Industrial food systems are very recent additions to civilization, and have become wide-spread very quickly, as reductionst models of science describe all phenomenae as components of a machine rather than elements of an integrated whole.  These recent models are untested, and already appear to be causing harm at multiple levels of nature and culture.  I frankly want to be involved as little as possible with systems that inhibit life or sequester creativity and freedom.

I want to participate in the flourishing and proliferation of life.  At the thought of this, I feel a powerful emotional swell in my chest.  Perhaps this sensation may be described as ‘love’.  The decision that triggers it, however, is one of merely ‘appropriate action’.  Life proliferates; I want to contribute my actions to that proliferation.  Including my family; parents, siblings, and someday, children; all humans on their quest to embody their highest-selves; animals, both wild and domesticated, with habitat and food supply; plants, cultivated herbs and vegetables, grasses, pasture, trees, shrubs, ferns, mosses; fungi, of course – all proliferating with my assistance and, yes: Love.

Moving Towards Balance, Charting Territory

I have positioned my lifestyle to have its primary emphasis be on natural health: I eat primarily an organic whole foods diet, engage in energetic movement practices such as taiji and yoga, and maintain a daily awareness practice, all within the context of my living and working environment: a residential school of Asian medicine and bodywork. Our program emphasizes the “School of the Center”, the Sattvic path. I attempt to put these principles into practice in my daily life, with a goal of moving continually towards balance.

However, I fluctuate in my practices, at times abandoning organic foods for the immediate gratification of the service and richness of the restaurant experience, or forgoing movement practices in order to focus on employment or entertainment goals. Even now, my practices are not infallible, and I still experience extreme moods and attraction to intoxicants now and again. But more so now than ever before, I am able to witness and moderate these fluctuations, and herein lies my faith in my movement towards balance: in the past, I felt a victim to happenstance, unable to control or buffer my shifts in mood or desire. Yet with a continued commitment to a spirit-based lifestyle of service and practice, I continually feel more at home in my bodymind, able to sit in silence and meditate.

I keep my mind engaged, eager to seek out new experiences to learn from, and am not particularly plagued by foggy thinking or profound laziness. I have a fit and healthy body, though it occasionally experiences Cold and Damp and Yin Deficiency. I am able to maintain healthy relationship with others, and when I find myself being insensitive or selfish, I am usually able to take responsibility for my feelings and communicate my desire to find mutual contentment. My commitment is to a path of service based in the concept that all beings and things are interconnected, and the one true purpose is Universal harmony.

I believe that the most effective course of action for me to bring myself closer to total balance is to continue to apply the principles I already have: deepen my commitment to a diet of fresh and local organic whole foods as the foundation for a practice of mindful living, seek out teachers of medicine and the Tao who I can respect and learn from, and perpetuate relationship as a practice of service, supporting the people in my family and community.

Dear Reno,

I know my sudden departure may come as a shock to you, but in truth, it has been a long time coming.

Since I arrived, in fact.

I ought to have told you earlier in our relationship, but I’m not the type to settle down, and no sooner do I arrive than I am already looking at the exit door. It’s a pattern I need to work on, I know. Because we started some things together. Things that when we started, I thought I was ready to commit to. A real career, a real community. I took on a lot of responsibility for our growth together, and I saw early on that I got in too deep too quickly. That happens sometimes when we meet again after a long time apart, and the new traits make even the old familiar ones exciting again.

An adage I use often: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I suppose figures of speech become so because they speak to us on many levels, sometimes eluding us with simple complexity…

Anyway…

I got in too deep too quickly, and I tried to correct for that. I noticed you notice me withdrawing, and even as I did so, I was really intending to come back with fervor, stoke the coals and grow back stronger, but, well, that just didn’t happen. And I left you hanging.

I’d like to say, Reno, that “It’s not you. It’s me.” But it is you. You left me hanging, too. I thought you’d pick up the slack in our relationship, see that the distance I was creating was for my own protection, realize that you could keep us both safe by stepping up to the challenge of taking care of your old friend. But that didn’t happen. You stayed needy, quietly, and I just couldn’t keep feeding you all I had.

Reno, you’re a Gateway place, some intersection of laylines gives you purpose. The last place between lush free Pacific and desolate, barren dystopic desert – just look at all the “Burners”, those transhuman souls desperate to re-create the excitement of cosmic life who pass through you in droves on their annual pilgrimage to the psychotic other-land of their imagination, forced by the tight white collar of this doomed culture to flip out in the opposite direction, Reno is their gateway to that land. Also between the hot south Vegas Angeles and the cool north Portland Seattle, while not a pit-stop for most, Reno, you are the fulcrum.

Even more, Reno, you are a portal between above and below, the reality of the living and the realm of the discorporeal. I meet as many disembodied beings as embodied ones, searching for the warmth of connection with another soul, able to envelop and protect them from their own limitless hunger.

Take a look at yourself, Reno: you exist as transition fixed, progress frozen at each step. You amaze me with your progressive stationaryness. A lot of people, well, they need to spend time on the threshold – from here one can look forward and backward through time, peer at the notion of the soul, obsess over sureality – until they become ready to tip the balance of their own destiny in the controlled repetitive falling of walking forward.

Reno, I’m sorry to leave you. It makes me sad.  It does. I’ll watch you from afar, and check in, but I’ll miss all the games we started that we didn’t quite finish. Or really, even quite begin.

But it isn’t you, it is me.

I am thrilled for the future! One can only stand on the precipice of destiny for so long before being drawn in. Not that I believe in destiny, necessarily, or karma, but with observation the patterns of life are undeniable. Not sitting still says something about me: I am not complacent. I am not waiting for something better to come along, I am beckoning it. And consequently, my life continually improves, quality of life gets richer, growth and learning accelerate.

When I reunited with you, Reno, it was meant to be only a short time. That short time extended, and extended some more until I didn’t know for sure when we would separate. (I hope you didn’t get too comfortable during that time – I didn’t.) So the last half a year has been borrowed time… I hope you can understand.

I’m leaving you to be with Heartwood Institute again. Heartwood is a village, a school, devoted to healing arts. My students are here and there, but my teachers are waiting for me there. Accelerated growth, deepening of practice is the hallmark of that kind of life. For all of our amazing projects, I feel stagnant where I am.

It’s time for me to move on.

It’s both of us.

Let’s try not to have a drawn out farewell. I ain’t one for no emotional goodbye…

Chin High

I love to write, and I love to write for this journal/blog. I craft entries in my head for days, weeks even, imagining a perceived audience anticipating my update quietly. But the posts don’t get written, and my drawling mental drafts get weary and frayed. I plan to write. “Today I’ll make a blog post”, I think. I put it on my “To Do” list, which is any variety of scraps of paper, chunky felt-tipped letters on a dry erase board, note books, post-its, text on a mobile phone. But the posts don’t get written, the list is too long.

I begin to get miffed at myself, and even resent the perceived audience. I don’t get emails or personal tribe messages inquiring to my well-being, so I imagine that nobody is out there, or that nobody cares. And that’s not really important, and not really why I write. So, before I give you a bulleted story as to my excuses and perpetual priorities, I’m just going to say:

Maybe I’m taking a vacation from the ‘net for a while. Maybe I’ll not be planning to write another post, to be a blogger extraordinaire. Maybe you shouldn’t wait for another entry in my journal. Instead, you send me a personal message on tribe. Send me an email. Get on Skype and add me as your friend. Figure out what Twitter is and add mojohito as your friend. Dial 415 992 5525 and see what happens. Leave a voice mail message. I’m really easy to learn about, find, talk to. But I don’t have the time to make the time to sit down and write to you a beautifully worded entry about all the events listed below. I’m re-prioritizing, and instead of blogging, I meditate. Instead of abosrbing information, I integrate. Instead of thinking, I do. Here’s a sample:

> Tahoe Yoga and Wellness Center. I work the front desk as a receptionist, I update the website, I make fliers and you know what? I’m making print adverts that get published.
> Tahoe Yoga some more. I facilitate taiji sessions, five days a week, in addition to the desk job.
> Hito’s Homemade. The kombucha is thriving, and so is the market for my humble project. Heatherlee and I are working together on this, 50/50 and splitting profits, but it’s difficult to keep up with the work necessary. It’s probably a black market operation, but the Health Department doesn’t return my phone calls, so I don’t know.
> Great Basin Community Food Cooperative. I’m the webmaster, which means I maintain and update the website, and think a lot about how to make it better for the people who use it. I also maintain the bulletin board and the events calendar, which get a lot of spam, which takes more time to delete.
> GBCFC cont’d: I’m doing ordering, which is about five hours every week or every other week.
> GBCFC part III: I’m still on the Board of Directors. But I’ve quit the other committees, and stopped going to meetings.
> Healthy Beginnings; It’s a Lifestyle Magazine. My first professional article will be published in the May issue of this local magazine. I expect to have future articles published locally, and move up from there. I love to write.
> Canemasters: at my first ranking test, Grandmaster Mark Shuey Sr. was impressed with how quickly I’m improving, and skipped a rank. I’m in the Cane Masters International Association, and I ought to be teaching the exercise routine classes for folks with limited range of motion and recovering from injuries within a month or two. Still have a lot of work to do before I’m ready to teach self defense.
> Bodywork. I finally put in my application to take the National Certification Exam for Massage and Bodywork today. Really looking forward to practicing shiatsu legally, but I’ve got a lot of anatomy studying to do.
> Dharma. I think I’m finally beginning to learn what this means, thanks to Lama Marut of a Tibetan Buddhist tradition. I STRONGLY encourage you to check out his website and subscribe to his podcast: www.lamamarut.org I’m finally putting some things aside and taking up a daily meditation practice. Finally, I’m beginning to understand.

No doubt that I am forgetting at least one major project in my life. Like the garden, or the house, or living healthy relationships, or experimenting with computer networking, or writing for wirelessisfun.com, or…

Oh, and my parents have bought the piece of land near Chico, and them and Brother Cheetah expect to move out of Reno in June to begin the farm.

Look, go back up there, and find the part about how to reach me, and consider trying. The future is now. It’s wide open. Be alert, bring your awareness into your body, into your breath, each moment.

You might have money now, but soon enough you will find that Love is the only currency. And that’s not bullshit, so you better get your karma in order.

Like music? Listen to Roots Manuva’s “Awfully Deep” and be moved by some urban spiritual warrior hip hop dub like you’ve never heard.

Keep it real.

In Solidarity,
Mojohito

Over and Out