We usually think of our bodies as complete in themselves, separate from the air we breathe and the ground we walk on. It is true that the body is a whole universe in itself. But it is part and parcel of the total universe in which we live and to which we are connected every minute of our lives.

When we look at the clear night sky, we see thousands of stars all suspended in space in our own galaxy, and we know that our galaxy is just one of millions reaching to infinity. Within our own bodies, we too have galaxy upon galaxy. The energy of the stars we see outside exists inside us, so that the internal space of the body is organized on the same principles that govern the whole universe.

Imagine a set of Russian dolls, each one having a smaller, identical doll inside it!

The galaxies all spin. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is like a giant dinner plate spinning round and round. Positioned near its edge, our solar system is itself revolving. Now, think of the double helix of our own DNA. Where does this shape come from? Our planet also spins around its axis, having a  geomagnetic field with a north and south pole. This same magnetic force field is present in every living cell, each with its positive and negative pole.

The human body as a whole has its own force field. In Chinese Medicine its called (pronounced chee). Qi is made up of energy that is in constant motion, though mostly we are not paying attention to it. But Qi is more than energy as we usually think of it.

What is the difference between the dead and living body? The answer is ‘Qi’!

Have you ever stopped to wonder how a galaxy keeps its shape? We know it isn’t just a mass of stars haphazardly floating around in space. Rather, its a gigantic system composed of millions of stars all moving through the operation of the invisible force of gravity, which maintains its existence. Every part of the system relies on every other part for its position and behavior.

In the miniature universe of the human body, the unseen force that maintains it is the Qi. It is a remarkable information system. It doesn’t communicate in words, but we can learn how to read the messages it sends and find out what is going on inside us.

Qi is energy, information and consciousness!

Qi possesses another striking characteristic. Inside each part can be found a reflection of the whole. In Chinese medicine we refer to this phenomena as macrocosm-microcosm theory. Scientists call these structures holograms.

Think again about the DNA, one of the smallest units of our physical existence contains the information of the whole living system.

The principle of the hologram lies at the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The most important saying in Chinese medicine is 天人合一 Tiān rén hé yī – translated as ‘heaven and humans are one’ or the ‘unity of humans and nature’. This is a statement to say that we are a reflection of the heavens, we come from the same source, we cannot be separated.

Tiān rén hé yī is the Chinese Medicine mission statement, it is the profession’s DNA at the core of this healing art. This core assumption gives Chinese medicine its power!

Deep in Chinese Medicine theory, we are not only a reflection, but each part of us is also a reflection of us as a whole, a hologram or a microcosm. This is what I refer to as a core metaphysical assumption in Chinese Medicine and subsequent theory and methodology is constructed from this framework.

In the Chinese calendar there are 24 solar periods (each 15-days) with a year. In a reflection, our own spine is made up of 24 major joints. Within the body there are considered 365 main acupuncture points. The year has 12 cycles of the moon, we call months, which give us 12 main organs and meridians – 6 solid ‘yin’ organs and 6 hollow ‘yang’ organs. For example, the Liver-Gall Bladder, Spleen-Stomach, Kidney-Bladder etc. The nine orifices of the human body reflect the 9 major planets.

Within the body itself, the hand, foot, face, eye and ear, for instance, all have maps of the whole body imprinted on them. Not only do these ‘living maps’ allow us to get a picture of the whole body by looking at just one small part, such as the foot, but also inspecting the foot closely reveals what is wrong with the body as a whole. Thus, treatment can be given to the whole body through the acupuncture points of the foot.

The tongue is also essential to diagnosis in TCM. Looking at the condition of the tongue is like turning on the television for the latest weather report. The color, size, coating, and presence of cracks all indicate very precisely the condition of the body. The body should be moist and a healthy pink, not too red, not too pale, not too dry. The tongue coating reflects the digestion and energy levels and in good health shows a thin white coating.

Tongue and pulse are the two key diagnostic Microsystems for Chinese Medicine. Think about the tongue as the inside that can be inspected from the outside!

Think how rapidly the weather can change, from hour to hour and even from minute to minute. The wind, the clouds, the sun, the temperature all combine to produce the climate surrounding us. Likewise, according to TCM, inside the body we have a climate on our own changing from minute to minute, with a balance of heat and cold, damp or dry, and circulation and stagnation in the different organs. How does this internal climate of continual change balance out? Nature has found a way that allows for endless fluctuations of energy yet gives stability to the living system. When we get overheated, for instance, we need water to cool us down. After heavy physical work, we need to take a rest. When we get too emotional, we need to find peace.

These simple examples show that we live in rhythms that shape our lives. Rhythms link nature and humans to the change of the seasons, the sequence of day and night, and the many different movements of the planets against the background of the fixed stars. All of the rhythms and proportions that regulate the courses of the planets in our solar system are reflected in the life processes of plants, animals and humans and reveal the common origin and connected life of all known creation.

The circumstances of modern life and work often encourage us to disregard essential rhythms. This disregard promotes a number of different illnesses or weakened states. Eventually, years of decades of flouting natural rhythms may result in exhaustion and collapse. In contrast, consciously cultivating the most important rhythms increases the body’s stress tolerance and prepares it to encounter life’s challenges.

Have you ever had the experience of lying in bed at night with your mind racing, unable to switch off, and then finding that when you do sleep, you wake during the night with disturbing dreams, or in a sweat? Enjoying deep and restful sleep is essential to good health. We know from medical research that if we don’t  get enough sleep, the stress on the body leads to lasting hormonal and chemical changes that can cause disease.

The natural rhythm of the body is to rest at least twice during the twenty-four hour cycle, not just at night but in the middle of the day. Consider some of the ancient civilizations of the world, China, India and Greece which all developed a tradition of midday rest. By contrast, in modern industrialized societies, we tend to work non-stop til evening then we rest. In fact, most of us are over-tired, thought not always conscious of it. To keep going, we take caffeine or alcohol and watch stimulating programs on television while ‘relaxing’. By the time we go to bed, our bodies are profoundly out of balance.

The Dao begot one.

One begot two.

Two begot three.

And the three begot the ten thousand things.

The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang.

They achieve harmony by combining these forces.

老子 Lǎozi – 道德经 Dàodéjīng (The Book of Way and Virtue)

The oldest excavated portion of the Dàodéjīng dates back to the late 4th century BCE

For more on the importance of natural rhythms – click here


Alex Tan L.AC is a licensed Acupuncturist.  After completing his degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Alex lived and practiced Chinese Medicine for 10-years in Beijing, China.  A native-born Australian, the son of his Australian mother and Chinese father, Alex’s bi-cultural heritage helps him skillfully bridge Eastern and Western health perspectives.  He believes the true power of Chinese medicine lies in a balanced approach towards prevention and treatment. Rooted in Chinese Medicine observation based theory & methodology over millenniums, Alex’s talent lies in delivering these Eastern healing modalities to his modern Western clients. For more about Alex click here

Alex runs a clinic in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona. Alex welcomes comments and questions to his articles. To schedule an appointment in person or telco-appointment click here