As I mentioned in my last blog, an important part of my evolution as an integrative physician came from the discovery and study of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) beginning in the mid 1970s, after I received my Western Medical training. The integration of this traditional healing philosophy and practice with conventional Natural therapies and Western medicine was the subject of my first book Staying Healthy with the Seasons, originally published in 1981.
I was also influenced by the stories of the barefoot doctors of ancient China whose primary goal was to keep people well, to live in harmony with Nature, to encourage and teach ways of health, and not just treat disease. Today, 40 years later, these ideas still are part of my medical practice and teaching.
Central to TCM is the concept of the 5 Elements – Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal (or Air). Everything that exists is seen as comprised of these elements and each one has multiple correspondences such as a season, a color, a body organ, one of the 5 senses and so on.
This idea of the macrocosm and the microcosm – “as above, so below” – sees the human body as a small universe, a reflection of the larger universe, and the correspondence and harmony between the two are the keys to this traditional philosophy and practice of health and healing.
In my most recent book Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine, which is really the next octave of the ideas I presented in Staying Healthy with the Seasons, I have further developed some of these ideas and created The 5 Keys to Staying Healthy – with the acronym NESSA – Nutrition, Exercise, Stress, Sleep and Attitude – as a simple and practical guide for taking our health care into our own hands on a day-to-day basis. These 5 lifestyle aspects are what create our health and maintain it.
While these two five-fold systems are not exactly equivalent – Nutrition cannot be directly equated with Earth, or Exercise with Fire for example – I was definitely inspired by the ancient Chinese model of 5 essential and interrelated elements in creating the 5 Keys. The Chinese elements relate to each other in both creative and “destructive” (or controlling) ways, so it is said that Wood as fuel “creates” Fire, or that Fire “destroys” Metal (by melting it to a liquid).
In the same way each of the 5 Keys can either help and support the others or undermine them and thus our health. For example, good nutrition and sufficient exercise can lessen stress and improve sleep while on the other hand stress can negatively impact digestion and sleep, creating more stress, worse sleep and diminished vitality.
The inclusion of Attitude as the fifth Key was also inspired by my studies of TCM, where the personal realm of our thoughts, feelings and beliefs plays an important role in both our basic health as well as our ability to heal from any problems. An important point: when we develop an attitude of gratitude for our life and love our body, this helps us care for ourselves better in the areas of diet, exercise, stress management and sleep. Our goal is to align inner and outer worlds – we need to think of each area of our lifestyle and address them together, as an integrated whole.
Also, I’m working on creating a free online course about the 5 Keys, would you be interested? Just email me at email@example.com and let me know! And you could tell me specifically what you’d like to learn, when I offer this free online course soon. Thanks. Also make sure you’re signed up for my eNews by scrolling to the bottom of this page and have also liked my Facebook page, if you haven’t already, so you’ll be the first to know when the free course is available.