What Does Nature Have to Do With Pain?

Microcosm and Macrocosm

Mountains in the mistImagine a mountaintop peeking out of a blanket of mist, the mountain stationary to the rolling movement of the mist.  An opening appears in the mist revealing a ledge in which half dozen Chinese wise men sit with teacups in their hands discussing and debating nature. 

A liberty we’ll take for the sake of our post…that these men are wise because they have long grey beards and look wise, and that they’re drinking tea because it looks cold on that mountain, and because tea was discovered in ancient China by the second emperor when some leaves blew into his hot water thru an open window, approx. 2737 BCE, which is true, but I digress. 

These wise men were observing that a human body expresses in much the same way as nature does. In other words, nature has cold, warm, hot, damp, and wind. 

Some examples as to how a human body expresses as such:

  • Cold is akin to sluggish function in a human body with not enough heat
  • Hot would be like having a fever that is too high, or inflammation
  • Damp (i.e. humidity, rain, snow, fog, or mist in nature), might be sinus problems, a phlegmy, productive cough, a yeast infection, or a fatty tumor
  • Wind is hyper-circulation in the body that might express as a twitch or tic, bells palsy, or a stroke.

Over much time, experimentation with stone-sharpened implements in puncturing various points on the body (see “In the Beginning" Blog post), notation of response, and the continual observation of both a body and nature, a medical system was devised and refined.

The environment a person lives in affects their function. For example, a person who lives in a desert climate could have more wind and heat in their body than one who lives in a cold and wet climate.  It is not unusual that a “damp” person seek out a dry climate, much like a person who has too much heat seeks out a colder climate. 

Think older people living in Florida or Palm Springs. Why is this?  Because, their function is lower than when they were decades younger, they get cold easier (function is a product of having enough heat or Yang).  They might accumulate damp or phlegm for the same reason and thus, feel better in a drier climate.

“Microcosm” and “macrocosm” is seeing the same patterns reproduced at all levels, from the largest scale (macrocosm, or in our case nature), down to the smallest scale (microcosm, in our case the function of a human body).

Microcosm and macrocosm can also mean the order of the large and small.  The point being that we can’t escape our oneness with nature.  We can’t escape that our own body systems express in similar ways that nature does. 

In nature, when levee’s break, there are floods.  When there is too much dryness, fire may break out.  When our own circulation of Qi, blood, lymph, nerve, and oxygen gets too cold, hot, damp, or dry the body experiences a signal of pain in order to get our attention.

Pain is a good messenger because it gets our attention. We usually care more about making it go away than why our body is sending forth this signal. I encourage you to consider both. 

When the pain goes away, we usually pay no more attention, yet if we got better at tending the underlying problem, the body would not need to turn up the signal volume at a future time.  This is called “root and branch” in Chinese Medicine.

The root is the underlying problem in the body (for example a weak levee), and the branch is pain (the flood).  It makes no sense to redirect floodwaters and not fix the levee. 

Affecting both is a major focus in Chinese Medicine. And this, dear reader, is the wisdom of this ancient medicine.  By all means, put out your fires and redirect your floodwater. But, remember to fix your levee too!

Just because we can't see the root system of a tree as we stand upon the same ground doesn't mean it isn't there.  Not only is it there, without it there would be no tree.

What if the spine was akin the trunk of the tree? The central column between the roots and the branches, hum, that's an interesting consideration.  We'll talk (or rather "post") more.