Heaven and Earth is an idea which is deeply personal to me, and which also serves as a beautiful guide to your – or anyone’s – healing journey. It is also strongly rooted in Chinese, Japanese and more generally East Asian philosophical and medical thought.
We stand on the Earth and the Heavens are above us. These are the two forces that influence us: humans live in between and ever dependent on them. If you look at a traditional East Asian landscape painting, humans will be portrayed towards the middle, with a good chunk of earth below and a good swash of heavens above them.
Earth is the nourishing, stabilising element: it feeds us and provides support for our feet.
Heaven is the liberating, ethereal element, the energy of dreams and desires.
Together, they circumscribe human existence, govern our fate through the yielding of crops and the passage of seasons. Being connected to the Heaven and the Earth represents also a connection to something bigger than us, an eternal principle or wisdom. It says in the DaodeJing: from the one emanate the two: it needed no explanation to the Chinese readers that these “Two” meant Heaven and Earth. This idea is a philosophical one, not religious (DaodeJing, though used in several religions in Asia, is not a religious text. If you are Christian, you can see this as a way of describing God and his creation.)
The connection to Heaven and Earth is something important also in the study of martial arts,
including tai chi, and healing exercise systems like qi gong. You can see this either on a mystical level or on a very practical one: after all any good physiotherapist or osteopath will tell you how important it is to align our spine, our posture, with the forces of gravity. The feet have to be planted on the ground firmly and correctly, or they will throw the pelvis and the higher spinal structures off balance. The head needs to be gracefully balanced, one cervical vertebra stacked upon another, or else it will result in a lack of balance below. Take a look here at the second video lesson posted by Jet Li’s TaiJi Zen (but please don’t try this alone if you already have degeneration of the cervical vertebrae).
And how can the principle of Heaven and Earth apply to your journey to health and wellbeing? It is simple:
Earth symbolises starting exactly from where you stand.
Taking into account your personal history of lifestyle choices, illness, injury, work, stress, diet, as well as your current commitments and time-constraints. For instance, if you are advanced in age and struggling with several degenerative disorders, perhaps have been taking medication for a long time, it would be unreasonable to expect all your ailments to go away with just a little commitment and a few acupuncture sessions. (In general, the more long-standing your ill-health is the more time and commitment it needs to improve). But on the other hand:
here comes the Heaven principle: dare to reach for the best health you can hope for!
Let us not limit ourselves to what we think we are “sentenced to”, let us not become complacent in our hearts with the ill health we suffer, but rather, let’s reach for the stars! I see all too many people living with frozen shoulders, carpal tunnel syndrome, indigestion, insomnia, or recurring headaches. But this is the only body we have, should not give it the opportunity to heal as best it can?
We cannot take a shortcut, I am afraid. There are no miraculous rockets that take us there, they exist in acupuncture no more than one-pill wonders do in pharmacology. It requires commitment, but what is more worthwhile? To paraphrase Lao Zi: The journey to a better health begins with a simple step.