We are all destined to die eventually, for it is a certainty that all living things die. But everyone wants to live a long and healthy life in the meantime. Nowadays, economic prosperity and scientific and technological progress in medicine have lengthened the average lifespan to more than 80 years, yet on average in Canada women live with sickness for 11.8 of those years, and men for 9.4 of them. Merely increasing longevity, without health, leads to a decrease in the quality of life and an increase in social costs.
With this in mind, let’s practice just two simple things in the New Year: “Keep the head cool and the feet warm, and keep the stomach open”. This is not my own saying; it comes from a legendary doctor in China named Bian Que (407—310 BC), and they were his last words to his family before he died. This man was reputed to be an excellent diagnostician, excelling in pulse-taking and acupuncture therapy. He visited many states and kingdoms in China, and when giving treatments he never differentiated between influential lords and commoners. He lived a humble and noble life, and is admired today as “a deity doctor.”
There is another doctor, one in the western world, who gave notably similar advice. Herman Boerhaave (1668–1738) was one of the most influential clinicians and teachers of the 18th century. He was skilled as a physician, botanist, chemist and anatomist, and his fame was enormous, extending far beyond Europe to China. It is said that he kept a book in which he had set out all the secrets of medicine. After he died it was opened and all the pages were blank except one on which was written, “Keep the head cool, the feet warm, and the intestines open.”
Knowing that these esteemed doctors had similar beliefs about the main principle for health, despite living two thousand years and half a world apart, makes this wisdom all the more important to pay attention to. Keeping the head cool and the feet warm optimizes circulation in the body because the coolness in the head is willing to move downward while the warmth in the feet is willing to move upward. This causes the body’s circulation to work well automatically. In the opposite situation, if fire energy from the upper body moves upward and water energy from the lower body moves down, a person’s energy will be separating and then dying.
“Keep the stomach open” or “keep the intestines open” means do not make the stomach/ intestines full or, in other words, “Less eating!” This in itself can prevent most adult diseases, including obesity, constipation, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, etc. Modern people tend to have excessive heat in the head because of too much thinking, greed for material things, lack of exercise, overeating, smoking, alcohol, and drugs.
So let’s do less eating and more stretching, quit smoking and alcohol, and do less thinking and more meditation in this coming New Year!!