Paying honours to an exceptional Daoist master
During my time at college, firstly in the UK and then at the "Beijing University of TCM", I had been fascinated by the fact that Chinese medicine seemed to have a holistic vision of the person and, therefore, of healing. Yet, learning to see people as a 'whole' proved to be a complex and not easy 'training'. Even before embarking in the study of Chinese medicine, I was aware that I saw people as 'parts' and that others saw me as 'parts' too.
Even when I had tried to see people as 'whole', sooner or later, I had always gone back to the fragmentary label I had attached to each one of them (and I know that others did the same with me): someone's “true self, xing 性" in Chinese, seemed to be forever 'jailed' in the grips of one's glance, crystallised flickers, fragments reflecting our shortsightedness. Whilst studying in Beijing, I met Pang Yiwu, an 90 years old Daoist doctor, who had been expelled from the official medical system of China for not bending to the demands of the new Chinese Medicine (TCM).
I was very honoured that he had chosen me as one of his few students (3 in all). Pang Yiwu taught me that everything is related by a subtle common universal 'centre zhong 中' and that nothing can be known in isolation.
He taught me that people had a very limited view of nature because, although they could contemplate its beauty, they could not understand the deep meanings of its rhythms and their impact on all forms of life.
He taught me that on earth the seasons change in accord with the directions of the tail of the Great Dipper as it seems to revolve around the Polar Star. He showed me the link between the world at large and human beings.
He challenged me to discover the inner core of each phenomenon and to realise that this is nothing else but 'one source', 'one origin'. He helped me to deconstruct my selective and divisive glaze that tended to capture bits and pieces of a complex, but single whole and to go straight for it.
Pang Yiwu managed to change my perception of the world by encouraging me to observe the same phenomenon from different perspectives, and to find something new each time. This is how I learned to stay focused and observe, observe, observe.... Observe what? Myself!
He taught me how to do it from different perspectives and to always stay focused on the 'universal centre', the 'alignment between Dao and the Heart Void'. He taught me how to stay detatched from whatever I met in my inner world (simpler said than done!) by observing without judgement my daily thoughts, emotions, and actions.
The three years I spend with him were truly formative and set me off on an adventurous (and perilous!) inner journey, that pushed me to change my king Media's touch i.e. my tendency to evaluate everything on the grounds of my subjective 'like' and 'dislike', and that made me turn an animated reality into a static, unchangeable landscape.
Practically, he asked me not to stop observing my reaction to a person or a situation until I found in them the perception of their oneness. Nothing in the world gives anyone the permission to 'label', 'define' any person including our patients.
Patients already come to us with many fragmented definitions of themselves, and the last thing they need is to land in a place where the practitioner adds more definitions, fragmented perceptions coloured by the shade of glasses sitting on our noses, and made up of our biases and cultural constructs. In the treatment room, he taught me to look for and enhance everyone's "Dao-Heart, centre, core' and help it to bloom: only the emphasis on 'healthy qi, zheng qi 正氣 and Xing 性' could transform one's negative perception by giving birth to a new 'gaze', a fresh vantage point. "Disease", he told me, "is not the target. The target is health!" Then, and only then, I understood what the "Huangdi Neijing - Sowen, 皇帝內經-素問" Ch.1 meant when it explained the various categories of human beings in relation to their degree of resonance with Dao.
Only then I understood the implications of this understanding on human health. If, as a child, my natural father had helped me to develop my mind and social skills, as an adult, Pang Yiwu helped me to develop my inner pulse and made me understand that when my 'heart Void' is peaceful, my deeds are in line with Dao and my body does not produce dis-eases.