What is TCM?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a term that encompasses herbalism, acupuncture and bodywork such as Amma Bodywork Therapy. There are eight branches of Chinese Medicine: meditation, exercise (Tai Chi, Qi Gong), diet (tonic herbs), astrology, geomancy (feng shui), bodywork, herbs, and acupuncture. The Inner Tradition of TCM uses the eight branches to prevent illness so people will be unencumbered and can fulfill their own purpose.

The connection between all of the branches is for one to know oneself including one’s inherent weakness, and strengthen that weakness so one can live a healthier life. This process starts with something one can do on one’s own and ends with seeking help from outside practitioners if the imbalance is out of hand. Practitioners are there to educate clients about the need to work on the first five branches (meditation, exercise, diet, astrology, geomancy) by themselves in order to maintain health. The function of a practitioner is not to cure a client but to educate and empower a client to know when and how to use the resources available.

TCM is based on taoist thought, but you don’t have to practice Taoism to receive the benefits of any of the eight branches. The earliest recording of taoist philosophy is from the Tao Teh Ching. The man given credit for composing this book is possibly a mythical man named Lao Tze.

Here is a brief break down of Tao. The Tao can be thought of as the Way of the universe. Teh means virtue. When a person seeks the Tao they become a person of virture or perfection. A person becomes connected to the Universal Tao when they have attained Teh and the Teh of man reflects the Tao of the Universe. Some say that the Tao is attained through self control of desire.

My understanding of the Tao is in the beginning there was the Wu Chi or the ultimate emptiness. There was Li or notion within the Wu Chi. When action or Chi was combined Yang was created. Yang is motion. When the motion reached its limit Yin or quiescence was created. Yin and Yang are inseparable and together from the T’ai Chi.

From the T’ai Chi came the six stages of Yin and Yang, the subtle changes of energy (Qi) as it cycles through the T’ai Chi. The six stages are Tai Yin, Jue Yin, Shaio Yin, Yang Ming, Tai Yang, and Shaio Yin. In TCM at any given time Qi in the Channels (areas of influence over certain parts of the body, not imaginary lines running over the body) can be categorized in one of the six stages. This is used for diagnostic purposes.

From the six came the five elements (fire, earth, metal, water, and wood). The five elements are different stages of levels of energy (Qi). In TCM everything can be broken down into the five elements including organ system functions. This is also used for diagnosis.

From the five came the ten thousand things which is a reference to the material world. From the material world the Sixty Four Hexagrams and the Eight Trigrams evolved. The writings of the I Ching use the Eight Trigrams or the Ba-Kua Chang; this is where Feng Shui is developed from.

The Eight Branches can be thought of as an outline to help people know themselves so they can practice self-control and follow their path to attain perfection or Teh so they can experience the state before creation. And through the attainment of Teh comes the connection to the Universal Tao.

The precepts of Wholistic Health are also held by practitioners of TCM. The primary philosophy is that the human body can not be explained or treated by subdividing it into fragments.

  1. The mind and body are inseparable.
  2. Practitioners shall do no harm.
  3. Practitioners should be a role model—do as I do.
  4. Practitioners recognize an energetic system controls and directs the physical system.
  5. The whole person is treated, not the symptoms.
  6. The aim is to develop health through education and preventative treatment.
  7. The patient is responsible to actively participate.
  8. Integration of both Eastern and Western approaches is valued.

This writing on the Tao is inspired from Tao and T’ai Chi Kung by Robert Sohn.