Translating Ancient Chinese Wisdom into Medicine for Today

Beachwalk Blog

Beachwalk Blog

While I am not sure which direction this blog is going to go in or where it will ultimately arrive, it is meant to give me the space for some less academic and more personal writing. Specifically, I intend to chronicle the thoughts and experiences that visit me in the quiet meditative space of my long beachwalks on a remote beach only accessible during low tide. I hope that these reflections give you and me a growing sense of familiarity with my new home through the cycle of the seasons.

August 8: The Pull of Water


I ask anybody local for their thoughts on what makes this island so special. A new friend told me soon after I moved here last year that he thought it was the whales, messengers between distant continents and seas, and the particular fengshui (constellation of "wind and water"), the location of this island surrounded by water and mountains on all sides. 

To me, Whidbey Island is the essence of Yin. To you, it may be something totally different. We are surrounded by ocean here, moving constantly with the push and pull of the moon in high and low tides, up and down, back and forth, in and out, now in this direction, now in its opposite. There is no ni 逆 ("moving countercurrent") and shun 順 ("moving with the current") here, as the current is constantly shifting. Even with a fancy app on the phone, it's difficult to keep track of tides, weather pressure, winds and storms, and who knows what else that affects the water. And because I am water, I find the sea's pull irresistible and jump in every chance I get, especially right now when it is the temperature of bathtub water over dark seagrass shallows.

The concept of resonance, which has previously made so much sense to me in terms of vibration (music, drumming, harmonies on the fiddle, the soundbath in the middle of swarming bees) now takes on a much more tangible, physical aspect in this resonance between the waters of the sea, the waters in my body, and the essence of water in the moon. Whoever thinks we are isolated from the forces of nature and the effect of the moon is a fool. Spend an hour by the beach and pay attention, and you will feel her pull!

This is what he 合 "harmony/matching" between Heaven and Earth looks like. As women, we know this language because our body speaks it too. It is the source of new life, of fertility, of generativity. Without menstruation (the Chinese term yuejing 月經 literally meaning the constancy or "warp" of the moon), there is no conception and hence no birth. What human culture would be so far removed from this simple truth as to instill in our young daughters this notion that a lack of menstruation is nothing to worry about? We call this a "civilization"?

Menstruation is the ultimate symbol of resonance between Heaven, Earth, and Humanity. Ancient written languages and the literatures created in the so-called "high civilizations" of humanity and the "high religions" centered around written transmission (Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Daoism...) and even the written medical and scientific traditions flowing out of these, are all, at least in their dominant trajectories and with rare exceptions, creations, constructs, transmissions, teachings that used to be almost exclusively created and consumed BY and FOR men. They never reflected the totality of human experience and never will. We use them for the sake of communication and forget their sexist origin and history. Can we reclaim this medicine and transform it to express a non-masculine worldview? Is it even possible to put this resonance between menstruating and reproducing female bodies, the ebbing and flowing of the sea, and the waxing and waning of the moon into meaningful words? Or do we lose the point in the process of doing so? I better go swimming and move my towel up before the sea swallows it and cuts off my path home.

Sabine Wilms