The Barefoot Doctor, award-winning author of Handbook for Heroes and Handbook for the Urban Warrior, and weekly health columnist with The Observer newspaper, joins Cyberspace Health Clinic as monthly guest editor.

The Barefoot Doctor, a renowned Taoist teacher and practitioner of Chinese Medicine of over 20 years standing, brings his own original and informative slant to the key alternative health issues of our day.

Watch out for the Barefoot Doctor new premium phone lines, on key alternative health issues, launched on this page in February 2001!

Barefoot Doctor on Big Brother

Though brilliantly conceived, the turgid content of the recent 'Big Brother' TV series on the UK's Channel 4 revealed and highlighted a fundamental mechanism in the dynamic between us quirky humans.

On meeting one another, on a subtextual level and usually unconsciously, the first procedure we go through is ascertaining whether the other or others will be rivals or allies in what ammounts essentially to this survival of the fittest game we are obliged to play here. This is equally true on a more subtle level, not just the first time we meet someone, but for every subsequent meeting.

We transmit and receive a plethora of automatic signals through body language, voice timbre, facial expression and more importantly, through our energy fields, which help us both guage our relative safety while in the company of the other, and simultaneously convey our own willingness to help or hinder.

There is no neutral ground in between. When absolute indifference is displayed, this merely indicates latent hostility which would be activated if the initial signals of indifference were not correctly interpreted by the other, say in the case of a street hawker who won't take no for an answer, to whom you eventually become abusive.

At the root is a fear of physical violence. For though the occurence of actual violence is mostly unlikely in our so-called civilised society, its potential for actual erruption always lurks close to the surface, a surface which in fact provides only a thin veneer, becoming increasingly so as daily pressures intensify for all of us and the use of violence becomes more widely publicised in the media.

It's a tough game we've devised for ourselves here, but it's the only game in town, and without allies it would be impossible to live in anything other than an extremely meagre and painful reality. Substitute allies for support group and it starts to make more sense.

We are interdependent beings - except for the odd absolute hermit - and as such have a choice whether to help or hinder each other, or in many cases, both. We've all heard and used the expression, 'there's a lot of assholes out there!', and in a way it's true. There will always be someone willing to expend their own energy to hinder you in your progress if you let them. That's just the way energy works. The outside world is like a mirror of your own psyche. Whatever fears and negativity you store inside will be somehow reflected back at you in the seemingly perverse actions of other people, and this means people you know as well as people you don't.

Obviously, most of the time, this subtext stratum of reality rarely shows its face fully - that's why it's subtext and not fully-blown text. But as you know it only takes someone in another car 20 feet distant, for example, to turn their nose up in the air one millimetre while gazing in your direction for you to get the hump and immediately catagorise them as rival.

But how does it help you to know this? Firstly by being able to observe a pattern, thus placing yourself in position of witness, you are subtly distanced from the pattern and therefore less under its dominion. This puts you in a position where you have a choice. Obviously we all want the whole world to love us, because beneath all our conditioning, beneath all our trauma, we actually want to love the whole world too - it's the natural state before we all get messed up in the distortions produced by everyday life experiences.

By accessing this natural state of being, which can be done by the following exercise, you learn to transmit love, not in a personal or sentimental way, but in a transpersonal, universal way, just as the Buddha would. In return, the reflection you receive from others, will also be one of love. Pragmatically put, you would find that people would stop getting in your way so much.

Bearng in mind, that what you visualise with focussed intention always comes to pass in one form or another, imagine in the centre of your chest behind your breastbone is a secret (miniature) palace, within which sits your innermost, hence innocent, being. This being is fearless and is filled with love for both itself and all humanity. As you breathe in and out (slowly, deeply and with even tempo), imagine it is your innermost being who breathes (which in fact it is) and with every breath visualise your innate quality of lovingness radiate from your chest in exponentially expanding spheres until it is seen to cover, or bless, so to speak, the entire globe and every person on it. This meditation is especially interesting to perform while on a crowded tube, bus or plane, or in the workplace, for example, as it often produces immediate visible alterations in the prevailing atmosphere.

It is also wise to consider training in one of the martial arts - anything from Capoeira or T'ai Chi to Kick-boxing or even western boxing will do, not just to help defend you when some asshole's violence actually does poke through the veneer, but more importantly to lend you that air of confidence and aura of psychic protection possessed by all martial artists which clearly signals, 'don't mess with me pal!'.

According to the philosphy of oriental medicine, fear of others arises when the kidneys are overly contracted. To ease or prevent this, use your fists to massage your kidney region in a circular motion 18 times in each direction daily. Also consider acupuncture or shiatsu.

Jealousy and over-competitiveness are said to arise from an excess of heat in the liver energy. This can be remedied somewhat by drinking chrysanthemum flower tea and desisting from indulging in stimulants including alcohol, tea, coffee, and rich food, as well as visiting an acupunturist as before.

Above all, however, it is crucial to train your mind to default to the positive mode when dealing with this whole survival of the fittest business. The most straightforward approach, other than regular visits to a competent hypnotherapist, is to hypnotise yourself by repeating positive affirmations such as: "With every breath I breathe, I extend all my love to others around me and receive back likewise. Like this, I not only survive, but thrive on this looney-bin of a planet."

Barefoot Doctor September 2000

Into Winter

Did you know that each season has a potentially harmful effect on one of your five vital organs? Spring potentially affects your liver, summer your heart, late summer/early autumn your spleen, autumn proper your lungs, and winter your kidneys. Your kidneys are susceptible to cold and damp, which weaken them and cause them to contrac, thereby impairing their healthy function.

Your kidneys, according to oriental medicine, are responsible for your immune system, brain function, your hearing faculty, keeping your system free of toxins, maintaining body temperature, sex drive and reproductive functions, keeping your joints and bones healthy, slowing down the aging process, keeping the hair on your head, upholding your will-power, as well as supporting all the other organs.

To fulfill these roles to optimum levels, your kidneys must be kept warm and relaxed at all times, especially now as the days get colder and damper. This is particularly important to remember on days when the wind is blowing from the north or east, as these winds are the most pernicious, punishingly cold, damp and bone-penetrating.

To aid the process, eat a small knob of raw ginger every day. Men can take ginseng supplements and women, donquai. Massage your kidneys (in the lower back) every evening with fists in a circular motion 18 times in each direction. Massage your ears vigourously between thumb and forefinger, as the ears (which resemble the kidneys in shape) are the 'flowers of the kidneys', and stimulating them thus sends energy to the kidneys.

Avoid excessive alchohol and coffee intake to reduce kidney strain, excessive masturbation to avoid depleting kidney energy, and leaning against walls or sitting on concrete, to avoid transmission of cold into the kidney region.

Oriental women sometimes wrap a silk scarf round their waist (under their clothes), to maintain stable temperature.

Be sure to take a walk or spend at least a short time outside just for fun every morning, to ensure adequate reception of natural daylight, as daylight deprivation causes depression, and while doing so turn your waist from side to side 18 times in a twisting motion, allowing your arms to swing naturally, as this helps prevent muscular contraction around your kidneys. (T'ai-chi, with its various waist-twisting motions, is particularly good for the kidneys and is well worth considering taking up.)

Do not take to drinking excess ammounts of water in the mistaken belief that this will strengthen your kidneys, as it will only serve to flush them through and will in fact more likely weaken than strengthen them. Do however drink nettle tea once or twice a week if you feel they need help with the detoxification process, and do visit an acupuncturist or shiatsu specialist for some more precise renal manipulation from time to time.

Signs to watch out for that would indicate deficient kidney energy, and the need for alternative medical attention - and I stress alternative because western medicine hasn't yet arrived at this point of refinement a propos understanding kidney functions - are lower back ache, joint pains, dark circles round your eyes, hair loss, anxiety and nervousness, sleeplessless, aching joints, urinating more than seven times a day, and engaging in self-destructive behaviour.

Finally talk lovingly to your kidneys as this sets up a positive unconscious psychosomatic command, with such sentiments as, "I love my kidneys. My kidneys are strong. My kidneys keep me going all winter long." And always remember to breathe as deeply and slowly as you can at all times - not just because deep breathing helps massage the kidneys from within. Breathing is the most important thing in life, no matter the season, for without it, everything else simply stops.

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