(In addition to the five elements class at Radicle, link above, we are also repeating the "Chinese Medicine for the American Herbalist" four class series at Remedies.)
"The ear, eye, mouth, nose, and body are in charge of their respective duties of hearing, seeing, speaking, smelling, and moving, and so are called the Five Officials. The mind is master of the Five Officials. It is in charge of thought and is called the Heavenly Lord. From within, the mind manages the Five Officials. It should think deeply and correct good and evil. Because of the Heavenly Lord, the use of the Five Officials is enlightened, and it would be unnatural for the Five Officials to use the Heavenly Lord."
-Shambala version of Yojokun: Cultivating Chi by Kaibara Ekiken, translated by William Scott Wilson page 133
Ekiken repeatedly discusses through the text that food is for nourishing life and not to be indulged in. He focuses on overeating as a primary cause of illness and stresses the importance of avoiding stagnation in the digestive system, which leads to stagnation elsewhere in the body. The five flavors are, of course, of the primary five element correspondences and are used to understand herbs and foods, including indications, contraindications, and combinations.
"Unbalanced partiality for the five tastes - spicy, sour, salty, bitter, and sweet - means eating too much of one of them. If you eat a lot of sweet foods, your stomach will swell and be painful. If you are excessive with spicy foods, your chi will inflate or decrease... With the various meats and vegetables, if you continue eating the same thing, they will stagnate inside you and cause harm.
If you provide yourself with the five tastes but partake of them little by little, you will not invite illness.
Food nurtures the body and should not become a means of damaging the body. ..."
-Shambala version of Yojokun: Cultivating Chi by Kaibara Ekiken, translated by William Scott Wilson page 66
Sometimes people over-emphasize the importance of herbal remedies and the like in the treatment of illness. Certainly, the value of medicines has been proven repeatedly since earliest times. However, the underlying cause is often rooted in diet and lifestyle. It is for this reason we have incorporated do-in, chi kung, karate, and tai chi chuan exercises into the Catskill Herbal Apprenticeship and present an opportunity for students of herbal medicine to come to a more comprehensive understanding of Chinese medicine, while studying the local herbs in detail. (See: ...catskill-apprenticeship-a-materia-medica-study...) The five element theory is intertwined with the seasons, our foods, and the chi meridians of the body.
"If you practice the method of do-in every day, you will circulate your chi, digest your meals well, and avoid aches in the stomach and chest. ..." Ekiken goes on to basically describe a full body self-shiatsu. "... If you do this morning and night, it will lower and circulate your chi and keep your feet from becoming painful, and you will become extremely healthy."
-Shambala version of Yojokun: Cultivating Chi by Kaibara Ekiken, translated by William Scott Wilson pages 270 to 271
There is one more thing in the Yojokun that caught my eye yesterday, expressing the importance of the number five. Before we start meals, we use the Japanese expression "itadakimasu" which was explained to me as having the meaning of acknowledging those and that which was responsible for the food. Ekiken presents a thorough explanation of this spirit:
"There are five considerations to bear in mind when eating a meal.
The first calls for you to recognize the source of your food. When you were young, you received nourishment from your father...
The second consideration calls for you to acknowledge the sympathy you should have for the hard labor of the farmers and the pains they went through to produce your food...
The third consideration calls for you to recognize the great good fortune you have in receiving this delicious food even though you may have no particular genius, virtues, or righteous behavior...
The forth consideration calls for you to remember that there are many people in the world much poorer than you...
The fifth consideration calls for you to think about ancient times. In great antiquity people did not possess the five grains but staved off hunger by eating the nuts, fruits, leaves, and roots of the grasses and trees..."