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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Internal Alchemy: Reversing Aging by Primal Return

Nov 30, 2012 11:41AM ● By David Fife, Dipl. Ac.

We are entering a time of year that acts as both an end and a beginning in the cyclical movement of the seasons. It is crescendo and origin, pinnacle and genesis, a time when great change can be ventured—not only external changes in our daily routines, but also internal transformation of our minds and bodies. After the new year in the Western world, it is customary to make a resolution or vow to change for the better, such as to exercise more or eat the right foods, to spend less and save more. We see a lot of change ventured toward the external side of things, but internal changes to self are less common.

The ancient Chinese culture sought to understand the link between the cycles and rhythms in nature with that of our own bodies and minds. They viewed the human being as one with the cycle of the season. As a result, they understood that our own internal systems follow the same patterns and laws as the natural world, and developed various techniques to become as integrally connected with the cyclical changes as possible. The techniques range from seasonal dietary, hygienic and medicinal habits to different forms of introspection, art, exercise and meditation.

In ancient Chinese philosophy, perhaps the most basic practice that helps individuals connect to the natural world is a form of meditation known as internal alchemy. Because those venerable Chinese naturalists saw the human being as a mirror of the natural world, or a microcosm of nature, the concept that applies to the refinement of external elements applies to that of the internal elements within our bodies and minds. In external alchemy, the ancients attempted to refine base metals into more precious metals, such as gold and silver, in the pursuit of the elixir of life. The practice was based on the theory that external elements in nature can be transformed into more refined and rarefied substances; it incorporated spiritual, Woman Yoga Pose by Waterreligious and mythological principles.

The ancient masters wanted to keep the body and mind as healthy as possible and ultimately, wanted to reverse the aging process by refining elements within the human body. In the East, the ideal picture of health is a baby—quite different from the Western notion of health represented by accomplishments like running marathons or competing as an Ironman. Despite their apparent physical fitness, accomplished athletes may have previous physical wear, as well as emotional blockages. In contrast, a healthy baby has no internal or external blockages; its emotions are free and expansive. A baby responds and moves fluidly, flexibly and seamlessly to life. Therefore, the ancient Chinese naturalists looked to reverse the aging process and attempted to refine individuals back into their embryonic state. In doing so, they would become attuned to the natural rhythm of life once again.


David Fife is an acupuncturist at Acupuncture and Holisitic Health Associates, located in Bayshore Town Center, 500 W. Silver Spring Dr., Ste. K-205, Milwaukee. He has studied in the Chinese healing arts worldwide. For more information, email [email protected].

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