Excerpts from the Dr. Ni’s Neijing Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine
In ancient times the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, was known to have been a child prodigy. As he grew he showed himself to be sincere, wise, honest and compassionate. He became very learned and developed keen powers for observing nature. His people recognized him as a natural leader and chose him as their emperor.
During his reign, Huang Di had discussions concerning medicine, health, lifestyle, nutrition, Taoist cosmology with his ministers, including Qi Bo, Lei Gong and others. Their first discussion began with Huang Di asking, “I’ve heard that in the days of old everyone lived one hundred years without showing the usual signs of aging. In our time, however, people age prematurely, living only fifty years. Is this due to a change in the environment, or is it because people have lost the correct way of life?”
Qi Bo replied, “In the past, people practiced the Tao, the Way of Life. They understood the principle of balance, of yin and yang, as represented by the transformations of the energies of the universe. Thus, they formulated practices such as Dao-in (Qigong), an exercise combining stretching, massaging, and breathing to promote energy flow, and meditation to help maintain and harmonize themselves with the universe. They ate a balanced diet at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided overstressing their bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgence of all kinds. They maintained well-being of body and mind; thus, it is not surprising that they lived over one hundred years.
“These days, people have changed their way of life. They drink wine as though it were water, indulge excessively in destructive activities, drain their jing – the body’s essence that is stored in the Kidneys – and deplete their qi. They do not know the secret of conserving their energy and vitality. Seeking emotional excitement and momentary pleasures, people disregard the natural rhythm of the universe. They fail to regulate their lifestyle and diet, and sleep improperly. So it is not surprising that they look old at fifty and die soon after.
“The accomplished ones, of ancient times, advised people how to guard themselves against zei feng, disease-causing factors. On the mental level, one should remain calm and avoid excessive desires and fantasies, recognizing and maintaining the natural purity and clarity of the mind. When internal energies are able to circulate smoothly and freely, and the energy of the mind is not scattered, but is focused and concentrated, illness and disease can be avoided.
“Previously, people led a calm and honest existence, detached from undue desire and ambition; they lived with an untainted conscience and without fear. They were active, but never depleted themselves. Because they lived simply, they knew contentment, as reflected in their diet of basic but nourishing foods, and attire (clothing) that was appropriate to the season but never luxurious. Since they were happy with their position in life, they did not feel jealousy or greed. They had compassion for others and were helpful and honest, free from destructive habits. They remained unshakable and unswayed by temptations, and they were able to stay centered even when adversity arose. They treated others justly, regardless of their level of intelligence or position.”
“Not so long ago there were people known as achieved beings who had true virtue, understood the Way of Life, and were able to adapt to and harmonize with the universe and the seasons. They too were able to keep their mental energy through proper concentration.
“… people who followed the Tao, the Way of Life, … were called naturalists. They lived in accordance with the rhythmic patterns of the seasons: Heaven and Earth, moon, sun and stars. They aspired to follow the way of the ancient times, choosing not to lead excessive lifestyles. They, too, lived plainly and and enjoyed long life.”