When Daoist Priest and Kung Fu Master Yuan Xiu Gang came to stay in Edinburgh, Rachael spent ten days as his student and host. After Master Yuan’s return to China, Rachael noted some of his lessons for a healthier and happier life that she found very useful, and that perhaps we could all learn from.
Lesson 1 – Sleep well
We need at least 7 hours sleep a night, most importantly between the hours of 11pm and 1am. Wherever possible take a short nap after lunch in the early afternoon and avoid inconsistency in sleep patterns, such as late nights at weekends.
Lesson 2 - Eat well
Cook good, healthy, simple food. Eat three meals a day, with only small amounts of meat. Eat freshly cooked, hot food as much as possible. Take time and pleasure in cooking and eating.
Lesson 3 – Drink hot water
Always drink boiled water, especially in winter. Putting cold or iced water into the stomach uses a lot of the body’s energy to warm it to the internal body temperature. Cooling down tea or hot water with a ‘dash of cold’ creates yin-yang water, which is equally damaging unless that water has already been boiled. Learn to drink the Chinese way, gently slurping hot water to avoid burning the mouth.
Lesson 4 - Love your job
To resent what you do every day is harmful to health and energy levels. It is better to love your job and give yourself to it each day. If it is impossible to love it, then change it.
Lesson 5 – Laugh at yourself
Taking your life and your situation too seriously will make life more serious. Sometimes it is necessary to be solemn but most of the time it’s not. Enjoy life, and laugh.
Lesson 6 – Save for the future
Alongside saving our body’s energy each day, we can set aside money with regularity, increasing our freedom and reducing anxiety for the future. As with conservation of physical energy, consistency is more important than quantity.
Lesson 7 – Train your body
Choose a discipline and practice it. Allow it to become part of your enjoyment of life, as well as improving the health of your body and mind.
Lesson 8 – Manage your time
Never be unable to explain where your time has gone. Each hour of the day can be part of your routine for health and enjoyment of life. Working, washing, relaxing, sleeping and eating are all integral to your wellbeing and are better not to be rushed or multi-tasked.
Lesson 9 – Enjoy your possessions
Always buy something with the proper intent. If you buy a car, buy one you really love so that every day you will have enjoyment in using it. Do not buy things just because they are cheap, or because you think you need them. Wait for things you feel strongly about in your heart and take delight in them.
Lesson 10 – Accept and Forgive
Everything that happens can be either accepted, or forgiven. Some examples include the following:
If your child speaks to you in a harmful manner, you are hurt. As a parent, this behaviour cannot be accepted because it shows a lack of respect, and must be communicated as such. Bad behaviour therefore is not accepted, but it can be forgiven, because you love your child.
Perhaps your partner cheats or betrays you. This situation may be impossible to forgive, because it is adverse to what you need and expect from a partner. But if it is not possible to forgive, it must be accepted so that the consequences to your life can be dealt with. To “accept or forgive” wastes less energy in emotional confusion and allows us to gather wisdom throughout life.
The common thread of these lessons is to conserve as much energy as possible as we go through our daily lives. Keeping the body comfortable in terms of temperature, food, rest and emotional stability means that we use less vital energy to live. This vital energy can then be used to improve the quality and length of our lives - what the daoists refer to as 'longevity' - the ability to experience life free from restriction and to deepen our spiritual development.
In spending time with Master Yuan I have observed someone who does the work of several people each day and yet remains strong, healthy and good humoured. These ten lessons encourage us to respect the body and take care of ourselves, and can certainly change our lives for the better.