We are taught to always aim to out-shine others – rated and ranked and praised and awarded throughout childhood and schooling, and into the workplace – getting ahead and rising to the top, keeping up with the Joneses and all the rest. And if we can’t outshine then we are left in the shadows.

Think about it, this naturally leads to a feeling of isolation for anyone playing by such rules.

Human happiness is based on connection and trust.

Does it make sense to try to out-shine?

We can turn this around – and aim to “in-shine”. All of us are formed from the same “heaven principle”. Within each person, completely intact and unable to be harmed, is innate wisdom and universal love – connection is something we can never lose, only lose sight of.

When we change our story about the outside world, that it’s something to fear or conquer, and start to appreciate the natural goodness within ourselves and within others, then the world becomes our garden. Weeding and watering, tending and caring, it is a bountiful place for us all to enjoy.

Liu Yuan, philosopher and physician of the Qing dynasty, taught that the universe’s nature is heaven principle, expressing as both stillness and movement. When combined, all things are formed by this dual nature – stillness is the appearance of form and movement is form’s changing nature. Living things have movement, but even non-living things like rocks will change with time. But even though it has this dual expression, heaven principle itself is one – constant, unchanging.

This heaven principle is at the centre of life and when we experience it, it feels vast and gentle, it is kindness, warmth and generosity. Liu Yuan says, “the kind heart of heaven principle”. Upon conception, we are this pure heaven principle of the universe – pure stillness and pure movement – this is the “true nature” of the human being. Liu Yuan taught that by engaging in daily affairs with the proper measure, we can get closer to this “true nature” that is the basis of human life.

What is the proper measure?

Upon birth, we need to connect to material things like food, water, air and other humans, so that our life in the world is supported. To move us towards material things we have the human heart, with desires and aversions, likes and dislikes. If we take steps to support our life, this is proper – enough food, shelter, sleep and so on. Relationships are also essential to human life. If we respect and care for those around us, especially those closest to us, then this is the proper measure in human relationships. When everyone can respect and care for others, this is a world that functions abundantly well.

However, the only person’s respect and care that we can control is our own. So this is where we look within and ask ourselves in each moment, am I doing my best here to act with respect and care. When we can do it, we notice that this allows goodness in others to naturally take place – the heaven principle within each person fostering goodness in the world. Liu Yuan’s expression for this is “first cultivate oneself, then go about cultivating others”. “Cultivating others”, then, is tending the garden of the world.

Sydney Banks teaches something similar, that the formless principle, basis of all things, is universal – this aspect of human reality he called “mind”. Our capacity to experience this is called “consciousness”. What we experience is called “thought”. Our human reality is one principle with these three aspects – everything that is experienced is done so through mind, consciousness and thought.

Feeling is the way that we can understand what quality of thought we are experiencing in any given moment. If I’m feeling at peace, expansive, generous and loving then this is the universal nature of mind – wisdom – creating my experience. If I’m feeling tense, judgemental, bitter, agitated or any other low state then this is an infallible indicator that I’m caught in a personal reaction, personal thinking about the situation.

Good states and not-so-good states move through us all the time, like the weather. If I hold onto a low state and try to “fix” it, or react to things from that low state, then mostly what will happen is I’ll just prolong it, causing more obstructions. On the other hand if I can accept that there’s a low state moving through, a “low pressure cell”, then of its own accord it will eventually pass.

Without noticing it, in the next moment I may feel a little lighter, or even have a moment of clarity – this is the power of wisdom. It is always operating, at a level deeper than the ups and downs. By letting personal thinking just go up and down, because that’s what it’s going to do anyway, and realising that we all have moments of insight where our innate wisdom shows up, naturally and spontaneously, then we can take our moods – and our judgements of the world through those moods – a little less seriously. When we can do this, wisdom has a greater chance to show up.

This universal wisdom is the very core of our nature, every one of us. When we relax our reactions and judgements, then it can shine – like the sun that’s always there, behind the clouds that come and go.

“Out-shining” others means being separate and distant, failing to “out-shine” means being in shadow. “In-shining” with others means seeking this true nature that is within, acknowledging that it’s within everyone. If I can experience my own wisdom then I have compassion for everyone else who is struggling with their personal thinking too. From this compassion naturally comes respect. Understanding how fallible we all are, the natural response is to care.

In the words of Liu Yuan, first cultivate oneself and then help to cultivate others. In-shining, valuing the wisdom within, we see it in others, and it grows. Water and sunshine, weeding and caring, we all tend the garden of life together.

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Red and processed meat – cancer, health and fertility


Evidence has been building for some time linking consumption of animal protein, and red meat in particular, to negative health outcomes such as increased risk of type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke.

A recent review by the cancer branch of the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that processed meats in particular pose a significant risk and should be considered carcinogenic (bacon, lunch meats etc). They concluded that ordinary ie unprocessed red meat is probably carcinogenic, with increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer.

Harvard Chan School of Public Health released a review study in 2012 citing evidence from two large-scale longitudinal studies linking red and processed meats to adverse health outcomes as above, and recommending replacing protein from red meat with other sources such as:

Nuts (19%)
Poultry (14%)
Whole grains (14%)
Legumes (10%)
Low-fat dairy (10%)*
Fish (7%)

The numbers in parentheses () above indicate the estimated reduced risk from using these protein sources as compared with red or processed meat.


Diet and fertility

* For optimising fertility, studies suggest whole milk rather than low-fat milk

The diet recommendations for general good health and prevention of chronic diseases such as those listed above tend to match quite closely with advice for optimising fertility (see below – what is a good diet).

The way I look at this is that it’s not a coincidence:

  1. When the body is working harmoniously, the intelligence of nature is in place to re-create this optimum state via procreation
  2. When the body is working harmoniously, all of the intricate and inter-related systems of the body work in a self-supporting manner, allowing us to reach our full lifespan’s potential
  3. Making changes to “get pregnant” should not be the point. Diet and lifestyle measures that sustain life grant you both 1. and 2. above. You can procreate – create new life, and you can enjoy your family into your old age. It’s very well worth taking on these measures wholeheartedly and enjoying the feeling of living well. It is a gift to you and to your children.





How to start

There are plenty of delicious recipes available online, from vegetarian-only sites to others such as Teresa Cutter Healthy Chef. If you find a site you like, remember to bookmark it so you can return for new ideas – some will let you sign up to receive fresh recipes to keep you inspired. Many sites such as AllRecipes, Taste or BBC Good Food will let you search for vegetarian options or by specific ingredient.

The team at Harvard recommends consuming red meat as you would lobster – just for special occasions, a couple of times per year.


What about iron?

One of the mechanisms of red meat and risk of disease could be haem iron. For a description of the way the body handles haem iron versus non-haem iron (animal vs plant sources), see the Huntly Centre article on Iron. The body’s regulating mechanisms to keep iron levels within safe limits are much more sensitive to non-haem (plant) iron than haem (animal) iron. This article will also help you identify plentiful sources of iron, often the biggest worry for people who are reducing their meat intake.


What about B12?

Vitamin B12 is essential for health and is needed in very small amounts in the human body. It is produced by bacteria, and from there makes its way into certain foods. While meat, fish and poultry are good sources of B12, it is also available in eggs and dairy. For those following a vegan diet (no animal foods), fortified foods are available, such as cereals fortified with B12. This, however, is still a processed food. A better option is savoury yeast/ nutritional yeast, which is a natural whole food high in certain B vitamins and Lotus brand Savoury Yeast Flakes is grown with B12-generating organisms, a good dietary source of B12. Vegans can also supplement with B12  – on an optimal diet and with normal health, this is the only supplement needed by vegans.


What about my energy?

People who cut down on meat intake often feel as though their energy levels drop. There can be a period of adjustment as your body switches on the systems that gather life energy from a primarily plant-based diet. The feeling of living with a plant-focused diet is lightness, and this lightness can be an unfamiliar feeling – lacking a familiar heaviness associated with high meat intake, people can sometimes think they are feeling light-headed or tired.

If tiredness continues, however, this is an indication that the body needs help “recharging”. This is a crucial aspect of how we connect to life, maintaining the flow of life energy and material into and out of the body. The Hunyuan form of Chinese medicine is ideal for recalibrating our “recharging instrument” so that we sleep soundly, wake refreshed and have ample energy throughout the day, feeling clear and calm.


So what is a “good diet”?

It’s low-tech and simple: a plant-based, whole-food diet.

Plant-based means loads of fruit and veggies as the bulk of each meal, with lots of colour (varied colour means you’ll be getting a good spread of micronutrients).

Whole-food means as close to its natural state as possible. If it could grow, you’re on the right path – for example, you could plant a tomato and get some seedlings but you couldn’t get this from a tinned tomato. You could plant brown rice and get shoots but you couldn’t get the same from white rice (as the germ/seed has been removed). Get your oils from seeds, nuts and avocado (and whole-milk dairy if you choose) rather than adding oils and fats.

Whole-food is the opposite of processed food. For an eye-opening account of the food processing industry, see this article from the Huntly Centre. Also from the Huntly Centre, the human’s anatomical features that strongly suggest we are configured for a plant-based diet and explanation of the meat-colorectal cancer relationship.

Eat to Live is a great book that outlines the nutrient-dense plant-based diet and how it supports optimal health.

Remember the food pyramid, with bread and grains at the bottom? Nutrition organisations throughout the world are slowly revising this image, based on decades of mounting evidence. See the revised Healthy Eating Pyramid below from Nutrition Australia – click the image to go to their site for further information.


Healthy Eating Pyramid | Nutrition Australia

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Same disease, different treatment

Same disease, different treatment

Two people with the same Western medicine diagnosis label can be treated very differently when we look at them in the Chinese medicine way.

The Chinese saying “Same disease, different treatment” can be illustrated by this example:

  • Jan is a 30-year-old woman with common cold. She has chills, a strong headache, clear runny nose and body aches. Her Chinese medicine label for this common cold is “Cold-type wind energy trapped in the outer defense layer of the body”.  Warming herbs and acupuncture treatments push this Disease Energy out of the defensive layers.
  • Sophie is also a 30-year-old woman with the common cold. She has fever, sore throat, yellow nasal mucus and thirst. Her Chinese medicine label for this common cold is “Hot-type wind energy trapped in the outer defense layer of the body”.  Cooling herbs and acupuncture treatments push this Disease Energy out of the defensive layers.


Jan saw her acupuncturist on Monday and came home with some herbal medicine. Sophie is her flatmate, and because they were both sick with the common cold, Jan gave Sophie some of her herbal medicine that was helping her so much. 

Oops!  Same disease – common cold – needs different treatment because one is cold-type and the other is hot-type.  Sophie didn’t feel much better (because the warming herbs made her even hotter!). Sophie called Jan’s acupuncturist, got the right herbs, and was on the road to recovery.


Different disease, same treatment

Two people with different Western medicine labels might end up having the exact same Chinese medicine treatment, because we look at the pattern of imbalance that happens when the Correct Energy is trying to deal with the Disease Energy.

  • Bob, 32, and his wife are having fertility treatment and he’s been identified as having problems with his sperm count. Although he feels pretty OK with his health, he has noticed that his libido is a bit off lately, but isn’t sure if it’s just all the pressure of the fertility stuff they’re doing.
  • Joanna, 58, struggles with weight gain and bloating and often feels cold.


Both Bob and Joanna receive treatment to boost their Yang-energy.  While the herbal formula would usually be slightly customised to each person, it is based on exactly the same classical foundation prescription. This is how a younger man and a middle-aged woman could be treated for sperm issues and weight gain, respectively, with the same treatment.


Flexibility and scope

Chinese medicine uses a very different “map” of the body and health, compared to Western medicine. This makes it very flexible to use alongside Western medicine, or as a stand-alone therapy, and gives us broad scope in treating a wide variety of health problems.


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The science of Eastern medicine

Chinese Medicine is a complete system of health care that has been in continuous use for thousands of years.  During that time, and over the generations, it has been refined, expanded, discussed and elaborated.  There are hundreds of separate approaches to Chinese Medicine, but the system taught at universities was put together by the Chinese government in the 1960s and called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

It is a superb complement to Western medicine because the way that we view the body, health and illness is very different from Western medicine.  It is another perspective from which to see the body and therefore adds another layer of information to the experience of health and illness.

As a Westerner, it can be very difficult to grasp just how different the approaches are.  When we learn science at school, or even in medical school, it is often based on underlying assumptions about what the world is made of and who we are in relation to the world.

I was very fortunate to study the History and Philosophy of Science during my Psychology degree, so I understand how most of us in the West just take these assumptions to be true without question.  But as cutting-edge physicists have been discovering for many decades, how things really are is actually very much like ancient Eastern ideas about energy and matter.

Chinese medicine is based on the ideas of Taoism – the indivisible one-ness of everything is the Tao.  This one-ness expresses itself as the ever-changing interplay of opposites – Yin and Yang.  Everything in the universe is made of energy, and this is shaped by information to become matter – this is Qi (or Chi).  Chi, while constantly dancing in Yin and Yang forms, makes up everything in the world that we can see, hear, touch.

Is Eastern medicine scientific?

Westerners who dismiss Eastern medicine because it looks “unscientific” might be throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Centuries upon centuries of carefully gathered information is there for us to make use of – to relieve suffering and improve the lives of the human inhabitants of this world.

The Western scientific method is simple:

  1. Look at something that is happening in the world
  2. Describe it as best you can
    (the best scientists try to see everything as though they have no prior knowledge, so everything is fresh and tiny details are noticed)
  3. Think of a way to explain why this is happening
    (this is called a theory or a model)
  4. Test it to see if it happens again in the same way – if it does, add it to the knowledge bank and see how you can grow your theory or model to explain more things


The Eastern scientific model is exactly the same.

The difference is that the Taoists saw humans as being completely intertwined within the natural world, so the language is naturalistic (“Wind”, “Cold”, “Damp” etc).  These are labels to help everyone talk about the theory or model and understand each other.

In Western science and medicine, Latin or Greek words are used.  Most people don’t understand Latin or Greek, so straight away the knowledge is more out of reach than if plain language was used.  For example, “dermatitis” comes from the Greek “derma” meaning skin, and “itis” which refers to inflammation.  So it means “inflamed skin”.  Where does the word “inflammation” come from?  From the Latin meaning “to set on fire”.

So dermatitis is heat in the skin.  In Chinese medicine, it is also heat in the skin. Those fancy medical words sometimes mask a basic way of seeing the body that is shared across cultures.

Of course, nowadays Western scientific medicine is very detailed, focusing down to tiny genes, proteins and molecules.

Chinese medicine is broad and flexible, looking at how the system of the body works and using the self-repair abilities of the body to recover from disease and prevent further problems.

We are very blessed in this country to have access to both of these medical systems.  They can be used together – this is the great benefit of Complementary Medicine. It adds a very useful new dimension to your healing process.


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The Fertility Diet

Here are some tips from an article in Harvard Health Publications – based on an excerpt from the book The Fertility Diet by Chavarro, Willett & Skerrett.

The good news? It is sound nutritional advice, in line with basic Chinese medicine recommendations and also in line with other health approaches such as various anti-cancer and anti-ageing diets.


Avoid trans fats

Use more unsaturated vegetable oils

Replace meat with vegetable protein

Use whole-food carbs

Avoid skim milk (if using milk, use whole milk)

Take a multi-vitamin, including folate

Use plants for iron intake 

Drink more water (and no soft drinks)

Aim for BMI of 20-24 for body weight

Maintain moderate exercise


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Delicious, nutritious family dessert

Here’s a recipe for a yummy family dessert for cold winter nights. The rice will strengthen your kids’ digestion and the spices help to warm the digestive energy. Warming and nutritious, it’s a healthy alternative to icecream for dessert.


Dairy-free spiced rice pudding

2 cups water
1 cup brown rice, rinsed *
1 1/4 cups soy milk, rice milk, or other non-dairy milk of choice
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup brown rice syrup or maple syrup **
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/8 t. ground nutmeg


* If serving to children younger than seven, use white rice and reduce cooking times by half

** Try to use even less than this, especially if the milk is already sweet


Place the water and rice in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed.

Add the remaining ingredients, stir well to combine, and continue to cook the mixture over low heat until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and serve warm or at room temperature. Top individual servings with a little additional cinnamon before serving, if desired.

Serves 3-4


(Adapted from http://www.veganchef.com/ricepudding.htm)

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