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Reviving Classical Acupuncture with Ann Cecil-Sterman (EP#208)

Today, we have a special guest on our show, Ann Cecil-Sterman, a distinguished author and a seasoned practitioner of classical Chinese medicine. Ann's dedication to preserving and revitalising the classical teachings of acupuncture is not only inspiring but crucial in a world where this venerable tradition has, sadly, lost some of its soul, essence, and constitutional wisdom.

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We're in for a real treat today as we welcome author and doctor of classical Chinese Medicine, Ann Cecil-Sterman, on to the show. Ann is a passionate participant in the revival and preservation of the classical teaching's of acupuncture. In a societal landscape where this incredibly rich and time-honoured craft is continually being dried out and robbed of its innate magic and energetic intelligence, Ann's work is profoundly needed.

Speaking to us of the emergence and history of acupuncture, Ann takes us on a journey through its origins, emphasising its birth as a complete system devoid of any gradual elemental development. Instead, over time, its holistic essence has been eroded by the commercialisation and materialistic pursuits of the Western world.

Ann sheds light on the fact that even the term "Traditional," commonly used to describe this ancient practice (e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM), is a relatively recent addition, tacked on to the modality by Chairman Mao at the time of its colonisation.

We're reminded that classical acupuncture is a practice founded on the principals of animism, a shamanic offering that ultimately aims to heal an individual's ailing spirit through devotional intention, a medicine that is truly of the heart. 

Ann graciously guides us through the intricate network of acupuncture points and channels, highlighting how the Western approach, driven by intellectual rigour, has often oversimplified this comprehensive system. Confusing rote learning and academia with genuine skill and mastery.

Throughout this incredibly inspiring and thought provoking chat, the message we're continually left with is this; the core essence of Chinese medicine and acupuncture is derived from the concept of conservation, one that holds deep reverence for bodily energy as a finite resource.

The human form is seen to be the bridge between what is of the heavens and what is of the earth, and following the Tao, the way; nature, is a task that asks us to be considerate of what surrounds us, above, below, and in all directions.

To know deeply that although we exist within a sea of infinite energetic potential, that the flesh, sinew, bone and blood of our body is at the mercy of elemental forces, and to live long and prosper, we must be moderate in our consumption of life and experience.

Listening to Ann share her profound wisdom with Mason is a genuine pleasure, offering a discourse that I hope all our listeners will savour and contemplate.

Imagine of incense smoke on black background.

"Chapter one of the the most important classical text in Taoist medicine is, "All illness begins in the mind." So, the job of the shaman was to act without touching, with intention."
- Ann Cecil-Sterman

Ann & Mason discuss:

  • The historical emergence of classical acupuncture. 
  • How the true practices of acupuncture and Chinese medicine have been diluted through colonisation.
  • Reducing degenerative disease with lifestyle medicine.
  • The connection between mental health and Kidney Essence.
  • Cold exposure through the lens of Chinese medicine.
  • The healing potential of warm water. 


Who is Ann Cecil-Sterman ?

Ann Cecil-Sterman is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Advanced Acupuncture: A Clinic Manual, a required text in many acupuncture schools in the United States. The book is considered a landmark text, known for being the first and only text with complete protocols for the practice of the Complement Channels: the Sinew, Luo, Divergent and Eight Extraordinary Channels, derived from her deep study and clinical practice.

For many years Ann taught Advanced Clinical Observation and was a senior clinic supervisor at her alma mater: the school of acupuncture that was founded by Dr Jeffrey Yuen in 1997 in Manhattan. Throughout the 3000 hour course Ann received direct transmissions from Dr Yuen in all the channels of acupuncture, pulse diagnosis, Chinese philosophy and clinical skills. Ann is one of fewer than 200 people who graduated from Dr Yuen’s school in the 13 years it was open.

After graduation, Ann embarked on twelve more years of direct study, traveling to almost every city Dr Yuen was teaching in, often with her children in tow. The subjects included acupuncture, food as medicine, Chinese medical history, herbal medicine, qigong, essential oils, stone as medicine, and philosophy. 
 

Ann currently teaches a six month training and mentorship immersion program to students on five continents every year. Also travelling extensively to connect with her students in person to refine practice of the Complement Channels, pulse diagnosis, and the use of food as medicine with her husband, Andrew Sterman.

Resource guide

Guest Links
Ann's Website
Ann's Instagram 
Ann's Facebook 
Ann's Twitter 

Mentioned In This Episode
Becoming Healthy, Staying Healthy Book

Related Podcasts
Why Chinese Medicine Is Failing Us with Rhonda Chang (EP#80)
YinYang Wuxing For Inner Harmony with Rhonda Chang (EP#89)
Preserving Classical Chinese Medicine with Dr. Simon Feeney (EP#127)

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Check Out The Transcript Below:

 

Mason:

Hello, welcome to the podcast.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Thanks so much, Mason. Thanks for getting up at, what is it, like 5:30 in the morning?

Mason:

Yeah, it's just past 6:00 now. But no, I like it. I awoke gently, as you instruct in the book. And yeah, I actually just woke up with kookaburras which is just really nice, but I like talking. Are you in New York? Is that where you are?

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Yes.

Mason:

I like the New York time zone because it gets me up at the crack, and this is when I like to have these conversations. And just missed you, right? You were just in Melbourne?

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

I was in Melbourne. I taught a class down there, and it was great.

Mason:

Was it?

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Wonderful. Yeah, well, I was born and raised in Melbourne, but I hadn't been back. Before last year, I had a four-year hiatus, so it was great to get back there and...

Mason:

Have you felt like a change of tone? Would love to hear about what the workshop, what you were teaching, and also what the tone is of the community and the practitioners that you were teaching.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Well, the people who choose to come to the classes seem to be very interested in classical medicine, which is what I'm trying to do is be a participant in the revival of classical acupuncture. And so, the people who came were extremely interested and ready and open and full of hope. And it was beautiful. And I taught classical pulse diagnosis for those two days. And Andrew taught before me. He taught a classical application of food. But in the pulse diagnosis, I managed to get around to every person a couple of times, maybe three times and do pulse analysis. And there was a lot of excitement. Returning to the classics, it means that there's more bandwidth to connect into Taoist theory.

Mason:

Because I know a lot of people who go, and a lot of people actually through listening to SuperFeast over the years have gone, "I'm going to go study acupuncture and Chinese medicine." I'm grateful that I can tell them like, "Listen, you're going to learn some stuff, and just know that you're going to have to go and relearn afterwards." But I've also come across, I don't know, dozens at this stage, the disillusioned students that come out of the university structure, and don't actually know where to go. They just know they haven't got something. So, I imagine at this time, it must be a relief for acupuncturists to be able to actually become and tap into something that's alive, that's got a Spirit. I'd love to dive into this in terms of why this is important to you and feeling like why this happened, why that...

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Well, yes. Well, okay, I'll make it as brief as I can. So, the practice of acupuncture, it involves the treatment of the channels. And the channels are lines of energy that flow through the body that enable that body to not only exist, but to move and develop and be in touch with the past and the future, and to be able to make decisions and to assimilate nutrition. These channels that allow the emergence of the human being also allow the emergence of humanity itself. So, I think that the channels are extra Earthly, that they come from outside the earth and they flow through the Earth and they allow the emergence of this beautiful thing called humanity. And so, the practice of acupuncture appeared in Chinese culture fully-formed. There's no part of the history of acupuncture that says, "Well, first we discovered a point, and we discovered that when we hit that another point, when we touched another point, there seemed to be some kind of magical connection. And then from there..."

 

Like a Lego project, you build the practice of acupuncture. There is no record of that. Acupuncture appears with Huangdi, The Yellow Emperor, in its fully-formed state with all the channels. So, depending on how you count them, it's over 60 channels of energy lines. They are all there, and voila. And not only are they all here, but this is how you use them. So, the application of the channels and how to ensure that the channels are conducting energy in a way that's free-flowing has been a part of acupuncture from day one.

 

So, the decline of acupuncture comes in proportion to the degree to which humanity wanted to control it with ego, or they wanted to understand it with the mind, instead of with the spirit. Because acupuncture, when it's practised well, that the practitioner is not thinking about their knowledge. They're in a state where the knowledge is almost tertiary, it's in the background and they are in a state where they are occupied solely by intention. So, it's with the intention that the practitioner activates the channels. And for a long time, there were no needles, so you had channels and intention. Another word for that is shamanism, where the practitioner was close to the body or remote from the body, but thinking about that person and focused on their life challenge in that time, which caused a blockage in the flow of the channels. And that shaman, with their knowledge of the channels and with their instinct and intention, was able to free that blockage, which is caused by the mind, always. Chapter one of the most important classical text in Taoist medicine is, "All illness begins in the mind."So, the job of the shaman was to act without touching, with intention.

 

And then as people became progressively more materialist. And now, in 2023, it's hard to imagine being more materialist as a culture, but it was starting way back when. So, then the channels began to have points. And this point does this and that point does that, and that point does that. That kind of thinking emerged where the channel became quantified, and had points that you could assign a function to. Whereas in actual fact, the channel is the sum total of all those functions. But there was a desire of the human mind to break it down, to make it more understandable through the mind. So, we're moving away from the Spirit. And so, in the Han Dynasty from the second century BCE to the second century CE, in that 400-year period, the classical texts were written down, points were spoken about, but all the channels were in use. So, all of the 60 plus channels were in use.

 

And that went on for 1,000 years until the end of the Tang Dynasty. And then, in the Song Dynasty, the Imperial Academy, which did wonderful work in terms of herbs, collecting herbs, documenting herbal formulas, documenting herbal practise, had a bias against acupuncture. And so, what they did was excise sections of the classical texts. So, by the Song Dynasty, which by the way, is the earliest form of these classical texts, the Neijing, date from the Song Dynasty. There are none dating from the Han Dynasty. So, what they did was pretty much disembowel the practise of acupuncture and the divergent channels disappeared from the classical text. There's brief mentions of them. You couldn't possibly practise from that text in that form. They took away the low channels, the sinew channels, and you're left with the primary channels of acupuncture. So, that's the song Dynasty.

 

And then, in the Ming Dynasty, when the epidemics came through, then you have another big shift in the theory of acupuncture. And from the Ming Dynasty through to the 1950s, you have a more limited practise. And then, in the 1950s, after acupuncture had been banned in China for quite a while because of the ambition to Westernise medicine in that country, which is a great tragedy, Chairman Mao assembled a group of doctors, 200 doctors. They got together and their instruction was to create a form of acupuncture that could be taught easily and quickly to people in the field. And so, from there, we have acupuncture not understood as channels and not even understood as the massive collection of 360 odd points, but that acupuncture became groups of points.

 

So, the training was every person that you meet is going to fall in one of these 80 patterns of illness. And once you've decided which of these 80 patterns of illness that person belongs in, then you could choose any number of this group of points. And not only was it reduced to groups of points, but the groups of points belonged to more than three channels, which breaks a fundamental law in the original text of acupuncture, which says that never can you use points on more than three channels that you'll confuse the Qi, and possibly, the worst possible thing could happen.

 

So, that was the 1950s in China. And then, in 1972 or three when Nixon went to China and he took his assistant, James Reston. James got appendicitis and had surgery with no anaesthesia but with acupuncture anaesthesia, and it made the front page of the Times the next day. And so, that created a tremendous interest in acupuncture in the United States. And the people that went to China to collect TCM, traditional Chinese medicine, which was a name that Chairman Mao gave the medicine, it's not traditional at all, it's modern. Those people brought back TCM to the United States and nearly, not all, but nearly every school in the United States is founded on that medicine. And so, what we have is a profession whose graduates emerge dissatisfied. They know, as you said before, they know that they missed something, they just can't put their hand on it. And when they're introduced to the channels and the magnificence of them, and the extraordinary nature of what you can actually do with acupuncture, then it's all milk and honey. It's beautiful.

Mason:

And I think that's the optimism we can feel. You can feel the land of milk and honey when it comes to medicine that's there. What I was going to ask is a couple of things. I didn't know whether your textbook was available to everyone or just practitioners. I know we've got a copy on our way to us at the moment, which we're really excited about. Is that-

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Anyone's welcome to read it.

Mason:

I assumed so.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

In fact, the way that I'm moving at the moment, and I'm looking 10 years ahead and 20 years ahead, the company's looking 20 years ahead and I'm looking 10 years ahead, or we're both doing the same. But in 20 years, we're looking at a network of nonprofit organisations all over the world to teach the public about the channels. And that's what I'm thinking at the moment is how do we get this knowledge to people who are not acupuncturists? And actually, every year I teach a six-month mentorship course from January to the end of June. And this year we took 80 people and a quarter of them were not acupuncturists. And it was like, "I wonder what will happen." It was kind of exciting, but those people are using the channels in remote healing with tremendous success. So, it's already happening. It's very exciting. I think that all humanity should have access to the knowledge of the channels that animate them.

Mason:

I assumed that that was your approach because it just seems like that's the natural progression of decentralising from this institution that owns the medicine. And yes, there's going to be times when there's more expertise, and time spent needed, but majority of the time... I'm fortunate to have a wife that is not an acupuncturist, but we get a little bit of acupuncture every now and then. Just those issues really moving her way into it. That's how we've always cultivated our capacity to take responsibility for our own health. But one thing, I was talking to one of your students about your course and because I'm always interested, we know that there is these shamanic roots and this capacity to lead with intention and not have the mind dominate. And that's almost out of sheer laziness or not being able to scale that level of skill, we just went into like here, let's just jam this into your mind and there's 80 disease. You just remember this and if you've got good retention, there's your 80 types of disease and you're off to the races. And you'll get okay results, but there's a massive glass ceiling.

 

I was talking about with your student around that function of sitting with the channels as you go along through the course. And it just got me thinking, obviously this is the way to do it. But yeah, how do you approach supporting students and just people like me and Tahnee, who are just hobbyists in this and we want to bring it into our house, cultivating that skill of intent, so that we can have that objectively weaved within that effective realm?

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Yes. Oh, what a great question. Well, it might sound a bit kooky, but part of the teaching every week is the transmission of the feeling of each channel. So, we take a group of channels each week we get through. So, there's 24 weeks, we've got over 60 channels to get through. So, every week I hold the vibration of a particular channel in my body and then transmit it to the class. They feel it, they feel the channel, they go into a meditation. It's really just a massive group meditation. They feel the action or the activation of that channel in their own body. And then we hold it for a while, we hold it for about 15 minutes. And then, on the screen you can see the bodies moving and shifting and realigning, and the eyes moving and the whole demeanour of the class changing in that 15 minutes. And then, before and after that, we talk about the hard theory of the function of that channel.

 

So, that happens on Mondays. And then, Wednesdays we have question and answer. So, when people... Inevitably they have questions about it, so we have an extensive question and answer time. And then, on Thursday we have mentorship, which is where people talk about their feeling of their own personal limitations in being able to embody the medicine, or transmit it, or assist in healing. And so, by the end of six months, there's a lot of transformation in each individual. And then, at the end of those six months, I have a half hour talk with every single person and we do a debrief and check that everything got home.

Mason:

I'm sorry if this is going off in other directions. This is just so interesting. The disdain we have as a culture for animism and for sensing something, what's alive in a tree. I mean, we talked a little bit about business. And for me, the fundamental skill I have as a CEO, whatever that title means, is sensing and getting the feeling rush through me of this organism, whatever it is. And we pooh-pooh it in medicine especially, it's just always so beyond animism. And maybe that was... Of course, the shamanic roots are there and then we've gone on to explore the intellect, so on and so forth, for better or worse, necessary process you'd imagine.

 

But without integrating the core skill going like, "No, you're going to be completely disconnected if you don't embody that skill to be able to feel this running through you." It seems so fundamental. And yes, I think you're right when you say it's, maybe not to us, this seems a bit kooky to say this when we're talking about healing, but it's how long that we realise if you don't integrate that capacity, even the most advanced intellectual healing system is going to be lacking, and it's going to have this vacuous space where the spirit used to be or the sensitivity used to be.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Exactly right. I couldn't have said it better. And also harking back to shamanism and acupuncture, that is the practise of acupuncture. And to have it reduced to points and numbers and letters on a piece of paper, and completely avoiding that animism is the very reason for the discontent in the profession.

Mason:

I like this because I have a healthy suspicion, I think, internally. And I chose not to become a practitioner because I sensed... I wasn't going to go down the path of practitioner, and I just didn't want to waste my time. I like studying the thing that I want to study. And when I went to go into a few courses, even a few Taoist courses, I'm really suspicious of where that Taos lineage really has pulled its wisdom from, which I can see…The points is always the one it did... I think there's validity, but I wanted to talk to you about this.

 

Of course, I know many people are talking, they'll say bubbling spring rather than a bunch of letters and numbers, and talk about it has a story and you need to understand a story, but then perhaps not talk about this just still be going, "And there's 12 channels," or, "12 major channels." And I can start to sense what the gap is there of... And I want to just know where you sit with the relevance of points and then within your course, of course you are just looking at the channels or... Yeah, where's it all sitting for your work?

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

We look in detail at points too in detail, and the points are beautiful. The poetry of the points and the philosophy of the points is indispensable. But the point of it is that once the point is activated, it's not just that that point is activated, the entire channel is activated, but you're asking the channel to vibrate with a focus on the function of that point. Or I should say it better. You are asking the channel to vibrate with a certain focus that is reflected in the name of that point. And the function of the points is to assist the practitioner in remembering the function of the entire channel.

 

So, if you needled into bubbling spring and you were not thinking about the end of the Kidney channel, which classically is Kidney 21, the dark gate, so you're not imagining that when you activate bubbling spring that you're cultivating the absorption of Yang from the Earth, and you're assisting in the unfolding of destiny, which then opens through the dark gate at the solar plexus, and allows you to connect into the intuition about the next thing you are to be interested in. Then, all you're doing is putting attention on the sole of the foot in a clinical way that's not acupuncture.

Mason:

Kind of like putting the cart before the horse, almost. And I admit this seems very obvious now, and I feel a bit silly maybe... Obviously, everyone listening like why yet to have... But I can feel it. I've watched these courses and they'll be like, "Yeah, here are the channels, but now let's study all of these points and I want you to memorise these points." That's always when I've gone through these Taoist courses and this is ones on Wudang Mountains. They're like, "This is going to be the focus." I can sense... And you've just explained it beautifully, of course. I can sense that that's like it's going to feel incomplete and what we've done to Chinese medicine is take it to a non-integrated isolation based... Let's isolate things so they can be memorised rather than understand what connects everything and how to feel that intention, and then go into isolation because that's fun as well.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Yeah, yeah. We've tried to turn it into a Western practise like Western science, so what does this part hormone in the body do? Oh, it does this, but there's no sense of how it works in concert with everything else. Or you have endocrinologists and rheumatologists and neurologists and urologists, and none of them talk to each other about the... It's as though that the segments of the body are independent functioning units, and so the points are not like that either.

Mason:

No, and I guess it is nice to have both. I'm definitely someone that floats off into the animism, which is kind of where I want to be, and that's why I like having conversations with other people who are more grounded, and actually take it into clinical practise.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Well, that's why you're farming, right?

Mason:

Yeah. That's why I like the farming.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Farming is the absolute ultimate practise of the unification of all things.

Mason:

Yeah, it's funny. I love the herbs. Don't worry, everyone. It is about the herbs, but it's the herbs I guess you could say is the points and the farming practise is that core intention, and the channels are how each of those herbs are farmed. And that connects to something, and that's what interests me. I don't particularly get interested in just reishi being out there and being used by oncologists, so on and so forth. That's a cherry on top. It's nice to study. But you're right, it is that practise of just farming it in a very particular way.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Do you ever just lie down on the Earth? Just lie down on it?

Mason:

Yeah, quite often.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Yeah, I do that too.

Mason:

I feel like this is something... Because there's something about the word integrated or connected to the source medicine as best as we can, that is about creating relationships, so you can create your own... Your awareness has a relationship with the channel and a relationship and a sense of relationship with a patient. There's no ownership. And likewise, that's I feel like the healthiest thing at work. I have a relationship with my role, but I'm not my role. I have a relationship with the company, I'm not the company. I have a relationship with the Earth. And that starts to be where you see... This is why I feel people sense such excitement when I imagine you 80 students in Melbourne, you saw this relief because it's a reminder of your capacity to sense these relationships and create beautiful boundaries, so you can have bonds on a deeper level.

 

Yeah, I think that's the nicest thing about this because you slowly but surely this gets out there. People have their relationship with the solar being, with the Earth, with aspects of the Earth, and they don't fall into service of, they just begin to cultivate what it's like to move forward with love and respect and honour that relationship.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Yes, so beautifully said. That's why you look so youthful.

Mason:

I just got good light.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

But we become diseased when we lose those connections. And then, the body has to show that blockage in the mind or that severing in the mind, in the body so that we notice it. That's what illness is.

Mason:

And I'm going to pivot. I was just thinking about, with the book, which we need to talk about. Quite often I do this in podcasts or even my own talks. I'm like, "Oh crap, we've got to actually talk about it." But becoming healthy, staying healthy... So, often people look at... And I haven't actually had a book which so comprehensively lists, and to the point, lists all of the building blocks. I kind of sense that this is a book that's like these are the things you've got to get right if you have that highest... And I'll let you speak to it. But everyone thinks the wet hair thing, scarf, they've heard us talk about it before. They think they're rules. But again, it's like it's just developing a bit of a relationship with the wind and developing a relationship with the cold, and understanding how to have an appropriate one. But I'd love to jump into that line of thought and just also just start looking at this hard advice from an acupuncturist.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Right. Oh, thank you. Thanks for the compliments. That's exactly what it's intended to do. So, I'm glad it's getting across.

Mason:

It is, and it's one of those ones that there's so much information, but yeah, we've got a bunch of these handed out. And we're a weird business. We have a lot of education stuff, and so we do talk about scarves in our emails and remind everyone... Your husband's work has inspired our eBooks around seasonal leading. So, we try and remind that, ultimately, people just want an adaptogenic medicinal mushroom. So, we find our appropriate place, and do what we can. But handing out this book to my team, it was just like, it's just constant, "Oh yeah, lower back. Oh, yeah. Waking gently," and it's just so nice and bite-sized. But really, I'd love to just hear the intention and bringing such simplicity with such impact, but also knowing as everyone heard, what you're holding is deep and profound and there's such intricate technical knowledge there, yet, here's a book that's really approachable.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Well, thank you. Well, you mentioned the subtitle, Heart Advice From an Acupuncturist. So, Andrew came up with the subtitle. And I thought that he said hard, H-A-R-D, advice from an acupuncturist. And I thought, "Oh, that's a really good title." Because for some people it's hard. And it's like talking to your teenage son, which you're not up to that yet, but I have been right through it. And you've got to give them some hard advice. "Listen kid, you've got to hear it this way. And if you continue down that track, then this is going to happen, so here's some hard advice." So, I thought that he was saying hard advice, so it got all the way through design. And then I got a proof, and there it was Becoming Healthy, Staying Healthy; Hard Advice From an Acupuncturist. And Andrew saw it and he said, "Hard advice?" I said, "That's what you said, hard advice." He said, "I said heart advice." I said, "You Americans, you never say your Ts." So, we had to change it.

 

But some of it is a bit hard. Some of it is hard advice, but the idea of the book and that book was utterly completed in 2003 as I was finishing school. And I mean it's fleshed out in the last year a bit, but really, it came because I found myself saying the same things to patients over and over and over again, and I got a little bit tired of it. Am I going to be doing this for decades? Just telling people to start their day with a glass of warm water. Is this going to be a life sentence? And it's just part of the job. But I didn't put the book out because it just wasn't time. But I think now it is time.

 

Since, we witnessed the crisis in the hospitals in the last three years and we see how fragile the conventional Western medicine system is. It really felt like I've got to dig that book out and put it out because it's time for people to understand that the way to stay away from the hospital is in their own hands. It's not luck of the draw. It's not your DNA, it's actual daily cultivation of personal health that's required to stay away from the need for medical intervention, from surgeries, from pharmaceuticals. All of those things can be avoided if there's a certain level of care that's observed on a daily basis as a permanent lifestyle. And so, that was the intention of the book. And it starts with a scarf around the neck because the most important thing really is not to catch cold at a time when you are vulnerable. So, if you're tired and you go outside and there's a cold wind and you catch a cold, the fact that you are tired means that you might not be able to sweat that out.

 

You might not have enough Yang Qi, moving warming Qi in the Kidneys, to create a fever or a sweat to push that out. And so, the trajectory of diseases and the origin of disease, which is explained to us in the classical texts as originating with wind and cold, which are both literal and metaphors. Metaphors for the willingness to change and the willingness to bend with the seasons, the willingness to adapt to change both societal and food and weather.

 

And so, the necessity to avoid the entrenchment of the common cold is extreme, really, because from there, if you're unable to evacuate that cold, eradicate that cold, expel it, then the body must find a place to put it. And so, it's going to move at using various channels which are explained in the other books. Using the physical strategies that are part of the functions of the channels, it will move that pathogen, pathogen being the wind, or in modern parlance that would be a viral infection, it has to move that to a place in the body where it cannot affect the organs. And so, that's the beginning of chronic degenerative diseases. So, that's why the scarf is number one.

Mason:

Can we dive into this a little bit? Because I love it. And I find myself... I've sat between... We talked a little bit how I find it ironic that this is my favourite form of medicine. Yet, I've got people doing cold plunging. And my business is a weird one because I've got Taoism and a study of classics, and then modern I call it, raji baji health culture, which anyone listening in this podcast knows like, "Yes, Mason, we know what your thoughts are on everything." I love it, and I also find people getting harvested by it and their identities... I feel a lot of people have a lot of mental illness, and that's where you see the relevance of cold plunging, so on and so forth.

 

But when I stand in between these, I can see you go and talk to the modern health world and you're like, "Yeah, scarves." And many people do get it. It's just the ones right on the edge that are like, "No, no, no, I'm resilient." So, the thought then becomes, so these people who are just doing these basics well, chewing, putting socks on, putting a scarf on, not walking out with wet hair. Now, this isn't my strength. This is probably why I try and study it too, because it's not my innate strength. You'd be appalled of how many times I'm barefoot and I'm like, "I just can't find any shoes." But there's a thought that arrives from this gang that this is fragile. This is like you're covering yourself up, and so you're never going to become resilient, and you become reliant on that, which I really just want to, yeah, I want to dance around because I know that's not the case. It's the opposite, in fact.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Well, the Chinese philosophy is about conservation. We can serve our resources, rather than what your people are saying on that one side, rather than say walk out into that cold breeze and say, "It's okay. I've got plenty of Kidney Yang. Look at my muscles. I'm well-rested and I'm going to walk out into that wind and I can do it. I can brace myself." In fact, I was in Melbourne last week and it was a Saturday and the footy had just come out. The crowds had just come out of the MCG and we were driving along and it was cold. And I was staggered at how many people were in shorts. And they do have their scarves on because that's the tradition of footy, which is the irony of it, but-

Mason:

It's not classically-informed.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

But to say, "I'm going out into that cold wind and I can handle it," may be absolutely true, and they may not come down with a cold and they may return home and say, "See, look, nothing happened." But something did happen, and what happened was that Kidney Yang, which is part of your God-given, in a way, battery pack that's located in the region of the Kidneys. So, on your site, you talk about you have a formula for Jing, right? So it's the location of the Jing. So, when the cold struck, without that person knowing, some Jing was released in the form of Kidney Yang, and the exterior of the body was warmed up a little, which is why those people can come back home and say, "I didn't even feel cold." So, that was warmed up and there was a tightening of the muscles, which uses up more Kidney Yang, and there might even have been a micro-sweat at some point as they're on their way home and the body says, "Okay, we can release this now," or as soon as they got home.

 

They arrive home feeling that they're back to square one, nothing happened, "See how tough I am." But in that journey, there was definitely a response. The body was acting beautifully, it was acting perfectly. It was calling upon resources to create that reaction. But the problem is, and the problem is that the Qi that it calls upon is very, very difficult to regenerate, which is where your offering comes in. I'm offering you a Jing tonic, which is just perfect. So, a person like that should be taking that formula because that's going to continue their ability to do that, to offer their body to the elements like that. But that is a finite resource. And when that runs out, really frankly, the honest truth is that you die. So, it shortens longevity.

Mason:

It's like the reliance. I feel like I can see certain people have such a... And I think this comes down to... I imagine this would be able to be discovered in terms of a rebellious Qi or something. We could be working on it in different ways, but it's almost people are so scared of cold, or scared of an element. And for them, it's about going... I've got friends who run cold plunging, and I'm just like, "I'm not partaking. I haven't for a while," but it's especially young men that have a few mental health things going on or addiction things going on, and it's like they need to prove to themselves that they can face a fear.

 

So, it's extreme in that sense, or just even as you say, "I can face this because it's important to me to know that I can face this and be big and tough." But then, if you have a relationship with that part of yourself that needs to do that, it's like, cool, you can handle it. Maybe that's why the samurai and sometimes the Taoists would go and stand under a waterfall, just because they needed to know that they could take something in preparation for really arduous times and it was worth the Jing, but then you got it and you can move on and know that you've got that resilient capacity. Yeah, thank you. Because I kind of am the noodle out phase of that.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Well, also, to the point of mental health, it will function for mental health. It will apparently raise the spirits because it raises Kidney Yang, which is exactly the same energy that you need raised in times of danger. Let's say you were being chased by a snake or a lion or a bear. Around my house, we have bears. So, then you need your Kidney Yang to be active so that you can get away, and that creates a kind of exhilaration. So, two things have to feel good for the survival of the human species, sex and running away. So, the activation of Kidney Yang it's what the runners call the runner's high.

Mason:

So, it's like almost knowing that you can do it, because if you're feeling that... I think I'm with you. And I think you cover... So, we don't go too much further than that in terms of the cold. And if you grab the book, it's really... , cold plunge, cold shower, hot mess. Yeah, I really love it. I love that chapter and I feel like it's a very relevant one as people develop a relationship with what they're actually trying to do here.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Right. And so, I put that in the form of a conversation between me and a certain patient, whole transcript of that conversation as an appendix, because I think it's 25 pages long or something like that.

Mason:

It's long. It's great.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

But it covers every aspect of that argument. I think the cold plunging, it will be a fad. When people get 10 years down the line and they realise they've got arthritis.

Mason:

I mean, for women, just that cold getting into... I don't know if it's exactly the uterus, that's always how I imagine it. And that's always when there's something chronic going on, it's just getting to the point. So, I love this wisdom because it's developing relationship with reality. The amount of women, I'm just like, "Oh, look..." And Tahnee does Chi Nei Tsang Taoist abdominal massage, so I kind of live in that world a little bit, where I'm just like, "Please just go see an acupuncturist and just figure out whether..." You're a surfer, you've been exposed. So, often there's going to be a bit of invasion there, that's just settled in into the deeper parts of the body. And that's where people are like, "Oh, my God. This was miraculous. Every doctor said that I was crazy and there was nothing actually going on." Yet, a little bit of a little of a TLC and awareness around... And just like heat packs and scarves and no wet hair and maybe some moxa.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Right. Well, yeah, cold does not turn up on an x-ray, that's for sure.

Mason:

I wonder whether we will get that... Just getting a little bit of a thermodynamic picture of the body will become as synonymous down the line.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Yeah, I think that'll become much more useful, but also, cold can be socked away in the synovial fluid of the joints, so it can become really secreted away.

Mason:

I'm in a busy stage of life with the kids and the business, so I wouldn't say my practise is as honed in as I'd like, although this is my practise, so I'm getting, I could argue, better growth. But if I've been on the run around and I go and I meet an acupuncturist or someone who practises and then I quickly feel my hands because I become aware of it and I look aware... And I'm like, "Oh no…And I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to have to shake a hand right now, and they're going to feel how cold it is." I think that's a healthy... I think even though yes, I love myself and whatever, I feel like that's a real healthy, not fear, but self-awareness thing because it's such a barometer, isn't it?

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Right, yes.

Mason:

You were talking about the Jing. A lot of people listening to this podcast is I've had a... Yes, I love the herbs and I love the Jing herbs, and one thing I talk about is, even to an extent these, the way that people are using cold plunging is the way that jing herbs can be used, that it's just a short burst. I don't see it as doing anything in terms of creating any disharmonies, like cold plunging can, but no reliance. And it's probably, yes, you can use it to feel something if you don't have the capacity to feel something of what you're losing. It's a difference when people feel cultivation of something and they go, "Oh, my gosh, I don't have reliance on coffee." And then you need to pry the JING out of their hands sometimes and be like, "It's not about the JING either."

 

We had someone write yesterday going, "I'd probably just do jing for..." Because we have a 30 days of JING, where you get off caffeine if you want and get on the jing herbs and do some cultivation. A lot of your principles, which now we're going to be able to build upon. But then someone was just like, "Oh, why would I stop? I'm just going to have to do 30 years of JING." And I always then think about why I feel we need the integrity of connection to whether it's the classical texts or the core intentions of Taoism in order to help guide us, because that's not the goal, and that's where you disconnect from the spirit or the core intention of what we're trying to do here. And then, I think about when I was last in China with our partner and I was just like, "Oh, what's your favourite tonic at the moment?"

 

And he thought, really, and he's like, "Hot water." And I was like, "Of course. I love it that we're surrounded by eucommia, reishi, schisandra, he shou wu. And I love it. I tell everyone that. I mean, as amazing as these are, this was like an infinite supply of any formula or anything. And he was just like, "Hot water is my favourite tonic." And I was like, "Stacks up." That's the beauty. These things are really shiny. We help people get out of the shiny phase of this herbalism, likewise the shiny phases of even medicine and Chinese medicine, where you get to the chop wood, carry water basics that are actually going to really... And that's where I just want to talk about hot water in that sense as almost like as a tonic. And the beauty of how simple and boring, but not boring it is.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Well, I think in the book I'm talking about hot water in terms of moving the bowels. Very, very often, if acupuncture seems unsuccessful, very often it's because the practitioner missed that the bowels are not moving. So, if the bowels aren't moving, it means that there's some stagnation of Qi somewhere. It could be in the lower Jao, it could be in the Liver, it could be in the sinews, it could be cold. And unless the bowels are moving, you have an increasing situation of stagnation. And the easiest way to get the bowels to move, which creates a cascade of positive effects up the digestive tract. Because there's a rule in Chinese medicine that says if the stomach is full, the large intestine must be empty. And if the large intestine is full, the stomach cannot be anything but empty. In other words, you must have a bowel movement in the morning before you have breakfast for optimum health.

 

And the easiest way to do that is to have, well, a very warm water habit. So, before you do anything, you get up, you turn the kettle on, wait a little while until the water's warm, and then drink a fairly substantial quantity of very warm water, as warm as you can stand, while drinking quickly. And what happens is the water goes right through the stomach, which should be empty, and it works its way all the way through the small intestine, the large intestine very quickly. And then the large intestine, the stool absorbs the moisture, absorbs the water. And then, the excess water gets absorbed into the walls of the large intestine and gets recycled back upstream in the digestive tract. And that moves the bowels. And then, what I'm saying in the book is if the bowels still don't move, then you squat down and you twist from side to side. Eat a couple of figs. Figs are the primary food for moving the large intestine in Chinese dietetic medicine.

 

And so, you eat a couple of figs, take some more water, squat down and turn again. And if you do that for a few days, even if it appears not successful. After a few days, the body starts to get the hang of it, and it can move from a decades long habit of not moving at all in the morning or moving every other day or every few days. Those hard-wired habits can just dissolve in a matter of a few days. And then, the state of health changes entirely. Rashes disappear because the Lungs were having to take the slack for the failure to excrete toxins through the large intestine. All kinds of headaches go away, migraines go away, vision improves. All kinds of things change just from very warm water.

Mason:

As a practitioner, I can imagine... I'm going to just say it in a very general way. But I guess your job is to support the person to have their channels be open and in harmony, I guess, to really overly simplify it. But then, if you... What I want to finish on is what your ultimate intention is for when you're doing this, for when you're doing this bowel work, what the ultimate intention you feel for yourself and for the individuals that you treat in terms of what you are wanting to make possible for them. Because I always find that talking about hot water and bowel movements and scarves and hair, I need it put into relevance of something really macro and something really vast. And I imagine for you, you have an intention for your patients that when they get reliant on you to keep the channels open, when you know that if you just do these simple things, your channels will be open and you'll be doing the work. I imagine that's where a lot of this comes from.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Well, I think ethically, as a health practitioner, the goal is to see your patient become free of you as practitioner. The goal is to free the patient, so that the patient doesn't need you anymore. And that does a number of things. It strengthens the patient. It raises their health self-esteem, if that makes sense. They feel like they're much more in control because they are. They feel in control. They feel they understand what their body needs, and they can encourage their body to be in a state of absolute freedom, and they feel that it's reachable. So, you want to get that. And then, you want that space in your schedule to be freed up for another person to come in and become fully independent. And so, the length of time you spend with an individual patient should shrink if your education of the patient is effective.

Mason:

I love it. And I know we can be diving into so many of these different areas, even just talking about lower back and sneezing and getting into wet hair. But alas... We can come back and do another deep dive podcast. We can even go chapter by chapter. But I've loved this conversation and where we have gone has been perfect, and thanks for just going to those places. I know the people that listen to this podcast love really getting to the heart of what's driving this. And for you sharing that core passion, it also helps me connect with these practises because I feel like a teenager scallywag. It's like, "Oh, I'm just going to leave with my hair wet," so I need this. I need it a lot.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

It's my absolute pleasure. And I want to thank you for being steward of the land up there. The more people who farm and conduct business in the way you're doing it, the better the world will be.

Mason:

Thank you. I'm really excited for your textbook to arrive, and Tahnee and I are going to jump into that. And Tahnee's a better textbook nerd than I'm, so she's going to be really diving in. But yeah, we're trying to discuss when our life gets to the point where we can come and do the course as well, especially for her to do the course. So, yeah.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Wonderful. You'd be so welcome. Oh, fantastic.

Mason:

We'd love it. And just hearing about it now from you and hearing about it from your student, that's where we want to go. It's where we want to go in life. And likewise, just keep us in mind. I know we've got a connection with someone here locally, but in terms of that connection, that network of non-for-profits, that's something we'd love just to help as well. And we've got a good network and we've got a good database.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Oh, that's wonderful. See, you just put the word out and the pieces start to fall into place. It's magic, isn't it?

Mason:

Yeah, I feel the same. I think it's probably been four years now, five years now, when we've gone like, "Oh, we're just not going to get any further just taking people through studying traditional Chinese medicine this way. We need to start teaching it for the mum, for the dad, just the individual."

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

That's its future, I'm sure.

Mason:

I think so too. And that gets that giddy feeling, doesn't it?

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Yes. Yes, it does. It does. I'm very giddy right now.

Mason:

Thank you so much. Everyone, please go and get a copy of the Becoming Healthy, Staying Healthy. And yeah, it's awesome. And it's just one of those ones that put your name on it on the inside, or maybe just get like four, so you can give them to people as they come through your house because people will start... It's one of those books. And I think, again, you can't underestimate how foundational this knowledge is and just how much of it is a gift to give. Yes, some of it's hard advice, but it's really nice, hard advice to give everyone if you're into this cultivation world. So, thank you. Is there anything else you want everyone to be aware of or go and follow and...

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Oh, if they're interested, they could visit my website anncecilsterman.com. Yeah. Thanks, Mason. Thanks so much for having me on.

Mason:

Thank you. See you next time.

Ann Cecil-Sterman:

Bye-bye.

 

 

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