Cancer as Teacher

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Excerpt from “Cancer as Teacher”


“The Chinese call it Ai Du. Ai is a character that we saw Jean Mott speak of — he showed the rocks over the mountain. And Du means ‘toxin’ or ‘malignancy,’ and we will look much more closely at that character. It is a Water and Wood illness, so we will be looking at pathologies of the Water and Wood elements, and virtues of the Water and Wood element — taking place on the yuan level, so we will be looking at, ‘What does that mean?’ and it is not an entry-level disorder. There are going to be a lot of concepts that I’m going to have to introduce you to, so there may be a lot of time spent saying, ‘What does this have to do with cancer?’ but cancer is complex. It is a collision of a number of different forces, and, because it is not an entry-level disorder, you have to have a bunch of other things first.

We know this from other patterns of disharmony, for instance internal wind. Nobody gets internal wind first. Before they had internal wind they had either Liver yang rising or maybe even Liver fire or blood deficiency — something else was already there before there could be Liver wind.

Cancer’s like this, only a bunch more steps, so we will have to look at all kinds of concepts that build up to it, the three most important being the concepts of mutation — what is mutation in Chinese medicine? The concept of malignancy — what is malignancy in Chinese medicine? And the concept of latency — cancer is an illness with a very long latency period — what is latency? How does that work, and how do these three vectors come together?

Mutation and mutability. Let’s talk about mutability first. How much in you is mutable? As an individual, how much of you is mutable, and how much of you, that’s just the way it is? See if you can feel in yourself, in who you are. Hopefully you know by now that I’m not — when I ask a question, I am not asking you to prepare to write a 250-word essay about it. What I’m really wanting you to do is to get the subconscious, which is the most powerful part of the mind, starting to wonder, ‘How much of me is mutable, and how much of me is fixed just the way it is — cannot change?’ To what degree are you unchangeable, and to what degree are you in fact mutable? Being alive to this in ourselves is a fundamental health awareness, especially when it comes to an illness in which mutation is one of the concerns.

Generally speaking, there are levels of mutability in us. Our wei level is the most mutable — changes with the weather! The sun comes out, we start to sweat. The sun goes away and the wind comes, we start closing up. It’s changing all the time. The ying level is also mutable, but more slowly. I have breakfast, and as I digest, my ying takes on the characteristics and flavors of breakfast, so I hope that it was a good one. I’m also digesting not only physical food, but life experience, which is food. We digest our life experience, and just as we digest our food and our food becomes us, we digest our life experience and our life experience becomes us. We are what we eat, and not just physically. And we are how we digested what we eat, our experience. So, on the ying level, there’s everything that you are digesting from the last few days. It’s mutable — it’s changing, but not as quickly as the wei level.”