Many things have reminded me of Liu Ming lately, using the tea pot I got from him, a certain incense smell, a moment in a ritual, and a remembering to calibrate my life with the cycles of the seasons and the stars. I have increasingly felt a calling to write about my time with him and to share some of his teachings as a way to keep them alive.
Liu Ming was a taoist teacher, philosopher, and practitioner that heavily influenced my understanding of health and wellness. He taught some key missing pieces of Traditional Chinese Medicine that I didn't receive in acupuncture school. Specifically - what a model of a healthy body and life is. Commonly, we are taught about health through pathologies and what it is to actually be a healthy thriving human being participating in this world is skipped. One can tell a lot about a medical system by their definition of health. According to Tang Dynasty China, where a bulk of his teachings originate, part of being healthy is living in accordance with the cycles around us and taking our cues from nature.
He introduced me to the Tong Shu, an ancient Chinese almanac that divides the year into 2 week periods, or qi nodes, and further into days, hours, and even minutes. It is a guide to the the timing of things. It indicates everything from appropriate and inappropriate times for plantings, weddings, feng shui adjustments, travel, digging a well, initiating austerities, domestic arguments, funerals, difficult physical labor, new ventures, repairing tombs, purchasing property, and much more. The basic idea is that when we follow the guidance of the stars, seasons, and nature's cycles, we are in accordance with universal qi and we maintain health and longevity and inspire success in what we do.
Liu Ming would hold "nourishing within" classes where we would gather in his loft space and he would help us tune into the current qi node. Liu Ming would say, "the first major cause of death is birth. The second is not living in accordance with the seasonal cycles." The classes included his amazing home cooked meals that were based on the current qi node.
He was also a master of Feng Shui and gave people suggestions of how to shape their surroundings. He came to visit my home clinic in Berkeley with the Golden Gate School of Feng Shui and 20 of his students. His observations about my home were invaluable as he showed me ways to harness the qi falling of the hill and channel it into my space to help with, among other things, gestating a strong baby. He encouraged me to get pregnant as soon as possible so I could have a water dragon child. I was pregnant within the month.
When asked for some help writing some text about his life Liu Ming responded, “The thing is: nobody should really be too interested in anybody else’s biography. It’s hard enough trying to find value in our own experience; finding value or meaning in someone else’s story is absurd.”
Liu Ming held strong to the idea that the study of Asian contemplative traditions such as Chinese medicine “is not simply a means to achieve expertise – it is committing to a life-long path of self-cultivation. In Asian traditions, education is not only a method of gaining knowledge, but also of developing empathy and a way to artfully express that empathy in the world.”
Unknowingly, I came to visit Liu Ming a few days before he died. I can only imagine how much physical pain he must have been in at that time. We spoke of many things; a future visit to the Bhutan, some people he would like me to meet, plans for the summer, - as soon as he was feeling better. He was diagnosed with cancer the following day, and died a few days after that.
I remember Liu Ming for his dry sense of humor, his insightful remarks, his vast knowledge on Asian traditions, and his uncanny ability to highlight the wests unconscious commonly held beliefs by offering an alternative perspective. Most especially, however, I remember his deep kindness. Taking the time to write about him brings fresh feelings of grief.
Liu ming was an inspiration to me on the path of self cultivation and helped me align with a pre-communist lineage of Chinese medicine I deeply treasure. I have collected some of my teachings from him in blogs and podcasts. I also hold regular circles that help people wanting a greater sense of ease and health in their lives calibrate with the current season.
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