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A Balanced Way: Daoist Tips for 21st Century Living: Simplify, Simplify

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 153 - December 2008

"We fritter away our lives in detail-simplify, simplify."
Henry Thoreau

Butting Out

Modern life lacks simplicity, and can be complicated and disempowering. Governments interfere in our lives and regulate our housing, our food, the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Political and economic interferences help to create frantically competitive and stressful working and living environments along with environmental catastrophes, wars, terrorist attacks, rising levels of crime. In this highly detailed and hectic urban 21st century environment riddled with interferences is it possible to live a simple Daoist lifestyle?

To live simply in a complex world we firstly need to cultivate an attitude of butting out of others' business. We may not be able to change the interfering behaviour of politicians but we can alter our own attitudes, and like ripples spreading outwards we will create a knock-on effect globally. To judge others, to give unasked for advise is to complicate both our own lives and theirs. You may not like the way someone lives their life but it is their experience not yours. Remind yourself of this, and allow them to be as they are. Affirm 'As I am able to handle life so can he/she'.

And in the same way when you feel judged by others remind yourself that everyone is free to have an opinion, but their opinion will not interfere with you as you are. You have nothing to prove or achieve - you are fine just as you are. Affirm 'All is well as it is'. As you mind your own business your life becomes simpler, your Chi flourishes and the flow impacts positively on the larger world.

Creating a Healthy Environment 

To live simply we need to create an uncluttered layout in the home. Clutter interferes with the flow of Chi - it interferes with the natural current of energy - blocking and dissipating it. A neat and clean environment will help you to cultivate a sense of wellbeing. Stop using chemical cleaning agents and DIY products that affect the central nervous system and whose waste products pollute the planet.  An ionizer and plenty of spider plants help improve your air quality, and by keeping your own environment simple and healthy you contribute towards keeping the global environment unpolluted.

If you enjoy the technological revolution and make use of powerful electromagnetic radiation (EMR) fields, generated by mobile and cordless phones, wireless technology, power lines, and microwave ovens, then invest in an 'electro smog' detector and find out where the EMR fields in your home are unacceptably high. Computers, televisions and other household gadgets give off extremely low frequencies (ELF), all of which can generate heat when used for long periods of time, but there really isn't a concern with these appliances, unless you are very close to them for several hours at a time. On the other hand, there is a high risk of ill health when we overuse the technology that emits high levels of EMR. Furthermore, this type of technology uses digital signals, and their pulsing seems to cause biological stress, suppressing our immunity and increasing our risk of disease.

Living simply does not mean you have to head for the hills and live 'off grid'. Take a daily walk in your local park, or spend time in your garden absorbing the Chi in nature. Minimize the polluting effects of chemicals and EMR fields - keep your carbon footprint small and allow the Chi to flourish and flow.

Simple Food and Drink

Finally, live simply by eating food that has not been altered and interfered with. Advertising on behalf of food manufacturers encourages us to consume food and drink that can harm our health. Saturated and trans fats, refined foods, additives, preservatives, flavourings, excess salt - these foods have no place in a simple diet. Trust your intuition and select from a well-balanced, mostly vegetarian diet, food that you sense will do you good. Most importantly, we all need to ensure that our organs are not overburdened with too much food and drink. Here is a blood purification formula that can be diluted and drunk freely when you are on a detox. All ingredients should be found in a Chinese supermarket.


1 part all heal (Ku Cao)
1 part honeysuckle (Jin Yin Hua)
1 part white chrysanthemum (Bai Ju Hua)
3-4 slices licorice root (Gan Cao)

Use a glass or stainless steel saucepan. Use enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring to boil and then simmer until the decoction is half its original volume. Strain, cool and drink. Sweeten if necessary with honey and affirm 'in this way I enjoy the simple life!'


Chan Charles. The Taoists Secrets of Long Life and Good Health. Godsfield Press. 2006.


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About Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna BA Lic Ac trained at The College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Leamington Spa with Professor Worsley from 1981 gaining her Lic Ac. in 1984 and has been practising acupuncture in Scotland since then. Her book A Balanced Way Of Living; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with Post Polio Syndrome is available from 


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