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Choosing Your Own Direction

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 192 - March 2012


The five colours blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavours dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.
Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this.

Slavishly Following
Recently rioters in London and other cities across the UK set light to buildings, looted shops and hijacked vehicles. Most of these rioters were young people who seem to have grown up without any positive role models to help them develop into adults who think for themselves and act responsibly. Many were gang members - the gang and its leader taking the place of positive adult influences that might impart a sense of direction to the lives of these youngsters.

image for My Way

When I was in my mid-twenties, in the nineteen seventies, like many others I followed a guru and was a member of a cult. My teacher gave me a sense of direction and brought a sense of meaning and purpose into my life. I observed though that many devotees were extremely dependent on the guru and asked his opinion on every aspect of their lives, often slavishly following his instructions. Sometimes it seemed to me that if they were told to jump off a cliff by him they would do it. Eventually I realized that, as much as the group gave me a sense of belonging, I was losing the ability to trust my own inner wisdom - I was no longer connecting to the Spiritual part of myself. Like any gang member anywhere, I was no longer aware of my inner sense of direction.

Finding and trusting the centred and calm place within yourself is the crux of Daoist practice. As much as it is important to be open to the views of others, the only directive ultimately worth following is that which comes from your own inner wisdom. Why though do we seek to follow others? On a small scale - from slavishly following a guru to a nation being in thrall to a dictator -  why are we humans so easily influenced?

In the Daoist view the inability to 'be a light unto yourself' and have the confidence and will to tread your own path is due to a disharmony between the elements of Fire and Water. The organ associated with Fire is the Heart, and it is this that gives us a sense of control and confidence in our decision-making process. The organs associated with Water are the Kidneys; they enable the will to be activated. If Fire and Water are out of balance and not in harmony with each other, then you can find yourself easily led, unable to say 'no', no longer in command of your own life.

Most of us are encouraged from birth onwards to listen to our 'elders and betters' and do as we are told. We often grow up overly obedient to authority (as citizens or gang members!) and unable to tune in and listen to the inner whispers of the teacher embedded deeply within our Hearts - our intuition. If you find you are unable to hear these whispers and instead are only trusting the opinions of others, always asking family or friends for their advice, then it may be that you need to restore harmony to Fire and Water and bring the Heart and Kidneys back into balance with each other. In this way you can tune in again to your inner teacher - the wisdom that resides in your Heart and use the energy of your Kidneys - your will - to put that wisdom into action. As Lao Tzu says; "Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees. He lets go of that and chooses this."

Guided by Sounds
Inner guidance and a healthy will can be cultivated by using healing sounds. Daoists noted that when a particular organ was out of balance, the sounds of distress that were made (whimpering / moaning) were the same for all people regardless of their spoken language. It was from these observations that a system of healing sounds was eventually created called "Six Healing Sounds".

To make the Kidney sound, take a deep breathe and purse the lips as though blowing out a candle at a distance. Breathe out and gently make the sound "FOOOOOOOOOOOO". In this way you increase the flow of Kidney energy and the energy of the rest of the internal organs. After each exhalation, breathe in deeply and imagine a bright blue energy gently entering the Kidneys, calming and healing them. Then begin again with the exhalation while making the "FOOOOOOOOOOOO" sound.

To make the Heart sound take several deep breaths, close your eyes and focus awareness on your Heart. Tilt your head back and whilst looking up make the sound HAWWWWWWWWWWW (as in Hawk) upon exhalation. Imagine the Pericardium - the protective sheath around the Heart releasing any distorted or negative energy. As you breathe in, imagine your Heart opening and a rosy pink energy entering in. Then exhale HAWWWWWWWWWWW again.

Practise these sounds each twelve times daily to help open the Heart and Kidneys to cultivate guidance and direction in your life. Affirm after practising "I am listening to the inner wisdom of my Heart and know that my Kidneys have the strength of will to act on my Heart's guidance."


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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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