By Dr. Yaron Seidman D.A.O.M and Emily Horning
Each practitioner of medicine at some point should stand before the question of “Why do I practice Medicine?” Invariably, the noblest of answers arrives at helping others, or preserving Life. We see disease, pain and obstruction and want to relieve ourselves and others from this suffering. The challenge remaining is, however, how to do this in the best and most effective way.
To relieve suffering and preserve life cannot be achieved solely through external means. Examination and learning must turn inwards; not only observing the myriad but also contemplating the one principle penetrating nature and life. This ‘one’, also called Heaven’s nature in Hunyuan medicine, can only be realized through turning inside and examining the Heart. The Practitioner wields a Medicine from within, connected to the Heart and thereby Heaven. This is Heart cultivation and Xinfa. Xinfa is the path of Heart examination and of investigating inward, finding the heaven’s nature within.
“A person who practices the Heart method does not require herbal tonics to maintain their health. Practicing cultivation is a tonic for the Heart."
In the womb, our heart is at unity with the mother and is full of heaven’s nature, a desire-less state. This is called Center or root. At this state, we exist because we are truly and physically connected to our mother, our heart requires no desires. Life, at this stage, is pure Heaven’s nature, whereas the body is not exposed to the external material world. However, after birth, a fully grown baby body begins discharging movement from the Center to trigger desires. It creates a fully active heart discharging energy as emotions. Here, the Heart has separated from its prenatal state, which is one with Heaven’s nature. The unity is no longer intact, but opens and enters into the external material world thereby expressing heaven’s nature as thoughts, actions, and movements throughout life. This expression, however, is also its demise, as these necessary openings are using the heaven’s nature contained within. If life is a circle repeating itself in a constant motion, with each heart discharge from Center, we gradually reach the end of our allocated revolutions. The circle no longer reaches an apex but becomes a single line. The importance of this realization to medicine is explained by the Huai Xuan master Liu Baigu as follows:
"When a patient catches a cold, for example, the physician should administer herbs for the outer problem. Yet at the same time, through careful investigation, they must find out what else may impact the situation in the patient's Heart. Then they adjust the movement of the Heart to influence the ailment in a positive way."
"Aside from a few pains and aches that the physical body endures from external factors, most of physical diseases are born from the seven emotions going astray."
So how does a person become sick when the heart goes astray?
The human heart’s developmental stages include a state of unity before birth and while inside the womb. In this phase the baby’s heart and the mother’s heart share the same center, the baby is entirely dependent on its mother to keep alive. At birth the baby’s heart must transform from a state of unity to a state of dichotomy. It must change from a state where everything is delivered on its own through the umbilical chord, to a dichotomous state in the outside world, where the heart must discharge desires, likes and dislikes in order to survive. When the energy runs low in the baby’s body he dislikes it and this triggers energetical motion as emotions, which in turn leads to a physical motion such as breathing or crying. When this need for energy is fulfilled the feeling of like sets in and the baby can exhale or stop crying. These ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ are called together the basic dichotomy of the heart’. In Hunyuan Xinfa medicine it is called the warrior. It is an instinctive mechanism designed to protect the human life.
As the formative years unfold through childhood and adolescence the heart basic dichotomy is shaped differently, each according to the circumstances surrounding them. This ends up many years later as the “character” of one’s person. Some people react calmly while other with explosiveness.
For a practitioner, in Hunyuan Xinfa medicine, the first task is to evaluate if the patient’s heart dichotomy is proper or not proper. A proper dichotomy means that the heart movements, actions or reactions, completely fulfill the warrior’s one and only task; to guard life. In other words, a proper dichotomy guarantees life to its master, the human being. When a dichotomy is improper, or too large, actions and reactions are often excessive, consuming large amounts of energy from the person with little accomplishment. The person often feels that they live in a misfortune, things don’t work the way they should, there is a general sense of unhappiness. On the other hand, when the dichotomy is proper the person often feels satisfied and calm, the heart movements, actions and reactions are often small, unabrupt and are welcomed by the person standing across from them. There is always a general sense of harmony surrounding the person.
The large dichotomy is called in Hunyuan ‘wounded warrior’. This dichotomy does not function well, instead of affording life to the person it makes their lives shorter. Hunyuan practitioners foremost challenge is to first recognize their own dichotomy, analyze their heart movements daily and come to realization about their own heart being proper or not. This process is lengthy and requires patience but without it no help could be given to the patient. In other words, just like going to Chinese medicine school, the person must go through training first and then they can become a practitioner. The principle of Xinfa treatment is described as ‘help oneself first and then help the other.’
Xinfa diagnosis in the clinic is difficult and requires a special skill. To explain this difficulty one must first contemplate the dynamics behind relationships. There are two different kinds of relationships between a person and everyone and everything surrounding that person. There are horizontal relationships and vertical relationships. Horizontal relationships are what a person often encounters in their daily activities. The nature of this relationship is mutual, one person interacts with another and there is a mutual benefit generated from this interaction. This could be between husband and wife, brothers and sisters, friends and strangers. Another type, however, is a vertical relationship. In such a relationship one side is only giving and the other end is only receiving. There is a one way transmission from one side of the relationship to the other. This kinds of relationships are typical between parents and children, teachers and students and doctors and patients. Even though the two kinds of relationships are always mixed together and can never be purely on their own, a clear distinction between the two is necessary.
The difference between passing judgement and helping
Heart dichotomy is by default tuned to a horizontal relationship, this is why instinctively many may feel that parents and children help each other and that students and teachers should be equal and so on. In reality, horizontal understanding of relationships comes to the person easily. The dichotomy naturally wants to practice back and forth giving and taking. What lies behind the dichotomy and even though everyone has it, is hard to detect. When a mother selflessly gives to her baby she is not aware of the vertical relationship that has just transpired, it simply feels natural. Indeed, this is called, in Hunyuan, Heaven’s nature. Everyone has it but has difficulty recognizing it. When it happens it simply happens on its own.
In the clinic, however, being vertical does not happen on its own. Because the patient coming for the first time is a stranger, and with a stranger the dichotomy is naturally horizontal. So it is easy to put an air of a caring doctor, but what is inside the heart is very difficult to change. The patient comes to the doctor and pays fees and they are a stranger to them, an automatic horizontal relationship. At this point and with such circumstances, evaluating the patients heart for being proper or improper is a mere intellectual exercise, and here it called passing judgment. To pass judgement on another person is not a medical affair, most people do it all the time with any training whatever, it is natural for the dichotomy to act like this.
What is needed here is an ability, a skill, to transition from a dichotomous state and horizontal engagement to a state of unity where the duality stops, something which is getting close to the infant inside the womb, who doesn’t really want anything, everything is ok just the way it is. At this point and under such circumstances, the practitioner can change a horizontal relationship into a vertical one. The practitioner only feels that they want to give and help, there is no shred of a stray thought about anything else. Now, the practitioner is ready to help and there is no passing judgement anymore. The practitioner only evaluates if the patient’s heart movement guard their lives or hurt it. This describes the diagnosis process and pre-requirements.
As for treatment, there are different techniques for practitioners to work on themselves and then also offer to patients. However, the real technique of great efficacy begins from the practitioners themselves being able to sort their own heart dichotomy and realize Heaven’s nature within. This exposure to Heaven’s nature affords the practitioner a skill guiding them into the patient’s heart. At this point the words they say and the recommendations they give hit right in center. Otherwise, the practitioner always circulates around the patient’s dichotomy in vein, in what the Huai Xuan doctrine describes as ‘the imaginary world’.
In the process of self-cultivation and finding one’s own dichotomy and Heaven’s nature as well as helping patients do it, there are markers showing progress and the impact is decisive. To describe the progress of becoming aware of Heaven’s nature and dichotomy one uses the following descriptions: becoming friends with the dichotomy, anticipating the dichotomy, making dichotomy proper and reaching Heaven’s nature. The last stage is also called reaching the embryonic heart. In the first two stages one experiences a strong emotional reaction, sometimes leading to tears. In the last two stages there are great transformation to the person. Often times, people around the person comment “you seem different” but they are not sure what. In reality, the dichotomy character of the person changes, it becomes more like their true nature, like Heaven’s nature. The person generally seems satisfied and happy, positive and helpful. In fact, they stop wasting energy on things that don’t really matter for life. They become closer to the source of life and Heaven’s nature, which is of infinite power. This is where, in medicine, “miracles” happen.
The training of Xinfa Heart Method is a lengthy but rewarding one. It is where modern medicine in the 21st century is lacking the most and, therefore, the most promising area for Chinese medicine to add value where no one else can.
 The Huai Xuan is a philosophical school of thought, combining Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism into one doctrine. Started by Liu Yuan in late 18th century in Sichuan, China, who is the great grandfather of Liu Baigu.
Dr. Yaron Seidman DAOM