Orange Juice and Hermits

Hermit Cave On Ching Cheng ShanI grew up arguing every night at the dinner table. For the most part it was an edifying and respectful experience. This kind of intensive educational model is pretty rare world-wide (except in Israel where it is the norm).

We also drank orange juice with our dinner which is a real "no-no" in Chinese medicine, mainly because your spleen will reject all the highest quality nutrients in favor of the simple sugars. The rejected foods still get digested but your body needs to create more heat to digest these higher quality nutrients once they have been passed on to the large intestine. The result is that your body takes on fluids in order to insulate the other organs from all the heat. Orange juice makes most people gain body weight in water, edema. (After years it becomes the syndrome known as "damp heat.")

However; I don't think drinking orange juice had a negative effect on my health, most kids are pretty resilient as long as they are getting enough food.

But there was one strange effect. Now if I drink orange juice with a meal, even breakfast, I'll get in an argument. I become completely posessed by my ancestors. Generally I believe things like this can be overcome with will power, but in this case I have no control. If I'm alone, I'll argue with a chair.

One of my students sent me this email:
I wrote down what we just talked about because I didn't want to forget it. Then I wondered if I'd really understood correctly. So if this does not look like what you meant, could you let me know.

My Question: Should one practice differently on different days? For example should some days be longer, more in-depth etc?

Your Answer: There are two Wuwei approaches:

1) Practice at the same time, same place, same duration, same stuff. The difference will still be there; it will be made apparent with a backdrop of sameness.
2) Hermit method: move with the qi of the moment. Practices will vary significantly.

There are also two De or "virtuous perfection" approaches:

1) Urban – Do many discrete experiments with one's practice so that you will achieve certain and specific fruitions. This could include the calendar (tongshu), food, intensity, etc. But it will include record keeping of some sort, as experiments involve constant evaluation and recalibration to produce fruition.
2)Hermit method: Could involve calendar, detailed seasonal correspondence. Embodying and exploring the qi of various events (like grass sprouting or mushrooms coming up). Records will also be kept for the same purpose.

Follow up question: Is the difference between the hermit and urban methods, the level of detail and in-depth relation with natural environment?

Now in my family, if after a long discussion someone were to restate my argument in crystal clear and respectful terms, there is a good chance that they would be on the verge of delivering a fatal blow.

But putting that possibility aside, this question shows the difficulty of communicating Daoist view and practice with words.

The Dark MareThe key thing to digest here is that the wuwei view does not require analysis. By asking the question you are already in the de (perfection, integration, improvement) camp. [note: De is often translated "virtue," it is the de used in the title of the Dao De Jing.]

The wuwei hermit method is called "The Wandering of the Mare." Living around other people means having to coordinate with their schedules and that is antithetical to constant spontaneity.

The wuwei view suggests that practice is self-revealing, it doesn't require any discipline other than trusting your appetites.

Yes, the difference between the urban and the hermit models of de (perfection) is one of detail and depth. But it is also a difference of scale.

The urban perfection seeker is very playful and creative. The fact that I spent many years doing a 20 minute Japanese Tea Ceremony in my elevated gold-painted elixir-dedicated Quiet Room before leaving the house, means that now when I walk into Starbucks I'm getting an enormous hit of mythic transcendence--office furniture and paper cups are not obstacles.

The hermit version of perfection studies is so big, complex, and refined that I'll have to save it for another post. (That's a joke.)