Understanding our chi and our primary nature is important for health and happiness because, despite the availability of vast amounts of advice about never giving up on your dreams, if you’re off your primary nature path, it won’t happen or, if it does, it won’t be paired with health or happiness.
Back in the 90s, when I was lecturing at a college of natural medicine, I drove a hotted-up bright red BMW coupé, lowered so much I couldn’t drive it over speed bumps. It really stood out in the college carpark and I used to get flak for it all the time. Fellow lecturers would make derogatory comments about it, and students would regularly ask me why I drove a car ‘like that’. It seemed you couldn’t be on the spiritual path or into natural health if you were into muscle cars. But I love cars. I always have. I look at cars all the time. It’s not because anyone told me to do this –there is something about cars that just resonates with me. I’d love to be a car salesman, for BMW preferably, and take people out for test drives all day. But I’m not because in Chinese medicine we have a primary nature and a secondary nature. Our primary nature is the one connected to our destiny and the mission we were born with (which, by the way, we all chose to accept). It is known as the ‘will of heaven’. Our secondary nature is human will. The plan is for us to identify and prioritise our primary nature because life will then unfold in accord with the will of heaven and contribute to the good of fellow humans and the planet. Our secondary nature has a role to play too. It is the ‘earth’ to our primary nature’s ‘heaven’, and we do need both because in TCM it’s not heaven or earth; it’s heaven and earth –yin and yang.
A harmonious blend of heaven and earth, or primary and secondary, creates a rich and diverse experience of life. It allows us to be the extraordinary, eccentric individuals we were meant to be. The Dalai Lama is a great example of this. He is undeniably following his primary nature, the will of heaven, benefiting fellow humans and contributing to global harmony, but he also loves watches. He has a collection of these and often wears a $60,000 gold Rolex (a present from Franklin Roosevelt in the 50s). This might seem inconsistent with ‘spirituality’ to some people, but the blend of heaven and earth has nothing to do with consistency or logic. So many people fall into the thinking that it does though. I reckon my next book will be ‘The Monk Who Bought a Ferrari’.
The Hollywood action movie star, Steven Seagal, is another person I find inspirational. He is a Shinto priest and officially recognised as a Tulku (Tibetan incarnate lama) who also makes martial arts movies in which the characters routinely beat each other to a pulp. These are like morality tales in which the stylised violence allows the viewer to get in touch with their own pain. But when I mention my admiration for Seagal, the standard response is usually “How can he be ‘spiritual’ if he is (a) a celebrity and (b) he makes stupid violent movies?”
This kind of dismissal comes from the mind, AKA the enemy of Dao, which all too easily falls into judgment, dogma and analysis. We often apply this thinking to ourselves as well, and then suppress what doesn’t fit in with a preconceived picture of what we should be.But suppression, whether of our primary or secondary nature, creates disharmony between heaven and earth. It is against the Dao as it also suppresses the expansion of the universe. Understanding our primary and secondary natures allows us to ‘nourish our destiny’ and fulfil our cosmic duty. If the Dalai Lama had decided to pursue only his secondary nature, for example, and become, say, a watchmaker, it is unlikely he would have been able to create such positive change in the world. Understanding our primary nature is important for health and happiness too because, despite the availability of vast amounts of new age and success advice about never giving up on your dreams, if you’re off your primary nature path, it ain’t gonna happen or, if it does happen, it won’t be paired with health or happiness.
Our primary purpose is not necessarily obviously spiritual. I had a nourishing destiny session with a client who was a therapist. He had trained in a whole range of alternative health modalities from reiki to Rolfing, and knew all the theories, but couldn’t make a living from it. He was a quick-thinking, competitive, confrontational type, who challenged everything I said. During the session I got a strong picture of him as a successful businessman. It turns out that he had been a corporate lawyer but had become disillusioned with the mercenary nature of the profession and ‘suits’ in general. He had abandoned that career and decided to be a therapist, as he said this was more meaningful. But he was now following a concept (human will); not his destiny (will of heaven). The guy was like a racehorse, but by becoming a therapist, he had put himself out to pasture. When he went back into the legal profession (in legal aid) everything changed. He could direct the adversarial aspect of his nature towards a beneficial outcome. Yogananda described life as ‘a joyous battle’ and we are here to fight, but I’ve also had clients who would tell me that they enjoyed getting drunk and fighting, that it felt good to hurt others; so they believed that fighting was their primary nature. Not quite –none of us is here to harm others because this is against the Dao (our mission always contributes to the overall good of everyone and everything). If you derive pleasure from inflicting pain on others, whether in a street brawl or in making negative comments about people behind their backs, you are trying to express your own pain, and this often comes from not knowing who you are or what you are here for. Understanding your primary nature and nourishing destiny will change this.
Most of us think that, if you love something, or are good at something, it’s what you should be doing, but that’s not necessarily the case. Not so long ago I treated a dedicated musician who believed it was his destiny to be a great performer. He loved music but he had struggled hard for years and years without ever getting the recognition or record deal he wanted. His albums didn’t sell and he was envious of successful musicians. In the sessions with him I identified his primary nature as ‘educator’ and helping others to unleash their creativity through music. So he joined a band for his own pleasure, and set up a music tuition business as his primary concern. He got real satisfaction from seeing his students develop their skills and said it ‘felt so right’. The business did well too. Primary nature is the will of heaven, it is chi, and the ‘chi of heaven’ always equals success. That’s what they call the ‘promise of chi’. Um, this doesn’t mean it is going to be easy though –it wasn’t meant to be (the late Malcolm Fraser got that right).
Because the will of heaven is chi, it is also connected to continuous, creative, evolutionary change, and change is never easy. The musician didn’t need to make a big change, it was really a shift of focus, but for others prioritising primary nature may entail a major lifestyle or career change. On the upside, it’s way easier to do this in Australia than in other places. In Germany, we are railroaded into a career from teenage years and are expected to stay with that until retirement. Australia is the lucky country in terms of opportunities to change; so make the most of this. But first you need to know which is the right way to go, and to feel certainty about direction in life you need to add chi. To work with clients on nourishing their destiny, I first put myself into a chi-altered state, but if you get into chi yourself, you will be guided in the right direction.
I bring a chi teacher, Jessica, along on my chi cycle retreats who is a great example of this. She was a high living hard partying radio celebrity in the 90s, who then crashed with severe depression, fibromyalgia and OCD. She was looking down the barrel of heavy duty medication for life, and the loss of a career she loved and believed was her destiny. When she discovered chi and started following the chi cycle though, her symptoms became controllable. She saw that radio was not her primary purpose and a new future opened up. She became hooked on chi, started studying under renowned Chinese masters, discovered amazing chi techniques for everything from stress and anxiety to listening. She also travelled to China to bring ‘chi seeds’ back from ancient temples. She has been following the chi cycle lifestyle for ten years and understands her primary purpose as sharing her knowledge and insight into chi.
Well now you might be thinking, ‘Oh here we go, Jost is banging on about chi again’. The thought crossed my mind too as I wrote this, because even though I might start out inspired to write about cars, or celibacy, addiction, depression, destiny or anti-ageing, inevitably I end up writing about chi. This is because chi is the key to everything.You can know who you are and what you are here for with chi, you can reverse ageing with chi, you can heal or manage your symptoms with chi, you can get high on chi. It is free and you can feel it instantly! Chi allows us to remember our primary nature, and it gives us the power and conviction to pursue this and to enjoy our secondary nature too. So forget other people’s opinions, don’t compromise yourself for beliefs, assumptions or ideas. Be real, express every part of yourself and remember, you are not here to be normal you are here to be cosmic, extraordinary, creative and contradictory.
Jost Sauer is a registered acupuncturist and motivational speaker who runs international chi-cycle retreats. He is author of Higher and Higher, Drug Repair That Works and The Perfect Day Plan (published by Allen and Unwin). His new book, The Rebel’s Guide to Recovery (published by Centre of Dao) is out now.
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