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China Daily Website

Staying level headed not easy

Updated: 2013-07-19 17:34
By Mike Peters ( China Daily)


My head is not connected to my body.

This was a surprise to learn — at the age of fifty-something. I had never noticed.

But since Chinese New Year, when I resolved to live a healthier life and to explore the possibilities of non-Western medicine, I have gotten the same diagnosis three times.

“Hmmmm,” said Dr Wang Yuntao of Beijing’s Dongwen TCM Clinic after giving me a Traditional Chinese Medicine physical exam. After strapping a few electrodes to me and letting his analytical machine do its work, we studied a page of about 12 graphs that plotting my health organ by organ.

The graph for my lungs and “heart cover” was mostly black. There was a hurried consultation with his colleague in Chinese, and then the translation: Stress. “We think you need some meditation classes,” he said.

A week later, I was having an acupuncture treatment with Dr Karen Himlock, a South African who has a 10-year homeopathic practice in Beijing.

“Are you feeling any of this?” She frets after a half-hour of prodding and needlework. “You have good energy flow in your upper body (good news), but I don’t sense that your mind is with it (bad news).”

Maybe, she suggests, my mind is already on the story I want to write and not the experience itself. Maybe. It’s an occupational hazard for journalists.

The next week I’m off to explore an alternative therapy that originated in Europe: Sand play.

My Chinese roommate had recently come home agog over this: You’re put in a room with a tabletop sandbox. There is a wall full of shelved plastic toys, from space ships to tea sets to a fetching pink hippopotamus. There is a small pail of water in case you want to play in mud instead of sand. And you are left alone for about one hour to “create”, or do whatever you want.

I spend 10 minutes doodling with my fingers. I drew a house. I drew the cartoon character Alfred E. Neuman. I draw a slice of watermelon. Then I start poking around among the animal toys, and also find a sailing ship that seemed like an errant Noah’s Ark among the creatures.

Soon I had wiped away the house and Alfred and the watermelon and created the Bible story scene in the sandbox, lining up the animals two by two. The pink hippo and her mate got front row seats on the ark — and the parade ended with two dinosaurs and two humans.

The trained psychologists were fascinated that I put the people last. Do you think you are one of the people? Do you have a great need for security? Where’s Jesus?

I just liked the toys. Really.

“This seemed hard for you,” said Juan Li, one of the observers at Clever Room. “You seemed tense.” Like any diligent patient, I head off for a fourth opinion.

My last stop on the alternative medicine trail is the massage clinic of Liu Qing. He doesn’t speak much English, but every time I come for a treatment he musters one word over and over.