Desires, mood swings, overwork are the three killers of human longevity.
Just take a look at trees. Do you ever wonder how they live for hundreds, or thousands of years?!
If you are interested in Daoism, holistic health, or just a normal person who wants to live longer…
The following ancient wisdom will help you.
Desires, Mood Swings, Overwork in Daoist texts
There are three texts that I’m referencing in this post.
The first one is titled Classic of Purity and Tranquility. The Wikipedia page states it is an anonymous work from Tang dynasty; however, according to a source from oriental holistic medicine text it was passed down to a grandnephew of one of the original Daoists, Ge Xuan. He was born in 164 CE and lived for 80 years before “vanishing his body” in the middle of the night, becoming immortal!
In this book he instructs Daoist students to practice the elimination of desire in order to cultivate spiritual purity and stillness.
人能遣其慾而心自靜. Let go of our desires and the heart will naturally calm down. 澄其心而神自淸. Purify the heart and Spirit will naturally clarify. 自然六欲不生. Naturally the six lusts (sex, shape, gait, voice, texture, appearance) will not survive. 三毒消滅. The three poisons (greed, anger, ignorance) will be eliminated. 夫人心虛則澄. Emptying our hearts lead to clarity. 坐定則靜. Sitting leads to calmness. 寡言希聽 Do less of talking, hoping, and listening 存神保命. Then our Spirits and lifespans will be preserved.
How well do you control the six lusts?
How often do you taste the three poisons?
The stoics and Daoists alike have been well-versed in calming their desires.
It all starts with clearing our hearts. Setting a proper intention each day to live longer with kindness.
Being content in the present while seeking out knowledge.
In stillness, we receive. The answer is within.
盖多言則損氣. Excessive talking reduces our energy. 多喜則放情. Excessive joy scatters our emotions. 多怒則觸意. Excessive anger affronts our thoughts. 多悲哀思慮則傷神. Excessive sadness and over-thinking damages the Spirit. 多貪慾勞困則傷精. Overworking to exhaustion out of greed damages the Essence
It’s the trinity of oriental philosophy and medicine: Essence, Energy, Spirit.
Avoid overworking to preserve our vital substance that governs all life activities.
Also, abstaining from the six lusts helps to nurture the Essence, as it is particularly related to reproduction.
Depletion of Essence means deformity of our physical body.
Conserve the energy inside our body by keeping it to ourselves.
Preserve the spiritual energy by being emotionally uncharged.
養性之士, 唾不至遠, For those cultivating their characters, do not spit out saliva 行不疾步, 耳不極聽, Do not walk fast, do not listen too deeply 目不極視. And do not look too much. 不欲極飢而食 食不可過飽. Eat before feeling hungry and do not overeat. 不欲極渴而飮, 飮不欲過多. Drink before feeling thirsty and do not drink excessively.
Saliva is referred to as a precious (literally jade) spring water that must be swallowed constantly. Not only does it lubricate the food we chew, it also takes care of our oral hygiene.
Much of the wisdom sounds easy and intuitive, but putting it into practice is another story.
Just the other day I was nearly starving myself, so when it was time for a meal I was ravaging through the food without mindfully digesting it. If I were less hungry, I would’ve had more control over it and stopped when I had just enough of the nourishment. That’s the key – just enough!! With everything in life.
I want to improve my vision, which is difficult to do given the nature of my work, but I intend to rest my eyes a lot more hopefully through sleep and avoiding lights at night.
The second work that we will read is titled Discussion on Cultivating Life, written by third century writer, poet, Daoist philosopher, and musician.
養性有五難. There are five difficulties while cultivating one’s character. 名利不去爲一難. Unable to let go of fame and fortune is the first difficulty. 喜怒不除爲二難. Unable to reduce happiness and anger is the second difficulty. 聲色不去爲三難. Unable to let go of sensual pleasures is the third difficulty. 滋味不絶爲四難. Unable to quit eating delicious food is the fourth difficulty. 神虛精散爲五難. Having a hollow Spirit and scattered Essence is the fifth difficulty. 五者無於胸中, If these five are non-existent in our minds, 則信順日躋, Our faithful obedience will rise each day 道德日全. And our morals will be whole each day. 不祈善而有福. Without praying to become good, we will receive blessings. 不求壽而自延. Without striving to live long, it will happen naturally.
What else can I add? LET GO OF THE DESIRES!
The final passage comes from a Daoist doctor from Tang dynasty who argues that having a perfect diet is still not enough to live long:
雖常服餌, Even if we keep up a good diet, 而不知養性之術 Not knowing the art of cultivating character 亦難以長生也. Will make living long difficult. 養性之道 Dao of cultivating character 常欲少勞, Is to always work less, 但莫大疲及强所不能堪耳. Not reaching over-exhaustion or beyond our endurance
This is what I needed to hear.
Overwork which produces over-stress, which injures us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
So many sages of the past knew the way to “optimize” our health, yet the political and economic structure of societies throughout millennia have designated customs, laws, and order to repress the trinity and cultivate the DEVIANT trinity of desires, mood swings, and overwork.
Ultimately, it is our responsibility to soak in this wisdom and share it with our communities and tribes.
Thank you for reading,
eternal student of life