Like everything else, power is a two-sided coin. It can be coercive and oppressive, but it can also be empowering and nurturing. And according to ancient Chinese texts, true authority is based on ethical inspiration rather than coercion. As physicians, we are in a position of authority—not by claiming the power, but by earning it from competence in our trade.

Our position of influence demands that we use our expertise and influence to help others—and this starts from our own mastery of yangsheng. People will willingly follow someone with virtue; de.

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.”

—Lao Tzu

In this conversation with Sabine Wilms, we explore the complex dynamics of power and the idea of a virtuous hierarchy borne out of the authority of competence. We also bat around the inadequacies of translations and the limitations of language. And as a storyteller at heart, Sabine weighs up the concept of yangsheng using some popular Chinese teaching tales.

Listen into this discussion on mastering the art of yangsheng (養生) as a practitioner, the role of virtue de (), medical ethics, the dynamics of power, and stepping into your ming ().

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • Questioning as an important lifelong learning skill
  • A quest for harmony – from conflict to collaboration
  • Understanding “Virtue” from an ancient Chinese route
  • Virtuous hierarchy: The authority of having competence
  • The story of Butcher Ding and learning the art of yangsheng 養生 “nurturing life”
  • The difference between cultivation and the fruit/flower of cultivation
  • How is it that translation is not adequate?
  • Language as a helpful but limited lens into human experiences: Chinese language vs. Western language
  • Cultivating virtue and getting rid of whatever holds you bac.
  • The story of “Pulling up rice shoots to help them grow”
  • Cultivating flood-like Qi
  • The transformative power of Yin and making peace with the word “power”
  • Stepping into your ming

Even though I may be in deep trouble, I will not lose my Virtue. It is during the coldest time of year, when frost and ice are upon us, that the vigor of the pine and cypress becomes apparent. How fortunate I am for these dire straits I find myself in! —Zhuang Zi

I have a serious academic background, with a PhD in East Asian Studies and Medical Anthropology, but I have always been more interested in exploring the practical applications of what I read, study, and translate, both for myself and for clinicians. I consider myself a practitioner of Chinese medicine in the true and grand sense of “medicine” as expressed in the Chinese classical literature: the harmonizing of Heaven and Earth in our pivotal role as humans.

I love to teach and share my understanding of traditional Chinese medicine and of classical Chinese culture, philosophy, literature, and religion, with modern practitioners and students. I am happy as a clam in my home on magical Whidbey Island north of Seattle where I write, translate and publish (as Happy Goat Productions), mentor students (as Imperial Tutor), and go for a blissful swim in the sea when my brain needs a break.


Links and Resources

For information on her offerings, books and classes visit Sabine on her website, and if you're interested in mentoring or learning Chinese visit her at the Imperial Tutor


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