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The charismatic author of Reflections of the Moon on Water brings her years of experience in the healing wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine to show how Western women can achieve lifelong health, beauty and wellness.
From the moment we first become self-conscious about our looks, most of us want to appear young and beautiful. For some, the pursuit of beauty extends to lotions, potions and the surgeon's scalpel. But Xiaolan Zhao believes the ultimate source of beauty is health and well-being.
In this wise and important book, Dr. Zhao talks about inner and outer beauty, using personal stories, anecdotes and case studies from her TCM practice. She also covers the fundamentals of beauty, preventing and treating skin damage, caring for sensitive skin, the benefits of acupuncture, helpful non-surgical procedures, and nutrition. With a special emphasis on women's health and beauty issues, the book covers a plethora of relevant topics, such as baby skin problems, acne in adolescence and beyond, rosacea, eczema, allergies and rashes, skin cancer, wrinkles.
Providing a foreword, as well as thoughtful commentary and information on Western medical views, is dermatologist Dr. Sandy Skotnicki. Dr. Skotnicki first met Xiaolan as a patient, and the two doctors discovered they had many common interests and concerns regarding lifelong health and beauty.
What's more, there is an invaluable reference section featuring TCM and traditional treatments for a wide variety of conditions, including recipes for salves and infusions that you can make at home using ingredients purchased at a Chinese apothecary or from a TCM practitioner.
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DR. XIAOLAN ZHAO was working as a Western-trained surgeon in China when she became interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and decided to go back to school to earn a degree in TCM. After immigrating to Canada in the late 1980s, she opened a TCM clinic in Toronto. Since then, her practice has grown to over 12,000 devoted patients.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
One day, when I was four years old, my grandmother brought me to her workplace—a factory that was making traditional Chinese painted wooden suitcases. This must have been during the school holidays, because many of the factory’s employees had their small children with them at work that day. I, grandmother’s little princess, was perched on a ladder beside her, happily eating my lunch as I “supervised” her work.
Next to us, her colleague’s six-year-old son was watching jealously. He wanted that ladder, and I was in the way. Sneaking up behind me, he suddenly pushed me hard. In one terrifying moment, my happiness dissolved into terror as my spoon caught my lip and gashed it deeply; it began to bleed profusely.
At that moment, I believed my grandmother must have had three hands: in the very instant that she grabbed me to staunch the bleeding, she stopped her colleague from beating her son and enfolded the little miscreant in her free arm. “Don’t punish him. He didn’t mean to hurt her. Can’t you see how afraid he is? Don’t worry, little man, the doctor will be able to help Xiaolan.”
I began to howl even more loudly. She should have been protecting me and punishing him, not comforting him! The outrage was worse than the pain!
When we returned from the hospital, where they had repaired my lip (five stitches!), the little boy and his mother were waiting for us. The mother had brought congee (rice porridge), knowing that I would not be able to eat solid food with my injured mouth. The little boy apologized with real sincerity, and he was always my friend after that.
My grandmother’s compassion and forgiveness changed that boy, and me along with him. She lived in the moment, and always saw the opportunity in mistakes. Sometimes I run my tongue over the little bump that has remained on my lower lip all my life and earned me the nickname “little meat lip” from my sisters. It always reminds me of the inner beauty and wisdom that shone in my grandmother’s face, and I am sure that her spirit is with me.
Happy people never count hours as they pass. —Chinese proverb
As a small child, I thought my grandmother was the most beautiful woman on earth; this has shaped my idea of beauty all my life. She gave me unconditional love and acceptance, drawing on her vast store of wisdom as she raised me from shortly after birth to the age of six. She cared for me and my three older siblings during this period when the Communist Chinese government had ordered my parents to live elsewhere—my father to work in another city and my mother to do hard labour on a re-education farm.
In this formative period of my early childhood, my grandmother was the only parent I knew. Like parents everywhere, she was determined that my life would be easier than hers had been. She protected me from harm and from the judgment of others— especially children, who can be so cruel—no matter what I did. Although I did not always understand that she was doing this, she always accepted who I was at every stage of my life.
I feel her presence every day. Remembering her “being” is deeply moving to me—especially in light of her own early childhood of intense suffering. You see, my grandmother was one of the last wave of little Chinese girls to endure the horrors of bound feet. In 1908, when she was three years old, she was subjected to the systematic breaking and putrefaction of the soft bones and flesh of her feet in order to turn them into three-inch “golden lotuses”—the standard of beauty for upper-class women. As a result, for the rest of her life, she could walk only in great pain. The sad irony that foot-binding was outlawed in 1912, just four years later, meant that she would be marked in the eyes of the Communist regime as one of those who should be forced to work even harder because of their suspect origins. The women who lived through these times learned tremendous discipline and devotion to their families and to each other, channelling their suffering into love and selfless support for others.
On my parents’ return from their time away from us, they were horrified to find that I, their youngest child whom they barely knew, had become “wild grass”—fearless, free and happy. In those difficult and repressive times, they were afraid I might do something that could place me—and possibly my entire family— in danger. I had no such sense of imminent danger, since my grandmother had sheltered me completely from harm and allowed me to develop freely under her protective wing.
Hatred corrodes the vessel in which it is stored. —Chinese proverb
My grandmother’s life was one of great hardship in many ways. And yet she found beauty in every moment. She accepted her life as it was; she did not fight its reality, dwell in the past or project into the future. She was intensely present and conscious of the universe and her place in it. On market days around the full moon, she would practise the old Buddhist custom of awareness and compassion, buying fish, eels or birds to release into the wild to give thanks. She believed that each of these animals had its own spirit, which was at one with humans and the universe as a whole. At the full moon and the new moon, her diet was vegetarian for three days. Every day, she burned incense and prayed for the health of the whole family. She was unburdened with anger and bitterness from the past.
To me, my grandmother was the living embodiment of the Chinese characters you see at the beginning of this chapter, which mean both “inner beauty” and “inner wisdom.” Although nothing I have experienced in my life can compare to footbinding, I am filled with admiration and gratitude for my grandmother’s love and her acceptance of the family’s destiny, which prepared me for the challenges I would face.
Today in my practice, I encourage my patients to achieve this state of acceptance, from which a peaceful and balanced life flows. I find that those who are able to move in this direction inevitably heal more quickly than others. Alice, a diminutive woman of Russian origin, is one such patient. She has shown great courage and acceptance.
Alice had lived for a number of years with vitiligo, an autoimmune disease that destroys skin pigmentation in spreading patches. I asked her how she had managed to accept her condition so gracefully. She told me that she had learned the concept of acceptance through something that had happened many years previously. Alice and her husband had emerged from a children’s hospital with their nine-year-old son, freshly diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes. Her husband was very upset at this news. He was thinking of the rest of his son’s life—first under the constant parental monitoring of his insulin levels and injections, and then, later on, under the restrictions this might impose on his future, as he would have to take over his own care.
As they were leaving the hospital and experiencing this intense emotion, they ran into a friend. When they told her their news, she said, “You are so fortunate! Your son will be able to manage his diabetes and live a normal life. But our neighbour’s son is dying of cancer, and there is nothing to be done.”
Alice and her husband immediately realized that their friend was right. They accepted their diabetic son’s condition and moved on, ensuring that he had a normal, active and happy life. Through their example, their son also accepted his condition and learned to manage it cheerfully and competently. Their son’s doctor even asked Alice to speak to another Russian-speaking mother who was having great difficulty accepting her daughter’s diabetes.
This experience made it much easier, when the time came, for Alice to accept her vitiligo as a simple cosmetic problem without real consequences. As her skin lost its pigmentation, it became as soft and smooth as a baby’s, and its patchiness dissolved into one creamy colour. Unlike other patients who do not accept their disease and fight it by going to tanning salons or submitting to cosmetic procedures, Alice suffered no depression or pain. Her husband gave her unwavering support; he called her “Honey Leopard” and told her every day that he loved her and found her beautiful, supporting her healing process as much as he could.
IMPERMANENCE Late one night a few years ago, the phone rang and woke me. Rarely does a late-night call bring good news: when my sister gently broke the news that my grandmother had died, I immediately felt a great sense of loss. Never again would her luminous eyes meet mine or her kind smile reassure me that all was well; never again would I be able to snuggle into her comforting warmth and listen to the endless stories that I loved so much, or caress her lined face and laugh with her.
“What happened?” I sobbed. “Was she ill? Did she suffer?” In her calm voice, my sister assured me that our grandmother had not suffered. On the contrary, she had prepared and served a joyous Friday dinner with the family and gone to bed serene and happy. The next morning, she had risen early, bathed herself and changed into brand-new clothes. Then she had gone to bed and never woken up. The cleaning lady had found her, peaceful and beautiful as ever, the incense still burning on the table beside her bed. My sister comforted me: “Grandmother has returned to her original home.” Through my tears, I began to feel calmer too. I knew my sister was right.
My grandmother’s earthly form has dissolved, but her inner beauty lives on in me and in everyone who knew her. Her essence is forever. In contrast to the beauty that emanated from every atom of my grandmother’s being, external beauty is truly impermanent. One of my long-time patients, Laurie, told me a st...
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