In 2013, I committed to one thing: the study of botanical medicine. Do one thing, and do it well. Dig a hole deep, not wide. Allow that hole to be your portal to the Universe. Through one thing, connect with all things. This has been my journey of 2013, and now continuing into 2014, and the rest of my life: 


with Plants, with Earth
with Self, Community, and Spirit. 

May you enjoy this photo-diary, a daily ritual of photographing/ observing myself, assembled into contact sheets, and a video here: 

I started this project in December 2005. Thank you to all the people who have touched, and continue to touch, my life! Blessings on all your intentions and projects for 2014, this brand new year of the horse! Gallop away, with steady reins, bright laughter, and a gentle yet powerful wind to guide you! 


我二零零六年十二月開始天天給自己拍照一張大頭照。 以下是2013年天天拍的自拍。 我今年專心的在森林裡創自己的世界,陪老師學藥草療愈,和深入的去了解人體,自然世界,和靈體的關係和技巧。 感恩我生活中所有的老師,朋友,和學生們。祝福大家馬年快樂, 事事如意!
敬, 基玲


Vitalist reflections

(This was our first homework assignment for the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism. I enjoyed writing this paper, though I labored over the creation of it for many days. I am sharing it, in the hopes that it is useful to some of you! Green blessings, from herb school. Let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, reflections, etc. Thanks for reading!) 


I practiced chi-gong for five hours a day in Taiwan at this time, last year. I spent three years around Asia, primarily in Taiwan, immersing myself in my ancestors’ culture, studying Chinese Medicine and other ancient Asian healing modalities. Those experiences are still at the forefront of my consciousness, so reading these Vitalist texts made me think of a lot of those years of experiential education. Below, I will make some comparisons.

Describing Vital Power feels like describing Tao: one can use all the words in the world, and never be able to fully describe it. For, it is everything and nothing, it is seen and unseen, it is beyond words. Even just to say, “It just is,” is too much.

In Chinese, we call Vital Power “chi.” In yoga, we call it “prana.” Chi and prana are both the primary motivating force behind the body-mind-emotions-spirit self in Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. Diseases are manifestations of obstructions to the natural energy flow of the body.

Each person is born with a certain constitution, certain tendencies. The natural state of the world is entropy, so we tend towards imbalance with our innate constitutions. Balance is health: a balance between the different elements that compose our body-mind-emotional-spiritual- Self, a balance between our inner and outer worlds. Through balanced diet, exercise, rest, community/ personal time, and work/ play, one builds ones’ health.

Vitalism focuses on a balanced lifestyle for optimum health and life enjoyment. It is preventative medicine, rather than treatment oriented. When needed, medicines/ actions are taken to restore the body to balance, by targeting the source of the issue at hand, instead of just symptomatic relief. Cook defines disease as a gradual destabilization, where one unbalanced point slowly teeters the delicate symmetry of the entire system. With the interrelation of the tissue systems, if one tissue system is off balance, then it may lead to related issues in related tissues.

Food is emphasized as medicine. We are what we eat. How and what one eats is the foundation of ones’ health. In Chinese culture, food energetics are part of the diet. “Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food,” said Hippocrates. Alva Curtis notes that “real medicine, whether in the form of an herb or a food, will increase the energy in the vital centers without working any injury.” It’s better to nourish/ tonify, than to stimulate/ sedate. Use moderation, and treat as necessary, per the individual’s needs, on a case-by-case basis.

My body is material, immaterial, and energetic. It takes a grand choreography of various actions and effects to coordinate this seemingly simple process of typing this paper. Likewise, the breakfast I am currently eating has its own set of molecular and energetic symphonics, which dances with the harmony/ discordance of my bodily-mental-emotional-spirit interplaying being, and affects me. I am affecting, I am affected. I am creating, I am created. I am dying, I am birthed. Moment by moment, all this is happening. To say it is just visible material would be a grand generalization, a blind overlooking of the magic and wonder of being alive. There is a light that shines behind each person’s eyes. When I treat clients, I am treating that light, not just the physical substance of their bodies.

I like what Cook said: Man can never be viewed correctly in his wide relationships, unless his material and immaterial components are considered together. To take cognizance only of his material portion, would be to deal with him as if he were a mere dead animal. To be concerned only with his Vital Force, would be to study him as if he were a spirit.

External agents influence the body, while the Vital Power also acts upon the agents. T. J. Lyle notes that it is important to “differentiate between a normal vital effort, a vital effort resisting disease, and a vital effort under the influence of remedial measures,” and to “carefully differentiate between the disease and the efforts of the vital force in resisting disease.” Differing effects of medicines with differing constitutions must also be noted. “Always let the remedy correspond to the just proportion of the affliction,” said Culpeper. Galen and Culpeper notes herbal energetics by observing medicines’ properties of heat, coldness, dryness, or moisture.

Hippocrates said that, “Whoever is to acquire a competent knowledge of medicine, ought to be possessed of a natural disposition; instruction; a favorable position for the study; early tuition; love of labor; leisure.” In traditional Chinese culture, the doctors usually came from wealthy families. Medicine was passed down like other professions, as a lineage from father to son. Doctors were not just skilled in the healing arts, but they were also well rounded in other ways: as highly aware martial arts practitioners, familiar with feeling chi coursing through their own bodies; artists who write/ draw excellent calligraphy; and home-owners with attention to the beauty, feng shui, and composition of their homes and gardens. Europeans would call them “Renaissance men.” I aspire to be such a well-rounded healer, too. It was said that you can tell the skill of the doctor by the quality of his handwriting and painting. Chinese doctors practiced a variety of skills, including acupuncture, tui na, chi-gong (energy work), bone-setting, cupping, moxibustion, and more. It’s said that the meridians were originally “discovered” by martial artists practicing chi-gong, who felt the energy coursing through their bodies, and decided to map it!

Hippocrates further notes that “instruction in medicine is like the culture of the productions of the earth.” Chinese medicine and Ayurveda also draw correlations between the natural world and our bodies and health. Taoist practices draw energy from the Earth through the bottom of the feet. Practicing outside is encouraged, as thousands still practice today in parks across Taiwan and China. “Chi” (氣) doesn’t just mean the Vital Force. The word literally translates tobreath.” It is part of and ties us together with all of existence. Breathing the natural air outdoors is said to enliven chi, similar to the Vitalist practices we do that engage with nature. According to Aristotle, “From the moment the breath receives its first beginning, all the other drives flow out from it.

Rocky Mountains