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


California friends

my mountains, hometown below

 high school art teachers!

college buddies!

hiking tribe... now with children! 



I just changed my blog address from the "jazart" name, into

Happy Holy Days! 

敬, 基玲


dreams made real by living them

once upon a time, 
a woman danced to a man playing banjo
to the setting sun, the autumn harvest, and a huge fire that smelled of apples
she danced to his song, falling in love with the melodic sweetness and playfulness of his fingers caressing his banjo 
he played to her dance, falling in love with the grace of her curves bending and swaying, leaping and spinning, to his twirling tunes
they sat down next to the fire together
to sing more songs together with their extended community 
their eyes catching fire as they caught each other glancing at the other

one night, a few weeks later, he asked to come over to share dinner 
she had just come home from a full day of playing with plant alchemy 
it was dark, and she was tired 
"just jump," whispered her heart,
and so she said to the man,
he came strolling into her forest with both banjo and guitar in hand 
they end up talking for hours and hours,
and just singing a little, right before he leaves 

they continued to meet 
at odd hours 
and in odd places 
eyes gazing deeper 
hearts opening further 

the new moon

(the rest of this story 
is still being written!)

(silhouette photo by Tom) 

Jiling . 林基玲 
  626.344.9140 / 607.262.0302

Humanity on the Train

I keep in touch with at least one person that I've met in every long bus or train journey. So today, I met Dave. I want to write about Dave, because meeting him makes me think of meeting people in general, and of "yuan fen" (緣分), which translates partially as affinity, serendipity, Fate, and magic: it's the red thread of connection that ties us all together, some loosely interwoven, some tightly bound together, and some, like me and Dave today, quickly bumping into each other in fateful and delightful quick bounces of starlight bouncing off of starlight for once, and for eternity. 

I sat on one side of the viewing car, and he sat on the other side. I sat facing the sun, he sat facing the shade. After a whole day of grinning into the sun, I started getting light-headed, and decided to move to the shade. There happened to be an empty seat in an ideal-looking chair between a wall and a cute curly-headed man (Dave), so I moved there to sit. I started some light-hearted banter about how nice it is to be in the sun after being in the snow for so long, and how I over-fried my snowy self today. He asks, "Snow? Where?" and thus we begin sharing our life stories through the lens of our travel experiences: my eight years of wanderings, and his recent embarking on USA adventures and heading into Thailand adventures in a month, on a one-way ticket. 

The details of the conversation are not important to this story, but the delight, connection, and quickly-passed time spent in laughing, sharing, and listening are like bright red prickly pear cactus flowers amidst a dull-colored desert landscape. This experience, and experiences/ conversations like this, stood out for me, amidst a long train ride.

But, not so dull. 
Like the desertscape, or the winterscape, as you look closer, you begin to notice the super-fine and super-fabulous details. 

Here's a brief glimpse into the other characters that colored my 3.5 day train experience across the country: 

I'm currently sitting across the aisle from a loudly snoring woman, Pinky (all people given pseudonyms, to protect their privacy). I admired Pinky from afar, ever since Chicago. She patted me on my back every time she passed me by, saying things like, "You are so beautiful," and, "You have a great life ahead of you!" A bright individual who chatted it up with everyone who came her way, I admired her outgoing nature and positive approach to life. Well, seemingly positive. I bumped into Pinky in the bathroom with tears rolling down her usually smiley cheeks. She spilled out the quick low-down of all the current difficulties of her life, tightly hugging me, and crying. She smelled like alcohol... I learned that we may portray one image to the world, but actually be going through a whole different story in our own lives and minds. 

The person sitting in front of her, Charles, was always waiting with me at the door to leave the train, at every rest stop. He and I were also always the last to get back into the train. He seemed passionate about his cigarettes and cellphone, while I was passionate about walking as far and fast as possible during our limited train-breaks. Turns out we both graduated from the same college, except he is about my father's age, and attended my alma mater before I was born. He had a solid career as an engineer for 30 years, then got burnt out from having two jobs, a family, and sleeping on average of 4 hours a night. He couldn't retire fully and just rest and do nothing, because he would get bored, and resort to alcohol and drugs to fulfill his needs for mental stimulation. So, he started renting houses... and that's what he does, now! Funny how we may have certain ideas about our lives, and certain ways we plan things... and then, life happens. 

The first person I sat next to was Eddie, a jazz musician by heart, a salesman by trade. He's a salesman to make a living, but his true passion is making and listening to music. We had a great heart-to-heart, as well. 

A quicker verbal photograph of some more characters, before I head to sleep (earplugs are in, but Pinky's snores shake the entire train and render me sleepless!): 

- The family of four, mama saying, "Look at how some people live," pointing at the Mexican shacks across the fence border. I play peekaboo with the little girl, and she responds by laughing and calling me, "Friend!" singing, "Jingle Bells" with gusto. 
- The round-bellied older man who called me, "Yoga instructor!" as I led our group of stragglers, almost midnight, to the back end of the train to look for an open door to get back onto the train. "Teach me some moves?" he asked me. 
- The older women who smiled at me as I practiced yoga in the lower compartment of the train. Later, during a train break, I noticed them extending their limbs into Superman pose, and even Warrior pose. 
- The older woman who initially sat across from me. We informed each other when the conductor walked down our aisle, so we could pretend to be asleep, and compared notes about how to keep an open seat next to both of us, to facilitate comfortable sleeping at night. She couldn't get over our train being late, and kept asking about the time. 
- The mama who initially sat next to me in the Viewing Car. She asked me what I was studying. I said just one word, "Herbalism." She said, "Oh, that sounds interesting..." then launches into a lengthy monologue about all her children, the job that she just retired from, how proud she is of her children, etc. A whole life story, unasked for, but still touching. Like Pinky, she just needed to be heard. 
- The young man from Long Beach who wore sunglasses, because his eyes were too sensitive to the light, and he couldn't fall asleep, because the train was too exciting, the light too intense, the sounds all too loud. He said, "Hey, you're a pretty Asian girl," then, after looking me up and down as I tried not to laugh, gaging whether or not he was for reals, "I could fall for a pretty Asian girl like you." He's serious. I admire his easy way of chatting with different people, and don't need to set boundaries around not wanting a hot train date. 
- The two military veterans who talked with each other at length about their battle scars. I was surprised and frightened to hear one say that he thought the best way to "deal with the Mexican problem" was to "have towers along the border, and just shoot down whoever tries to sneak through. That'll teach them." He related heart-wrenching tales from his war days. Now, he's headed for his friends thousand-acre farm to enjoy the silence and hunt for deer. I walked with the veteran in a fast walk-trot around the block during a train-break. His blue eyes were like bright blue stars, sharp and piercing, yet also gentle and with authentic humor and caring. 
-... and, more stories abound. But it's time for me to go to sleep. 

With gratitude for how we interweave,
and gratitude for the richness of humanity,
and your own richness of humanity, 

(photos: Ithaca, as viewed from the 10th floor of the Holiday Inn. And, women's feet from Gina's birthday party.) 

Jiling . 林基玲 
  626.344.9140 / 607.262.0302


East-West train, day 2

woke up to a transformed landscape 
and this is why I love taking the train
for moments like this 
waking up to a darkened land 
I don't even know what state I am in 
falling asleep to Texas scrub bush
waking to my dear plant friend 
chapparal (larrea tridentata) 
that which I've been writing about 
dreaming about 
carrying with me 
ever since I left the USA
and returned 
chapparal, yucca, and prickly pear 
the land has flattened 
and the scrub bush rolls all the way to the horizon 
where mesas touch the sky 
as we roll on through the day 
clouds gathering at the cliffs 
strong sun warming my snow-frozen bones 
the mesas grow 
we plow through some mountains 
in our metal bullet train 
my eyes close 
to enjoy the sun through my eyelids 
scrub bush begins to include more sage brush 
and now it changes into junipers scattered through the landscape 
larger yuccas raising their arms to greet the sky 
tall dried out flower pods nodding to the wind 
in the wake of 
passing train 
I sit cross-legged next to a large window
sunshine beaming on my body 
listening to the resplendent hum of the train 
and the music of the sounds around me: 
people's voices
"it's beautiful,
it's beautiful..."
a woman behind me is talking about colleges 
I see the mountains looming larger 
this landscape of my dreams 
the love affair hidden in my heart since I first arrived 
and left
and arrived again 
a come-and-go sort of love 
that is perhaps not physically present 
but is always felt in the heart
I feel this with you, oh Desert
and, Taiwan 
and, New England... 
and, with so many places! 
this is my plight as a traveler 
my gift as a traveler 
to be always in love
with the entire world 
yet also always feeling 
a certain reminiscence 
for that which is not here 
well, I am here now 
landscape rolling by, 
train sounds, sunlight, 
warmth of body and mind, 
heart singing,
soul soaring
headed from East to West, 
around and around
there is a Path
I can't quite see it 
but I know it's there
dipping and diving 
under the trees and bushes 
of my imagination 
yet also in front of me 
as I run through the forest
of my mind 
remembering small foot paths
of deer
large American deer
small Taiwanese deer 
and coyote 

sunset sky 
rainbows stretching across the 
darkening landscape
we've been rolling all day 
the morning passed by quickly, 
dreaming about herbal concoctions 
doodling into my notebook while listening to 
blaring electronica on headphones 
afternoon passed by quickly 
talking to another artist
composing a book, just starting on his cross-country trans-global travels
infused by desert essence 
now, evening 
monoliths unseen outside of the window 
i will wake to california
my home state 
even before the sun rises 
i will land in time to 
hear the morning birdsong 
roll across the land 
and greet my parents
with a smile 
than even the sun 
and climb my mountains of youth
to greet the rising sun 
or at least setting--- we'll see how the day goes--- 
with arms upraised and chest wide open 
but for tonight
landscape rolls by 
we are almost into arizona 
almost all the way across the country
3.5 day journey
fellow trainmates become familiar faces 
each heading to their own homes 
for the holydays 

Jiling . 林基玲 
  626.344.9140 / 607.262.0302