Nei Yeh Chapter 23

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For all the Way of eating is that:

Overfilling yourself with food will impair your vital energy

And cause your body to deteriorate.

Over-restricting your consumption causes the bones to wither

And the blood to congeal.

The mean between overfilling and over-restricting:

This is called "harmonious completion."

It is where the vital essence lodges

And knowledge is generated.

When hunger and fullness lose their proper balance,

You make a plan to correct this.

When full, move quickly;

When hungry, neglect your thoughts;

When old, forget worry.

If when full you don't move quickly,

Vital energy will not circulate to your limbs.

If when hungry you don't neglect your thoughts of food,

When you finally eat you will not stop.

If when old you don't forget your worries,

The found of your vital energy will rapidly drain out.

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This chapter seems to be an extension of the previous one, 22, where it continues about the balance and alignment of the human being.


I think although this chapter talks specifically about 'eating', that the principles can be applied to how we process all information that comes in (mental eating). Overfilling ourselves with too much external knowledge also impairs our vital energy, such that the essence can't be experienced directly; we are too concerned with the mental cogitative aspects of understanding. this seems to also feed our Ego to the point where we're unable to experience our true vital energy because when we accumulate a little knowledge our Ego pops right up there and wants to take credit.


Over-restricting, on the other hand, is apparently equally as harmful. Whether over-restricting ourselves from actual food, or mental food - this will cause our bones to wither. I think of many people I know that lead a totally unexamined life - a life where further knowledge of self is not desirable. Like once one has that high school or college diploma in hand, further education is never an issue again. I do see them withering in a spiritual way, losing their vital essence. I see Christians around me here in Ohio 'withering away' because their belief is that once that Get Out of Jail Free card is given to you because you've accepted their man as lord and savior, all further inner development and examination seems to come to an immediate halt.


I think the wisdom of older people (the ones who get it) in losing their worries is partially attached to the realization that they have no control over the situation anyway. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn this, sometimes it's never learned in one lifetime. But giving up trying to control each and every situation around them is a difficult thing to do, particularly if one's life has been spent in raising children and exerting a degree of 'control' over their childrens' activities. It's like the mindset must totally turn around to understand that which we are seeking.

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That's clever to connect the passage to "mental eating", I'd say it fits. When it comes to forgetting worries, my feeling was that it's dangerous for everyone, but is perhaps more understandable or permissable in those who are younger and have more responsibilities, whereas older people are already physiologically weaker and are therefore more susceptible to the ill-effects of worry. Therefore, if they don't move beyond worry, it can literally kill them. Realizing you have no control and therefore not worrying is, I think, not exactly in line with Taoist thought. Remember, the sage does nothing yet nothing is left undone. So I think it's more a matter of aligning yourself with the Tao and realizing that you don't NEED to control anything because you're in the flow of the Tao, and as long as you act from there, all things will become as they should be.

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