The Three Sisters of the Tao

Essential conversations with Chinese Medicine, I Ching, and Feng Shui

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.


The Three Sisters of the Tao by Terah Kathryn Collins

Take this feeling of deep and abiding belonging into your inner sanctuary and let it ignite the heart of your imagination.

The following excerpt from The Three Sisters of the Tao speaks to a common experience so many of us have had of being forced in school to disconnect from our hearts and our dreams. And thus we went numb. So much of life’s experience is the continual quest to rediscover what we already knew in childhood. And this passage speaks to that beautifully. Flourishing depends upon opening our hearts once again.

p.s. The “she” whom Terah is talking about is the wisdom of Chinese medicine.

The Three Sisters of the Tao
Essential Conversations with Chinese Medicine, I Ching, and Feng Shui
By Terah Kathryn Collins

A vivid memory emerges:

I am sitting at a cramped wooden desk under the glare and buzz of florescent lights, listening to the dull monologue of the teacher. The rancid smell of shepherd’s pie hangs in the dank air. I am eight years old and for the last three years of my life, I’ve had variations of this repugnant experience hundreds of times. I am in deep sensory distress. My eyes, ears, nose, and skin are all on red alert, signaling me for relief. I look out at patches of sky through the high windows and imagine being in the woods near my house. I see myself walking along the stream and climbing my favorite willow tree. The fresh air, quiet gurgle of the water, and scent of warm leaves begin to work their magic. I breathe it all in with great relief, just as a shout catapults me back into the room. I realize that the teacher and students are all staring at me. The teacher scowls and shouts again, “Yes you—you are not allowed to daydream in this class!” I hang my head, mortified. Everyone is snickering, amused by my embarrassment. I cringe in my chair and feel an overwhelming sense of loss as though something precious within me is dying.

That day, I lost the ability to temper the ongoing barrage of offensive experiences in my life. Daydreaming had been a lifeline for my survival, and when my imaginary rope broke, I went numb.

Now the ramifications become clear. My heavenly imagination and my earthly instinct to seek pleasure are expressions of my true self. When I lost them, I lost the key to my heart.

Chinese Medicine gently touches my hands, bringing my attention back into the circle. “Like many children, the wings of your imagination were clipped while your body struggled to survive. Unable to soar or land, anxiety replaced tranquility, your true self dwindled, and your heart became dark and still.”

I picture an abandoned house haunted with sad memories. Her comforting touch holds me steady. “Kiss the past and let it go. You are breathing new life into your heart and it is warming and brightening. You have opened the door and strewn petals across the threshold. You’ve lit candles in all the windows. You are restoring your inner abode to its original splendor, and it is beginning to take shape. Come, let’s take a look…”

We close our eyes. She gently lets go of my hands and says, “Your heart is your inner sanctuary. It dwells within the ever-evolving paradise you imagine into being and is infused with everything you cherish…”

I listen to the murmur of her voice and find I am walking down a dappled path toward a gateway, ornately carved with a magnificent pair of wings. I am struck by how beautiful they are and am filled with longing. If I could have wings, I could have anything.

“You can,” I hear her whisper. “Reclaim the wings of your imagination and ride the currents of feeling into your inner world. The sanctuary of your heart isn’t so much thought as felt into being. Fill it with love, love, and more love.”

I swing the gate open and step through, opening myself to the treasure chest of things I love. Iridescence, the ethereal beauty that glimmers in hummingbird feathers and abalone shells, sparkles all around me. I feel giddy, the complete freedom to create my inner sanctuary flooding me with possibilities. It can be however I wish!

A spectacular pavilion, intricately carved with flora and fauna appears; a work of art set in panoramic gardens. Silk couches and pillows in iridescent jewel-tones appoint the pavilion’s open-air interior. Ocean views abound, turquoise waters and lacey white waves encircle an archipelago of islands. Garden paths wend their way down to the beach while a waterfall pours its music into a nearby pool…

“As you breathe life into your inner world, it takes on a vitality of its own.” she whispers. “It breathes life into you. Tend to it and revel in all the details—the architecture, atmosphere, colors, fragrances, sounds, and textures—imagine them more and more into being. Be ever enchanted as you drink in the layers of astonishing beauty your choices create. They are solely and eternally yours.” Her voice blends with the murmur of water and I feel my inner and outer worlds become one complete circle.

“The circle is a beautiful metaphor for life,” I open my eyes and watch her motion slowly around the circle where we sit. “In your dream, you held hands with heaven and earth and stepped into your circle of belonging. For a moment, you fully embodied your true self. Now you are making your dream come true.” As she speaks, I recall the circle, the woman and man by my side. The loving embrace of the circle touches me again, bringing tears to my eyes. Her eyes are emerald mirrors reflecting mine.

“You can expand moments like those in your dream until they become your entire experience. Whenever you are agitated or distressed, remember your dream and gently enfold yourself in the feeling of the circle. Take this feeling of deep and abiding belonging into your inner sanctuary and let it ignite the heart of your imagination. You will be astounded by the wonders awaiting you there.”

I close my eyes and step through the carved gate into my evolving paradise. I am swept into the magic of this resplendent place. From my pavilion I can see how much territory is opening up around me. She is there beside me and I hear her say, “This is where it begins. As your tranquility deepens, the inspired brilliance of heaven and the sweet sensuality of earth integrate within you. You become luminosity and ecstasy entwined. Your capacity to embody love encircles you and stretches into all moments. This is your future becoming present, your true self, returning to the sanctuary of your heart. It is the Way.”

Excerpted with permission from The Three Sisters of the Tao by Terah Kathryn Collins. Copyright © 2010 (Hay House).

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Last Updated: June 18, 2010

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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