No urban worries

An southeast-Asian medicine man has been reincarnated in London to deliver spiritual survival to urban warriors. Or so he says. Hester Lacey on Taoist principles for city life

THE BAREFOOT DOCTOR does not go barefoot all the time; as he lives in London, it's not terribly practical. "I wear trainers. I'm cool but I'm not an idiot," he says. A healer, Chinese medicine practitioner, musician and tai chi expert, he saves his barefootedness for when he's healing or practising martial arts. His latest book, The Barefoot Doctor's Handbook for the Urban Warrior: A Spiritual Survival Guide, is based on Taoist principles; it covers just about everything, clothes, clubbing, drugs, food, travel, money, sex, death. And more. "A full release of bladder or bowel, at the appropriate time, is one of the greatest pleasures on Earth - and it's free, if you discount sewage and initial apparatus of set-up costs, toilet bowl and flush," he observes. And it also puts you in touch with Tao, the force that drives all of existence, which is a Good Thing.

Barefoot doctors are an ancient southeast Asian tradition. They would travel the country, healing and teaching, and villagers would feed and shelter them in return. The concept of the "urban warrior" came to the latest exponent of barefoot-ery two years ago. "My ex-girlfriend gave me a smart Valentino shirt because she said I had enough 'urban warrior' shirts, and I thought 'Yes! Urban warrior! That's the book!'" (He never wore the shirt.) He visualised the reader as a "a young guy, maybe 22 to 23, with a clear, open-eyed expression, non-cynical but clued-in, standing with his girlfriend who's really cute and about 20 years old". Hang on, isn't she a bit of an afterthought? "As a man I tend to think of men when I'm writing. But my feminine side comes out." And, he says, older warriors will also enjoy his philosophy. Warrior-ness, he says, is about "knowing you are free to follow the adventure of life wherever it goes."

The Tao-based life philosophy is hard to absorb in one sitting, although the handbook is leavened by the Doc's sense of humour. "It's heavy stuff," he agrees. "I would flit through it on the loo, get familiar with it like that. Everyone can get into it in a different way. If you just get one thing that helps in your life, that's great. For me, this book is like a friend. It's cool, it makes you happy, you feel everything's going to be fine, and that's important for a warrior."

'Handbook for the Urban Warrior' by the Barefoot Doctor is published on Tuesday by Piatkus, at pounds 7.99

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