What Can Chinese Art Teach Us about Healing?

By Sally Perkins

“Where the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity,” said Hippocrates, highlighting the fact that medicine is a creative as well as a scientific pursuit. Medical professionals, after all, have a range of tools, knowledge, and experience at hand but often, in order for all these to align in the correct balance, creative choices need to be made. Ancient Chinese art, like ancient writings, are a rich source of information about medical practises, some of which are still used with patients today. They are also testimony to the celebration of humanity in all its facets and an open window into the suffering and joy involved in illness and healing, respectively.

Suffering for a Higher Good

The work Moxibustion, a hanging scroll by the Song artist Li Tang, depicts an itinerant doctor conducting moxibustion - a form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials (moxa) are burned close to or on the surface of the skin, to invigorate the flow of Qi through the body and to eliminate toxins. In the beautifully detailed scroll, the man being treated contorts his face in pain and others hold onto him or try to accompany him during this difficult time. The work is not only illustrative of the importance of balanced Qi but also a symbol of the sacrifices that must be made to achieve it and the pain this can involve. In order to be healthy of mind and body, everything from one’s choice of diet to one’s breathing and exercise habits must work in unison since prevention is always better (and less painful) than cure.


Photo by Jade Lee on Unsplash


The Harmony of the Eight Brocades

The Eight Brocades are a set of qigong exercises that focus on a different meridian, once again focusing on a different meridian to encourage the optimal flowing of qi through the body. The work Illustrated Album of the Eight Pieces of Brocade, created by an anonymous artist during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) portrays the eight exercises as well as breathing exercises. In the illustrations, both the beauty of the human form and the peace and joy that result from prioritizing health, are evident. In some postures, the subjects open their mouths to breathe but also seem to smile, their mouths turned upwards and their eyes both concentrating and enjoying the moment they are in.

Recreating the Beauty of Ancient Chinese Art

Art in itself can be a means of healing. It can inspire one to lead a healthier lifestyle and aspire to a higher ideal of health - a holistic, all-encompassing state of body and mind, one in which Qi is unblocked. If you wish to follow the example laid out in ancient Chinese art, begin by drawing the human face and body, paying special attention to proportion and perspective. If you are a beginner to drawing and you wish to express pain, joy, peace, and other qualities through the eyes, take advantage of online resources to hone the basics of eye sketching. Basic steps include making and joining curved lines, adding the iris, and adding color and details. As your skills improve, you can start to include more people in your drawings and create more sophisticated compositions.



Photo by volc xia on Unsplash


Following the Examples Set in Ancient Chinese Art

You can also visit exhibitions featuring medical and health subjects to enlighten you on how to lead a healthier life. From studying the different positions and breathing techniques of qi gong right through to learning more about healing herbs, diet, and traditional medicines, you can balance the vital force of energy within you and feel more invigorated. In this state, it is easier to embrace creativity in everything from your work to your leisure time.

Art and science have a strong link and nowhere is this more evident than in highly praised objects of ancient Chinese art. The latter displays suffering, treatment, and healing methods. It also shows the importance of breathing and exercise to strengthen the body and enable Qi to flow as it needs to.


Featured image photo by Lisanto 李奕良 on Unsplash - photo from Sanxia District, New Taipei City, Taiwan


Welcome To The Year of the Ox!

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Chinese New Year arrives on February 12th this year. The celebration of the Chinese New Year is called the Spring Festival and is the longest and most anticipated Chinese holiday. It is also celebrated by an estimated one-sixth of the world's population or one billion people! The traditional holiday period for the Spring festival is 23 days and is broken up into 3 parts. The first 8 days, this year from February 4th to the 11th is called Little Year. This is when preparations for the New Year begin and go until New Year's eve. Chinese New Year officially begins on February 12th and ends on February 22nd. This is the Spring Festival. And the last four days, this year February 23 to the 26th are called the Lantern Festival. Preparations begin on the 23rd and the lantern festival is held on February 26th.

Chinese Lantern Festival takes place on February 26th in 2021.
Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Lunar Calendar

The date for the Chinese new year varies each year because it is based on a lunar calendar and not the gregorian calendar that we use in the West. Using the lunar calendar, the first day of the month begins on the new moon. This is why Chinese new year falls on a different day each year.

Chinese New Year - February 12, 2021

The Twelve Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

Each Chinese New Year is associated with an animal. There are twelve animals in total and they go in a specific order and repeat every twelve years in a continuous cycle. 2021 is the year of the ox, which is the second animal in the zodiac. Each of the years also has an element associated with it. There are five elements and they are fire, earth, metal, water and wood. 2021 is the year of the metal ox.

Ox Years: 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Here are the animals in the Chinese zodiac listed in order with their corresponding year.


This image from cafeastrology.com


The Ox Personality

People born in the Year of the Ox are hard-working, loyal, trustworthy and conscientious. They are also reliable, methodical, fair and inspire confidence in others. As a result of these traits, they make friends easily and keep them for the long term. They are usually quiet and say little, but have strong opinions. They believe strongly in themselves but are also stubborn and hate to fail or be challenged. They usually have a great deal of common sense and intelligence. They are hard workers but never want praise or to be in the spotlight. In Chinese culture, the ox is a highly valued animal because of its work in agriculture. The twelve animals were chosen because of their importance to the people and the way they benefited their lives. Below are some of the personality traits of people born in the year of the ox.

  • strong
  • reliable
  • fair
  • conscientious
  • calm
  • patient
  • methodical
  • trustworthy
  • intelligent
  • loyal
  • quiet
  • serious
  • positive
  • grounded
  • workaholics
  • inspire confidence in others
  • opinionated
  • stubborn
  • hate to fail
  • don't like being challenged

According to astrologers, the year of the ox denotes hard work, positivity and honesty and these are the qualities that will manifest in all of us over the next twelve months.

Compatability

Most Compatible with Ox

Most compatible with Ox are Rat, Snake and Rooster.

Least Compatible with Ox

Goat, Horse and Dog.

Lucky Things for Oxen

Colours: Blue | Green | Yellow
Numbers: 1 & 4
Flowers: Lucky Bamboo | Lily of the Valley

Unlucky Things

Colours: Brown | Red
Numbers 3 & 6

What Animal Are You?

Check the chart below and find out your Chinese animal...

This image from changechecker.org

Featured image is by Photo by V Srinivasan on Unsplash


Download This Sheet - Chinese Year Of The Ox

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Living in Harmony with Spring According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Theory

Chinese Medicine has such a beautiful way of looking at us - human beings, our place in nature and in the universe. We are part of a greater whole and are inseparable from it. In Chinese Medicine, we are healthy when we are in harmony with our surroundings, and for much of human history, we have honed the skills needed to be able to feel slight changes in our environments, so that we could change behaviours, to remain in balance. In our modern world, we seem to be losing this connectedness to both our natural environments and ultimately, ourselves. Chinese Medicine can teach us how to regain this connection by giving us some simple guidelines on how to live in harmony with the seasons.

Spring - The Season of the Liver

Spring is the season associated with the Liver and the emotion of Anger. Its energies are expansive - moving upward and outward like newly budding plants, flowers and trees. It is a time for growth and renewal. Spring is the best time to strengthen the Liver, and to deal with any unresolved feelings of Anger or frustration as they can build up and cause stagnant Qi or energy in the Liver and elsewhere. The colour associated with Spring and the Liver is green. Eating green foods in the Spring strengthens the Liver. To keep your Liver healthy, be sure to be in bed and asleep before 11pm.

The Liver is the organ associated with Spring. In Chinese Medicine the Liver has the following responsibilities:

  • Opens Into the Eyes
  • Controls Planning
  • The Flavour that Supports the Liver is Sour
  • Houses the Hun (Spirit) The Liver is the organ associated with Spring.
  • Stores Blood
  • Responsible for the Smooth Flow of Qi & Blood
  • Controls the Sinews / Tendons
  • Manifests in the Nails

Behaviours in Spring

  • Engaging in uplifting and creative activities that expand our energies and consciousness (journaling, meditation)
  • Seek personal development and growth
  • Cooking should be of shorter duration and at higher temperatures
  • Sautéing with high-quality oil over high heat, or light steaming with water is best in Spring
  • Manage Anger (and frustration) - excess, intense and unexpressed anger congests Qi in the Liver
  • Liver time is between 1am-3am - this is the best time to strengthen the Liver
  • For optimum Liver health, go to bed before 11pm (the Gallbladder time - it is the Liver’s Yin/Yang partner organ)
  • Eat green foods to strengthen Liver

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Activities in Spring

  • Engage in activities that feed your creativity - drawing/painting/writing/photography/making music/dancing
  • Making plans for the future
  • Spring cleaning of your internal environment - physical, emotional, spiritual
  • Acknowledging, processing and releasing any unresolved emotions, especially Anger & frustration
  • Any activities that push our self-imposed boundaries
  • Gentle exercises on a daily basis, especially stretching as the Liver controls the smooth flow of Qi as well as the tendons
  • Walking meditation in nature (gentle exercise, feeding the spirit and taking in the green of new Spring plants through the eyes)
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs

Beneficial Foods in Spring

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Sprouted Grains, Beans, Seeds
  • Many Green Foods Nourish the Liver
  • Radish
  • Daikon Radish
  • Tofu
  • Fermented Food
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Dandelion Root
  • Milk Thistle
  • Mung Bean
  • Lettuce
  • Quinoa
  • Cucumber
  • Watercress
  • Celery
  • Millet
  • Seaweed
  • Mushroom
  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Mustard Green
  • Rye
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Alfalfa
  • Amaranth


Photo by Scott Eckersley on Unsplash

The Liver and Anger

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

We've all seen that impressive display of anger. Someone losing it in the lineup at the bank, an exasperated parent yelling at a child having a tantrum, or someone, after being on a plane for a bazillion hours being told that they have missed their connecting flight and that the airline has lost their luggage. Yeah, we've all seen that. And it is most of our instincts' to back away a few steps because of how powerful that anger can be. That, my friends, is your Liver talking.

Now in the West, this doesn't make much sense. The liver, we are taught, is the body's filter, making sure that we stay clean and toxin-free. But in Chinese Medicine, each of the organs has an emotional component, which is just as important as its physical functions in the body - and the emotion of the liver is anger.

When the liver is balanced and healthy we are able to move freely because of the liver's responsibilities of governing the smooth flow of Qi in the appropriate directions. You may wonder what happens when Qi flows in the wrong direction? Well, each of the organs has a natural direction in which its Qi flows. For example, the Qi of the stomach flows downward, helping to move food and drink through the digestive system, but when the flow of that Qi is reversed due to pathogenic factors it causes belching, hiccups, nausea and vomiting. A healthy liver means a strong immune system because the liver is responsible for the body's resistance to exterior pathogens. Because the liver opens into the eyes, if you have a healthy liver your vision will be clear and your eyes moist. If your liver is in a state of balance you will have strong nails, recover quickly from physical activities, your movements will be smooth and your body flexible. Those with a healthy liver will also have great courage and resoluteness, and will easily be able to plan their lives wisely and effectively with a clear sense of direction.


Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Some Symptoms of Liver Stagnation & Imbalance

  • Frustration, depression or repressed anger
  • Hypochondriac pain
  • A sensation of oppression in the chest
  • A feeling of a "lump" in the throat
  • Abdominal distension
  • Women - pre-menstrual tension, depression, irritability, distension of the breasts
  • Belching, sour regurgitation, nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bitter taste in the mouth, belching, jaundice
  • Contraction and/or spasms in the muscles and sinews, impaired extension/flexion, numbness of the limbs, muscle cramps, tremors
  • Dark, dry or cracked nails
  • Blurred vision, myopia, floaters, colour blindness, a feeling of dryness or grit in the eyes
  • Bloodshot, painful or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Irritability, outbursts of anger, red face, dizziness, tinnitus, headaches
  • Lack of direction in life, feeling of being stuck

Chinese Medicine gives us many ways that we can help our bodies, mind and spirits stay balanced and healthy - in every season. Eating green foods, spending more time turning inward, processing our emotions and being in bed by 11pm are only some of the ways we can live in harmony with the spring season, and keep our energies flowing freely so we can be happy, healthy beings all year long.


Beautiful featured image photo by Sylwia Pietruszka on Unsplash



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What is Yin & Yang?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Yin Yang Theory in Chinese Medicine

The theory of yin and yang is at the foundation of Chinese Medicine. It was developed, over thousands of years, from observations of the natural world. Yin and yang represent the duality that is seen to exist in all things. Yin represents darkness, cold, slow, internal, reflective energies, and yang represents bright, hot, quick, external, active energies. According to this theory, all things are a dynamic interaction of these opposing forces. Yin/yang theory can be applied to literally everything and is not limited to medicine and health - although as the ancient Chinese discovered, it works extremely effectively in this context. Yin and yang is a way to see the forces of nature, our bodies, the food we eat, our emotions, and really, all things in existence. It is a lens through which we can see and attempt to understand ourselves and the way we interact with our world.

You are probably familiar with the taiji, or yin/yang symbol - an ancient Taoist symbol which is a graphic representation of yin and yang. The dark half represents yin, and the light represents yang,  but notice that there is a dot of each that exists in the other. They are mutually dependent and the two are never static but always changing, one into the other and vice versa. This symbol visually illustrates that although there is a duality, each part needs the other to be complete and both can coexist harmoniously.

 

Yin & Yang Personality Traits

Everything that exists, and indeed each one of us, are seen to have both yin and yang aspects. These can range from personality types, body types, physical tendencies and emotional states. Some people are more yin, and some are naturally more yang. Here is an example to help you to visualize it:

A shy, quiet person who enjoys time alone, meditation and going for long walks in the forest has a predominantly yin personality. And I suspect we have all met the gregarious and outgoing person who is very friendly, stands close, speaks loudly and is always the life of every party. This is a yang person. And the world certainly needs both.

Yin & Yang and Health

In Chinese Medicine, health is achieved when the body’s energies are in a relative state of balance. That balance is different for everyone, as was illustrated in the example above. Some people have more yin energies while others naturally have more yang. This is one of the reasons that a practitioner of Chinese medicine takes so much time to gather information from a patient in an initial visit. They are attempting to paint a picture of that person so that they can determine what they are made of, what their tendencies are, and where their imbalances lie. When yin and yang energies are out of balance, illness occurs. Thankfully, Chinese Medicine offers us many ways in which to restore the equilibrium we need to be healthy.

 

Beautiful featured image by www.kittysabatier.com



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Welcome to the Year of the Pig

On Tuesday February 5, 2019, we celebrated Chinese New Year and brought in the year of the pig. The Chinese new year falls on a different day every year and this is because it is based on a lunar cycle, unlike our calendar, which is based on the movement of the sun. In the Chinese zodiac, each year is dedicated to an animal, and it runs in twelve year cycles in a specific order. Each year also corresponds to an element based on the Chinese five element system - Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. This year is the year of the earth pig.

Years of the Pig include 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, and 2031. The pig year occupies the twelfth and last position in the Chinese zodiac. There are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, starting with the rat and ending with the pig.

People who are born in a year associated with a specific animal are said to have certain traits. Those born in a pig year are said to have the personality traits below. There are also five elements which rotate throughout the zodiac, 2019 is the year of the pig associated with the earth element. These elements further distinguish personality traits among people born in pig years. The different characteristics are listed below.

The Pig Personality

Pigs are diligent, compassionate, and generous. They have great concentration, and once they set a goal, they will devote all of their energy to achieving it. Though Pigs rarely seek help from others, they are always generous with their time and energy. Pigs tend to be very trusting, so can be easily fooled. They need to work on being a bit more discerning with the people they meet.

General speaking, Pigs are calm and collected when facing difficulties in life. No matter how difficult the problems Pigs encounter, they can handle things thoughtfully and carefully. They have a great sense of responsibility and are very good at being able to finish what they start.

Pigs might not stand out in a crowd, but they are realistic and grounded. Others may be all talk and no action, but pigs are the opposite - they are hard workers and dedicated to the task at hand always managing to bring their efforts to fruition.

Pigs are careful with money, but they do allow themselves to enjoy life. They love entertainment and sometimes treat themselves to things that make them happy. They are a bit materialistic, but this motivates them to work hard and earn money. Being able to hold solid objects in their hands gives them a sense of needed security.

Pigs are energetic and always enthusiastic, even if they are in boring jobs. If given the chance, they will take positions of power and status. Pigs believe that leaders are the ones who have often worked the hardest to advance, thus are the ones who should make decisions and tell people what to do. This motivates pigs to work hard so they can get ahead in life and business.

Metal Pig - Years - 1971, 2031

  • Mind their own business and are not interested in gossip
  • Slightly lazy and unmotivated but focus on their work
  • Will succeed if they place more emphasis on work, not play
  • Must learn how to budget and save to not squander financial luck that comes with their sign

Water Pig - 1983, 2043

  • Responsible and serious
  • Full of ideas
  • Easily influenced by others
  • Good in relationships, attentive and caring partners
  • Listen and communicate well with friends and family
  • Have good fortune and will retire with ample savings

Wood Pig - 1935, 1995

  • Earnest and lovable
  • Not focussed on accumulating money
  • Need to plan and save for the future
  • Take each day at a time
  • Face difficulties with calm and equanimity
  • Have kind and loving relationships

Fire Pig - 1947, 2007

  • Dependent on others
  • Excel in jobs that require cooperation and teamwork
  • If they focus in their work, they will be successful
  • Very good with money
  • Very popular, get along well with everyone
  • Some difficulties in romantic relationships

Earth Pig - 1959, 2019

  • Very social with friends from all walks of life
  • Have a lot of support in both work and life
  • Fortunate lives and can find happiness
  • Often have success later in life
  • Need some work in the relationship department, not particularly romantic

If you were born in a pig year the following things are considered lucky...

  • Lucky numbers: 2, 5, 8, and numbers containing them (like 25 and 58)
  • Lucky days: the 17th and 24th of every Chinese lunar month
  • Lucky colors: yellow, gray, brown, gold
  • Lucky flowers: hydrangea and daisy
  • Lucky direction: east and southwest
  • Lucky months: the 2nd, 7th, 10th, and 11th Chinese lunar months

Unlucky Things for Pigs

  • Unlucky color: red, blue, green
  • Unlucky numbers: 1, 7, and numbers containing them (like 17 and 71)
  • Unlucky direction: southeast
  • Unlucky months: the 4th, 9th, and 12th Chinese lunar months

 

Men born in the Pig year are optimistic and gentle. They are very focused - once they decide on a goal, they’ll put everything into it.

They are not the best with money. Though cool-headed, they are also too gullible. They trust others easily and are often taken advantage of. If they are not careful, this can cause them to lose a fortune.

These men are also quiet. They love learning but don’t really know how to put their knowledge into words. They’re not conversationalists, but treat everyone warmly. This results in a large social circle with a lot of friends. Whenever they run into difficulties, there are always people who stand up to help. Though some people will lie to them, more people will love them because of their warm, honest personalities.

Women born in the Pig year are full of excitement. They attend social events whenever possible and treat everyone genuinely. Combined with their easygoing personality, they gain everyone’s trust and are well liked by everyone.

However, they are sometimes over-friendly. In their excitement, they can forget to give others personal space.

They also have good fortune with wealth. As long as they keep at it, their efforts will not be wasted. Though they don’t start with an advantage, their hard work will keep money flowing in and give them financial security.

At home, they are highly organized. If a room in their home is messy, they’d stay up the entire night to clean it up until it was spotless and up to their standards. These women love children too. Playing with children is one of the things that brings them the greatest joy.

Famous People Born in Pig Years

  • Henry Ford (Founder of the Ford Motor Company, born July 30, 1863)
  • Ronald Reagan (40th U.S. President, born February 6, 1911)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (Former Governor of California, born July 30, 1947)
  • Hilary Clinton (Former First Lady of the U.S., born October 26, 1947)

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Sources:

China Highlights - https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/pig.htm

Chinese Zodiac - https://chinesenewyear.net/zodiac/pig/

The featured image photo by George Watercolor Art


Winter Recipe for Kidneys - Fox Nut Rice Pudding

By NourishU

Kidney/Bladder Disease

Kidney deficiency is the cause of many illnesses and over 80% of people have a certain degree of kidney deficiency. Cold hands and feet, lack of energy, ringing in the ears, sexual dysfunction, joint pain, menstrual disorder, prostate problems, back pain, hearing impairment, premature aging, incontinent are some typical examples.

Winter time is the best season to preserve and promote kidney health. Eating black color food such as black beans is good for kidney. Salty taste can benefit kidney but too much can damage kidney too. Kidney stones are formed by the buildup of substances which crystallized into stone-like deposits. Diets high in protein and lack of exercise will result in severe overall net calcium loss and increase calcium presented to the kidneys. Western doctors’ advice in reducing the burden and workload of the kidney is by eating a diet low in meat, high in carbohydrate, restricted salt and drink plenty of water to dissolve smaller stones. And by avoiding peanut, chestnut, soy, asparagus, spinach, corn and egg and eating more celery, apple, pear, and beans.

The symptoms of a kidney infection are a sore throat, fever, lower back pain, tiredness, fatigue, thirst and loss of appetite. When there is edema, the volume of urine decreases and so is the blood pressure. Infections of the urinary tract are more common in females than males. It could be due to poor hygiene or food allergy. Bacteria grow more easily in alkaline than in acid urine and vitamin C can promote acid urine and also improve immunity.

The food treatment for kidney infection should include a low-sodium and high protein diets such as fish, meat, egg and soy products. Water intake should be increased. Diuretic foods such as watermelon, winter melon, black bean, broad bean, see qua, and small red bean are effective in expelling dampness. Corn silk and corn kernel cook with water to make tea can alleviate urinary tract or bladder infection. Grape juice can treat female urinary tract infection. Avoid spicy foods, garlic, and chive.

The other kidney dysfunctions include frequent urination, nephritis, leukorrhea in women, and nocturnal emission and spermatorrhea in men.

According to Chinese medicine, kidney problems are caused by yang deficiency, spleen, and heart deficiency. Emission is induced by excessive fire due to yin deficiency, weakness of kidney qi or the descent of heat-dampness. Treatments include nourishing kidney yin, removing fire, clearing heat and dissipating dampness.

Fox Nut Rice Pudding


Dried Fox Nut Seeds

Symptoms

  • Frequent urination especially at night
  • enuresis
  • whitish and turbid urine
  • nocturnal emission
  • leukorrhea

Therapeutic Effects

Tonify kidney and spleen, preserve essence, strengthen the muscles that control urination, relieve diarrhea.

Ingredients (2 Servings)

  • Fox nut (qian shi) 芡實 - 120gm
  • Sticky rice powder - 6gm

1.   Wash fox nut and soak with 2 cups of water for 4 hours.

2.   Pour fox nut and water into a grinder and grind it into a fine paste. Add sticky rice powder and mix well.

3.   Pour mixture into a small pan and cook over medium-low heat to become a thick soup (about 10 minutes). Stir frequently and add water if necessary.

4.   Add a little salt to serve.

Usage

Eat half before dinner and the other half one hour before bedtime. Continue for 10 days as one course of treatment. If necessary, continue up to one month or two to see a complete recovery.

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Winter Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Winter Season in Chinese Medicine.

Beautiful featured image photo by Julien Pianetti on Unsplash


Chinese Year of the Dog

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

On Friday February 16, 2018, we celebrated Chinese New Year and brought in the year of the dog. The Chinese new year falls on a different day every year and this is because it is based on a lunar cycle, unlike our calendar, which is based on the movement of the sun. In the Chinese zodiac, each year is dedicated to an animal, and it runs in twelve year cycles in a specific order. Each year also corresponds to an element based on the Chinese five element system - Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. This year is the year of the earth dog.

Years of the Dog include 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, and 2030. The dog year occupies the eleventh position in the Chinese zodiac.

People who are born in a year associated with a specific animal are said to have certain traits. Those born in a dog year are said to have the personality traits below. There are also five elements which rotate throughout the zodiac, 2018 is an earth year, therefore, this is an earth dog year. These elements further distinguish personality traits among people born in dog years. The different characteristics are listed below.

Wood Dog - Years - 1934, 1994

• Sincere
• Reliable
• Considerate
• Patient
• Understanding

Fire Dog - 1946, 2006

• Sincere
• Hardworking
• Intelligent

Earth Dog - 1958, 2018

• Excellent Communicator
• Responsible
• Serious

Metal Dog - 1910, 1970

• Cautious
• Conservative
• Always helpful to others
• Desirable

Water Dog - 1922, 1982

• Excellent at managing financial affairs
• Self Reliant
• Brave
• Independent

Lucky Things for Dogs

If you were born in a dog year the following things are considered lucky...

Lucky Numbers - 3, 4, 9 (and any numbers containing them, ie: 34, 49)

Lucky Colours - Red, Green and Purple

Lucky Days - The 7th and 28th of every Chinese lunar month

Lucky Months - The 6th, 10th and 12th Chinese lunar months

Lucky Directions - East, South and NorthEast

Lucky Flowers - Rose, Orchids

The Dog Personality

Dogs are loyal, kind, honest and trustworthy and will do anything for the people in their lives that they feel are the most important. They are cautious however, and will only give their loyalty and affections to someone whom they feel truly deserves it. Dogs are always happy and in a good mood, and able to see the bright side of any situation. Most seek out a simple life spending their time and energy on good friends, family and things that make them happy. Because of their inherent goodness, they also do not tend to crime, violence or other negative activities, they are more interested in the positive things in life.

One thing that dogs struggle with is communication, and always seem to have difficulty expressing themselves to others. Often, things can be misunderstood or misinterpreted and this can lead to problems. This can make relationships difficult and people sometimes are left with the impression that dogs are difficult to get along with.

Dogs are always ready to help others and are very selfless and not interested in their own gains, especially for those in their inner circle. Conversely, if they are deceived by those they trust, they will be deeply hurt and the betrayal can send them into a deep depression.

Dogs are usually very healthy and love to be active. They tend to have strong immune systems which makes them resilient when illnesses like colds and flus are going around and everyone else is falling ill.

Famous People Born in Dog Years

WinstonChurchill (wood dog) / Madonna (earth dog) / Elvis Presley (wood dog) / Mother Teresa (metal dog) Michael Jackson (earth dog) / Steven Spielberg (fire dog) / George Bush Jr. (fire dog) / Bill Clinton (fire dog) / Donald Trump (fire dog)


The featured image photo by Hyunwon Jang on Unsplash


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The Most Important Qigong II - (Standing Post - Zhan Zhuang)

by John Voigt

In silence there must be movement, and in motion, there must be silence.

A small movement is better than a large movement,

no movement is better than a small.

Silence is the mother of all movement..

In movement you should be like a dragon or a tiger.

In non-movement you should be like a Buddha.

--Wang Xiangzhai, the Father of Standing Post Qigong

This is a continuation of the article - The Most Important Qigong - that appeared in Chinese Medical Living, January 2018.

A Quick Summary.

Stand straight and relaxed with chin slightly tucked back. Raise your arms and pretend to hug an imaginary large tree (or large ball). Breathe slowly, deeply, and smoothly. Hold the pose as long as possible. Relax into any discomfort you experience. If you experience any pain then stop immediately. With an empty mind be aware (feel) your posture; and gently correct it if necessary.

How Long to Practice.

Even a few minutes of serious practice each day should bring about some positive results.  As long as there is no pain, slowly extend the length of the practice. With an accomplished teacher several hours—even more—are theoretically possible.  However, for those who need more specific instructions: “Start by doing the standing exercises  for five minutes a day.  After three weeks, increase this to ten minutes.  Three weeks later, aim for 15 minutes, and 20 minutes after a further three weeks.  You can stand longer if you wish, but 20 minutes will refresh your whole system.”  Master Lam Kam Chuen.  The Way of Energy, pg. 25.

The important thing is to practice as relaxed, as long, and as often as you can.

MANAGING THE DISCOMFORT:

Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/519532506985622303/

Discomfort is to be expected and dealt with by relaxing and breathing into the strained area.

Ignore any itches, tingling, even minor quick flashing pains which often are signs that energy blockages are being opened.  If it gets to be too much just stop doing the standing posture for a few seconds, then return to it with the arms not held so high, or the knees not bent so much. To alleviate some discomfort in the arms, imagine they are suspended up by strings from the elbows and wrists.  Or lower the hands down to in front of the belly.  Or imagine the arms are made of cotton.

Other ways to reduce discomfort are more fanciful, but perhaps more effective:  imagine you are floating in a pool of warm water; or you are a feather floating in the air.  For those that are more spiritually aggressive, imagine you are an angelic being of light floating in the heavens.

The simplest remedy is paradoxical: with the hint of a smile on your lips, just disregard the discomfort and sink into it as if it weren’t there—something like getting a “second wind” for a long distance runner.

However if sharp or intense pain occurs anywhere, especially in the knees or other joints, STOP!   If pain continues to occur during future practice, discontinue all practice until you receive professional advice from someone experienced in these matters.   

TECHNIQUES TO BETTER THE PRACTICE:

A Straight Back.

Be aware of the alignment and symmetry of your pose, and gently adjust and correct it as needed.

Although they may think that they are standing straight, most people lean slightly backwards or forwards when doing Standing Post. To experience what a straight back really feels like, lie on the floor in a supine position, or stand against a wall.  Or do it with a full length mirror to check your stance; or have someone look at you and tell you when are not straight.  Or imagine you are hanging from the limb of a tree by the hair on the top of your head.

Do not “tuck the tailbone under.”  Do not put that kind of force on your spine.  If you “sit back” on an imaginary high stool, the coccyx will properly straighten by itself.

Note:

Many people need to feel that they are leaning forward to get a correct straight posture.

Look at Grand Master Yu Yong-Nian with his students in the next picture.  For most (and especially with Master Yu) a theoretical plumb line could be dropped from the crown of the head through the center of the abdomen down to the perineum area.  Not only that: the Kidney-1 points (behind the balls of the feet) also line up, and all this is done so effortlessly!

Grand Master Yu Yong Nian with his students, Beijing, circa 1985.
Image source: http://www.yiquan78.org/postures.htm

MIND:

This is a mental as well as physical exercise, overcoming random thoughts is an important aspect …. Only [by] being completely relaxed and natural, not trying to control, just letting thoughts come and go Without  Attachment, can one really stabilize and liberate the consciousness. Wang Xiangzhai: Entering the Quiet State.

Other methods to clear the mind to gain that needed “quiescence”:  listen to the breath - make it silent - listen to the silence of the breath.  If that is too difficult, count each inhalation up to ten, then go back to one and repeat the counting.

Superstar martial artist Bruce Lee may have said it best in the movie, Enter The Dragon” with his “Don’t think, feel” … [that way you won’t miss ] … “All that heavenly glory.”

EYES:

Gaze in an absent minded way at the hands. As the Chinese say, “Look but don’t look.” This helps to more deeply relax into the static standing posture.

SHOULDERS:

If you have trouble keeping the shoulders loose, inhale and squeeze the shoulders up; then quickly exhale and drop the shoulders.

FINGERS-HANDS-ARMS: 

The fingers are slightly spread apart, and the thumbs are slightly bent—(imagine each hand is catching a ball).  Or, sometimes I tell my students, “think tiger claws.”  And keep the wrists loose.

Hands and arms are normally just below shoulder level, but they may be at the level of the lower abdomen (dantian), or the forehead, or the palms may face the ground;  there are many possible options.


The Eight Zhan Zhuang Posts of Yiquan
Image source: http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/06/eight-zhan-zhuang-posts-of-yiquan.html

KNEES:

The knees should never go past the toes; doing that can harm the knees.

About Knee Bends. 

Many martial arts teachers say that with the legs wider apart than shoulder width, you can gain a lower crouching stance which will enable more vital energy (qi) to be packed into your body.  This certainly has validity.  However in the standard practice of Zhan Zhuang, it is only an advanced option, and is best done only under the supervision of an experienced master teacher.

Normally the knees are bent about an inch—but it is standard to bend them as

much as you can without experiencing pain.

The knees should slightly push outward. To accomplish this, imagine a large ball expanding against, but simultaneously being held in place (isometric-like) by your knees. Guide your body weight to—and slightly lift up—the yongquan (Kidney-1) acupuncture points directly behind the balls of the feet.  This lifts the arches and distributes the weight between the heels, toes, and sides of the feet.  This will help you feel lighter and more agile.  It also keeps the knees from pointing inward.

Be a TREE. 

Zhan Zhuang sometimes is translated as “Standing Like a Tree.”  It may be helpful to bring the concept of  Tree into the practice.  For example, do the exercise outdoors among large healthy trees—You can imagine that you too are a tree standing straight and powerful; drawing up earth-yin energy and drawing down sun-yang energy.

Or visualize you are squeezing a tree and making it smaller; not only with your hands and arms, but also with your knees and legs.  Or imagine that you are pulling it out by its roots. All of these are done without any external movement.

To Prevent Energy Leakage.

Very gently tighten the muscles in the anal and perineum area.

What Not To Do. 

Master Wang Xiangzhai taught that Conscious Awareness and Physical Form working together is the basis of this work: In his words, “Mind activity is born from the posture; posture follows mind activity.”  What this means is that although he did teach using certain visualizations, he rejected thought controlled qigong practices such as orbiting qi in the meridians, working with specific acupuncture points, or Daoist or Buddhist breathing techniques.  I think he wanted us to be without any words in a place of Oneness (the “Flow” or  what athletes call, “In the Zone”).

BENEFITS FROM DOING THE PRACTICE:

“I do Zhan Zhuang and I’m happy! I do Zhan Zhuang and I’m healthy! I do Zhan Zhuang and I have a long life!”  - Grand Master Yu Yong-Nian https://munndialarts.com/english/master-yu-yong-nian/  (he lived 93 years).

Standing Post strengthens the muscles, and increases qi (life energy) in the body. It grants an awareness of the self—which may lead to profound psychological and spiritual experiences. Relaxing and being able to ignore discomfort is a skill that may be used in dealing with many of the difficult situations we may face in life.

Health: 

A basic premise of traditional Chinese health practices is that illness is caused when qi (vital life energy) is deficient, stagnant, excessive or blocked.  Properly done, Standing Post helps correct these problems.

Psychological:

Standing Post trains the mind to be still and concentrated, thereby gaining alertness, self discipline and will power.  The mind does not lose itself so easily in the daily stresses of modern life which often trigger a variety of psychological problems.

Spiritual Growth:

“In Zhan Zhuang Chi Kung one learns to return to the source of all power, to enter back into the very womb of universal energy and to experience the truth of the power of the void, the still point, the wuji" [i.e., the empty potential for infinite creation], (from Internal Arts Journal. http://www.qigonghealer.com/zhan_zhuang.html . Standing Post, occasionally called “Standing Meditation,” can bring the Body, Life Energy, and the Mind into an experienced state of Unity.  A place of Oneness: first with the self, then with nature, then the world, then the universe.  And finally perhaps with what some might call the “Dao.”

WARNINGS: 

If you have substantial [qi-energy] blockage in your body, the accumulated energy derived from Zhan Zhuang would cause internal injuries.” Wong Kiew Kit.  The Shaolin Arts. p. 150.   Do not practice when sick, instead go see a doctor!  Some sources say do not practice if you have high blood pressure, or excessive blood flow during menstruation or menopause, or if pregnant or right after childbirth.  As always, consult with professional health providers before doing any exercise or qigong; especially if you have any medical problems or health issues. As mentioned throughout this article: if there is pain stop. If the pain continues consult with a professional healer.

Notes

(Zhan Zhuang is translated many ways: “Standing Post” is accurate but without meaning for most English speakers.  Other terms are “Standing Stake,” “Standing Meditation,” “Standing Pole,” “Standing Like a Tree,” or “Stance Training.” Even its most important teacher in the 20th century, Master Wang Xiangzhai, near the end of his life called it Health Nourishing Postures,” and “Postures of Primeval Unity.”

This article is a summation of  “The Ultimate Energy Exercise: Zhan Zhuang – Standing (Like A) Post. Qi Journal, vol. 23/n.2; Summer 2013.  https://www.qi-journal.com/store.asp?-token.S=qi&ID=3319

The next issue of Chinese Medicine Living for March, 2018 will have the concluding The Most Important Qigong – III:  (Standing Post - Zhan Zhuang). It  features

Dr. Yan Xin’s http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm version of Standing Post, as well as a list of books, online articles, and videos for further study.

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Featured image source: http://www.yiquan78.org/postures.htm


Winter Recipe - Astragalus Dangshen Mutton Soup

By NourishU

Seasonal Eating in Chinese Medicine - Winter Recipes

Winter with the drop of temperature is the time to slow down on physical activities because our body's metabolic rate will be slower. It is also the time to eat nourishing food to help the body to preserve energy. Animals follow the law of nature and hibernate throughout winter. Human should also preserve energy and build up strength, preparing the body for regeneration and new growth in spring.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, tonic-taking in winter has a great bearing upon the balancing of Yin and Yang elements, the unblocking of meridians, and the harmonizing of Qi and blood. In the five elements theory of TCM, winter is when the kidneys are highly active and they have astringent and active storage functions that help in preserving energy. People should eat food with less salty taste in order to reduce the burden on the kidneys. Uncooked and frozen foods can damage the spleen and stomach and should be taken in moderation.

Photo by Mike Kotsch on Unsplash

In winter when body's resistance is low, elderly people are especially advised to take food tonics which can improve their body constitution and promote better resistance to illness. Food tonics can have much better healthful effects than supplementation and drugs.

The tonics include superior warming herbs, fatty and meaty foods. Our body is designed to absorb the rich and nutritional foods better at this time of the year. For people who have cold constitution with cold hands and feet, weak kidney health with frequent urination, cold and stiff body and constant pain in their backs and ankles, winter is the best time for them to correct these health problems when the body is most responsive to nutritional treatment.

The warming winter foods include chive, chicken, mutton, shrimp, ginger, garlic, walnut, mushroom, chestnut, mustard, vinegar, wine, gingko, red pepper and spring onion. For people who are cold in nature, they should also use the warming herbs such as dangshen, ginseng, astragalus, reishi mushroom, longan fruit and deer horn, etc. to promote yang energy.

Astragalus Dangshen Mutton Soup

Therapeutic Effects

Nourishes qi and blood, clears toxicity and promotes regeneration of skin.

Ingredients 

  • Mutton – 360gm (cut into pieces)
  • Dried shiitake mushroom – 10
  • Astragalus (huang qi) 黃耆 – 30gm
  • Dangshen (dang shen) 黨參 – 30 gm
  1. Wash mutton and put in boiling water to cook for a few minutes, remove and rinse.
  2. Soak mushroom for about 30 minutes, remove stem and cut into halves.
  3. Rinse herbs and put all ingredients in a soup pot with about 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium heat and simmer for 3 hours.
  4. Add seasoning to serve. Drink soup and eat some meat.

Usage

Recommended for no more than twice per month in winter months for health promotion.

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Winter Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Winter Season in Chinese Medicine.

Featured image photo by Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash


The Most Important Qigong

By John Voigt

The most important qigong gymnastic is standing and doing nothing. Many masters of traditional Chinese martial arts, spiritual sciences, and healing practices have stated that this is the basis, the foundation, of all Asian inner and outer life-energy work.

It is called Zhan Zhuang (站), and pronounced Jhan Jwong. It means “Standing [like a wooden] Post.

"If I had to choose one qigong technique to practice, it would undoubtedly be this one. Many Chinese call standing meditation "the million dollar secret of qigong." Whether you are practicing qigong for self healing, for building healing ch'i, for massage or healing work on others, standing is an essential practice ….  for ch'i  gathering and flow."  –  Kenneth S. Cohen.  The Way Of Qigong.

 “Zhan zhuang, or stance training, is the most important single category of exercise for developing internal force.  It can be safely said that all Taijiquan masters, all Xingyi masters, most Bagua masters, and many Shaolin masters obtained their internal force from zhan zhuang.”    –  Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit.  Stance Training And Becoming A Scholar-Warrior.

Although this practice can over time potentially open to those who do it a path to liberation, it may be summarized in only a few words:

Stand straight and relaxed. Raise your arms and hug an imaginary large tree (or large ball). Breathe slowly, deeply, and smoothly. Relax into any discomfort you experience. Hold the pose as long as possible. If there is any pain, or even a hint of pain, stop immediately.

A Short History Of The Practice

Standing without moving is an ancient meditation practice. Shamans in ecstatic rituals enacted wild animals stalking their prey—the consciousness focused on the kill;  the body virtually motionless, waiting to spring. Certain Hindu yoga asanas employ slightly similar standing poses, especially Tadasana, the “Mountain Pose.”

Over two thousand years old (and discovered in 1973 at the Mawangdui archaeological site in Changsha, China) are 44 drawings on silk, called the Daoyin tu, literally meaning “Leading and Guiding [QiDiagrams.” Many of the figures appear to be doing stationary standing forms. Here is a section of one of the scrolls. (In Standing Post the arms and hands may be at low, middle, high, or even raised positions.)

Nevertheless these Shaman, Hindu, or ancient Chinese practices are only precursors to Zhan Zhuang as we know and do it today.

The Practice

If possible, pick a regular time and place. Early morning in a pleasant outdoor setting is best. Fresh air is important: if indoors, and the weather permitting, open a window. 

Warm Up

Feel free to use your own regime of loosening and gently stretching the muscles and joints. (But it is best not to do any strenuous physical exercises before doing Standing Post.)

Here are some suggested limbering up qigong forms:  Rub the hands together and massage the face and head. Massage (or gently slap or tap) the torso, arms and legs, neck and head areas. Stretch the arm and leg muscles.

With hands on knees, look down at a 45-degree angle, and gently rotate the knees clockwise, then counterclockwise. Rotate the arms in front of the body, circling in, then out. Rotate the hips (as if doing hula hoops) clockwise, then counterclockwise. Do each five or more times each way.

Preparation

Stand with the feet approximately a fist’s width apart. Raise the arms straight up, palms facing, above your head. This keeps the head from sagging forward and straightens the back. Next bring the arms down by the sides of the body in sweeping semicircles. At the same time extend one foot (usually the left foot) out to the side to about shoulder’s width.

Preliminary Posture

Called “Wuji”  - “Empty” - or  “Basic”  Stance.

Note

This posture, also called by other names, is used to begin many qigong and taijiquan (tai chi) exercises.

From the Preparation stance, continue standing straight (do not lean back). Keep the chin tucked slightly in. Imagine a string at the crown of the head gently but firmly pulling you up—and feel the spine actually lengthen. The arms and hands rest lightly at the sides. Turn the elbows slightly forward to ensure a hollow space in the armpits—enough to hold a "swallow’s egg."  The knees are soft, slightly bent and not locked. The feet are straight. Breathe slowly, smoothly, fully into the lower abdomen. Lower the eyelids  and look slightly down with a soft gaze, as if daydreaming. Rest the tip of tongue on the hard palette behind the front top teeth.

Stand in this manner for a few minutes or longer.

HOLDING and EMBRACING the POST

Continuing directly from the Preliminary Posture:  inhale and curve the arms and hands and lift them to the front of the chest. Palms face the chest. Fingers are separated. The elbows are slightly lowered. The distance between the hands and chest is approximately one foot. Exhale, and keeping the shoulders loose and the back straight, sink down and sit back on an imaginary tall stool. The knees should not extend past the tips of the toes. Imagine that you are squeezing a large inflated beach ball—or a tree. The important thing is to be completely relaxed in body and mind. When the position is comfortably locked in—(this may take days or months to achieve)— pleasurable, even ecstatic, experiences may occur.

Grand Master Yu Yong Nian teaching Standing Post in Beijing, circa 1985

Note

Mentally holding on to the continual stress and irritation of modern life may make even a few minutes of standing and seemingly doing nothing seem like an eternity. If that happens, it is most likely an indication that your mental and physical energy flow patterns are in disarray. The more mentally torturous just standing and doing “nothing” is for you, the more  you need to do it.

To End the Practice

After completing Standing Post, return to standing in the opening Basic - Empty - Wuji stance, but with your palms over each other on the lower abdomen. Stand like this for several minutes to store the energy. Then do the warm up as a cool down. Then take a walk.

WARNINGS

If you have substantial [qi-energy] blockage in your body, the accumulated energy derived from Zhan Zhuang would cause internal injuries.” Wong Kiew Kit. The Shaolin Arts. p. 150. Do not practice when sick, instead see a doctor.  Some sources say do not practice if you have high blood pressure, or excessive blood flow during menstruation or menopause, or if pregnant or right after childbirth. As always, consult with a professional health provider before doing any exercise or qigong; especially if you have any medical problems or health issues. And as mentioned throughout this article: if there is pain stop and consult with a professional healer, or an experienced teacher of Standing Post - Zhan Zhuang.

In the Next issue of Chinese Medical Living this article will continue with: 1. additional techniques on how to practice Standing Post;  2. how to deal with its discomfort; 3. its benefits; and 4. sources for more information. And how Dr. Yan Xin, a famous, outstanding, and charismatic qigong master, taught Standing Post in Beijing.

This article is a summation of  “The Ultimate Energy Exercise: Zhan Zhuang – Standing (Like A) Post. Qi Journal, vol. 23/n.2; Summer 2013. https://www.qi-journal.com/store.asp?-token.S=qi&ID=3319

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Featured image from TaiChiBasics.com