My Struggles Have Made Me A Better, More Empathetic Doctor

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Some of the most useful things that I have been able to bring to my patients are things that I have learned through my own experiences with trauma, pain, emotional issues, illnesses - and how I was able to get through them. These experiences also allow me tremendous empathy for the people I see, both in clinic and in everyday life. My thinking is that the more I go through and GET through, the better I can serve my patients and ultimately, my fellow human being. No matter our financial status, where we are born, our religion, colour or beliefs, we will all experience difficulties, pain, fear, sorrow, and illness at some time in our lives. And it helps to know that you are not alone and that you will ultimately get through it, and be stronger for the experience.

An Unusual Life (Let me get philosophical for a moment)

I have had, well, an unusual life. This has been mostly of my own making, and even though there have been a lot of ups and downs (oh *so* many), I wouldn't change any of it. I have never believed in regret. I believe that every experience that we have in this life contributes to making us who we are - that we are an accumulation of those experiences. I also think that it is important that we are at peace with the person we have become, no matter what may be happening in our lives. This certainly is not always easy. Remembering to be kind with ourselves as we are a young species, and here to learn a great deal which includes things which we judge to be unpleasant like pain, grief, loss, fear, anger, and frustration are all important pieces of the whole. Like Chinese medicine, I believe in a holistic system, with every part synergistically connecting to every other. I can draw so many parallels back to Chinese medicine, which is why I connected to it so strongly and why I fell so deeply and passionately in love with it. It is an allegory for life, and perhaps, all things in the universe and beyond.

Ever since I can remember I have been hungry for so many of the experiences that life has to offer. I didn't have a choice in the matter, it was like there was a force driving me, and I could either allow it to push me in the direction of experience or be crushed and ultimately destroyed by it. I wanted to do everything, try everything. I was driven by a curiosity about the world and my existence that has lead me to live a very, uh, interesting life. I was fascinated with travel and wanted to see as many places and cultures as I could. I loved the way that each place had a unique smell, a look, a feel and each would arouse such emotion. I also loved the newness of a different country, a new city or tiny village. I thrived being immersed in a completely alien culture and absorbing as much of it as I could, being exposed to its magic, its customs, rituals, food, and music. There is such beauty, creativity, and wonder that permeates the cultures of the world, and that is what I was after. I loved seeing what each had to offer, and learning how its people communicated, loved, celebrated and mourned. I absolutely think that travel is the best education. I learned more in my travels than I ever could in a classroom or books.

I have also been living my life in, I suppose, a unique way. I knew from very early on that I would never live the life that most people end up living. Buying a one-way ticket to another country and not knowing where you were going to stay, not having a job and not knowing how long you would be there? This is insane! they would say. Going to China alone to work in a tiny city so small (6 million people) it wasn't even on the map, and just hoping it would be ok? Foolish! Moving to Central America with a tiny baby to make a better life with hopes to buy land, live off the grid and create a sustainable community and healing retreat without the resources (yet) with which to do it? Madness. And yet, I have done all of these things with varying degrees of success. With these experiences came a lot of worry, grief, loneliness, frustration, and despair, I am not going to lie to you. And yet, even though they involved a lot of pain and emotions which are hard to deal with, I am glad I did those things because I learned a lot about myself, and how to process all the crazy things that life can throw at you. And even when things are difficult and painful, you do come out the other side, and the feelings then, are often intensely joyful because you have passed through such darkness to get to them. And yet, these experiences are not for the faint of heart. And many would say choices made by someone who may be a few crayons short of a full box.

I was once sitting in a session with a therapist before my imminent departure to a foreign country and he said to me "you know, this thing you are doing, would scare the hell out of most people. Aren't you afraid?" And, this was the first moment that I really thought about fear in connection with the situation. After a minute I said, "no, I am not scared of this at all." And then he asked me the inevitable question. "Well then, what are you scared of?" And the answer came to me quickly. I said "I am scared of being married to someone I don't love, working a job I hate and feeling trapped in a life I don't want. I fear getting to the end of my life and feeling like I never really lived."

Pain & Growth

In my experience, it has been the darkest moments, the most difficult times and when I was deeply suffering that I learned the most. It took me a long time to admit because I didn't want it to be true. I wanted to be able to learn from happiness, joy, freedom, and love, and I have. But not like I evolve when I am facing darkness. But maybe it is just me...

Take Vipassana meditation for instance. This, by definition, is taking a stroll through the winding path of your consciousness, that inevitably leads to some of the darker places in your subconscious. Vipassana is defined as "seeing things as they really are", which, at least in my experiences, have meant the whole she-bang. The light bits and the darker ones as well. And it is the darker ones that we tend to hide from, the ones that hurt us, leave scars and can hinder us in the present until we are able to heal them (acknowledging them first which is usually not easy and can bring up a lot of difficult feelings) and finally let them go.

**if you would like to learn more about Vipassana Meditation you can read about my two Vipassana retreats here - My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation and Vipassana 2.0.

I have seen this for many years with patients. As a practitioner, I like to get deep into things. I want to understand why you are having those headaches, the insomnia, and the panic attacks, so I ask a lot of questions in an attempt to get to the root of things. And I have found that so much of what makes people sick are things that have hurt them in their past that they are dragging with them into their present. That may sound strange, but in my experience, it is absolutely true. As a culture, we are all striving for health, but most of the time that is limited to the physical realm. And yet, as well as physical bodies, we all have emotions, but few of us are taught or have the skills to deal with them in a healthy way. I think that because I was such a sensitive child, and constantly overwhelmed by not only my emotions, but by the emotions of others, that I have been working my whole life to find a balance and a way to deal with them effectively so that they do not become demons that haunt me in my present.

Chinese medicine is well aware of this phenomena and the emotions are considered to be one of the causes of disease. Now, to clarify, HAVING emotions is not a cause of disease, but emotions that are suppressed, unexpressed or expressed in an inappropriate manner are seen to contribute to disease. So basically, emotional health is just as important as physical health, and so it should be. Patients are often surprised at how much attention I give to their emotional state as we talk in each session. And I tell them that it is a hugely important factor and that I need to be aware of how they are feeling so that I can better help them to rebalance and gain the equilibrium that will bring them back to health - body, mind, and spirit.

A Better Healer

I hope that because of all the experiences that I have had, and all the pain that I have been through, that those experiences have made me a better version of myself. A wiser, more compassionate self. And I also think that my struggles with pain, grief, anger, loss and my journeys into the darkness have given me the ability to recognize those struggles in others. I know that darkness, I have spent a lot of time there. I know that place and I can empathize with you if you are there too.

It is rarely the thing that people say they are coming in to see me for that is the thing that needs the most attention. And, because I have been there, in that dark place where you feel like you are hurting and all alone, that I can see that person, take their hand, and hopefully, lead them back into the light. Which is, after all, where we all want to be.

This beautiful quote by Ram Dass is one that has always really hit home for me, in my life and in my work. <3


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


Winter Recipe - Black Bean Congee to Promote Kidney Health

By NourishU

Eating in Winter According to Chinese Medicine

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.

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 a 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 dang shen, ginseng, astragalus, reishi mushroom, longan fruit and deer horn, etc. to promote yang energy.

For people who are hot in nature, they should use moderating foods such as spinach, eggplant, crab, white turnip, persimmon, honeydew, bitter melon and pineapple to moderate the heat.

For people who have a moderate constitution (neither too hot nor too cold), they should use moderately warm herbs such as Chinese yam, goji-berries, American ginseng, glehnia and Solomon's seal to maintain a healthy balance.

Black Bean Congee

Therapeutic Effects

Promotes kidney health.

Ingredients

  • Black beans 黑豆 – 2 spoonfuls
  • Little red bean 紅小豆 – one spoonful
  • Chinese Yam (shan yao) 山藥 – 30gm
  • Goji-berry / Chinese Wolfberry (gou ji zi) 枸杞子 – 10 to 20
  • Rice – half a cup

Directions

1.   Soak beans and yam for 2 hours and rinse.

2.   Soak goji-berry for 30 minutes and rinse.

3.   Rinse rice. Bring 4 cups of water in a pot to a boil and put in all ingredients. Boil again, lower heat to medium and cook for about 45 minutes or until beans are soft. Add water if necessary.

Usage

No limitation. Eat in the evening with dinner for best results.

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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.

**Photo by Sandra Frey on Unsplash


Meditation for Health, Happiness & Wellbeing

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

For thousands of years cultures around the world have known about the benefits of meditation and have woven the practice into their daily lives. Meditation is not just a way to relax or clear your mind, it has been used for millennia to raise consciousness and connect us with the divine.

Meditation for many of us has become a sort of buzz word. Meditation is touted as a way to help you relax, get better sleep, lower stress and improve mental functions. And while meditation does all of those things, they are just a few of its wonderful byproducts. If you look at the complete picture of what meditation is and what it was originally intended for, the benefits of meditation go much deeper. A devoted practice can help not only feed the physical as well as the psychological aspects of ourselves, but can also connect you to your spirit, fostering self awareness, and filling you with feelings of compassion and loving kindness. When some are in a deep state of meditation, they are able to activate the pineal gland (also known as the third eye) - a small pine cone shaped gland that sits in the centre of the brain - and is thought by many cultures to be the doorway that leads from the physical to the spiritual worlds. The pineal gland is extremely sensitive to light, and this is why in many ancient cultures, serious meditators have always engaged in long periods of meditation in complete darkness. This darkness activates the pineal gland and allows humans to traverse from the physical to the spiritual worlds and gain insights into the nature of life and the cosmos as well as connect with the universal energy (of which we are all a part). These experiences remove the body and the ego completely and allow a person to shed their worldly trappings and feel what it is like to be in complete oneness. This has been described by some as what it is like when we "die", leaving our bodies and returning to source energy.

Science & Spirituality

It is only in our recent history that science and spirituality have been broken into two separate entities. They used to be considered part of the whole of things - the macrocosm, neither being able to exist without the other. But things started to change - subjects were broken apart and people began to specialize, meaning it became more difficult for anyone to see the whole picture. With the world as it is now, with its focus on science, it is difficult to accept that science and spirituality were at one time inseparable. Many ancient cultures had a holistic view of life and the cosmos, and their lives were part of a vast web that included all of nature and indeed, everything in existence. As a species we have become so identified with our minds and especially our thoughts, that this connection to the whole, of all there is, has largely been lost. We have slowly separated ourselves from the world that we came out of and have become more and more identified with our thoughts - one tiny aspect of who we are.

Impermanence - Anicca

Ancient cultures around the world realized what to us living in the modern world seem to have forgotten - that life is a microcosm of the universe itself, and is in a constant state of change. The only constant is change itself. This is what the Buddhists call "anicca" which literally means impermanence. This knowledge did not cause worry or fear as it might today, but a sense of calm and peace, the acceptance of the way things are, and that everything rises and passes away in an unending cycle. As a culture, we are taught to yearn for things or experiences that are desirable or cause us to feel pleasure, and to avoid painful or negative experiences. The acceptance of anicca in ones life is actually quite liberating. Instead of spending energy craving or avoiding things, you just accept everything as it comes, not judging it to be good or bad but simply allowing it to happen and then, inevitably, to pass away into the ether.

The Benefits of Meditation in Modern Life

The benefits of meditation are particularly compelling and needed at this time in our history. Many people live more unnaturally than they ever have, working long hours in offices in front of computers, living in huge buildings alone in tiny apartments, eating at their desks, consuming foods that are processed and made in factories, not getting enough sleep, spending little to no time outside and always in a hurry. Does this sound familiar? If this is not you, then you are fortunate, but it is the life that many of us have - often out of necessity. We also have problems like violence, addictive behaviours, mental illnesses and suicide in unprecedented numbers. Our modern lives, and the fast pace at which we live them, have caused us to lose the connection to ourselves and to others. So many of us are sick, sad and lonely and struggling to live lives with the most basic of necessities. Also, for the first time in a long time, life is not getting better for each subsequent generation, it is getting harder. The political, and economic landscape has become divisive, corrupt and many people are losing faith in their ability to live a happy, fulfilling life.

The gift that meditation can give you is a chance to slow down. It is amazing all the sounds you can hear in the silence. It is amazing what happens when you slow down and LISTEN. Going outside and sitting in the grass quietly, you will begin to hear that nature has a hum that you have never heard before. It is communicating with you, it has always been communicating with you, but you have never been able to hear it. The natural world speaks a language that we have all known since the dawn of time, but our lives - the way we are living our lives - are drowning it out and we have slowly forgotten it.

Our fast paced, hectic lives take a toll on us on many levels. Physically they exhaust our adrenal glands (the glands that sit on top of our kidneys and manage our fight or flight responses to perceived threats or danger). Due to the high levels of stimulus constantly coming at us, our nervous systems are overworked and easily become exhausted leaving us feeling frazzled and anxious. Many of us are overworked and under-slept not giving our bodies time to heal, relax and play that they desperately need. Some may need to work more to pay off debts, school loans or support families, parents or grandparents. It has become increasingly difficult to live a balanced life in an unbalanced world. With the widening gap between rich and poor, life for many is getting harder and not easier putting even more stress on us individually and as a species.

With this constant focus on the external world, which is where we must focus at least some of our energies if we are to survive, there is little time to look inward and cultivate our inner worlds. This includes the cultivation of our spirit which contributes to our health and wellbeing. It also allows us to remove ourselves from the world of the physical, detach from our ego's and reconnect with the one universal energy.

Meditation & Health

Meditation is something I recommend to all my patients. In my opinion, there is not a single person that would not benefit from meditating regularly. It does not require any expensive equipment, any in depth knowledge or adherence to a specific set of beliefs or a level of physical fitness. All you need is the desire and a little time.

I usually recommend starting slowly to help get your body and mind into the habit. It can be overwhelming at first and many experience what can be quite an intense "monkey mind". That is the mind racing from one thought to another and never seeming to quiet down. This is normal. If you think about it, we rarely simply allow our minds to wander - letting them move from one thought to another without pulling them in one particular direction. We are constantly tasking them with specific things, forcing them to focus and never really allowing them to relax and for our thoughts to meander as they like. So, when you begin, your mind tends to sort of freak out, having never been allowed to run free before, it runs wild and in all directions at once. I find that starting slowly helps, and after a few days or sometimes weeks, your mind starts to quiet down. There are many, many meditation techniques out there, and if you like, you can find one that resonates with you, but for the beginning I simply tell patients to get to a point where your mind is quiet. Once there, focus on your breathing and the physical sensations on the body. Just observing them. The wind hitting a spot on your arm. The breath as it enters your nose. The smell of a flower growing just outside an open window. The mind will inevitably wander, but you must not get frustrated, you simply kindly and gently bring yourself back to the breath. Twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening is ideal and you will find that just this small thing will have a positive effect that will ripple through your entire life.

Meditation Benefits

There are numerous benefits to maintaining an ongoing meditation practice for body, mind and spirit. They are:

  • Improves memory, concentration and clear thinking
  • Improves quality and quantity of sleep
  • Decreases anxiety and stress
  • Builds a sense of wellbeing
  • Deepens our sense of compassion and insight
  • Nurtures a sense of joy, peace and love
  • Helps to build connections within ourselves and with others
  • Helps us to process and manage our emotions
  • Cultivates personal growth and self discovery
  • Helps to connect us to our inner selves
  • Separates us from the ego and helps us to connect to source or universal energy

Beginners Meditation Tips

  • Start Slowly - Just 10 Minutes at a Time is Great
  • Find Time Everyday - Preferably Morning, Evening or Both
  • Find a Comfortable Seated Position
  • Be in a Room with No distractions - Clean & Quiet with Good Energy
  • Expect Your Thoughts to Run Wild at First - They Will Calm Down with Time
  • Focus on Your Breath - Whatever Thoughts Enter Your Head, Just Gently Return to the Breath
  • Be Kind to Yourself - It Takes Time!

A Guided Meditation for Beginners (4 Videos)

There are almost limitless meditations and techniques, and I encourage any of you that are new to meditation to try things out and find something that resonates with you. Here is a nice guided meditation with some information and good instruction that you can check out on our YouTube channel, I will embed them below. Feel free in the comments to let me know what you think. :)

Samadhi - Guided Meditation - Chinese Medicine Living YouTube Channel

Meditation Gear

The great thing about meditation is you really don't need any "gear" at all. All you really need is a quiet place and, if possible, something soft to sit on so your bum and legs don't hurt. But, if you want to get more serious, then creating a lovely, peaceful space where you can meditate and having a few things can help get you into the right head and body space to do some serious meditating. I would say that having a dedicated space for meditating is wonderful if you can do it. The thinking is that every time you meditate in that space, you are building up the good energy there and it will help you slip into your meditations more easily. If you don't believe me, try it. Once you have been meditating in a space for a while you will literally be able to feel how powerful the energy is there. And it doesn't have to be big, all you really need is enough room to sit down and cross your legs.

Seated on my SPOKO meditation bench.
There are many ways to sit in meditation, you just have to find the one that is comfortable for you. 

Another thing that is nice to have is a meditation cushion, or bench to sit on for your meditation practice. There are a wide variety of both, and which kind you choose is really about your own personal preference. I have a few cushions of different styles that I love as well as this beautiful meditation bench which I have featured in this article. Now, I have used a few types of meditation benches which are originally what the Japanese use to meditate, and all of them were pretty uncomfortable, especially for long meditations. But, this particular bench was ergonomically designed and is actually incredibly comfortable - and beautiful to boot. It is called the Spoko meditation bench made by a lovely company in Canada. I love this bench as it is comfortable, beautiful and very portable for impromptu outside meditations. The legs come off so it is very easy to throw into a backpack if you are doing something like hiking up to a waterfall or walking in a forest and find a place you would like to stop and meditate to soak up the nature vibes.

If you would like to read my review of this sassy bench you can here - Spoko Meditation Bench Review.

Meditation for Everyone

In conclusion, I think it is exciting that meditation is getting so much positive attention these days. Scientists are now beginning to be able to prove its positive effects on the brain and body, and many cultures have known its benefits on all aspects of our beings for centuries. Even though I am a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I always stay open to all possibilities that can bring healing to us on any and all levels. Meditation, for me, has been one of the best healing tools that I have discovered. Like anything, there are layers to it and it depends on what you goal is when you begin, but I have found that one of the best things about meditation is that when you spend time in the silence, there is a unique opportunity to delve deeply into yourself, and that if you are willing to listen, this is where the answers to all the questions that you have ever asked lie. It has been a reminder that inside us is everything that we have ever needed to be healthy, happy and divine beings.

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End Notes

Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana meditation is approximately 2500 years old and is thought to be the meditation taught by the Buddha himself. If you would like to learn more about Vipassana meditation, you can read about the two 10 day silent Vipassana retreats that I have done here - My 10 Day Vipassana Meditation and Vipassana 2.0. There is also an excellent documentary about Vipassana meditation that I would highly recommend called The Dhamma Brothers.

In this article, I have featured the SPOKO meditation bench. If you would like to read the review, you may do so here - Spoko Meditation Bench Review. If you would like to have one of your very own, you may purchase it here - SPOKO.ca

The wonderful guided meditation is from The Samadhi Center via the AwakenTheWorldFilm YouTube Channel. Thank you for your awesomeness!

There is an excellent series of four videos called Inner Worlds, Outer Worlds. They cover a huge range of topics, but are a must see for everyone! There is quite a bit on meditation as well so check them out, I highly recommend them. :)

You can watch all four parts on the Chinese Medicine Living YouTube Channel.

Inner Worlds, Outer Worlds

Part One - Akasha
Part Two - The Spiral
Part Three - The Serpent And The Lotus
Part Four -  Beyond Thinking

The beautiful featured image Photo by Sarah Ball on Unsplash. Thank you!


How My Cat Taught Me About Buddhism

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Cats are the ultimate Buddhists.

When I first arrived in Panama many years ago, a friend arrived at my door one day with a burlap sack and handed it to me. Inside it was a tiny kitten, about the size of a tennis ball. He was filthy, missing patches of fur and had a huge cut on his tiny pink nose. I instantly fell in love with this baby cat and from then on my life completely revolved around his comings and goings.

Little Pepe soon after I got him at about 5 weeks old. Who could resist that face??

Being In The Present

I used to love to watch him. No matter what he was doing, he was always so in the moment. I never saw him sitting around brooding over the past of worrying about the future as people so often do. He was always absolutely engrossed in whatever he was doing at that particular moment. He was always reveling in the present.

Seeing The World As It Is

My little cat was living his life, fully in the present. He wasn't avoiding certain situations or experiences. He was taking life as it came and, seeing the world as it really was. As human beings tend to do, we avoid things that are painful or unpleasant and crave experiences and things that give us pleasure which creates a constant cycle of unhappiness. Pepe was living the hell out of every moment, no matter what was happening.

Little Pepe - fearless explorer, supreme hunter, and the ultimate Buddha. 

Everything Is A Meditation

I used to watch him while he was hunting, often birds, and he was so focussed and almost relaxed as he stalked them... it really seemed to me that everything that he did was a meditation. He was always mindful and present and everything he did seemed like the thing he was DESIGNED, MADE to do. It was so effortless, and even though I often had to save birds from his clutches, I loved to watch him because it was like watching water moving effortlessly through his environment.

In Harmony With His Environment

Pepe always seemed like he was perfectly designed to blend seamlessly into his environment. Like millions of years of honing the perfect cat characteristics had reached its equinox with this one, small white cat. He effortlessly climbed the highest trees, plucked birds out of the air with one perfectly calculated jump. He and the environment were one, communicating through some silent nonverbal language, like a song being written on the fly, of the most beautiful music you have ever heard. Music you could never have conceived of because it is divine in nature. There was an ease about his movements and demeanor, and he always seemed relaxed and completely content, like he was made for his environment, and it was made for him.

Equanimity

I never saw things like fear (which might have done him some good sometimes, oh the things he would get into!!) from my little cat. He was always perfectly equanimous. I never saw him reflecting, brooding or looking anxious, he always seemed perfectly at peace. My life in those days was filled with such dramatic highs and lows and I always would look at my little cat and wish I could be more like him. Good and bad things didn't happen, only things. It is us that judge them as being good or bad. Pepe seemed to have equanimity at all times, no matter what might have been going on. I admit, there were many times I envied him, wishing for the balance that eluded me and seemed inherent in him.

Impermanence

It always amazed me how Pepe could be so completely engrossed in any activity and seamlessly flow into being just as engrossed in the next thing as it came. I never saw him stop something he might have found enjoyable and get sad that it was over. This seems to be a purely human thing. He was completely able to move from one thing to the other just being and taking it all as it came. Not being sad about things that had gone or worrying about what was coming. He was all about anicca (the Pali word that represents that all things, including the self, are impermanent and constantly changing). Change is so difficult for many people and I have certainly struggled with it. Pepe however, seemed not to even notice, he was able to go with the natural from of things.

Vipassana Meditation : Chinese Medicine Living

Wisdom

I have had a lot of change, upheaval, highs and lows in my life. I have bene trying in my own way, to live it to the fullest. So many of these Buddhist concepts and teachings are difficult for me, and I am constantly working on them. I find that whenever I am feeling something strongly (which is often), or struggling with my feelings (which happens on a regular basis), wondering things like why bad things happen to good people or get worried or depressed about the state of the world, all I have to do is go outside and watch my little cat. He is a wonderful reminder that things aren't good or bad, they just ARE, and it is my feelings and judgements about them that cause me unnecessary suffering and pain. My little cat always seems content, in the moment and completely at peace with himself and with life. With all that I have "learned" in many decades on this planet, I realize that my little cat Pepe is still one of my best teachers.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

If you would like to read about my experience with Vipassana meditation (and my foray into Buddhist concepts and teachings), you can read these - My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation, & Vipassana 2.0. I hope you enjoy them. :)


External Qi Healing - Part 3

By John Voigt

**Disclaimer. This article is written for educational purposes only.  It is not offered for the healing of any serious illnesses. If a person is sick he or she must see a proper professional, in either (or both) western or traditional Chinese medicine.**

E - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.

Is it necessary to ask permission before doing a Sending?

Absolutely yes.  The practitioner must ask permission from the receiver before emanating qi.  To send without gaining approval is insulting, offensive and invasive.

Is it “your” qi that you are sending? Or does it come from somewhere else?

Well, yes and no to both questions.  At one level qi is the energy you have brought into your body by breathing and eating; and have built up and preserved through qigong practices, as well as by reducing or eliminating physical and emotional problems.  Additionally it is important to reduce or stop the loss of Jing (often thought of as being sperm or ovum, which is only partially true.)  Jing is better understood as being a highly perfected subtle energetic potentiality: in other words the essence of life.  So from this perspective, you are not the one sending your qi, but rather only being a conduit for a universal force that is flowing its jing-essence-qi down and through you.

The Chinese character for "Qi"

Where does this essence come from? Many healers cannot, or refuse to, answer that question.  Others simply say it comes from nature, or the sun, or the direction of certain stars.  There isn’t enough space here, nor do I have the wisdom, to explore this much further, except to point out that throughout the ages mystics when in visionary states perceive all and everything as a unity in a universal consciousness.  So much so that each of our individual consciousnesses appear as being joined together within a larger and more profound reality.  Personally I call this reality the Dao (Tao), but here definitions are not that important; rather it is about experiencing, manifesting and using this Power.  A number of quantum scientists have reached a similar understanding in believing that such things are beyond rational verbal definitions, but nevertheless do offer entrances into practical applications in the use of energy.  Likewise EQH offers practical applications in the use of Life Energy (Qi).  Whatever your specific beliefs, this more speculative approach offers possibilities to help prevent a basic problem in sending healing qi: the depletion of the healer’s personal qi.  It no longer is just “your” qi.  It comes from the outside and through you.  However, there are different schools of though about whose qi is it anyway.

Can Healing Energy be Sent from a Distance? 

Yes.  But the sender and recipient should agree on a specific time; and make sure the client understands that at that chosen time he or she is not to be driving a car, or using anything (machinery, tools, etc.), or doing anything where an accident could take place.  Once on the telephone just before doing a distance external qi healing, I half-joked to a client “not to be on a roof repairing leaks” – which was just what she was about to do!

This lovely image from thoughtco.com

About the Sending: How Often and for How Long?

Paul Dong offers this advice: Depending on the severity of the condition, a send is required every day or every other day.  Concerning the health of the healer he writes, the more internal qi you give out the weaker you become, therefore: “One to three healings a day are about the right number…  A young healer with strong power can do as many as six healings in one day… One session usually takes 10 or 15 to 20 minutes, or up to 30 minutes in more serious cases.  The first healing session for a new client should be no longer than 10 minutes.” [Paul Dong, Healing Force, pp. 84; 90-91].

This beautiful image from deborahking.com

How Long Does EQH Take to Learn? 

Two of the preeminent masters of External Qi offer slightly deferring suggestions: “People should at least go on doing Qigong exercises for 2 – 3 years in order to be able to emit the “external Qi” without doing any harm to his own health.” [Lin Housheng, p. 332].  By practicing [‘healing chi kung’] an hour a day, one can master it in nine months to a year.” [Paul Dong, p. 24].  Slowly and steadily practice your sending qi skills.  First send to qi sensitive family members and friends.  Then begin the healing practice with those afflicted with minor conditions such as a sprained ankle, a cold, a sore muscle, then slowly go to more serious conditions.  And never approach this as a silly party game; it’s unlikely, but people could get hurt that way.

Sure it seems to work sometimes but isn’t it just psychosomatic or a placebo?

To do controlled scientific experiments on the “validity” of EQH there would have to be Healing Qi Emissions done without a qi-energy component.  But that by definition would not an External Qi Send:  you cannot have a healing life energy transmission of qi without the qi.  Even if possible, if the psychological suggestions of EQH were removed then the qi energy and the information it contains would be compromised or blocked.  Nevertheless, the energetic components of qi have often been measured.  If interested see the scientific study done by Kevin Chen Ph.D. MPH, An Analytic Review of Studies on Measuring Effects of External Qi in China.  An abstract is available on the internet.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15285273

A personal anecdote about someone being unable to accept the validity of EQH. I am sure the reader will draw his or her own conclusions.  I was offering a qigong class at a local senior center.  No one came and I was about to leave when a middle-aged man entered who had great difficulty walking. We spoke and he told me his story: he was a Vietnam veteran who had gone through several operations for a war injury in his right hip and there had possibly been some botched surgeries.  He was in continual pain, but because he was frightened about becoming addicted he took no prescribed painkillers.  I offered to send him healing qi and he agreed.  As the qi was pouring through me into him, we both could feel it.  After a send of ten minutes I stopped.  He looked stunned.  I asked what was happening and how did he feel?  He answered that the pain was gone.  He continued to silently mull over the experience.  Finally he said to me, ”But what happened, that is only psychosomatic.” I was taken aback but answered him, “But it seemed to have worked.” He shrugged, and seemingly continued to do his best to reject what just had taken place.  I told him when I would again be at the senior center and if he wanted another send I would do it.  And at no cost—perhaps that was my biggest mistake—but whatever the case I never saw him again.  I deeply hope he is better.

There is another thing that causes many people to disregard and discredit External Qi Healings: the phony internet healers and quacks.  As a rule of thumb stay away from anyone who claims he or she can heal terminal illnesses, and who charges exorbitant fees for their services.  If a so-called healer has many cancer clients and all except a few die, the charlatan can point to ones who are still alive as proof of their healing “powers and abilities.”  In all of this both seller and buyer beware!

Isn’t it the same as Reiki or Therapeutic Touch? 

There are obvious similarities, but EQH comes from and uses Traditional Chinese Medical concepts of the inter-relationships of Energy-Body-Mind-Breath to bring about well-being.  Generally speaking in Reiki and Therapeutic Touch the practitioner touches the client, but in EQH generally this does not happen. Also unlike Therapeutic Touch, and other so called “Energy Healing”—and even much of contemporary Medical Qi Gong—EQH does not deal with Western medical belief systems, although many today, especially in China, are trying to scientifically justify EQH. (This is not necessarily a bad thing for it may lead to a better understanding and more productive use of this exciting healing modality.)

Conclusion. 

Remember there is a difference between healing and being healthy: there are situations where even the most accomplished energy healer cannot “cure” their patient; but with energy healing there is an opportunity of bringing someone who is terminally ill to a place of mental and spiritual health which can make the process of dying be no more than a passing from one sphere of existence to another higher one.

This beautiful image from spiritualunite.com

The author may be contacted at john.voigt@comcast.net

------------------------

F - Bibliography.

Bi Yongsheng. Chinese Qigong Outgoing-Qi Therapy. Shandong Science and Technology Press, 1997. https://www.amazon.com/Chinese-Qigong-Outgoing-Qi-Therapy-Yongsheng/dp/7533110412

Kevin Chen, Ph.D. MPH.  “An Analytic Review of Studies on Measuring Effects of External Qi in China” [abstract]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15285273

ibid. “A Criticism of Qigong with Pseudoscience Method--Book Review of Qigong: Chinese Medicine or Pseudoscience?https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242424421_A_Review_of_Lin_Zixin's_Book_Qigong_Chinese_Medicine_or_Pseudoscience

Paul Dong & Thomas Raffill. Empty Force: The Power of Chi for Self-Defense and Energy Healing. Blue Snake Books, 2006. https://books.google.com/books/about/Empty_Force.html?id=zHwoS80noVoC

Roger Jahnke. The Healing Promise of Qi. Contemporary Books, 2002. https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Healing_Promise_of_Qi_Creating_Extra.html?id=Y3FcaF4V6AIC&source=kp_cover

Professor Jerry Alan Johnson.  The Secret Teachings of Chinese Energetic Medicine [in five volumes]. http://qi-encyclopedia.com/index.asp?author=Professor-Jerry-Alan-Johnson

Lin Housheng. 300 Questions on Qigong Exercises. Guangdong Science and Technology Press, 1994. https://www.amazon.com/300-Questions-Qigong-Exercises-Housheng/dp/7535912699

Shou-Yu Liang & Wen-Ching Wu. Qigong Empowerment. Way of the Dragon, 1997. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1889659029/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

Tianjun Liu, and Xiao Mei Qiang, editors. Chinese Medical Qigong. Singing Dragon. 2013. https://books.google.com/books/about/Chinese_Medical_Qigong.html?id=anlyarISmyAC

Bryn Orr. Wai Qi Liao Fa – Healing By External Qi Projection. VitalityLink Finder. http://www.vitalitylink.com/article-qi-gong-1132-wai-liao-healing-external-projection-energy

John Voigt. External Qi for Healing. Qi Journal, vol. 24/no.1, Spring 2014.  http://www.qi-journal.com/store.asp?-token.S=qi&ID=3187

Ibid. Taiji Qigong … Lin Housheng. https://www.qi-journal.com/Qigong.asp?Name=Taiji%20Qigong%20%E2%80%93%20Shibashi%20and%20Lin%20Housheng&-token.D=Article

Yijin Jing [see:]  “Muscle/Tendon Change Classic.”

http://www.egreenway.com/qigong/yijinjing.htm#Biblio

Zhan Zhuang [see:]  “Zhang Zhuang: Standing (like a wooden) Post.” Qi Journal vol. 23, no. 2:  Summer 2013.  Also Mark Cohen. “Zhan Zhuang.” Qi Journal vol. 23, no. 4:  Winter 2013-2014.

LINKS - YouTube

“New John Chang video.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aos0hnwiHt8

Sifu Kelly Kwan. “Qi Energy Projection - Chi (Qi) Healing 布氣.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9fGiPSBUUA

“Qi Gong Powerful Qi Emission.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVNvzZ24JmE


External Qi Healing - Part 2

By John Voigt

**Disclaimer. This article is written for educational purposes only.  It is not offered for the healing of any serious illnesses. If a person is sick he or she must see a proper professional, in either (or both) western or traditional Chinese medicine.**

C - The Sending. 

It is important to be relaxed, both physically, mentally and emotionally.  Never send healing qi if you are fatigued, sick, or mentally distressed; your client could become sicker, and possibly you could more easily infected with their illness.  Proceed in the following manner:

1)  Ground yourself, center, and connect to your sources of spiritual energy.  Breathe fully, softly, deeply.  Have a hint of a smile at the corners of the mouth.  Gently tighten the muscles in the perineum area.

2)  With your creative imagination, build an Energy Shield all around yourself to prevent the entry of any pathogenic qi.  Rub your hands together.  Stretch open your palms and wiggle your fingers.   

3)  Bend your knees and crouch down a little to better ground yourself and to increase, solidify and intensify the qi in your body.  Look directly at the area or areas on the client that you are about to send to (qi follows sight)  and form a “Tiger’s Claw” with your right hand.  The left hand is held by the left side.  [see picture].

4)  Send qi to the acupuncture points related to the condition.  Use your eyes as well as your hands to direct sharp pointed beams of radiant qi-energy.  As with acupuncture treatments, simultaneously send to as many points and places as the condition requires.  The healer’s “sent qi” will become the client’s “internal qi” and dissolve and drain out pathogenic elements.

5)  When engaged in a send it is proper to feel heat, especially in the hands, and even to heavily sweat.  But if you feel cold then stop.  Do a qigong closing form and try again at some future time.

Although there are many accepted places from which to emanate healing qi, the author prefers the acupuncture points Large Intestine-1 (Shangyang), Pericardium-8 (Laogong) and Pericardium-9 (Zhongchong).  The locations are LI-1 on the outer side of the index fingers just below the corner of the nail.  Pc-8 is on the palm approximately where the tip of the middle finger would touch when making a fist.  Pc-9 is at the center of the tip of the middle finger.  Generally the sending comes from the right hand, with the left hand functioning to release and drain noxious energy, but both hands can be used to send.  The hands could be stationary, but it is best to lead and guide the “good qi”  forward and move the bad qi out of the troubled areas.  This is done in pushing-pulling manipulations; or by waving, rotating, or quivering  motions. Good qi can be “screwed in” and bad qi can be “unscrewed” by moving the right hand in a clockwise motion, and the left hand counter-clockwise.  These are only suggestions: there are many other different well established methods to perform external energy healings.

Large Intestine 1 Acupuncture Point from A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

The Pericardium Acupuncture Points Running Along The Inner Arm : Image from ITMonline.org

Scan-Snatch-Throw method to remove harmful qi. 

If the practitioner is skilled enough he or she may be able imaginatively to bring their hands into the client’s body and, as it were, scoop and pull out the polluted illness causing qi.  One of my teachers succinctly described this method as, “Scan-Snatch-Throw.”

Correcting Yin-Yang Imbalances. 

Health problems are often caused by imbalances of yang-heat and yin-cold.  This EQH treatment comes from VitalityLink Finder:  If a patient shows signs of excess heat or cold we are able to rebalance these energies through emitting wai qi [external energy] of the opposite quality.  This conforms to the TCM treatment principle of using cooling techniques on heat conditions and warming techniques on cold conditions.

To create warming energy, the therapist imagines drawing down the energy of the sun into the Dan Tien, a major energy centre below and behind the navel.  The energy then collects in the Dan Tien in the form of light and heat.  The therapist then draws the qi from the Dan Tien to the Laogong point (Pc 8) in the centre of the palms.  This qi is then emitted to the client.

To create cooling energy, the therapist imagines drawing cool earth energy up into the Yongquan (Ki 1) points on the soles of the feet.  The qi should then be mentally drawn up from the feet to the Laogong points in the palms.  Imagine cool wai qi forming on the palms only, and emit this qi to the client.  It is important not to imagine this cool energy anywhere else in your body as cold has a tendency to slow qi and blood flow. [ Wai Qi Liao Fa – Healing by External Qi Projection. http://www.vitalitylink.com/article-qi-gong-1132-wai-liao-healing-external-projection-energy

this image from lexicolatry.com

Sensations Experienced During Healing. 

When doing External Qi Healing both the sender and the client may feel tingling, itching, hot or cold or electrical pin-prick sensations. For the sender especially in the hands and in particular the palms and fingers.  The client may experience quivering in the problem areas.  Any of these sensations may also travel in the meridians, especially in the arms and legs—but more often this feels like numbing electrical currents.  These all are signs suggesting a healing may be taking place.

When the energy is being guided and moved by your mental intention to leave your fingers, palms, eyes—even from other parts of your body—you might actually see the qi.  From what teachers have told me, and including my own experiences, this often appears as a phosphorescent mist (interestingly the original meaning of qi was something like a “vaporous foggy mist”).  Or the qi may appear like a luminescent white cloud clustered around the hands, fingers, and especially the palms (laogong points).  This light may increase as your practice deepens and become something like a bright moon shining on a clear dark night.  During distance healings at night I twice saw rays of this phosphorescent qi substance running from my hands to the targeted subject.  At another sending, this time in the same room, the client saw it as resembling heat waves rising from a summer sunbaked highway.

D - After the Send. 

The healer might offer suggestions and instructions to the client in such things as meditation, qigong or tai chi exercises, or appropriate dietary changes and other lifestyle modifications.

After the client has left...

It is important to remove any unwanted qi you may have picked up during the send:

1.  Shake your hands as if you were shaking off dirty water; kick your feet front and back as it you had stepped in dog feces and you were cleaning it off your shoes.  It will be absorbed into the ground and function as compost.

2. Rub down the outsides and insides of your arms and again flick the “evil qi” from your hands.  If practical, jump up and down to further rid yourself of anything noxious.  This is all best done outdoors and in sunlight.    

3.  If the transmission took place at night (understanding sending during the day is best) stand and raise your arms up in front on the inhalation and back down on the exhalation.  When inhaling lift your heels. When exhaling lower your heels back to the ground.  The goal is to have the pathogenic elements flush out the soles of the feet and the tips of fingers.

4.  After washing and changing clothes, use inner (nèi dān) qigong-like meditations or visualizations:  From outside sources, which may range from flowers and trees to the sun,  gather external qi into yourself.  And if acceptable to the belief systems of you the healer,  gather in the energies of divine spiritual entities.  This is the time to do whatever is necessary to clean and recover your life force.

Sage Smudging : Image from  nari-gordon.livejournal.com


Welcome to the Chinese Year of the Rooster!

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese new year is not based on a solar calendar like ours is in the West but based on a lunar calendar, meaning that it lands on a different day each year depending on the movements of the moon. This year, the Chinese new year falls on January 28th, and we move from the year of the monkey into the year of the rooster. There are twelve animals that make up the Chinese calendar, each cycling in order. Here are all twelve animals, in their respective order. The rooster is the tenth animal in the sequence.

Rooster, Dog, Pig, Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey.

You can determine what animal you are by referring to the chart below.

  • Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969

  • Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970

  • Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

  • Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960

  • Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961

  • Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962

  • Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963

  • Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964

  • Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965

  • Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966

  • Goat: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967

  • Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968

The year that you were born determines what animal you are. People born to certain animals are said to engender the characteristics of that animal. Each animal has symbolic meanings given to it by the ancient Chinese. You may wonder why these twelve animals specifically were chosen? Well, the theory is that they were the most influential animals in the lives of Chinese people. The ox, horse, goat, rooster, pig, and dog are the animals most commonly raised by Chinese people, and the rat, tiger, rabbit, snake, monkey, and dragon are greatly loved by the Chinese.

2017 - Year of the Fire Rooster

In the Chinese zodiac, each animal also has a cycle of rotating elements. There are five elements - fire, earth, metal, water and wood. The rooster's element is metal, but in 2017, the rooster is the element of fire. This means that fire rooster only happens every 60 years. Each element changes the characteristics of that particular year. Generally, people born under a metal sign have a great deal of confidence and drive for success, but when out of balance, they can be stubborn and hard headed. Metal signs are very charismatic and often have magnetic personalities which make them well liked by everyone they encounter.

The Rooster Personality

Fire rooster is like taking all the metal personality traits and amplifying them so they are off the charts! Fire roosters are dynamic, highly intelligent, extremely organized, independent thinkers and their charisma take it all to the next level. Their drive and perseverance make fire roosters very successful in all of their endeavors and they always have a great many admirers. Fire roosters are very sociable and their friendships are important to them. They love to be the center of attention and are the hit of every party and social occasion. They are fiercely independent and more capable than most which can sometimes lead them to prefer to rely on themselves rather than on help from others. Fire roosters can be extremely strong willed and once they have set their mind to something, no one will be able to change their minds. Fire roosters can become obsessed over details and may be critical if they see others doing a job that fire rooster feels he can do better himself. The good news is that there is no one more capable of executing a task efficiently and to a very high standard than the fire rooster. They may be hard-headed and stubborn, but they get the job done, usually better than everyone else and with such flair that nobody complains!

Because of his fiery personality, fire rooster needs to be careful not to become too intense and learn to slow down and relax. He tends to want to control and take over but could use a little humility when taking on projects with others and not let his ego get out of control. He tends to burn so hot that, although this makes him a charismatic character and draws people to him, it can also burn and hurt people's feelings unintentionally.

Fire roosters are intelligent, organized, hard working and make excellent and loyal friends. They are meticulous and dependable which makes them very successful in all aspects of their lives.

Lucky Things for Roosters

  • Lucky colors: gold, brown, and yellow
  • Lucky numbers: 5, 7, and 8
  • Lucky directions: south, southeast
  • Lucky months: the 2nd, 5th, and 11th Chinese lunar months.
  • Lucky days: the 4th and 26th of any Chinese lunar month
  • Lucky flowers: gladiola, cockscomb

Unlucky Things for Roosters

  • Unlucky color: red
  • Unlucky numbers: 1, 3, and 9
  • Unlucky direction: east
  • Unlucky months: the 3rd, 9th, and 12th Chinese lunar months

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

The beautiful featured image created by FauxKiss on Etsy


How to Get Healthy in 2017 with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Another year is upon us! The arrival of the new year always causes me to reflect, and think about what I would like to improve upon in the coming year. Health, happiness and well-being are always top of the list, so here is a list of some things that we can all do to be a little healthier and happier in 2017.

Take Time for Yourself

this beautiful image from 68.media.tumblr.com

This is a hard one. Our lives seem to get busier and busier and we all seem to be working more and sleeping less which means less time for, well, us. Even though taking time out for ourselves is often not easy, it is an important part of our health. Psychologically, it is you caring about yourself enough to take the time to do something that feeds you, whatever that may be. Go for a walk, read a new book you've been meaning to start, have a bubble bath, start a new art project... do something that feeds your soul. Your whole body, mind, and spirit will thank you for it.

Meditate

this relaxing image from www.chatelaine.com

Now I know the thought of meditating is scary for a lot of people, especially if you have never done it before. But meditation doesn't have to mean spending hours on a mountainside in complete seclusion. If you are new to it, start slow. Spent ten minutes a day, either when you get up in the morning (the energy of the day is so calm and lovely at this time), or if it is easier, at the end of the day before you go to bed. Just sit or lie quietly without distractions (the TV, your phone, computer, etc..) and just relax. For the first many times you do this, your mind will no doubt be racing and it might not feel relaxing at all, but if you think about it, you never just "let your mind go" like this. We are always forcing our minds into doing things, like work, cooking, driving or what-have-you. Your mind also needs time to empty itself out, but once it does and goes quiet... it is wonderful. With some practice, you will be able to drop into a quiet meditation easily, and your body and mind will crave it because it is so nourishing to every part of you. I find that the benefits of a little daily meditation spill out into the rest of my life causing me to be calmer, more patient and generally happier which is a wonderful thing.

Find a Local Farmer

this image from larahudson.com

Reconnect with your food. Food does not arrive at the grocery store wrapped in cellophane and politely organized and placed onto carts. That food is grown and tended by farmers - people who have one of the most important jobs on the planet - feeding us. Our food is the medicine we use every day to keep us healthy, and many of us have lost our connection to where it comes from. If you are able to, find a local farm where you are able to visit and buy fresh, organic (if possible) foods for your family. If this is not possible, then find a local farmers market and meet the farmers there. This will give you a new appreciation for where your food is coming from, who is growing it and in turn, you will be eating local (very good in terms of Chinese medicine) and supporting your local farmers - who absolutely need and deserve the support of their communities. Farmers markets are also a wonderful place to meet other local, health conscious people, eat local treats and reconnect with your community. Win-win!

Reconnect with Nature

this lovely image from www.drjimtaylor.com

I know I say this one a lot, but it is so imperative to health on every level. One of the reasons we see disease on such an unprecedented scale is that we have lost our connection to nature. We live in huge cities where we spend our days behind desks in buildings under florescent lights instead of in forests and jungles, which is where we belong. We were not designed to live this, well, unnaturally. Obviously, it is not feasible to go completely wild and live in forests (unless you are really hardcore) but in Chinese medicine, we are always striving for balance. So, even if you work in an office or a factory and sit behind a desk or stand on an assembly line, eat your lunch outside. Take off your shoes and put your feet in the grass. Feel the earth, it is talking to you in a language you have probably forgotten. It is feeding you in a way you desperately need to be fed. When you have time off, go for a walk in a forest, swim in a lake or ocean, or instead of working out at the gym, go for a run outside. Our connection to the planet feeds us as much as what we eat and drink, so think of your time outside as food for your body and soul. You will notice how much better you feel, inside and out.

Zoom Out

this magnificent image from youtube.com

I love this one, and doing it helps your mental state more than you can imagine. Zooming out just basically means, keeping things in perspective. When you are having a problem or something disastrous is happening in your life, just take a moment and back up. Zoom out of your situation. Zoom out of the building, the street, the neighbourhood, the city, the country, the continent, the planet, and so on. The farther out you go, the better you will feel. It is so easy for our lives to become very small. Problems become huge and often seem insurmountable, but zooming out will help to keep things in perspective. Think to yourself... in the grand scheme of things, does this really matter? In a week, will I be thinking about this at all? Zooming out is a sort of meditation, and one I do often if I am struggling with something. Instead of feeling small, I am always trying to be as big, as expansive with my mind and my awareness as possible. Not always easily done, and certainly takes practice.

Be Grateful

Gratitude is something I try to practice every day. It has been one of the most beneficial practices that I have in my life, and I am so grateful for it. Ha. Being grateful doesn't mean that life is not going to present challenges. Life is full of them. But spending some time each day to consciously think about what in your life you are grateful for will put you in a happy, loving state of mind, which will attract more happy, loving energy to your experience. This energy will help you to cope when difficult situations arise and help you to fully appreciate all the wonderful things/people that you have in your life. Absolutely everyone has things that they can be grateful for, and focusing on this positivity will only draw more of it into your life and that is a wonderful thing.

Unplug

this image from gameacademy.com

We are all connected, and now this is even more true with the advent of the internet and the miracle of cell phones which allow us to communicate with one another from almost anywhere on the planet. This wonderful technology has allowed access to information by millions of people who would otherwise not be able to benefit from it. There are so many positive aspects to our ability to connect, but there are drawbacks too. The pendulum seems to have swung quite far in that direction so that in our attempt to stay technologically connected to each other, we have lost our human connections. I see groups of teenagers sitting together, each looking at their cell phones, instead of talking to each other. People live is vast cities, crammed into apartment buildings, but never interact with each other. As with all things, we are going for balance. Many people could not live without the internet of god forbid, their cell phone, but trying to unplug, at least for parts of the day or week is a good way to bring about that balance. Call a friend, then go and meet with them. Have a coffee and a conversation. We are social animals (not social media animals, although sometimes it seems we certainly are) and human contact is good for us and we NEED it.

Be of Service

A part of being human, and one of the reasons that I think we are here, is to serve our fellow human. This doesn't have to mean volounteering in a cancer ward or an old age home (as these are big commitments - but wonderful things to do), it may be as simple as helping someone struggling with their groceries, opening the door for someone with their arms full, giving someone directions when they ask you on the street. These small things make a huge impact. No one makes it through life alone. We all need each other, and by being kind, generous and helpful with our fellow human being is the glue that holds us all together. In a time where there is so much divisiveness in the world, it seems there are so many reasons for us to fear and hate each other, all it takes is the conscious effort to not let in that darkness and to treat each person with love and compassion, just as you would like to be treated. It will go a long way to healing the negativity on this planet and it happens to feel really good too. <3

How to Get Healthy in 2017 with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


5 Things That Have The Biggest Impact On Your Health

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Attitude

Positive Attitude for Health : Chinese Medicine Livingthis adorable image from entrepreneur.com

As we are all beginning to realize, health is not just about the physical body, it is so much more than that. We all know how much better we feel when things in our lives are going well and we are happy. Staying positive is not always easy with the many stresses that our modern lives present to us, but it has been scientifically proven that people who are positive get sick less often and recover more quickly when they do get sick. Negative energy depresses the immune system as well as the psyche and makes us more susceptible to illnesses. Being cheerful has become more difficult as our lives become increasingly complex and we become more and more disconnected. This is why internal practices like meditation, qi gong and tai chi are excellent ways to cultivate the happiness and positivity we need to stay healthy. Also, zooming out and looking at the macro instead of the micro in any situation really helps to put problems into perspective. Zooming out also reminds us that we should be grateful for all we have and to try to focus on the positive instead of the negative (because it just FEELS better). Your attitude makes a huge difference when it comes to your health, a positive attitude will also ensure that you live a happy life. :)

What You Eat

Nutritious Food for Health : Chinese Medicine Livingthis beautiful image from www.brigitte.de

The food that we eat every day is the best medicine out there. Eating clean, fresh foods, free of chemicals and as unprocessed as possible is one of the best ways to ensure that we never get sick. Chinese medicine was designed as a preventative medicine, and nutritional therapy is one of its most important aspects. In a culture that tends to wait until there is an illness to get treatment, the Chinese believed in living a healthy life, with balance in all things so that illness never had a chance to develop. In modern society, it has become more difficult to live in a balanced way. Our lifestyle is often full of stresses with relationships, finances, work, etc... and eating in a healthy way has become particularly difficult in the age of industrial agriculture with huge factory farms that use pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Our foods are much further from their natural state, and our health suffers. Another factor when it comes to food is the way it is prepared. This is also emphasized in Chinese medicine, with the energy of the person preparing the food and their intention when preparing and cooking it having an effect. A meal prepared with love and care is more delicious, and indeed more healthful than one put together at a drive through window by a stranger. Having a connection to your food makes a big difference in the healing benefits it provides you. There is nothing more healing that lovingly preparing a meal for yourself, then mindfully sitting down to eat it, taking in its nutrients as well as its good healing energy derived from this beautiful earth.

Expressing Your Emotions

Expressing Emotions for Health : Chinese Medicine Livingthis excellent image from livingstingy.blogspot.com

Expressing our emotions is essential for being a healthy, happy human being. Unfortunately, our emotional health is not something considered by many mainstream doctors, but it is absolutely vital for our health. In Chinese medicine, each organ is associated with an emotion, and often, symptoms in a particular organ can point to a disharmony with its respective emotion. People are more likely to come into clinic with complaints about physical problems, but their symptoms often point back to emotional issues. In Chinese medicine, not expressing the emotions can be a cause of disease, which illustrates how important emotional health is in the TCM model, and how powerful our emotions are and how much impact they can have on our health. It is difficult to know what to do when you are struggling with powerful emotions. It certainly isn't always easy to express them. Acknowledging them is the first step, then working through your feelings and finding a way to express them in a way that is productive so that you can let them go and move on is a good road map of how to cope. Until you express emotions and let them go, they are taking up valuable space, which you could be filling with other, wonderful things. Suppressing emotions also uses an enormous amount of qi or energy and tends to stagnate and block the flow of things in your body and your life. Talking with a trusted friend, journaling or simply giving yourself the time to reflect and work through your feelings are some good ways to feel through things and be able to ultimately let them go.

Connecting With the Earth

Connect with Nature for Health : Chinese Medicine Livingthis is beautiful Vancouver island. This image from blog.hellobc.com

One of the great joys of life is being outside and connecting to this beautiful planet. There is nothing more healing than taking off your shoes and putting your feet onto the earth. If you are sensitive enough, you can literally feel the earth's healing energy being absorbed into your body and filling you with light. Chinese medicine was developed in a time when all people lived in complete harmony with their natural environment. People changed their daily habits according to the seasons and were very attuned to nature, their lives depended on it. A lot of illnesses today come from an almost complete disconnect from nature, and each other. If you want to do something good for your body, mind, and spirit, take a walk in a forest or on a beach, take off your shoes and walk through the grass, or sit outside and read a book. Instead of going to the gym, run outside, allowing yourself to absorb some of the earth's energy. We spend so much of our time indoors, sitting at computers or in front of televisions when we were designed to run and jump and MOVE outside, at one with the elements. Our modern lives have pulled us away from nature when our happiness and indeed our health depends on being connected to it. So go outside, it's good for your health!

Community

In a recent TED talk on longevity, some National Geographic researchers were investigating why there were some places on earth where the people lived much longer than others. The researcher giving the talk cites a study that found that only approximately 10% of how long a person will live is dictated by their genes, and the other 90% is lifestyle. 90%!!! They looked around the world for the places on earth (called Blue Zones) where people lived the longest and tried to figure out what is was about their lifestyles that they all had in common. The one thing these places shared was that they were part of small tight-knit communities that all knew each other and looked after one another. It turns out that connecting to others and a feeling of belonging had a huge impact on how long people lived.

I know this from treating patients too. I see so many patients that have problems with depression, sadness, and anxiety who feel alone and disconnected. People used to live in small communities where everybody knew each other, but now, many of us live in big cities, away from our families and friends. Humans are social animals, and we need to be connected to each other to be healthy. This has become increasingly difficult, and the results manifest in many health conditions, especially emotional and psychological ones. We also live in a society, at least in the West, that values the "self" and not necessarily the "other". Our connections, the love, and friendships we have in our lives, are just as important as the food we eat and the exercise we get when it comes to health. Even connecting with strangers - holding a door open for someone with their arms full, smiling at someone on the street who is looking like they need it, or just being friendly and open when you are out in the world lets people know that we really are all in this together and that we all care about each other. It will make you feel good too.

Trying to stay healthy can be daunting. There is so much information out there, and it is easy to get overwhelmed when trying to figure out what to do. Chinese medicine teaches us how to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle using common sense tools that are easy to apply. Nutrition, emotional health, exercise, internal practices like qi gong, tai chi, meditation as well as modalities like acupuncture, herbs, massage and listening to your body and knowing what you need when you need it, are all ways that this wonderful medicine teaches us how to live a long, healthy and happy life. Chinese Medicine Living is dedicated to helping you do just that. <3

 

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Resources

How to Live to be 100+ by Dan Buettner - http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_buettner_how_to_live_to_be_100

The beautiful featured image photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash

Would you like to learn more about Chinese Medicine and why it is so awesome? See our sister site Learn Chinese Medicine Living for downloadable info sheets and other resources to help you learn about this wonderful medicine. <3