Why We Need to Unplug in 2019

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Our Reliance on Technology

One of the biggest things that I have observed in the last year from people in my life and from my patients, is our reliance on technology, and specifically, our love of social media. I know that there has been a lot out there about the nefarious beginnings of platforms like Facebook and the information that companies like Google collect. And for many of us, this is the way we stay connected with the people in our lives. But, I have noticed that there is a growing sense of anxiety and depression in the population as a whole and I believe that this is because even though it may seem that through these social media platforms that we are all MORE connected, sharing every moment of our lives as they happen, we are in fact way LESS connected on a real, human level.

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

The Dopamine Connection

What a lot of the general public doesn't know, but what the creators of many of the social media platforms that we use certainly DO know, is what dopamine is and how it drives our behaviour. So what is dopamine? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter - a chemical responsible for sending signals between neurons in your brain. Without getting too deep into the subject - which would be so easy and so fascinating - one of dopamine's responsibilities in the body is reward and reinforcement. A shot of dopamine causes us to be flooded with "feel good" chemicals. In evolutionary terms, this was designed to help us understand that when we found something that was good for us, like food or water, that those feel-good chemicals would help us to continue to seek out those things as we needed them to survive. In our present society, however, dopamine and its feel-good effects in our bodies have been used in ways that are no longer good for our health and wellbeing (in my opinion), and have caused an entire generation to be addicted to dopamine's effects.

 

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Dopamine and its powerful effects to make us feel good were well understood by the creators of many of the social media platforms that many of us enjoy, like facebook, twitter and Instagram. Instead of our brains releasing dopamine is a response to finding food or water, it is released when we get a like, a new follower or receive a chat from someone we like and admire. Many of us and especially young people with brains that are still developing have become so addicted to this dopamine hit that they are glued to their cell phones twenty-four hours a day, waiting for the next dopamine hit to flood their systems. Always wanting more. High levels of dopamine make us feel good, while lowered levels cause us to lose pleasure and live in a joyless state. In my experience with patients, this state is becoming more and more common in people of all ages, and I have seen rising numbers of people suffering with varying degrees of depression and anxiety, with many feeling isolated, sad and disconnected from the world and themselves. Were these not the feelings that social media was supposed to help us improve? It seems that their creation and implementation had slightly more sinister motivations than many of us realized.

Dopamine also is connected to addiction. The feel-good sensation that dopamine causes courses through our bodies when the alcoholic takes a drink, the smoker lights up and the gambler wins at the casino. The good feelings that surge through us when we get a spike of dopamine are highly addictive, and this is why so many people are addicted to social media, and losing touch with real people in their lives.

Social Animals

Humans are highly social animals, and our connections to other people are an important part of our mental, emotional as well as physical health. As human beings, we need human interaction. That is interactions with other people, in real life. Not chatting via text, or face time. When I was a teenager, my best friend and I would go out at least a few times a week for coffee. We would go to a variety of places we liked, get a coffee/tea and just talk. And we had a rock-solid friendship that weathered many years and hard times, and now that I look at it, I realize that it was because of these seemingly small things, that we made the time to spend time together and stay connected no matter what was happening in our lives. We were connected in a real sense, and I am so thankful for it.

Now, when I think about my own children - who are still very little - I wonder what their world and relationships will be like. One of the reasons we moved to Costa Rica is that things like family are very important here. People don't have a lot, but they value what they do have, and that is the people in their families and communities. There are constantly family dinners, birthday parties, baby showers and other gatherings going on, and this is how Costa Rican people spend their time, energy and money. They invest in each other. There is a huge social component to this culture, and that is one of the things that I really love about it, and I hope I can impart to my children so it will become important to them too. Because we are alone here, we do talk to grandparents on the computer to stay connected, but it is important to me that my children have real relationships with other children, and that they have the tools that they need to build and keep those relationships healthy throughout their lives. In this social climate, this is becoming more difficult, but to me, it is worth the effort and will be an investment in their psychological, emotional and physical health for the rest of their lives.

Photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash

The Disconnect

Social media is touted as the perfect way for us all to be connected. We are able to transmit everything that is happening in our lives, minute to minute to people all over the planet. It really is a technological miracle. The problem is, that in an attempt to connect us, technology has caused the population to be suffering from unprecedented numbers of anxiety and depression and perhaps most of all, loneliness. How could this be, if we are connected in a way that we never have been before in all of human history?

I think that one important reason is that social media allows us to put filters on things. Each of us is now able to show only specific things you want people/your friends to see. We are able, through the wonders of technology, to take photos wherever we are, take video of whatever is happening at every moment, and perhaps most importantly, cherry pick the experiences, images, videos, etc... that make our lives look enviable and extraordinary. To our friends, followers and fans, our lives can look as wonderful, fun and fulfilling as we purposefully "design" them to be. We are essentially creating our lives as we wish them to look to all the people we are connected to through our social media networks. And to the people who are connected to us, it may seem like we are living these amazing lives they could only wish to live, and these are the things that contribute to a lot of depression and anxiety in the population as a whole. Many of the images we see remind us that things with us aren't always so awesome, and why do others seem to be doing so much better?

Another disconnect is that because many young people are being raised in the age of social media, there is a disturbing trend that is beginning to emerge. Young people are having a harder time creating deep, meaningful relationships with other people. So many of their relationships are online, that they no longer know how to interact with people when they are right in front of them, and many report having many "friends" on social media platforms like Facebook, but not having many "true" friends that they feel they know well and trust. Like most things, the tools we all need to do things like create meaningful, lasting relationships are learned in practice. And we are practising less and less.

Connecting to Nature, and Each Other

There is nothing better for your body, mind and spirit than taking a walk outside in nature. It reminds us who we are and where we came from and gives us something that living in this technological age often doesn't - time to think. Time for our brains to relax and wander. And time to be in the moment. We live in an age of instant gratification. If you live in many places, you can go on Amazon, pick whatever your heart desires and it will be at your doorstep in 2 days! We can also binge watch any tv show or movie thanks to Netflix and other providers of media awesomeness. Back in the day, you had to wait an entire week for the next episode of your favourite show to air, but now you can binge watch every season, in a few days day if you are feeling adventurous (and don't have to work). Even things like dating, that often awkward process filled with intense emotions ranging from terror to intense twitterpation, has been reduced to an app. If you like someone, you can just write them a note, give them a like or rate their profile. Instant gratification. The thing is that, at least in my experience, the things that are worth having in life - like good friends, doing something that you love, kind, compassionate children, a beautifully prepared meal, a piece of art or anything that has deep meaning in your life takes work, and that takes TIME. It is an investment, and it is sososo worth it.

 

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

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Beautiful featured image photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash


Practical Qigong - A Quick Mental Tune Up

by John Voigt

After I do qi work with someone I email them a reprise of the session: notes of what we did so that they may practice it by themselves in their dedicated times to do qigong work. This also frees them of the drudgery of taking notes when I am working with them.

What follows was sent to a middle-aged woman with whom I have been working for several years. She has been suffering from intense sleep disorders which she believes are caused by various spiritual forces. Within the context of her suffering, I believe hers is a valid conceptualization of the problem. I work with her by using Daoist and Christian prayers, and with external qi sending and acupressure with my hands and fingers (no needles).  She continues to improve: she is successfully working, going to college, performing as an art-rock vocalist, and having her writings published. She is also working with medical doctors, which I think is necessary.

My email begins:

Be Seated.

Relax. Breathe softly, deeply, gently, silently into the lower abdomen. No forcing, be comfortably natural.

Feel yourself as a physical being.

Feel yourself as an energy being—and/or be aware of your breath/breathing.

Be aware of being aware. Like Zen Mind. No words in the mind; when words appear let them pass and float away.

Smile. Like the Mona Lisa. Really. It works.

For Mental Tuning Up.

Rub, tap, massage, squeeze these points; as you do this continue doing the Mona Lisa Smile and being aware of your slow, deep, silent breathing. 

Remember most acupressure points are bi-symmetrical meaning that they appear on both sides of the body, or both arms, or legs, etc.

Yintang.

"Hall of Seal." Calms the mind.


This image from A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

Earlobe.

[it functions as your head when you were a fetus].

Taiyang.

"Great Sun."  Head pain. 


This image from tcmpoints.com

Bl-15. Xinshu.

"Opening to the heart." Nourishes the spirit and calms the mind. Sleep issues. 

This image from tcmpoints.com

Si Shen Cong.

The four points around the crown of your head. Light finger tapping. 


Image from A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

GV-17.

Nao Hu "door to the brain." Heaviness in the head. Also tapping as well as penetrating massage.


This image from tcmpoints.com

GV-18.

Qiang. Sleep issues.


This image from tcmpoints.com

GV-16.

Fengfu. "House of the Wind." For fear and/or fright, and depression.  it is an opening into the center of the brain.

This image from tcmpoints.com

The Bladder Channels.

The bladder channels run down the sides of your spine (and backs of legs). Helps tone and harmonize water issues. Be like a bear rubbing her back against a tree.


This image from tcmworld.org

Kidney-1.

Flushes out the schmutz (bad stuff). 


Image from A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

For now all you perhaps might do is with gentleness and love massage the points where they feel blocked.  Approximate guessing where they are will work. There is a lot here, just take your time and do what you comfortably can and go for what feels good. These perhaps can be instant fixes, but more likely the Chinese thing works better over time, like practising music.

To end, make a Clockwise Circle on the lower Abdomen with your left palm over your right palm. 24 or 36 times. This helps absorb any excess cultivated qi in the dantian.

Then Shake everything like a Trembling Horse. 9x. Relax between each Shake. Then take a walk, or whatever.

Exercise Is The Perfect Complement To Traditional Medicine

By Sally Perkins

Being told to exercise is likely one of the most common treatments ‘prescribed’ by contemporary doctors. It’s not without merit, and there are a multitude of benefits to be gained from exercise that are discovered every day. For example, medical researchers have recently found that 10% of advanced lung cancer patients benefited from exercise.

What role does exercise have to play in traditional medicine? The likes of tai chi and tui na already have a physical aspect and the benefits of those practices are well known. Both within Chinese medicine and other non-western medicines, physical activity has been shown to have a positive contribution to overall health when used in conjunction with other methods.

Tai Chi, Yoga, and The In Between


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Coming from different corners of the continent, tai chi and yoga have remarkable similarities despite their differences. Both rely on stretching movements, but yoga is more energetic and pushes into stillness; whereas tai chi relies on fluid movements to relax the muscles in preparation for stretching later. Recently, they have ‘combined’ in a way to create yin yoga. Early studies have suggested that this particular type of yoga, when conducted safely and with the proper equipment, can have a strong positive influence on health. One study, conducted by Lund University, Sweden, found that yin yoga could significantly reduce physiological and psychological risk factors. The study found that those taking part in yin yoga had reduced levels of ADM, a marker often found in those developing non-communicable disorders such as cardiovascular disease.

Is Vigorous Physical Activity Possible?

Vigorous activity is not part and parcel of Chinese medicine. As the Traditional Chinese Medicine foundation have noted, sweat is the fluid of the heart, and vigorous activity will unbalance your Qi creating a deficiency. What’s the solution?

One potential is swimming. Swimming can be moderately vigorous, requiring every muscle in the body to work in tandem to stay float and propel. However, it can be moderated, and sweat is greatly reduced when in a colder pool. There is also evidence to show swimming can work well in tandem with traditional Chinese medicine. Researchers from Zhongshan Hospital, Shanghai, China, found that songyou yin and swimming aided liver immunity when used in conjunction. Ultimately, this reduced the levels of liver cancer in the study group.

The Bottom Line


Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

Bringing in more energetic forms of traditional exercise, and more mainstream methods, such as swimming, have an overall contributory effect to your health. However, multiple studies have shown the well established link between traditional Chinese exercises, like tai chi, and good health. As this South China Morning Post article clearly outlines, the holistic use of traditional Chinese exercises, good diet and mindfulness (or meditation) mitigate many cardiovascular ailments, regardless of country; the study cited pointed out that over 2,000 people across 10 countries reported on.

Traditional medicine has shown its effectiveness when paired with exercise. There are ways to augment this in order to provide the maximum benefits for your health. However, while these have been shown to help, the best way to stay fit is through traditional routines.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Emily Sea on Unsplash

The Qigong Corner - 2: Qigong Walking

By John Voigt


Boston Common 2011. Source: author.

Introduction.

It is common knowledge in the west that walking is an excellent
exercise that promotes general fitness. When walking is practiced as a qigong it
becomes even more effective. For Chinese people throughout the world it is the
most commonly practiced qigong used to promote health and well-being.
Walking becomes a qigong when: The person is fully aware of 1. The gravity of the
earth grounding and supporting them. 2. The air they are breathing deeply and fully
into their lower abdomen (the simplest definition of qigong is “breath work”). 3.
The beauty of nature around them—the trees, flowers, sunrise, other walkers, etc.,
as well as the universal nature above them (sky, clouds, sun, the stars, planets,
galaxies, heaven)—and that they are an integral and living moving part of all of this.
Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.
Thich Nhat Hanh.

Qigong Gymnastic Walking.

There are many styles of walking qigong. What follows was synthesized
from various instructions from my teachers, observations
in parks in Chinatowns in the United States and Canada, and from the
sources listed below. A bibliography is attached for further study.

The Simple Walk. Stand straight. Relax your body and mind. Have your shoulders
loose, and your chin slightly tucked it. Breathe comfortably, slowly, and fully
through the nose into the lower abdomen. Now begin walking calmly, and allow
your arms to loosely and gently sway from side to side. When the left foot moves
forward the right arm sways forward and slightly to the left; when the right foot
moves forward the left arm sways forward and slightly to the right. Increase your
awareness of your surroundings, your gentle but full breathing, and the way the qi-
life energy is feeling inside your body. Walking in this way moves health bringing
energy (qi) throughout the vessels and channels (meridians) and organs of the body.
Increasing The Amount of Qi-Vital Energy. Mind thinking nothing. Body relaxed
and tranquil. Inhaling more oxygen than exhaling. (Sheng Keng Yun).

Now intensify your walking this way: have your right hand make a waving motion
up as you quickly breathe in twice. Then as you exhale once the left foot steps out.
Immediately reverse this with the left hand making a waving motion up as you
breathe in twice. Then as you exhale once the right foot steps out. Do this
approximately for five to fifteen minutes. If it feels really good and natural you may
do it for a longer period of time. If something feels wrong or not right then stop
doing it and consult a qigong teacher well versed in such things, or if necessary a
doctor or physical therapist.

Video of Qigong Gymnastic Walking


Carolyn Wilkins - Reiki master, spiritualist medium, tai chi and qigong
practitioner demonstrating
Qigong walking gymnastics.

Walking Meditation.

Walk very slowly, and optionally and if safe to do, with bare feet on clean
naked earth. When stepping out lift the heel first. When stepping down
the toes touch the earth first. Clear the mind of all verbal thinking about what
happened in the past and may happen in the future and be totally mindful in the
present. For a beginner, walk in this manner for ten minutes up to a half an hour at a
time.

If you can’t keep your mind quiet as you walk, then count numbers related to the
rhythm of your breathing patterns, or repeat a single word (e.g., “Peace”).
The walking becomes more spiritual or religious when you add a silently said
spiritual affirmation such as, I feel more youthful, healthy, and beautiful [or
handsome] with each step I take. Or a short religious prayer; e.g., Heal me, O Lord,
and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise. – [Jeremiah
17:14]. For believing Christians, silently chanting the name Jesus contains enormous
power. From a Daoist perspective, by observing your oneness with the movements
of interacting yin and yang energetic elements around you as you walk, you may be
brought to a place that offers the quietude of a deep seated mediation. This qi-
energy harmonizing is said to extend all the way to the stars, planets, and galaxies of
the universe to the divine forces in heaven.

A more simple practice as you walk is to repeat to yourself the word Dao; which may
be understood as “The Way” – (as in the path, the proper direction, for spiritual
progress).


Buddha’s Footprint. A symbolic representation of the presence of Gautama Buddha.

Practical advice.

  • When you step don't mindlessly drop the foot down, instead feel as if you are
    gliding above the earth. One of my qigong masters over the years never needed to
    have his leather shoes resoled.
  • Use a walking cane if needed. Excessive pressure should never be placed on any of
    the body’s joints or bones in walking qigong. Correctly done walking is one of the
    few exercises that will strengthen the joints and aid in preventing arthritis.
  • Most qigong exercises are best done at the break of dawn, in good weather among
    the civilized nature of a large well cared for and secure park.
  • Qigong walking is best done in groups. But within such groups the Chinese people
    seldom talk to each other in order to maintain a concentrated focus on what they
    are doing. It is after the walking that they usually gather in a tea house and socialize
    with lots of talk, and laughter. Opposite the Boston Common I would gather with
    one such group at a McDonald’s. They didn’t speak that much English and my
    Cantonese was worse, but there was plenty of fun and good feelings and smuggled
    home baked Chinese cookies hidden in purses to go along with the plastic cups of
    coffee and hot water for tea.
  • Knowledgeable Chinese do the walking in circles, usually—but not always—in
    some sort of counter-clockwise way (the left side pointed in to the center of the
    circle). In Chinese communities in the morning you will see this done around small
    ponds, large fountains, or even a tree. From a Southern Daoist lineage that I was
    taught in, this is best done with the people singularly filing after each other in a line
    that curves around in a circle. This is intended to bring peace to the walkers and to
    the world at large.

Disclaimer.

This article is not presented not as a cure for any illness but as a
possible way to help to gain well-being. If any this or any other qigong, or exercise
or activity, hurts or causes discomfort stop doing it and see a medical professional.

Author’s Note.

In this short article I wanted to introduce Guo Lin’s Anti-Cancer
Walking Qigong, but time and space ran out on me. So I plan to write that for next
month’s issue of Chinese Medicine Living. But for now the interested reader could
reference these sites:

Walking Exercise - Persatuan GuoLin QiGong Malaysia
and Guo Lin’s Anti-Cancer Fixed Foot Walking Qigong, by Jim Russo.


Boston Common 2011. Source: author.

Sources & Further Resources.


Applying Lessons from Chinese Medicine and Nutrition for Weight Loss

By Samantha Wiggins

Everyone wants to look good. But all too often, our pursuit of beauty comes at the expense of our health. It's important to remember that looking and feeling good isn’t just about the amount of food and exercise you get every day. It’s also about successfully nourishing every part of your being. That’s exactly what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is all about. In TCM, food is viewed as medicine — something you can use to nourish and harmonize your mind, body, and spirit.

To the Chinese, the overall well-being of the body is more important than how it looks. In fact, TCM practitioners use the food energetics system to teach patients how to heal their bodies through what they eat. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, as each person has a particular body constitution that they must eat according to. For example, a person with a body constitution that is dry and warm would benefit from food that can bring moisture to the body. If you want to lose weight the healthy way, here are some lessons you can pick up from TCM:

Follow a Balanced Diet

You hear this advice even in Western medicine, but in TCM, the focus is the spleen and the stomach. It's important to not eat too much, but also not too little. Men's Health Magazine explains that when you gorge yourself with food regularly, your spleen and stomach fail to handle the load. This eventually leads to a whole host of problems — from poor digestion and slow metabolism to food stagnation and internal phlegm. Therefore, it's important to focus on consuming food that can boost your metabolism, promote bowel movement, and prevent fluid retention.


This delicious Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash

Help Your Digestive System

Poor nutrition, coupled with a stressful and hectic lifestyle, is a recipe for weight gain. By getting digestive organs in good form, you would be able to digest food properly. This, in turn, allows you to harness the energy and nutrients that your body needs to prevent energy drain. In order to help your digestive system, eat food that corresponds to the organ that you want to nourish. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation notes that sour foods support the liver, so if you're craving sour food, that might just be your liver asking for an extra boost.

Boost Your Metabolism

Here on the Chinese Medicine Living site, we previously listed the 10 best foods you can eat to stimulate your metabolism. This includes food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which you can find in salmon, herring, and tuna. This can help balance your blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and regulate your metabolism. Green leafy vegetables, garlic, onion, nuts, seeds, green tea, and grapefruit are other examples. If your metabolism is slow, your meals are broken down less efficiently, leading to weight gain. Drinking plenty of water is also important.

If you ever want to try losing weight with the help of modern methods like diet pills, choose the kind that mimic what TCM does — helping the digestive organs work better and ridding it of waste. Many dietary supplements are designed to help cleanse your digestive system. This works to remove toxins and promote faster metabolism. And when your body effectively rids itself of toxic materials, you can achieve a balance that can lead to long-lasting weight loss.

All in all, rebalancing your life and managing your weight shouldn’t be difficult when you follow the techniques of TCM. All it takes is a little discipline and awareness about what your body needs. 

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Featured image photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

 


Healing Acne Holistically With Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Sally Perkins

Acne is the most common skin disease in the United States — 50 million Americans experience breakouts each year which can continue into your 30’s and 40’s, the American Academy of Dermatology reports. While most of us turn to skincare or makeup to externally treat acne, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) addresses the underlying root causes. TCM recognizes acne as typically the result of excess internal heat caused by imbalances in the body. Treatment involves herbal formulas targeted to specific skin types, as well as dietary changes which eliminate inflammatory foods. In most cases, acne improves in as little as one month but takes roughly six months to disappear completely.

Excess Internal Heat


This awesome photo by Ryan Cryar on Unsplash

In Chinese medicine, acne is primarily caused by excess internal heat. Excess heat builds up in the body when it’s under constant stress or hormonally imbalanced. This acne-causing internal heat is generated in the lungs (which control the skin), intestines, menstrual system, and by specific toxins in the body. Often, however, acne doesn’t just originate from one place; there can be multiple influences involved. For example, facial acne can result from a block in both the lungs and stomach.

The Problem of Stagnation

Chinese medicine also recognizes stagnation (or impaired blood circulation) as a root cause of acne. If stagnation is the reason for your acne, your spots may be sore, stubborn, deep red, or even purple. You may also breakout before your period and experience painful menstrual cramps. Alternatively, fluids in the body can stagnate and result in phlegm. Cystic acne is often a result of phlegm stagnation (as well as blood stagnation).

Clean Diet for Clear Skin


This yummy photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

TCM recommends avoiding inflammatory foods — particularly greasy, spicy, and damp foods — as they heat up your blood, which results in breaks outs. Don’t eat anything too hot or cold in temperature, either. Sticking to room temperature food will prevent contributing to excess internal heat. Your body needs to be relaxed in order to function optimally, rather than devoting its energy to digestion. Reducing overall stress also helps calm the body and clear the skin. Low cortisol levels help your skin stay clear and blemish-free.

Restoring the Body with Herbs

Herbs are essential for stabilizing the body. Traditional Chinese medicine treatment includes herbal mixtures which calm the body, cool the blood, boost circulation, and detox the lungs. Adaptogens are used to balance hormones, soothe the nervous system, and improve digestion — with the result of beating acne and calming irritated skin. The specific herbs used depends on your skin type and can be determined by your dermatologist.

Unlike Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Dermatologists tailor treatment to suit each specific case with the aim of cooling excess internal heat, cleansing and detoxifying the body and externally healing the skin. Your dermatologist will work with you to find natural, effective, and holistic treatments to keep your skin healthy and acne at bay for life.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash


The Qigong Corner - 1: The Basics

By John Voigt

Qi.

A general meaning of this word is “life energy,” and the meaning of Gong relates
to “work,” “cultivation,” and “accomplishment.” Qi is pronounced chee with a fast
descending soft (close to she ) sound. In Cantonese, a language often spoken by
more older people from southern China, it sounds like “hay,” so we have hay gong.
The older English spelling is “chi kung.”

Feel the Qi.

Qi manifests in many ways, one is the flow of bio-electricity in our body.
It is relatively easy to physically experience this by doing the following exercise: Rub
your hands together, then stretch and wiggle your fingers. Tap your fingertips
together, and tap them on each palm. Wiggle your fingers again. Now pretend you
are holding a ball approximately a foot and a half in circumference. Inhale and feel
this imaginary ball expand. As you exhale squeeze it back to its original size.  Do this
for a few minutes or until you feel your palms and fingertips grow warm—or even
better hot—with the energy of life. You are experiencing a manifestation of the
reality of qi, of life force, of bio-energy.

Qigong.

Its origins are Chinese and many millions of Chinese people practice it daily
throughout the world in any number of ways; most often with gentle physical
movements, stretches, meditations, and mentally focused visualizations. The term
actually relates to the harmonious interplay of yin and yang energies in the body:
specifically in the way we hold our bodies and move, the way we breathe which
effects internal energy, and what we have in our minds. Its repeated practice helps
bring about mental, physical, and spiritual well-being and healing.
Stretching is a good example of body work, and you don’t need a park in Beijing to
see thousands of people doing it, just go to a baseball park during a game and take
part in the seventh inning stretch. If there is space for it after the stretching walk
about some. It all helps get the qi moving.

Or do as so many people do, upon awakening in the morning get out of bed and take
several deep breaths—(one definition of qigong is “breath work”)—as you stretch
your hands and arms upwards and pay attention to the way it feels. As with most
qigong this is best done in the morning in a park with people all about doing various
qigong or tai chi (actually the word is taijiquan) or other forms of physical health
regimes.

It is a simple step to see the resemblance of this kind of stretching to a qigong
master doing the first movement of the most popular worldwide qigong form, the
Standing Eight Pieces of Brocade” (Baduanjin). The stretch is called “Holding Up
The Heavens” and it is said to regulate the passage of qi in the body and mind, and
tone and promote healing in the functions of the body’s inner organs.

Take a look at a grandmaster doing it on YouTube:
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. Standing Eight Pieces of Brocade. [it runs from 0:17 to 3:26].
More about Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming here

I suggest after you see Dr. Yang in action, you do some similar stretches
immediately. Five of them is enough. And take it easy: as you can see from the video,
qigong does not subscribe to the “No Pain No Gain” school of thought. If fact if there
is any pain stop doing it immediately and go see a health professional.
You now have an idea, and more importantly a physical experience, of what qi and
qigong are. Practice these or any gentle stretches in the morning as you breathe
calmly, smoothly, fully and gently into the lower abdomen.

Don’t do any qigong as if were a forced prison exercise drill, but rather as if you are
a young child having fun playing. And very important: keep noticing how the energy
feels inside of you. That way you become cognizant of the movement of the qi. And
don’t forget to smile. Smiling always helps increase the flow of this vital qi.

For the next issue of Chinese Medical Living we will go to a park near Boston’s
Chinatown and join the elders in the great healing exercise of social walking, and
learn about a simple walking regime that helps in the healing of cancer. If you wish
to learn something about that right now, on your browser explore this name, Guo
Lin and her walking qigong.

Qi has many appearances and definitions. One is “universal
consciousness.” Here is a painting by visionary artist and distance viewer
Ingo Swann titled “Cosmic Intelligence” which is an artistic depiction of such Qi.

Author with painting at the American Visionary Art Museum,
http://www.avam.org/ Baltimore, June 2018

Note: For more about Qi and Qigong go to qi-encyclopedia.com

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John Voigt is a regular contributor to Chinese Medicine Living - you may read his bio here.


Stages in a Woman's Life According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

One of the reasons that I fell in love with Chinese Medicine was the beautiful way that it sees the body, health - and when expanded outwards - everything in existence. It is simply a way of looking at things that, to me, makes perfect sense and resonates deeply and profoundly.

Women's medicine is the way that I came to Chinese Medicine - I found it when Western medicine was not able to help me. Just one session with my wonderful acupuncturist and I was left with an overwhelming feeling that this system was what medicine was supposed to be. At its foundation was true healing, empowered by the individual and facilitated by the practitioner.

The Concept of Jing

Jing is a concept that is unique to Chinese Medicine and is sometimes difficult to explain. Jing is considered to be one of the three treasures in Chinese Medicine. Jing, Qi, and Shen comprise the three treasures. Jing is defined as the source of our life, health, and longevity. Qi is like our life force - and the force that animates all living things. Shen is the spirit and is closely associated with the heart and "the mind" in Chinese Medicine. All three treasures must be balanced for us to be functioning at an optimum state of health and wellbeing.

The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine is one of the oldest medical textbooks on earth and was written around 240 BCE. It is in this text that the cycles of women and men are discussed. Women grow and mature in seven-year cycles and men in eight-year cycles.

Cycles for Women in Chinese Medicine

Women - 7 Year Cycles

7 years old

A woman’s kidney energy becomes abundant, teeth change and hair grows strong.

Kidney is a special term in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It not only has the function of controlling the urinary system, but also has a very important role – control the developing, growing, and reproduction. In terms of reproduction, you can think Kidney as a “Small Kidney”- the ovaries or testis.

At the age of 7, a woman’s reproductive system starts to develop.

14 years old

Her menstruation appears as the Ren meridian (the sea of Yin) flows and the Qi and blood in the Chong meridian (the sea of blood) becomes abundant, she can have children.

At the age of 14, her menstruation appears and she is able to have a child. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the age of menarche is one important factor to help make a diagnosis. If menarche is later than 14 years old, it often indicates lower fertility energy.

21 years old

Her kidney energy is balanced, her adult teeth become completely developed and her body grows to full height.

A woman’s energy, especially fertility energy is full at the age of 21.

28 years old

Vital energy and blood are abundant, her bones and muscles are strong, her hair grows to full length and her body is in optimal condition.

At the age of 28, a women’s fertile energy reaches its peak. This is considered the best age for her to have children.

35 years old

Her peak condition declines gradually. Her energy in the yang ming meridian declines. Her face starts to wither and her hair starts to fall out.

From 35 year old, she starts to have wrinkles on her face, and her overall energy and fertility start to decline. She is still however, able to have children.

42 year old

The three Yang channels - Tai Yang, Yang Mind, Shao Yang - energy begins to decline. Her face wanes and her hair begins to turn white.

From the age of 42, her physical energy and fertility energy declines and it becomes more difficult to conceive.

49 years old

The Ren meridian (Conception Vessel) and Chong meridian vital energy declines, her menstruation dries up, her physique turns old and feeble and she is no longer able to conceive.

From the 7-year-life cycle, we can see that, according to Chinese Medicine, a good age for a woman to have children is from 21 to 35, and the best age is around 28 years old when her energies are at their "peak".

These cycles are still relevant in diagnosing and treating women's health issues in the context of Chinese Medicine. These stages are of course just a guideline, but they are immensely helpful in understanding - in a general way - how men and women move through their lives and what strengths, needs and imbalances they may face in different stages. Chinese Medicine is incredibly complex and has a vast body of knowledge that has been collected over thousands of years, and this is why it is still able to treat the health problems that people in our modern world face.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Thomas Hafeneth on Unsplash


Keeping Cool this Summer with Chinese Medicine

By John Voigt

Keeping Cool

Here are some techniques from Traditional Chinese medicine to help beat the summer heat.  (If you have a fever, or other health problems see a professional medical practitioner.)

First some common sense suggestions: drink a lot of water, keep cool.  Do your body a favor and stay in the shade. Nothing beats a pleasant stroll in a forest (just have the bug repellant on). If you must be in the sun cover yourself as much as you can. Watch non-human animals for cues on what you should be doing.


Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Food. 

Never put icy cold things in your mouth.  Avoid lamb, fatty red meat, alcohol, tobacco, garlic, onion, scallion, and coffee as these are warming in Chinese Medicine.  Eat less food and drink, drink lots of room temperature fluids--except never any sugared juice drinks, or sodas.   Replace any lost salt … lost from heavy sweating.

To reinforce yin, and clear heat: Watermelon,  Mung beans.


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Also: Apple, Banana, Crab,  Mango, Pears, Pineapple, Tofu.

Try drinking mint, chamomile, chrysanthemum teas; and also a weak green tea with a touch of lemon and honey. These are cooling to the body and build yin.


Photo by Anda Ambrosini on Unsplash

Chinese Herbs

American Ginseng. 


This image from ernestherbal.com

Check with a health professional knowledgeable about Chinese herbs if you have health issues.  Dosage: Usually American Ginseng extract is about 200 mg per day containing at least 4 to 7% ginsenosides. 0.5 to 2 g of dry root per day on a short-term basis, with the ginseng taken in tea form or chewed. Capsule formulas are generally prescribed in a dosage of 100 to 600 mg per day, usually in divided doses.  [from] <http://www.online-health-care.com/herbal-medicines>.

Internal Qigong.   

In the cycle of Seasons, this is the time to prepare for winter.  Sit in meditation and visualize it is winter all around you. Take the hot yang energy on the surface of your body and with your mind and breath direct and guide this heat into the energy storage battery in your lower abdomen, the Dantian.  Do from five to fifteen minutes.

Self Acupressure.

  • Kidney 1 (Yong-quan)
  • Kidney 2 (Ran-gu)
  • Bladder 40 (Weizhong)

Kidney 1 is one of the most powerful points in the body and is located between the balls of the foot in the depression. It is a very strong point, so be gentle. It is excellent for building yin and cooling the body as well as being a powerful tonification point for the entire body.
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash 

Kidney 2 is located on the inside (medial) aspect of the foot along the border of the red and white skin (where the skin transitions from the soft part on the top of your foot to the tougher type of skin you have on the bottom of your foot.)
Image from wanderingdawn.com

This point is located behind the knees at the midpoint of the crease. It is very sensitive, so always be gentle.

Gently press and massage the  Kidney 1, and 2 points, then the Bladder-40 points for about three to five minutes (or longer). 

Putting ice on the Bladder 40 wěizhōng points works to cool you down too.

External Qigong.

With fingers pointed down and knuckles facing each other almost touching, raise hands up center front -- go above head and open palms up to the heavens. With palms facing downward,  fingertips pointed at each other,  bring hands down the center line,. Repeat six times. Softly sound “Sheee.” (Or just hear it in your head.)  This harmonizes the body’s organ functions, the “Triple Burner".

john.voigt@comcast.net


Summer Recipe to Clear Heat & Decrease Fire

By Unfamiliar China

Clear Heat and Decrease Fire

Pressure, insomnia, prolonged exposure to a blowing air conditioner, and eating out too frequently can all lead to excessive internal heat. Excessive internal heat can be alleviated by regulating one’s diet. One should eat an appropriate ratio of meat and vegetables, and eat more fruits and vegetables that clear heat and drain fire. Enriching the yin helps decrease fire and eradicate dryness-heat. This Pork and Lotus Seed Soup recipe helps with just that!

Pork and Lotus Seed Soup

Preparation Time: 32 min.
Serves: 2

Ingredients

7.05 oz. (200 grams) lean pork
1.41 oz. (40 grams) lotus seed
1.76 oz. (50 grams) carrots
0.52 oz. (15 grams) dang shen (Codonopsis pilosula)

Seasoning

½ tsp. (2 grams) salt
½ tsp. (2 grams) chicken bouillon
a dash of ground pepper

Preparation

  • Cut washed carrot into small chunks. Cut washed pork into slices.
  • Add water to casserole dish. Add prepared lotus seeds, dang shen (Codonopsis pilosula), carrots, and pork. Cook over low heat for 30 min.
  • Mix in salt, chicken bouillon, and ground pepper to taste.
  • Turn off heat. Scoop out into bowls and serve.

Reminder

If the lotus seeds are very white, they may have been artificially bleached. It is best not to buy this kind of lotus seed.


Photo by Justin Lim on Unsplash

**Beautiful featured image photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash