Chinese Medicine Aids Deep Sleep to Revitalize Mind and Body

By Sally Perkins

It is widely recognized that sleep is essential for good health, and new research confirms that irregular and insufficient sleep can lead to a greater risk of experiencing metabolic disorders. Chinese medicine places importance on preventative measures to help the body remain balanced and free from disease, and its treatments and formulas have been shown to be effective in aiding deep and restful sleep. This is when critical body restoration takes place, resulting in increased immunity, the correction of internal imbalances and the strengthening of organ function. In addition, quality sleep, during which REM is experienced, can help stimulate and heal the mind.

Sleep to Stimulate The Mind

Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

Reaching the REM stage of sleep is important as this is when neural connections essential to health and well-being are made. REM only takes place after 90 minutes of sleep, so to aid a deeper sleep, jujube seed is often prescribed as it strengthens circulation and calms the mind. REM is also the period of sleep where dreams most often occur, as activity in the brain resembles that seen during wakefulness. During REM sleep, it becomes possible to stimulate lucid dreams where control can be exerted over the unconscious self and the fabric of its surroundings. As the wonders of the mind are explored, lucid dreaming can promote emotional healing, help overcome fears and encourage problem solving.  Occasionally, even when the REM stage of sleep is successfully reached, some people may experience REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) where they act out their dreams physically, so disrupting their sleep. However, studies have shown that, as well as aiding restful sleep, herbal remedies are as effective as tranquilizers and antidepressants in treating RBD.

Rest to Repair The Body

Sleep is vital for the body to grow and repair muscles, organs and other cells, so ensuring a good night’s sleep is essential to avoid serious health issues. For over 2000 years, a variety of Chinese medicines and formulas have been successfully used for the treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders. In Chinese medicine, insomnia is typically linked to heart function and so the heart tonic Fu Ling is recommended as it also has a sedative effect. As well as herbal remedies, studies show that acupuncture can improve the quality of sleep. It triggers the release of neurotransmitters including serotonin, which helps to regulate sleep patterns and induce REM sleep.

Photo by Antonika Chanel on Unsplash

A good night’s sleep is vital for health and well being. Herbal medicines and alternative treatments aid restful sleep, and once the body and mind are relaxed, balance and health can be restored.

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Featured image photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash


The Theoretical Side of Guo Lin’s Anti-Cancer Walk: How and Why It Works

By John Voigt

This entry is a continuation of The Anti-Cancer Walk …Guo Lin New Qigong Therapy which appeared in Chinese Medicine Living, May 30, 2019.

[Walking] Qigong readjusts the mind, the body, and the breathing. The peace of mind, the strong motive and faith to get well, combined with all the benefits from this holistic exercise, promote the body's neuroendocrine systems to adapt to the new mental and physical changes, which in turn triggers the immune system to function at higher and more competent levels. The end result is increased resistance to fight off diseases.
Source.  http://www.orientalhealing.net/archive/03282000-2.html

Guolin Qigong can also transport our internal qi, dredge the meridians, harmonize the blood, improve the circulation, and adjust the balance of yin and yang in our body. Therefore, through practice, we can achieve self-regulation and self-repair in the body. This will improve the body's resistance. Our immune function is improved, it can cure cancer, but also prevent cancer.
Source.  http://www.guolinqigong.net/site/index.php?cat=18&page=16

Disclaimer. This article is not offered as a cure for cancer or any other illness. It is meant only for educational purposes. If you are sick, you must seek proper medical care. However, in the author’s opinion additionally to any standard western health providers, it is suggested that a person have a qualified licensed and skilled Traditional Chinese Medicine professional on their health team. Western Medicine can cure; Traditional Chinese Medicine can heal. Use them both, and then judge accordingly by the results, and not by the hearsay or propaganda. Contraindications: “Guo Lin Qigong is not suitable for the treatment of acute diseases, infectious diseases, trauma, mental illness and so on.” From: Guo Lin Qigong Training and Guidance 100 Questions.
Source.  http://www.maisondelamedecinechinoise.com/%E9%83%AD%E6%9E%97%E6%B

We will now briefly examine the following theoretical foundations of healing in Guo Lin New Qigong:

1. Oxygen enrichment Breathing.
2. Relaxation and Peaceful Thinking.
3. Bioelectricity and healing energetics.
4. Social gatherings as healing modalities.
5. Acupressure Points and Meridians.
6. Meaning.

Additionally, contact information for worldwide Guo Lin Associations, and more about Guo Lin’s life and powerful creative personality will be offered at the article’s end..

1. Oxygen Enrichment Breathing.

Guo Lin taught: An important cause of cancer is when the body, or a region of the body, is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level. This condition is known as hypoxia. That is why I created my “wind breathing method” [i.e., inhale-inhale-exhale, repeat] where a large amount of oxygen is inhaled during the practice of my Walking Qigong. This encourages immune cells to destroy cancer cells. This is best practiced during all four seasons of the year, outdoors in clean air. It is important that the breathing be done without any exertion and that body movements are loose and natural; and that the mind is silenced. The length and intensity of the practice are dictated by the physical condition of the person. It is also necessary to study the theory of my new qigong therapy with a verified master. [Taken in part from “Why Does Guo Lin Qigong Fight Cancer?”
  http://www.360doc.com/content/18/0124/11/2901197_724675042.shtml . And from “[Guo Lin Qigong] Guo Linxin Qigong Therapy for the Scientific Mechanism of Cancer Treatment, Zhou Guangqing, Ph.D., editor.”
http://www.51-kf.com/plus/view.php?aid=806

2. The Mental Aspect: Relaxation, and Peaceful Positive Thinking.

Guo Lin repeatedly taught that the most important aspect of her qigong was relaxation: “The whole emphasis in this practice is relaxing.” …. “Relaxation is the core of all qigong, and [my] Guo Lin Qigong in no exception.” Guolin New Qigong: An Introduction; 2.1.2, p. 14.  http://www.cllam.com/contents/contenthtml/SSW-Doc/0804kuolin.pdf

Guo Lin also often emphasized that patients should constantly practice having a still peaceful mind where they exclude all distracting thoughts. She wrote:

For our healing work this is so important because the impact of negative emotions is another cause of the disease. Emotional depression can lead to a decline in the immune function and accelerate the death of cancer patients. I repeatedly stress to my counselors the need to listen and understand the thinking and emotions, as well as the pains and sufferings, of their patients; then to make a supreme effort to resolve such negative thinking by guiding them in increasing their mental confidence in an increased belief in the success of their fight against the disease.

Source.  ftpguolinxqg.cl543.4everdns.com

3. Bioelectricity and Healing Energetics.

Guo Lin taught that the potential of the bioelectric voltage of tumors is always lower than that of normal cells; and that people who practice qigong can produce a kind of magnetic static electricity. It has been reported in the medical literature that if treated with this positive potential magnetism, a cancerous tumor may disappear. The secret of this cancer treatment is that it mobilizes human bioelectricity through scientific practice methods [of breath, movement, and meditation], and uses this bioelectricity to transform puerile cancer cells into mature normal cells, and cancerous tumors disappear without a trace. Cancer patients recover rapidly, spontaneously, unconsciously and without pain.
Source.  http://www.51-kf.com/plus/view.php?aid=806

4. Social Gatherings - Oncology.

(“Oncology” means the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Humans interacting with other humans in ways to promote recovery from cancer is known as “Social Oncology.”) Guo Lin was instrumental in introducing the practice of social oncology to many hundreds of thousands of people in China. [For further information about Guo Lin and social oncology see Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson. “Medical Qigong Therapy and Clinical Oncology.”
  https://www.daoistmagic.com/articles/2017/12/15/medical-qigong-therapy-and-clinical-oncology and Roger Jahnke. The Healer Within, pp.168-170.

It is not going too far afield to say that if Guo Lin did not invent social oncology, at least she, and those who followed after her, developed its techniques so that hundreds of thousands of people began practicing it: They have Walking Qigong gatherings and yearly reunions in many Chinese cities, where ex-cancer patients come to sing, dance and talk about their experiences.

The atmosphere is always very alive, optimistic and at times dramatic when they describe what they have been through before discovering Walking Qigong. John Dolic. Qi Gong Chinese Health.
http://www.qigongchinesehealth.com/walking_qigong

Group Singing as a healing modality. Throughout Asia, Guo Lin Anti-Cancer groups perform singing social oncology in a variety of ways. For example, here is the “Song of Cancer” performed by the Malaysian Guolin Qigong Research Association.
http://www.guolinqigong.net/site/index.php?cat=48 .

Here are the words of the song translated into English:

You don’t have to be sad when you find out you have cancer.
You should not delay the surgical operation when it is needed.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy have to be carried out timing.
Drink Chinese herbs as it helps strengthen the immunity system.
Don’t go for any improper treatment. Practice Guo Lin Qigong unceasingly.
Your recovery will bring great happiness to the entire family.

Guo Lin Qigong Dance.

Here the formal movements of qigong become transformed into a seemingly ritualistic dance performed by members of the Malaysian Guolin Qigong Research Association for their 20th anniversary and 3rd Cancer Warrior Celebration during 2013 in Xiandu, Kuala Lumpur. 郭林气功舞蹈 – [Guo Lin Qigong Dance]. YouTube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc5dcisj0w4

Note: For more examples in pictures and text of such colorful musical and dancing social oncology go to Jinan Anti-cancer Club 2013 Spring Festival Gala  http://www.jncajlb.xinwen365.com/710.htm

5. Acupressure Points and Meridians.

The Guo Lin Walking Qigong opens important acupuncture points in the palms of the hands and in the Gall Bladder channel (meridian) near the hip joints. The lifting of the toes opens the Kidney- 1 points. Lifting and stepping down on the heels opens the Yang Heel vessel, called the Yang Qiao Mai.
https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/yang-qiao-mai.

This extra-ordinary meridian tones and regulates the flow of Qi that connects to many other important life-energy channels. [More at “Guolin Qigong.”  http://albanycomplementaryhealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Guolin-Qigong.pdf]

Yang Heel Vessel. Source: https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/yang-qiao-mai .

6. Meaning and Importance.

A basic factor that triggers healing is the meaning and importance that a person consciously or subconsciously gives to
the medical procedures that they are undergoing. Traditional Chinese scholars might explain this by saying that life energy is led and guided by what the mind is thinking—(as in vital qi follows mental intention). This is about the power of the mind, the power of imagination, and the power of the will. The power to heal is something that we ourselves have; it is not something only possessed by a doctor, druggist, or surgeon. (This relates to the power of belief and faith, and not to the negative filled connotations of such words “placebo.”)

Each of the components of Guo Lin New Qigong carry at least one positive meaning. Doing the walking exercises in a public park, early in the morning, with like-minded people, often dressed in a semi-official Guo Lin uniforms, moving qi in the body and ridding the body of pernicious qi, all create a meaningful sense of doing something worthwhile that will aid in the
conquering of a vicious disease. Add to this, working [usually] under a charismatic hard working and able leader to create even more belief in that its practitioners will once again become healthy. And even more so, all this directly connects to doing a qigong created by Guo Lin who brought herself back from certain death by doing the same qigong that you and those around you are now doing. Guo Lin, a woman who put her life in danger in adverse political situations, and brought her no-cost health treatment, largely independent from any governmental or medical industry control, to people throughout China.
It is no surprise that participating in such a grand communal ritual of striving together to gain personal health creates an overflowing sense of personal meaning which dramatically increases the potential of any healing effect.

And even if death is inevitable, the calming and relaxing exercises of Guo Lin Qigong done with other people in similar situations, in a natural setting, with a meaningful possibility and hope that life itself can be somewhat extended, can
create a sense of pleasurable wellbeing even as a person’s life draws to a close. Worldwide Guo Lin Associations. Given the legal difficulties, especially in the United States, in practicing any cancer healing modality that is outside accredited hospitals or governmental approved practices, it is difficult to find trained Guo Lin Qigong instructors and healers. However, the International Guolin Qigong Culture Research Association based in Hong Kong has a web site in English that does list worldwide organizations.
http://www.guolinqigonghk.com/contactus_en.html

More About Guo Lin:

During the dangerous time of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) with its continual personal criticism and life-threatening harassment, Guo Lin applied for and was granted a visa to come to the United States to live with her daughter. But she changed her mind; later she wrote why: I suddenly thought that Qigong was one of the treasures of the motherland's medicine. I saw many patients suffering from pain, and determined to bear the burden of humiliation. I resolutely withdrew my application abroad and became more active in qigong cancer treatment [and] practice. New Qigong therapy has been repeatedly validated in many cancer and chronically ill patients, saying that it has a unique therapeutic effect and that Guo Lin has explored a new path for Qigong to strengthen the body.
Source.  http://qigong.blog125.fc2.com/blog-date-201404.html

More information is at "Recall Guo Lin" written by her husband, Lin Xiao.  www.kangaiweb.com

Source: Today in History  http://history.04007.cn/en.php/HisMain/11443.html

Guo Lin with her husband Lin Xiao. They married in Macau when she was a teacher and he a student on December 8, 1941—one day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Source: https://wemp.app/posts/cfa28107-cdec-4b7b-a86d-f81e1cee09b0?utm_source=latest-posts

David A. Palmer. Qigong Fever. Columbia University, offers extensive information about Guo Lin, her work, and the China in which she found herself
https://books.google.co.cr/books?id=RXeuibmD2dsC&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=guo%20lin&f=false

Guo Lin was also a famous landscape painter and art educator. Here is a picture of her at work:


 Source: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_55da355b0102wvr8.html

Here is one of them:

More of her paintings may be seen at www.dealshaker.com

Concluding Comments

This entry is no more than a short introduction of Guo Lin’s anti-cancer walking qigong to an English-speaking audience. In actuality her complete “New Qigong” Therapy is composed of much more than the one set of coordinated steps, arm swings and breathing as presented in this article—(although that regime is what is most commonly found in books and on YouTube. However, the reality is that are at least twenty-six kinds of her qigong that are applied to help heal different diseases. For example there is Stick Rolling Exercises;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRBwHi7EtWI and the vocal techniques of “Guo Lin Qigong Expelling Sounds”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9X7P8gBNRY&t=681s .

Space limitations and the author’s limited abilities prevented any exposition here of that important information. And as always, consult your physician—trained in western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, or preferably both—before commencing this or any other exercise program.


Personal Story - Why We Need to Speak Our Truth

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

I just had surgery to remove a lump in my neck. It was small (about the size of a dime) but had been there for almost 2 years. It revealed itself just after I had my daughter, and my OBGYN said that it was normal - the result of hormonal fluctuations - and that after I was finished breastfeeding, it would probably disappear.

Almost 2 years later, it didn't seem to be going anywhere, so I went back to him asking what we could do. He had a look and did a quick ultrasound with a machine he used for pregnant ladies in his office. He said it was nothing to worry about, but I might consider having it removed. I said yes, please.

To be honest, I hadn't thought much about this lump simply because I didn't have the time or energy to give it. I was raising 2 babies in a foreign land and taking care of them, as well as all the other things that life throws at you was all consuming. I believed my OB when he said it was a normal result of hormone fluctuations following pregnancy and birth - and I was certainly experiencing those in all kinds of ways - so I hoped one day it would simply disappear.

When it didn’t, and several people asked me what was that thing in my neck - I decided it was time to deal with it.

For the first time, I brought my focus to it - this lump in my neck - thinking about what it was, and why it might be there… and suddenly,

I made a connection.

Coming to Costa Rica

Two and a half years ago, my husband and I arrived in Costa Rica with our then eleven-month-old baby boy. The stresses of moving to a foreign country were overwhelming and continued to be so long after we arrived. When we got here, I found out that I was pregnant. I was happy, but the news added a new layer of overwhelming to the picture. I was now going to have to figure out how to go about the delicate business of having a baby in another country.

After a lot of research, I thankfully found a much loved and well-respected doctor. He was willing to deliver the baby at home, without medications and in water which was my preference. I was so relieved. He was less than an hour of where I was living, so I went to my monthly appointments, and everything with my pregnancy went smoothly and I anxiously awaited the arrival of our baby girl.

One afternoon, about 3 days before my due date (which was my birthday, amazingly), the doctor arrived at the house. He said he wanted to check and see how everything was going. We had a big Tupperware bin with an inflatable pool and all the doctor's gear by the door, waiting for when I went into labour. After the doctor checked me out, he said the baby was very low and he could touch the top of her head. He said she would arrive any moment now and that my labour would be very quick, just like my first.

We sat quietly on the couch and he seemed distracted and slightly uncomfortable. I offered some tea. Finally, he looked at me seriously and said he needed to talk to me about something. I said, “ok, of course” - my mind racing. What is going on?, I wondered. He said that he needed to go to a conference in the US - a gynaecological conference he goes to every year and that he had spoken to a colleague who would come and deliver the baby… at this point, his voice got very faint and I wasn’t listening… my mind was all over the place, trying to wrap itself around this new information. I came back and he was finished, looking at me expectantly.

I allowed myself to breathe for a moment and smiled. I said, “well, she is due any day now, when do you have to leave?” He took a deep breath and said: “in the morning”.

I am not exactly sure what happened after that except I felt a surge of emotions flood through me and everything was going in slow motion. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, being lifted up and down, losing my equilibrium. I suddenly felt quite sick and must have grimaced as the doctor said - oh, I think you don’t feel well. And then it slowly became clear. I said - “I think I am in labour.” He looked serious, and said, “yes, I can see that.”

At that moment, everyone scattered. My mother swooped in and took my son to her house (which was down the hill). My husband and the doctor disappeared, and I was left, sitting alone on the couch. Another contraction came and felt like a wave of pain smashing into me. I thought I would have a warm shower which might help the pain.

When I got out, my husband was there. I asked where the doctor was? I assumed he had gone out to his car to get something. He said - Oh, he left. I said, left?? What do you mean? Where did he go? He told me he had gone back to the city to get some things.

I sat hard on the couch, confused. Disappointed. Hurt.

"He left?"

He didn’t say a word to me. He didn’t check to see how far apart my contractions were. Talk to me to see how I was feeling. He just left.

Without going into details, what followed was an extremely intense, painful and scary labour and birth. My contractions became very intense and close together very quickly, and my poor husband was frantically blowing up the inflatable pool so that I could get into it and have our baby. The problem was, that because he was blowing up the pool, and the doctor was gone, I was alone. My husband would run in for a contraction summoned by my shrieks, then race out again and continue blowing up the pool. He never did get it blown up...

From the time of my first contraction sitting on the couch to the moment my daughter emerged was one hour and 20 minutes. It was the scariest hour and 20 minutes of my life. I had been alone through a process where I desperately wanted support and comfort, and there was none. I had no friends, and my only family were occupied and not able to help. The pain had been unimaginable, and I am sure this was intensified by my fear and anxiety. Both my husband and I had tried over and over to reach the doctor to ask where he was and were not able to connect to him.

When he did finally arrive, I was crouched on our bedroom floor, holding a screaming baby on my knees, shivering and in shock. I was not able to pull the baby up to my chest because the umbilical cord was so short it would not reach. It was quite a sight. It was almost half an hour after the baby was born.

The doctor helped cut the cord, deliver the placenta and cleaned up, then left. I was still in shock.

I didn’t hear from him for more than a week. I finally texted him asking if he would like to see the baby and make sure everything was ok? He wrote back saying yes, come in tomorrow.

When I went to see him, he acted like everything was fine. The emotions I was feeling were still so raw that I was on the edge of tears the whole time, being angry and hurt at the whole situation. The fact that he had not reached out since had only poured salt on a very open wound.

And here is the connection.

Everything is Energy, & Energy is Everything

In India, the Hindu’s believe we all have seven chakras which are centres of energy. One of them, the fifth chakra, resides in the throat. It is responsible for our ability to express our feelings, needs and desires. To speak our truths. To be honest with ourselves, and express that truth to others.


Here is a chart which briefly describes each of the chakras
Image from Andrew Noske

The symbol for the throat chakra

In Chinese Medicine, the emotions are actually considered a cause of disease.

In Chinese Medicine, there is an acupuncture point that I have used for this exact purpose for many, many years. It is called REN 22 and is located at the base of the throat, on the midline, in the depression between the two clavicles. Using this point clears any stagnation occurring there and helps the recipient to express themselves freely.

Ren 22 Acupuncture Point - From A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

When Emotions are Unresolved

The pain and trauma of the birth of my daughter lingered, unresolved, and unexpressed. Shock was followed by a deep depression which has lingered and is still with me, like an uninvited friend.

Interestingly, I have been doing a lot of research on grief for a new project I am working on. One of the books I was reading was written by a woman who had lost her infant daughter, shortly after she was born. She never recovered from her death and ended up making a career counselling others suffering with traumatic grief - something she deeply understood. Her story was both heartbreaking and uplifting, and the book was filled with stories of her clients and the horrific stories that lead to their own grief. I found myself crying a lot reading those stories, and some of the times I tried to hold back my tears, something interesting happened.

I felt a pain.

A searing pain, and the epicentre was the lump in my neck.

My grief had literally manifested as a mass right next to my throat chakra.

 

I know this may seem far fetched to some people, and I understand. But from everything I know and have learned in my life and work, and the feelings that came when I made these connections, I believe this is what happened.

Many doctors visits, consultations, tests and ultrasounds later, I did have that lump removed in a surgery a couple of weeks ago. That process alone was an exercise in expressing what I needed and was very cathartic. The surgeon told me that the lump was in fact much bigger and went much deeper than expected, but that the surgery went well and they got everything out. A biopsy revealed that it was benign. Buddha bless me.

My husband tells me that after the surgery when I was still under the effects of the sedative, they brought in a little bottle and showed me the lump itself. He said I looked at it for a long time. I don’t remember anything from those few hours afterwards, which deeply disappointed my husband because he said he was being so wonderful, loving and attentive. Ha.

The Moral of the Story

So, why am I telling you this? I am sharing this story because I believe that it is relevant. I have seen so much of this with the people I know in my life and with my patients over the years. So many of us have things that have hurt us. Demons we are running from, pains that we dragging from our pasts into our present and things that are hurting us in our everyday lives, as we live them. It is unavoidable. It isn't always easy to express those feelings and the thing about our society is that many of us have never been taught how to do so. Emotional intelligence is so important for our health and wellbeing, and yet, so many of us struggle to become aware of how we feel, acknowledge how we feel, and then allow ourselves to feel it.

When I was able to finally take some time and think about this lump in my neck, then look back on what was happening in my life when I first remember it being there, I was able to make the connection. And the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became. This was a hugely painful event that I was not able to verbalize, even to myself. I was trying to be thankful for having a healthy baby girl and not focus on the negative. And this is what we are told. Be positive. Look on the bright side. And while that is all well and good, sometimes there are unpleasant things that are happening, and we must acknowledge that they are there and deal with them, too. I am saying this to myself (maybe more) as much as to you. But it was so clear, that it felt like a huge lesson from the universe, and I am passing it on in the hope that it may help you, too.

P.S.

 


Here is a photo of the scar. It will forever be a reminder of how important it is that I express
my feelings and speak my truth, to others, and to myself. 

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Featured image by

Matt Botsford


Living in Harmony with Spring According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Theory

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

Spring - The Season of the Liver

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

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

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

Behaviours in Spring

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

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Activities in Spring

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

Beneficial Foods in Spring

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

Photo by Scott Eckersley on Unsplash

The Liver and Anger

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

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

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

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

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Some Symptoms of Liver Stagnation & Imbalance

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

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

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Beautiful featured image photo by Sylwia Pietruszka on Unsplash

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If you would like a downloadable sheet on how to live in harmony with the Spring season according to Chinese Medicine, you can get one here - Spring Season in Chinese Medicine. If you are a practitioner and would like this sheet to share with patients, then please visit here - Spring Season - Professional.


What is Yin & Yang?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Yin Yang Theory in Chinese Medicine

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

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

 

Yin & Yang Personality Traits

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

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

Yin & Yang and Health

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

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Beautiful featured image by www.kittysabatier.com


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


Your Quick Guide to Personal Happiness - 5 Happiness Habits

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

For many years I have been fascinated by the concept of happiness. Part of my fascination was personal, and the other was professional. I was seeing so many patients who were deeply unhappy and the interesting thing to me was that when I asked them what would make them happy, most of them had no idea. For many, it seemed to be the first time they had given the idea any thought at all. So, what is happiness? And why is it so elusive?

What is Happiness?

For something that we all seem to be after, happiness seems to be largely misunderstood and pretty difficult to come by for a lot of people. And when it comes to a definition of happiness, well I imagine that would be very different depending on who you asked. For our purposes, I will define it as a general feeling of well-being and joy about the totality of your life - not necessarily the details as those will be constantly fluctuating, but a general sense of wellbeing about your existence. If I were to ask you what would it take for you to be happy? Maybe a better question is - what does your life look like where you imagine your happiest self? This is an interesting intellectual exercise for sure, and one I often ask my patients to do to help them clarify what this scenario would look like for them.

In my experience, I see what happiness isn't. It is not something that can be acquired, some kind of external thing that one must chase after and get a hold of, never letting go. External things don't give you happiness, at least not a happiness that is grounded, meaningful and lasting. The way to happiness is within. And I think this is one of the reasons that we as a species, are largely so unhappy right now. We are taught, from a very young age, to seek everything we need in our lives - "out there". All the things we need to be complete, happy beings are out there in the external world. Good education, a better job, good relationship, nice house, fancy car - and so forth. These seem to be the benchmarks for success and happiness for many of us. But this is changing. There is a movement of young people growing up now who realize that those things often have nothing to do with true happiness and are seeking happiness, fulfillment, and connectedness within. And that is where we will all find it. There has been an explosion of interest in things like yoga, meditation, ayahuasca, etc... to more deeply understand ourselves and our world.

The Chinese Medicine Angle

In Chinese medicine, our ability to feel joy is seen to be an expression of our heart energies. But joy is only one part of overall happiness. In Chinese medicine, how you feel is an important part of your health. Each of the organs has an emotion associated with it to help determine which organ (or emotion) might be out of balance at any one time. If you are overwhelmed by anger and frustration, the liver is the culprit, if sadness is predominant then the lungs are to blame, or if fear and anxieties are making life uncomfortable then we must look at the kidneys for their role in these feelings. I believe that for a feeling of overall happiness and wellbeing that so many of us are striving for is to be achieved, it is balance that we must seek. And there is no better system to teach us to balance ourselves, our bodies, our emotions and our spirits, than Chinese medicine.

The emotions are a more ephemeral and therefore often more difficult thing to contend with, especially in our society with its emphasis on the physical and tangible especially when it comes to health and healing. Because of this, tools we can use to help us manage difficult emotional states or patterns are difficult to come by. Thankfully, Chinese medicine offers many ways in which we can both identify as well as manage and resolve our emotional hardships. Each organ's energies are at their peak in a specific season, so taking care of both the organ, its corresponding emotion and changing our behaviours depending on the time of year are some of the ways we can help to keep ourselves balanced. Changing the foods that we eat according to the seasons and our physical predispositions is another good way to stay in harmony, as well as some basic things like listening to our bodies - as they tend to tell us in subtle ways when something is wrong - taking care of ourselves on all levels, being kind, loving and nurturing to ourselves and others and working on self-awareness is especially important when it comes to dealing with emotions. So much of our demons and the things that hurt us are unknown to us. If we are really willing to do the work to discover our hurts and sorrows, that is the first step in shining a light on them and being able to process them and letting them go.

5 Happiness Habits

Below are some of the most powerful habits that, if you incorporate them into your life, will help you to have a happier experience and feel more joyful overall.

Gratitude

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Some interesting studies have taught us that so much of our ability to feel happiness is in our attitude. Many highly spiritual beings know this too. One way that we can really help to change our attitudes so that we may attract more positivity into our lives is by being grateful. Taking some time every day to focus on the things that you are grateful for, no matter how big or small, will help to literally rewire your brain, making it easier to think about and feel those feelings of gratitude in the future. A helpful exercise that will help you to literally rewire your brain (plasticity) is to take time every day to think of three things that you are grateful for. In doing this, your brain starts to retain the pattern of scanning the world not for negative things, but positive ones, helping to keep you in a state of positivity.

Positivity


Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Scientific studies have shown that the brain works better when we are in a state of positivity giving us a happiness advantage. Here are some statistics from Shawn Achor's TED talk (which is embedded below):

  • When we are in a positive state the brain performs better in terms of intelligence, creativity and our energy increases
  • Positive brains are 31% more productive than brains that are negative, neutral or stressed
  • When we are positive, our brains are 37% better at sales
  • When in a positive state, doctors are 31% faster and more accurate at coming up with correct diagnosis

An activity to help you to become more positive is to journal about one positive thing that happened to you (or that you witnessed) that day. Writing about the experience allows your brain to relive it, and releases powerful hormones like dopamine, which not only makes us feel good, but also turns on all the learning centres in the brain.

Conscious Acts of Kindness

Another exercise that you can work into your daily routine is to reach out to one person in your social network and tell them that you appreciate them and why. This only compounds the exercise above and will help not only you to feel grateful, but also spread the goodness around by making the person or people you reach out to feel grateful as well.

Meditation

Meditation has so many benefits to our health and wellbeing, that it is something I would recommend for absolutely everyone, especially living in our hectic culture. Meditation allows us to slow down, relax and reconnect with ourselves in a way that many of us have forgotten. Giving that time to yourself as a way to pull yourself out of the chaos that often predominates modern life and to just sit and listen has so many positive effects that will not only make you feel better, they will ripple out into every aspect of your life and ultimately benefit not only you, but the people around you.

Self Awareness

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

From the years of treating patients, one of the things that I really believe is a huge contributor to our physical health as well as our mental health is dealing with our demons. I use the word demons, because that is what they can become, haunting us and making us miserable. Everyone has difficult, painful and traumatic experiences in their lives. But the way to have a happy life I believe is not to wish for an easy existence, but to learn how to handle difficulties when they arise so that they can be processed appropriately and let go so that they do not become demons from our past that haunt us in our present.

This ability to really look at ourselves and self reflect is not easy, and this important work is not something that is taught to us as children in schools, so finding a way to work through these difficult experiences can be daunting. The tools that will work will not be the same for everyone, but this is some of the most important work we can do in our lives and the work that will help us to be happier beings and enjoy our time on this beautiful planet.

 

Sources

This excellent (and hilarious) video from Shawn Achor speaking at TED about happiness and our brains.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M

 


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


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


Diet and Spirituality: Feeding the Mind, Body, and Soul

By freelance writer Sally Perkins

The idea that food can be a direct route to health and happiness is a belief that’s been long held by proprietors of traditional Chinese medicine. Recipes have passed down through generations that are used to help prevent and treat disease, slow down the aging process, or simply improve overall fitness. To this day, many households that use a traditional approach to health consider the pantry to be synonymous with the medicine cabinet.

In traditional Chinese medicine, food is more than just sustenance. It’s a healthy lifestyle choice that has a significant impact on your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Practitioners of traditional medicine promote the idea that a carefully crafted diet plan should be the first line of defense against any illness or ailment. Traditional medicine has shaped many common Chinese dishes that include a wide variety of vegetables and meats considered to have positive health benefits. Different health call for different ingredients, including herbs, spices, and vegetables that are known to have healing properties.

Dampness

Foods that are damp in nature can slow the digestive system and interfere with the flow of energy throughout your body. This blockage can lead to pain, disease, chronic allergies, and even arthritis. Signs of dampness can include congestion and excessive mucus formation, indigestion, weight gain, and swelling in the joints.

Foods to Include

  • Cooked vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans, lentils, and legumes
  • Lean protein
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Seaweed and kelp
  • Nuts and seeds

Foods to Avoid

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Refined sugars
  • Processed flour
  • Coffee and alcohol
  • Bananas and avocado

Yin Deficiency

Responsible for keeping you cool, a deficiency with your yin can lead to overheating and fever. Yin is closely associated with the kidneys, which function to remove toxins from your system. An imbalance in your Yin can be the result of stress or overwork, but it may also be due to an inadequate diet.

Foods to Include

  • Barley, millet, and other whole grains
  • Beans and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Fruits such as apples, pears, and bananas
  • Seafood and red meat

Foods to Avoid

  • Hot or spicy foods
  • Caffeine, cigarettes, and other stimulants
  • Sugars

Yang Deficiency

Also often a result of improper kidney functioning, a deficiency in Yang energy is characterized by soreness in the joints and lumbar region, cold sensations in the limbs, difficulty urinating, incontinence, and a decreased libido.

Foods to Include

  • Berries and nuts
  • Red meats such as lamb and venison
  • Seafood
  • Strong spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, peppermint, and more

Foods to Avoid

  • Cold foods and liquids
  • Raw food

According to traditional Chinese medicine, a balance between flavor and nutrition helps to promote both physical and spiritual well being. By eating the right foods, you can keep your body in balance and reduce or alleviate the symptoms of certain chronic conditions.

 

**Beautiful featured image by Blair Fraser on Unsplash