10 Ways Chinese Medicine Changed My Life

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I feel very fortunate that I discovered Chinese medicine early in my life. Well, early-ish. I was 15 and had been suffering with terrible cramps for a couple of years and was unable to find anything that could help me other than drugs or the prospect of surgery that might have left me unable to have children. Going to that first appointment was a profound experience and, although I didn't realize it at the time, started me on a journey that would last me the rest of my life. Chinese medicine has improved my life in so many ways, it was like poking a hole in my consciousness that has been stretched out and gotten ever bigger the deeper into the medicine that I get. And that's just it, it is not just a medicine, but a way of life, and my goal with Chinese Medicine Living is to share that ancient wisdom with you, so you can learn to live it too. Below are some of the ways that Chinese medicine has changed my life.

1. Looking at Things Holistically

One of the most wonderful things about Chinese medicine is the way it looks at things holistically. In Western medicine there is a trend towards specializations, breaking the body into smaller and smaller parts, but the very core of Chinese medicine is to see not only the body as a whole and complete unit, but all aspects of a human being as pertinent to health and wellbeing. Our culture is very aligned with this Western view, so one thing I am very grateful to Chinese medicine for, is this new (or old, it is very very old) perspective. I find that it has bled into the rest of my life, and I am always trying to look at the big picture, step back and look at any situation in a complete way, rather than focussing on specific details which has been of great benefit to me in all aspects of my life.

2. Creating Empathy

One of the biggest things that I have learned since I started practicing, and something that I wasn't expecting, is that I have a new appreciation of how much pain and suffering people go through on a daily basis. Because of the in depth process of the initial consultation that I have with patients, I learn about all the things that are going on in their lives. I have been really humbled to learn the kinds of difficult things that so many people are dealing with every day. A lot of these things never get discussed, and they can and often do lead to illnesses. I noticed that this new awareness allowed me to have a new kind of empathy when I was taking a crowded subway to work and someone slammed the door in my face, or didn't smile or say thank you when someone opened a door for them. I realized that we have no idea the kinds of difficult things people are dealing with in their lives, and I try to remember this when someone is rude or unpleasant out in the world, which helps me treat them with more kindness and compassion.

3. Helping Me to Heal Myself

I think it is pretty common that people get into a profession like the healing arts and go through the sometimes difficult process of having to heal themselves. This was definitely the case for me, but was also part of what fascinated me about Chinese medicine. In school you begin to learn how multi-dimensional it really is, and that you could literally practice and study it for the rest of your life and never know it all. For me, this is the appeal. I love that it is something that I can practice and be constantly learning forever.

We all acquire wounds through experiences we have in our lives. It is impossible to avoid, and those wounds are often difficult to recognize and even more difficult to resolve. Learning Chinese medicine with its many tools helped me to heal a lot of my own broken places and gave me ability to apply what I was learning practically to my life - a skill which I could later bring to my patients. The ability of Chinese medicine to heal on a variety of different levels is to me, part of the reason why it has consistently been able, for thousands of years, to heal such a wide range of conditions with such effectiveness.

4. Realizing Sensitivity is a Gift

I have written about this one in detail previously in the post called - How my curse became my gift, but this was a big one for me. I was an extremely sensitive child, and, until I discovered Chinese medicine I was taught that that sensitivity was a weakness and something I should work hard to overcome. When I was in school studying Chinese medicine and acupuncture I slowly began to realize that this sensitivity I had, this "curse" was actually helping me connect, diagnose and treat patients. I could feel what was wrong with someone without them saying a word, and could read subtle cues and create connections that others missed. The realization that something I had been taught was a weakness and an undesirable trait was allowing me to be a better healer and help more people to feel better was an incredibly healing experience (see number 3 above), and helped to heal a wound that I had had ever since I could remember. It also made space for self acceptance and some self love which I am sure we could all use a little more of.

5. Reverence for Tradition & the Past

One of the things that I think we have lost as a culture, is our respect for the ancient wisdom of times past. Chinese medicine is a system that has been around for almost 5000 years. There is an enormous amount of information that has been gathered, documented and applied in those thousands of years. Much of that information is still in use today and is still being used to treat modern diseases with impressive efficacy. In the present, we tend to revere technology and all the ways that it can help make our lives easier. In many ways technology does make life easier, but at what cost? We are living with more people and closer together than at any time in history, and yet, despite our technology, we are so alone. Many people think that the old ways are simple, out of date and not useful but I think that the pendulum has swung so far the other way that our reliance on technology is hurting us in some ways. I believe that there is a need to get back to that "simpler" way of life. Where family, your tribe, and nature were the most important things in your life, and it was about the "we" instead of the "I". Chinese medicine teaches many of these principles as they are ways that a person and a community can stay healthy and balanced which is good for the people and the planet.

6. Looking to Nature for Healing

One of the things I love about Chinese medicine (and yes, there are so many things I love about Chinese medicine), is that it was developed out of a complete reverence and respect for nature. Nature is integral to the medicine because human beings are designed to live in harmony with it. In my opinion, it has been the disconnect between people and their natural environment that has lead to the drastic rise in the incidents of disease in our population. Chinese medicine also teaches that the earth with all her wisdom and gifts such as plants and animals offers the remedies to all of the ailments that afflict human beings. Eating our medicine, living in harmony with our environment and with the seasons and using herbs are only a few of the ways in which Chinese medicine relies on nature to help to heal us. In a culture that has tried to dominate and control nature, the ancient Chinese understood that it is only when we live in harmony with nature that we can thrive and live our lives to their fullest potential.

7. Using Food as Medicine

Using food as medicine is one of the fundamental principles of Chinese medicine. And, in a perfect world, we would be able to get everything we need for optimum health and longevity from the foods we eat. Thousands of years ago, there was no need for synthetic medications, people ate their medicine. There was also a common knowledge of what the healing properties of the foods that grew locally were so that they could be chosen according to any presenting illness. This is built into Chinese medicine and is one of the ways that a practitioner helps to advise their patient. Nutritional therapy is part of most treatment plans, as food is something we all need every day, and everything we eat has healing properties that can help both prevent and fight disease.

The foods we eat have enormous healing energies and eating for me has always been one of my favourite things, but it now helps me to stay healthy so I don't get sick. I see food in a completely different way, not just a feast for my taste buds, but a delicious type of healing that I do for myself every time I put something in my mouth. Also, it is not just the food itself that is healing, it is also the way it is prepared, the more love and good intention you put into it, the more healing (and more delicious) it is for whomever is eating it. :)

8. Improving My People Skills

This was an unexpected benefit of practicing Chinese medicine. I remember the day that, while I was still in school, it was announced that we would begin student clinic where we had to do all the hours necessary to graduate. This immediately set of a chain reaction that started with the realization that I would have to start putting what I was learning into practice, but more importantly, I would have to be talking to PEOPLE. I was terrified. I have always been a shy person and struggled with my ability to speak with people, especially ones I didn't know. And now, speaking with people I didn't know was going to be my profession. Wow. It was going to be quite an education. Those first few months of student clinic were tough, but as I did it more and more I found that my ability to connect with people beyond words was the way I was able to retrieve the most important and useful information about their condition, and observing the way they spoke, moved and looked was just as important as the words coming out of their mouths. I began to create a balance and a way to take in information about a person while we were speaking in their treatment. This was a huge learning curve for me, and once I got over the shyness, I came to really enjoy working with people which definitely helped me outside of my practice and made it easier to connect and speak to people outside of work. I am now able to speak quite comfortably with people I don't know because of the skills I developed practicing Chinese medicine.

9. Prevention is the Best Medicine

In the West, and I have seen this over and over again in my practice, people tend to wait until they get sick before they seek out help to try to get well. In some cases, people wait until things are catastrophic to get medical help, at which point it is always more difficult to fix the problem. Chinese medicine, at its foundation is a medicine of prevention. This is not to say that it is not capable of treating illness and disease because it most certainly is. But, the way that it has been designed is as a preventative medicine. It is a way of life that is conducive to health with the objective of never getting sick. I have tried my best to institute it's principles into my life so that I do many small things every day to keep myself healthy rather than not paying attention to my health and waiting until I get sick to attempt to get better. My medicine is my way of life. It is the way I conduct myself in the world, the way I treat others, the food I eat, the emotions I process, my state of mind and my attitude - all of which have a bearing on my overall health and wellbeing. And I learned this from Chinese medicine.

10. Loving My Work

One of the ways that I think I am very lucky is that I love what I do. Deeply. I know that many people get up every day and go to a job that they do not love. I get to go to work and do what I love, which feeds me physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is an incredibly rewarding profession and something I love more and more every day. I feel honoured that I get to spend my days in service to my fellow human beings, and that I can in some small way help them to feel better, one person at a time.

Love Your Work : Chinese Medicine Living

10 Ways Chinese Medicine Changed My Life : Chinese Medicine Living

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The beautiful featured image photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash

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


Alignment - Part 1

By Steven Lubka

I write this in the beginning of the year 2016. In the last several decades we have experienced increasingly rapid and dramatic changes in the ways in which most humans live on this beautiful planet. We have developed incredible technologies that have made the impossible , possible. Our environments are filled with invisible wavelengths of light (wireless internet technologies)  which transmit the sum of human knowledge instantaneously to most points on the planet. With nuclear energy we generate power from invisible particles on a scale previously unheard of. We have discovered ways to alter the genetic information of plants and animals, to travel through the skies at incredible speeds, to travel into outer space, and many other feats which were delegated to the realm of imagination 100 years ago.

From a certain perspective one can view all of these inventions as coming from a pure seed of potential, a dream in the collective mind of man. Of course it is our nature to attempt the impossible. Of course it is our nature to dream, and yet we now find ourselves dealing with the fallout of all of these technological breakthroughs. Our inventions have changed our lifestyles and the face of the earth and these changes have happened faster than the biologic systems of the Earth and the human body can handle.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

Our bodies evolved over millions of years sheltered in the magnetic resonance of the planet. As we slept on the earth and walked barefoot on her landscape we were constantly attuned to her vibrations and frequencies. Our science is now discovering how essential our attunement to these magnetic fields are for the function of our cellular health. Magnetic frequencies and light cycles impact every aspect of our biology down to the cellular level, and yet in a hundred years we have completely disconnected from these nourishing vibrations in favor of artificial sources. We have migrated from a life lived in communion with the Earth and all her medicine to one that is lived in an artificially lit indoor environment that is becoming increasingly saturated by the electric fields and wireless radiations of our technological brilliance.

We once woke up with the sun and moved through complex natural environments to fulfill the tasks of our daily lives. As we moved, the very act of movement caused the vital fluids of our bodies to circulate to all the organs and muscles. The heart is not the only mover of blood. The contractions of muscles pull blood and circulate nutrients to all parts of our physical form. Yet now we sit and stare into screens endlessly, robbing ourselves of the replenishing aspects of movement and the joys of it.

At night darkness fell and our activities ceased with it. We learned the wisdom of having a time for darkness and inactivity, something which our industries which strive for growth at all times could serve to remember. The period of darkness experienced at night is a critical as the period of light experienced during the day. The morning sun triggers a massive shift in hormonal function as the bodies shifts into its daytime processes, and similarly the onset of darkness triggers the onset of our nocturnal processes.

The Chinese knew the importance of Yin and Yang, and what can occur when these forces are out of balance. In their language I would say our light environment has become Yin deficient because of our use of artificial lighting. I also find our constant illumination of our world to be symbolic of the masculine conquest of nature. We have created eternal daytime, we have conquered darkness, and we have lost touch with her feminine receptive nature. We have lost the ancient experience of stories told around a fire. and of quiet conversations with our loved ones under the night sky. In scientific terms we are impairing the product of melatonin and damaging our eyes via blue light toxicity during the dark portion of the photoperiod.

These are just some of the changes that have taken place in the last hundred years and I cite them now as an example of how our way of living has shifted so dramatically and so quickly. As a result of all these changes a general malaise has come to afflict the human population. We have become numb to the sound of it as most take this state of being as “normal” for it is all they have ever known. How does one know they are sick if they have never been well?  All you need to do is turn on a television ( but I do not recommend it) to hear the advertisements for medications for depression, anxiety, cancer, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, MS, and a variety of other diseases which were  unheard in ancient societies and among hunter gatherer populations.

However, the innate intelligence of life is stirring within us and many people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with this culture we have manufactured. A great awareness for physical healing and restoration is emerging and I feel it is one of the most important ways that we pay homage to the Earth, by healing the gift of the body we have been given. Through the miracle which is the Internet I have watched for years as people from all over the world have gathered in virtual space to find solutions and it is here in this virtual realm that I am sharing my contribution to the whole. We can’t say that the times we live in are boring!

The body is a complex system, a unified whole made of many parts. In this way it reflects a fundamental principle inherent to all levels of creation. All manners of form in this existence are simultaneously a singular whole and the many parts which it is composed of. This is an important reference point to hold when one attempts to bring their body back into a state of health. The state of health is the singular holistic manifestation of all parts working in harmony. So where does one begin in their journey? For each person different pieces will hold different magnitudes of importance. This is individual and must be discovered by the individual. What is most important for one person will not typically be what is most important for another and I don’t truly find there to be a hierarchy of the various systems. The heart is not intrinsically more important than the liver. The brain is not intrinsically more important than the gut. The alignment of the spine not intrinsically more important than the circadian biology. All of these things work together, much as rivers don’t exist without the land they flow through nor without the clouds which replenish the waters of this magnificent biosphere.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

I say all of this and yet now I must create a starting point for one cannot address the whole without starting with one of it’s parts. The Chinese viewed a human life as something of great value. The human being was seen as a conduit between heaven and earth, between form and formlessness. In other words the human being was bridge between two worlds. In my eyes nothing manifests this role or relationship better than the spinal column. The spine is something of incredible function. It not only is the literal foundation of our physical form but it also is the ground through which an immense of amount information travels in the forms of nerve signaling and sensory input from all parts of the system. It is the central axis of the body. A properly aligned spine yields a properly aligned being who is a conduit of both heaven and earth. I find that the spine is also the antenna of the body and when the antenna is calibrated properly it allows one to become receptive to “information” from the greater systems we are a part of. It allows one to receive “information” on the level of frequency from the magnetic field of the earth, the frequencies of the stars and cosmic bodies, and from the interconnected biosphere of life on this planet. A hunched and collapsed spine is a sign that the organism is heading towards death, yet most live in this state from a young age now.

This concludes the first of this three part series. In the next part I will outline some basic habits one can cultivate to to easily improve one’ alignment. In the third I will show how to perform a basic cranial-spinal reset and delve into some further discussion of our motivation to heal ourselves, where this motivation is useful, and where it is limited.

 

Alignment Part 1 : Chinese Medicine Living

*Images
The beautiful featured image from picturesdotnews.com
Earth image from Mother Earth by Commander on Youtube.com
Tree image from veganfeministnetwork.com
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Peace Love & Acupuncture Button : Chinese Medicine Living


Qi Gong for Weight Loss - One

By John Voigt

Before commencing this or any other weight loss program consult with your appropriate healthcare providers. If any procedures in this article cause any mental or physical discomfort stop doing them and see a professional healer. If you have had or have any mental illness do not do the following visualizations.

THE CREATION OF THE SLENDER YOU

The Chinese alchemist begins from the point of energetics and used guided visualization and physical techniques to effectuate the fusion of the energies. The fused energies are then purified, transformed and projected to create an energy body or energy double.” George A. Katchmer. The Tao of Bioenergetics, pg. 92. YMAA, 1996.

The body is activated by the interplay of two psychic structures: first, hun, which because it belongs to the yang principle, I have translated as animus - p'o which belongs to the yin principle, as anima. Carl Gustav Jung. Secret of the Golden Flower, pg. 14.

Qi Gong for Weight Loss : John Voigt

Michelangelo’s David. Florence, Galleria dell'Accademia.

Yang is archetypal Masculine energy—as in father, sun, fire, phallic, aggressive, logical, left brain. Yin is archetypal Feminine energy—as in mother, moon, water, womb, receptive, intuitive, right brain. They are not separate entities: all yang contains yin, all yin contains yang. Every man has a hidden female alter-ego that Jung named “Anima.” Every woman has a hidden male alter-ego Jung called “Animus.”

Qi Gong for Weight Loss : John Voigt

Daphnis and Chloe (1827), Jean-Pierre Cortot. Louvre.
In a second century C.E. Greek story, as infants they are found by shepherds, and grow up secretly in love with each other. After adventures they are happily married. In the sculpture their bodies seem to represent an anima/animus perfection.

The interaction of yang and yin (as in father and mother) gives birth to the child. By imagining the anima or animus within you, then externalizing, and returning them into you, it becomes possible over to give birth to a new slender you.

Personal Transmutation: Projection and Assimilation for Physical Realization of the Imaged Slender Self

Go into your standard meditative posture. See (imagine) sitting facing you, a healthy slender, full of youthful energy, beautiful/handsome you. A truly perfect you: all you would ever want and wish to be--BUT OF THE OPPOSITE SEX. Feel their presence by fully imagining them with all your senses. Then though practicing visual imagining,  run life energy (qi, prana, or whatever you call such things) up their back and down their front. This is called the Microcosmic Orbit. As an advanced option in time you may add the bio-life cosmic energy coming into the fingers and toes up through the limbs and jointing with the flowing inner-river of qi. This is called the Macrocosmic Orbit. Imagine/see/perceive your vision of radiating qi from their entire body. Picture their energy pathways aglow. Then have this image move toward you and mentally hold and turn them so their back is to you and bring them, squeeze them, into your body. As they enter you their sex automatically transforms into your sex. [If you are gay then adapt this so it fits your personal sexual proclivities.] They were in so many ways the true you anyway—perhaps even possibly your hidden subliminal dream lover. All the glowing radiating energy pathways in their body have now become yours.

After you have drawn in your projected perfect-self, do another short imagined running of  life energy orbiting up your back and down your front, then if you are up for it into the tips of the fingers and toes to add more qi into this bio-electric streaming inside you. As always, finish by finally cycling the qi-energy into your navel into the dantian, the living energy storage cauldron in the center of your lower abdomen. This is an absolute necessary step: such inner and outer cosmic power must be stored in the dantian.

It is necessary to daily repeat this visualization/transformation. It is like gaining skills on a musical instrument, but now the instrument is your mind and body, as well as your mental habits of eating, and your body habits of movement and exercise. To gain qigong skills it is necessary to practice the exercises. Any qigong, especially such advanced Daoist exercises,  is always best done under the thoughtful observations of a master teacher. So when doing this qigong, as with any advanced spiritual health practices, if anything does not feel right, or gets too weird or spacey: STOP IMMEDIATELY!

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Qi Gong for weight Loss : John Voigt

Nüwa and Fuxi.
According to legend the earth was swept by a great flood (circa 3000 BCE). Only Fuxi and his sister Nüwa survived.  Like Adam and Eve, they began procreating the human race. That they seem to be hermaphroditic—therefore a manifestation of joined yin yang—and that the intertwined serpents or dragons appear to relate to primordial creative energy—what the Hindus called “Kundalini,” and the Chinese called “Jing Qi” —is pertinent to this article.

The slender anima (female soul in the male) or animus (male soul in the female) now exists inside you buried under your excess weight. Like a butterfly crawling out of a chrysalis spun by its former caterpillar self, she/he will—if allowed to—grant you the power to almost automatically do and not do the things necessary to become slender in time: he or she eats properly and is not a lazy couch potato but  moves; that is why they are slender. And that is why you (if you allow it) will do the same as they do: thereby becoming slender and more healthy.

Personal Comments by the Author: My anima alter-ego does things I like to describe with words my parents used:  Such a finicky eater.” “Just picks at  their food.” “Eats like a bird.” “Never finishes what’s on their plate.” And “Always running around. Never gives it a rest.”

So every time I am around food—shopping, at a restaurant, opening my refrigerator’s door, cooking, or eating—I feel her presence in me automatically guiding me to do the right thing.

She loves to do body movement qigong and exercise—and therefore so do I.  And we both love to walk—I try to do that at least a half hour a day.

She seems immune to hunger and being physically tired, no wonder I am glad I have found her and that she is me.

Present day media improperly—and potentially dangerously—offers too thin models or actors, or professional athletes as goal models. Trying to have the body of a model, movie star, or athlete is counter productive for most of us. Nevertheless, the healthiest, longest living, most energetic, most beautiful people are usually not overweight or obese. Here Daphnis and Chloe,  and David are offered as artistic examples of a perfect weight; something to strive for in theory and practice.

Achieving and maintaining the proper weight for wellbeing is a very honorable goal. Over time, through qigong visualizations, exercises, and Traditional Chinese Health dietary practices it may be accomplished. These themes will be expanded upon in my upcoming articles in  HYPERLINK "http://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/" http://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/.

John Voigt may be contacted at john.voigt@comcast.net

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Books to Learn More:

Mantak Chia . Awaken Healing Energy Through Tao. Aurora.

Lu K'uan Yü. Taoist Yoga. Weiser.

Wikipedia websites were consulted for the following subjects or images:  Body Mass Index. Daphnis and Chloe. Fuxi. Carl Jung. Michelangelo’s David.  Microcosmic orbit. Taoist alchemy.

As a possible aid in imagining how a resonating anima/animus might appear look at the art of Alex Grey. I suggest “Adi Da Samraj,” “Alex,” “Holy Fire,” “Namaste,” and “Psychic Energy System.”  All are on Alex Gray's website at www.alexgrey.com.

 

The lovely featured image by Core Spirit


How to Get Healthy in 2016 with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Eat Your Medicine

There is a huge emphasis in Chinese medicine that the food we eat is our best medicine. Food, after all, is the medicine we take into our bodies many times a day. This philosophy makes sense, especially when you are talking about Chinese medicine, which is a medicine of prevention. Why not eat to stay healthy so that you never get sick? So how, you might ask, can I eat in the healthiest way according to Chinese medicine? Well, eating with the seasons is one of the fundamentals. This used to be the way that not only the Chinese ate, but the way all of our ancestors ate as well. What was eaten was what was grown in that particular season - which is what our bodies, and especially our digestive systems were designed for. Part of the reason that we have so many digestive problems in our present culture is because we are able to eat foods that grow in all seasons (because of the miracle of mass transportation and refrigeration): strawberries in winter, root vegetables in summer, etc... Although it is wonderful to have this kind of variety all year around, it is not what our digestive systems were designed for, and they are still catching up as far as evolution is concerned. In Chinese medicine there are also many foods and recipes that are used when we come down with something like a cold or flu. Congee is a good example - and there are a few excellent recipes here - Winter Congee for Colds & Flu, Chicken & Corn Congee, Ginseng Congee for Health & Longevity.  Part of the job of the Chinese medicine practitioner is not only to administer acupuncture and herbs, but also to consult their patient about nutritional therapy to help the body to rebalance and heal, because, food is some of the most powerful medicine. :)

Reconnect With Nature

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from sheknows.com

There is nothing more healing that walking on the beach by the ocean, or strolling through an old growth forest. And nothing reconnects you better than lying in the grass, or taking your shoes off and walking directly on the earth. As a species, we are presently more connected to each other than at any other time in our history, which is amazing and makes out lives better in many ways. Access to information, sharing of knowledge and being connected to people who are far away has never been easier. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost our connection to nature. Children, instead of playing outside as they once did, often sit inside, in front of the TV instead of exploring the natural world, running and playing outdoors. As we grow into adults we spend years in schools sitting at desks, until we venture out into the working world where we sit indoors for many hours a day until we can go home to rest. Our bodies were designed to MOVE, and our lives used to be completely connected to the outdoors, where we were in constant contact with the incredible healing energy of nature. So make some time to go outside every day. Smell a flower. Hug a tree. Walk barefoot in some grass or gaze at the sky. Your body (as well as your mind) will love you for it.

Live With the Seasons

Chinese medicine tells us that to be in harmony with our bodies and in good health, we must also be in harmony with nature. This means living with the seasons. Every season has its own unique energy - winter contracts, spring is expansive, summer radiates and fall begins to withdraw. Each of the seasons has its own unique energy, and Chinese medicine teaches us the ways in which we can aspire to live in harmony with those energies. For example, in winter we go to bed earlier and sleep later, we pay close attention to the kidneys (the organ associated with winter) and eat foods that grow slowly and deep in the ground - like root vegetables - that are warming in nature. We look inward and nourish our inner selves in this season. Our lifestyles should reflect the season we are in, and Chinese medicine gives us many ways in which to do this. You can learn how in the following posts...

Winter

•   Living According to the Winter Season with Chinese Medicine

Spring

•   Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine
•   Loving Your Liver with Nutrition
•   The Liver & Anger

Summer

•   Living With the Seasons - Summer
•   Summer Foods & Preparation According to Chinese Medicine

Autumn / Fall

•   Living With the Seasons - Autumn / Fall

Be Grateful

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This pretty image from fastcompany.com

This is one that I have learned from experience both in my own life and from many years of treating patients. For me, I have noticed that when I am having a difficult time, down in the dumps and struggling, one of the best things that I can do to pull myself out of it is to take time on a regular basis to go through a mental list of all the things that I am grateful for. When it comes to my patients, I noticed after a few years that the patients that I had with the most problems, chronic imbalances, pain and recurring illnesses were generally the ones who were the most unhappy, the most negative and the least optimistic. I am a firm believer that we attract what we think about, and I have experienced the benefits of a positive attitude, especially when things in our lives are difficult. I know that I have worked this into my morning routine, taking time every day when I get up to go through all the things that I am grateful for. This is a really good way to remind yourself of what is awesome in your life and by doing this, you are more likely to attract positive things, people and experiences into your life as well.

Meditate

We are now starting to understand scientifically the benefits of meditation on the mind and body, but many cultures around the world have been aware of the enormous benefits of meditation for thousands of years. Places like India and much of Asia have a long history of meditation. A lot of people are intimidated at the thought of meditating, especially if they are doing it for the first time. Of course, there are many techniques when it comes to meditation, but I believe that even a few minutes a day of sitting quietly, allowing your mind to just "relax" is of huge benefit on many levels. If you want to get really hard core, there are many, many meditation techniques out there, you just need to find the one that feels right to you. I have done a couple of Vipassana meditation retreats which were amazing experiences (you can read about them here - My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation & Vipassana 2.0). Meditation helps us to decompress in a world that leaves us overstimulated and exhausted, without enough time to relax. Its benefits include alleviating stress, improving sleep and boosting the immune system. I know most people cannot dedicate an hour or more to meditation every day, but even just ten to twenty minutes will make a huge difference, just try it out and see.

Get Enough Sleep

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

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When we sleep our body gets a chance to heal and repair. Problems with sleep, either problems falling or staying asleep, are common. As a culture, we tend to not get enough sleep and the quality of our sleep is compromised, which means more stress on our immune systems which can lead to illnesses. There is no magic number when it comes to optimum number of hours a person should sleep at night, but that feeling of exhaustion should not be present when we wake up (and it so often is). Think of sleep like you think about the food you eat, that it is medicine for the body. Another good thing to remember is that melatonin - the hormone produced by the pineal gland that regulates sleep - is released according to cycles of light and darkness. We were designed to be awake when it is light and to sleep when it is dark. This has largely changed with the invention of electric lights, so a good way to improve sleep is to keep your bedroom as dark as possible with as few electronic devices as possible in the room, especially close to your head. Being in complete darkness will ensure a better, deeper sleep which will allow your body the rest it needs as well as to repair and heal which will ensure that you stay healthy.

Breathe Deep

It seems simple, but the breath is a big part of health. Taking long, deep breaths increases the amount of oxygen that the body, all of its tissues and especially the brain, is getting. There is a theory out there that this is the function of yawning- to increase the amount of oxygen that is taken into the body. Because we spend so much time sitting, we tend to breathe more shallowly, getting less oxygen and making things like thinking, concentrating and remembering more difficult. Taking some time every day to sit up straight, or even better stand and walk around and breathe deep into your belly (like children do naturally) will help you stay awake and think more clearly. This is extra awesome because it is so easy, so breathe deep!

Express Yourself

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

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As you may know, Chinese medicine is a holistic medicine, meaning it is not just about the physical body, but about all aspects of a person. This includes the emotions, and Chinese medicine places special importance on the emotions and expressing them freely. Keeping things in, suppressing your feelings or expressing them in an inappropriate way can lead to imbalances in the body and its organ systems and lead to illness. Yes, that's right. Not expressing how you feel can make you sick, and I see this all the time. I am not telling you the next time someone cuts you off in traffic that you should follow them, wait until they get out of the car and scream at them, I mean to be aware of your feelings, and that they are appropriate to what is happening, and if not, think through where they might be coming from. If you are feeling particularly irritated by that person who cut you off, try to sort out where that frustration might be coming from (it is probably the liver). This is particularly important in our personal relationships. Holding on to things like anger, guilt, shame and other negative emotions can be detrimental to health. Journal, go for a walk to clear your head or sit and talk to a friend, or better yet, speak to the person who may have made you upset in the first place. If you get your feelings off your chest (in a kind, respectful way) you will be amazed at how much better you feel, and you will be keeping all the energy or qi flowing smoothly, which is the key to health and happiness.

Moderation

Moderation is both a concept important in Chinese medicine and I believe, in any happy, balanced person's life. In my practice I try not to tell my patients not to do this and not to do that, instead I try to communicate the importance of moderation. When I am asking about a person's diet, they inevitably will give me a sheepish look and tell me about the 2 pieces of chocolate cake they ate the night before, or the quart of ice cream or glasses of red wine they had at a party expecting looks of disapproval from me. Not at all. I try to express the importance of enjoying your life for one - if you are really desiring that piece of cake, or that glass of wine and it will give you extreme pleasure to give it to yourself, then by all means DO IT. The worst thing you can do is to have it and then feel horrible about it. That is negating any positive benefits that thing has given you. So if you do it, OWN IT. Enjoy that piece of cake or glass of wine. Allow yourself to have it if it makes you happy. Just don't do it every day perhaps, keep it balanced. Make sure that you are doing things, the good and the not so good, with moderation. Everyone needs chocolate cake sometimes. ;)

Laugh

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from livescience.com

Joy is the emotion of the heart in Chinese medicine. Makes sense, right? When we feel joy, happiness, laugh, all of these emotions we tend to feel in the heart. The heart is the benevolent ruler of all the other organs, and to feed it, we need an ample amount of joy in our lives. You can think of this also as medicine; something you must seek out to keep yourself healthy. Think about how you feel when you laugh. You feel amazing. When you hear a story about something good happening to someone, you feel happy. Notice how your body feels the next time you are feeling joy. It feels delicious. Conversely, the heart is injured if there is not enough joy in our lives, and there is certainly plenty of that. What is it like to be around someone who is deeply unhappy? Someone unable to feel joy? Their energy is dark and it is difficult to be around. Sometimes it is easy to get bogged down by all the stresses in our lives, and there are a lot of them, so this is a reminder to go out and find some joy. Seek it out. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Smile. It's good for you.

Get an Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture is one of the best ways I know to stay healthy and to heal if you are sick. Obviously I have a bit of a bias, but I also have a lot of experience both having acupuncture, and seeing its beneficial effects in my patients. Because Chinese medicine was designed as a preventative medicine, having regular "tune ups" with acupuncture is a great way to keep your immune system strong so that you never get sick. In our culture, we tend to wait until things become catastrophic (like getting a disease) before we seek out medical advice, but in many cultures, like Chinese culture, they understand that prevention is the best medicine. Acupuncture is a powerful tool to help rebalance the body, boost the immune system and keep you strong so that you never get sick. It is the thing I have used since I was a teenager, and the gift that I try to bring to my patients every day when I go to work. I am deeply in love with it, because I know it works.

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Featured image from huffingtonpost.com

 

How to Get Healthy in 2016 with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


Happy Holidays from Chinese Medicine Living!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season filled with love, light, health and happiness. <3

Happy Holidays from Chinese Medicine Livingthis original image from pixabay.com


Birth Without Fear

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I would like to preface this by saying that I believe that everyone has the right to choose how they live their lives and how they choose to give birth. If there is anything that travel has taught me, is that I am very lucky to live in a place where we are able to have choices over a great many things. What I wish to present here is how I have chosen to travel this path, and to give information. I have seen through many years of clinical practice that many people are unaware of how medicalized the process of pregnancy and especially birth has become in this country. I only wish to educate so that people may make the most informed choices possible and fully understand all possible outcomes for the choices they are making.

Giving Birth Naturally : Chinese Medicine Living

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It was years ago when a pregnant patient told me about a documentary that she had watched called The Business of Being Born. The doc discusses the history of prenatal and natal care and the increase in the use of doctors and hospitals as well as medical procedures during the birth process in the last century. It is also a film about midwives and the important role they play in pregnancy and birth. Here are some statistics taken from the film (which was released in 2008):

  • Midwives attend more than 70% of births in Europe and Japan
  • Midwives attend less than 8% of births in the US
  • The US has the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world
  • The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among industrialized countries
  • In 1900 95% of births took place at home
  • In 1938 half of all births took place at home
  • Since 1996 the cesarean rate in the US has risen 46%
  • In 2005 cesarean sections were performed for one out of every three births
  • A cesarean section is now an elective procedure
  • The US spends two times as much per birth than any other country in the world

Natural Pregnancy and childbirth : Chinese Medicine Living

This lovely image from blog.vonbon.ca

Natural Pregnancy and Childbirth

I am presently pregnant with my first child. Ironic as I have treated many pregnant women in the past with the book knowledge but without the direct experience. I watched the film again and it was with a fresh, and perhaps more invested perspective.

I should say that for me, I always knew that when I had babies that I would have them with a midwife, preferably at home and in water. This has always been normal to me. Perhaps it is because my mother also had me with a midwife, in England, where apparently, that sort of thing is considered more "normal". Once I was born I remained in the same room as my mother, and my father was allowed to also stay in the room,  and bring my mother any foods or drinks she liked. Anything to make her more comfortable. I have been pretty surprised by some of the reactions that I have gotten from people when I tell them I will not be having my baby in a hospital, but in a tub, at home, with a midwife. The eyes get very large and there is a pause, as if they are waiting for me to say that I am just kidding. This reaction surprises me, but after watching that film, I realize that it shouldn't. Among me and my close friends, this way of having a baby reflects the way in which we choose to live our lives. Naturally. Gently. Kindly. And with the reverence and respect for our bodies and that they know exactly what to do without intervention. Anyone outside that small circle seems to be a bit horrified and sometimes angry at the idea, saying that it is irresponsible and dangerous if anything were to go wrong. So let me tell you a few things about how having a baby with a midwife works, because many people simply don't know, and knowledge is the best antidote to fear.

Natural Childbirth : Chinese Medicine Living

One thing that really surprised me was that people in the US on the whole seemed to not know very much about midwifery in general. One person, when asked, likened it to having a baby in a barn which made me laugh out loud. And then I realized that they were serious. The other thing was that a bunch of women with small children were asked if they had ever considered having their baby with a midwife and none of them had and they seemed a little freaked out by the idea, like it had never ever crossed their mind.

Midwifery

In the film it states that in the 1900's began a bit of a smear campaign demonizing midwives as primitive, dangerous and unclean. Up until that time throughout the world, they had been the ones delivering all the babies. But modern medicine was being developed and techniques that were thought to make the birth process safer, cleaner (and certainly more profitable), began to be employed, and births moved from the home to the hospital.

I think because of this there is a lingering idea that if you decide to have a baby with a midwife she will somehow not be as qualified as a doctor or OBGYN if there are problems or complications with the birth. I believe that this is completely untrue.

Chinese Silk Pulse Cushions : Chinese Medicine Living

First of all, midwives (at least in the US) only deal with low risk mothers. I am sure this is determined in different ways depending on where in the world you are, but here it is a point system. At your initial appointment, the midwife takes a detailed medical history about you and your partner. This is similar in scope and detail to an acupuncture initial appointment (without the spouse part ;) And there are certain criteria that are given points, like certain medical conditions, genetic history, age of parents, etc... In this system you are allowed 3 points. More than that and you will not be offered care because you are no longer considered low risk. At that point, you must have your baby with a doctor in a hospital as you are considered slightly higher risk.

The appointment continues with the midwife listening to your heart and taking a lot of blood for labs. They check for the same things a doctor would, making sure that you are free of disease, infection, STD's and to make sure that all your levels are within a normal range. You are also asked to do a series of urine tests to test for levels in your body and determine your general health. You are asked where you would like to have the baby, at the birthing centre, or at your home, and if you would like to have the baby in water (which is available in both places). You and your midwife have to know where you are planning to give birth and if it is at your home, then the midwife makes a trip to your house and makes sure everything is ok before the event. They also bring with them everything they need for you to give birth, everything they would have at the centre. You must also be within 15 minutes of a hospital in case of an emergency so that you can get there safely and quickly.

Natural Childbirth : Chinese Medicine Living

Although birth centres vary in design, the ones that I have seen have many of the following features. They are often in old houses and non commercial structures. The appointment rooms are designed like large, comfortable bedrooms, with normal beds, lots of pillows, a rocking chair and bathtub and shower. Like a lovely bedroom in a quaint bed and breakfast, a place you would want to be. They are not clinical environments, and the energy is relaxed. Although all the medical equipment needed for each appointment is in the room, it is put away in drawers and cupboards, to keep the environment comfortable and to keep the mothers and their spouses relaxed.

The rest of the centre also has a relaxed atmosphere, and people smile and say hello. You get to know your midwife (often several midwives, as they are all on call all the time) and the staff. When you arrive there are often mothers having their babies in the adjacent rooms, and children playing. There is often a lending library with books on a wide variety of subjects that can be borrowed. There are various classes offered for you and your partner from birthing, to breastfeeding to help prepare you for what is happening, and what is coming.

Meeting with your midwife for appointments, there is always a discussion and they are happy to answer any questions that you have. Midwives are there to answer questions and give you information, not to make decisions for you about your pregnancy or birth. The decisions are always up to you. They also have a great respect for the process of pregnancy and birth and are there to support it and help when they are needed.

What Have We Lost?

Ina May Gaskin is a pioneer in the field of midwifery and has been delivering babies at The Farm Midwifery Centre in Tennessee where she is founder and director since it opened in 1971. I have posted a TED talk she did below where she discusses the culture of fear surrounding birth in the US. It is a powerful talk.

Ms. Gaskin's talk really resonated with me for many reasons. The main one is that she states that women have become afraid of the act of childbirth and that the confidence in their own bodies and their innate knowledge has been lost. To take that thought even farther, I think that we have largely lost our connection to our own bodies. And, more importantly, I think that we have forgotten to trust that our bodies have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to do things like give birth. One of the reasons that I chose to study Chinese medicine, and the reason that I connected with it so strongly is that the entire system has not lost this connection. In fact, the medicine has been built with this at its foundation. We are not doing something to the body, we are supporting the body and giving what it needs to heal itself. And this is the way, the graceful dance of the midwife and childbirth, that the process can happen. Without fear, and with joy. They are not standing over you, calling the shots, telling you what to do because they know best. They are supporting you through the process and giving you what you need to do what you already know how to do.

I believe that the medical industry has exacerbated this problem and fed the fear that women now overwhelmingly feel about childbirth. Countless images of childbirth in the media have women screaming in pain and begging for painkillers. Medical interventions for women giving birth in hospitals are commonplace and seem to be based on the doctors convenience rather than concern for the wellbeing of the mother and baby. The rate of Cesarian section in the US is much higher than anywhere else and increasing every year.

For me, a hospital is where you go when you are sick. Having a baby is not a sickness. And doctors are not trained in health, they study and treat disease. They are experts in illness. Things aren't exciting for a doctor unless there is a pathology, something is going wrong. That is what they are trained for. Most doctors or OBGYN's haven't even experienced a natural live birth. They are familiar with administering pitocin (a drug that induces or speeds up labour), episiotomies (a cut in the perineum which is the space between the vagina and the anus) and epidurals (an injection into the lower spine through which pain medications are administered). All of these procedures have their downsides, and those are the ones that they will likely not discuss with you. Sometimes, of course, these procedures are necessary, but unfortunately, many times they are not. I urge you if you are having a baby, or care about someone who is to arm yourself with all the information so that you can make the most informed decision possible.

Pregnancy and childbirth are a wonderful, exciting time in a woman's life. It can certainly be an overwhelming time for a lot of reasons as well. There is a lot of information out there and we tend to be bombarded with advice, books and websites telling us the best way to do things. My advice would be to listen to your gut. Your instinct. You have it for a reason, and it has evolved over many thousands of years to serve you and keep you safe. It does not have to be a scary experience, in fact it can and should be a wonderful and edifying experience, one of the most powerful ones you are bound to have in this lifetime. To create life is one of the most profound and beautiful experiences that we can ever hope to have, and I wish for any of you who go down that path that it is incredibly joyous and empowering, and one you will never forget.

Midwives : Chinese Medicine Living

 

Reducing Fear of Birth in US Culture -
Ina May Gaskin at TEDx Sacramento

The Business of Being Born

Resources
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The Business of Being Born
Ina May Gaskin
The Farm Midwifery Center - The Farm Midwives
Books By Ina May Gaskin
Birth Matters: A Midwifes Manifesta
Ina May's Guide To Childbirth
Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
Spiritual Midwifery

Peace Love & Acupuncture Button : Chinese Medicine Living

Birth Without Fear : Chinese Medicine Living

 


Inspiration - Teen Invention to Clean Ocean Launches Next Year

Original Story at Grist.org

Dutch Teen's Ocean-Cleaning Invention to Launch Next Year

By Liz Core

Don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Netherlands has an unstoppable deluge of unusual (and kinda amazing) green ideas, infrastructure, and, apparently, youths. Boyan Slat, boy inventor, has been working on a plan to clean up plastic waste in the ocean since 2012. His invention underwent a year-long feasibility study with a team of scientists and engineers. And now, the project is moving forward with a two-year trial off the waters of Japan in 2016.

A boy genius teaming up with a hundred researchers to help save the ocean? I sense a new Disney movie in the making, people! Slat’s idea, The Ocean Cleanup Array, consists of solar-powered spinning booms that act as a floating barrier and use the ocean’s currents to concentrate plastic. The trial version will be 2,000 meters (1.2 miles) long.

The 20-year-old said in a press release that if the project is successful, The Ocean Cleanup would soon begin a series of other deployments. Al Jazeera reports:

Within five years, the organization aims to deploy a 62-mile-long array that will be capable of capturing about half of the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Slat said. According to a feasibility study conducted by the team of 100 scientists and engineers working with Slat, the giant array will be able to do that over 10 years.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding this big-thinking kid’s project, but there are reasons to be wary. For one thing, the best way to prevent plastic in the ocean is intercepting plastic before it hits water, as shit gets complicated fast. Case in point: The contraption likely won’t be able to clean up microplastics (broken-down pieces of garbage and microbeads) which are a major source of pollution and interfere with marine life ecosystems. Speaking of ecosystems, the stationary machine could destroy plankton, an effect The Ocean Cleanup claims would be short-lived under the worst-case scenario. The group also says not to worry about those other ocean animals: “Because no nets are used, entanglement of fish and mammals is virtually impossible.”

The array will also release a sizable amount of carbon (equivalent to several hundred cars), but, reads the company’s website, it’s a “negligible amount compared to the potential alternatives.”

In the chance that The Ocean Cleanup Array works flawlessly, we’d have Slat to thank for a gigantic ocean cleanup. Here’s hoping you don’t pull an Ice Town, kid.

Please read about the progress here: https://businessconnectworld.com/2018/02/21/the-ocean-cleanup-project/

 

The beautiful Featured Image Photo by Linus Nylund on Unsplash


5 Morning Rituals for Health & Longevity

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

As an acupuncturist, it is important to live the healthy life that I try to encourage my patients to live. I also am well aware that I have to be healthy so that I can go to work every day and help my patients be healthy too. So, after many years and trying various things, this is my list of the five things I try to do every morning to keep myself healthy, balanced and sane. I hope they will be helpful to you too.

Meditation

5 Morning Rituals for Health & Longevity : Chinese Medicine Living

Meditation is probably one of the most important things that I do for myself every day. I notice a huge difference in how I feel physically, emotionally and psychologically from my morning meditations. I feel more grounded, calmer and am more able to take on difficult situations without reacting. Meditation essentially, makes me a healthier, happier being. It helps me to see that the chaos of the world and my life is happening AROUND me instead of TO me. If you want to see what I mean and start reaping the enormous benefits of meditation you can start by doing just a few minutes a day. It might be difficult at first because your thoughts will probably be running wild, but the more you do it, the quieter your thoughts become and you will really start to feel the benefits in every aspect of your life.

For those of you who haven't read my previous posts on Vipassana meditation, you can do so here so get a little more information on Vipassana meditation and my experiences with doing 10 day Vipassana retreats in Georgia by reading My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation and Vipassana 2.0. There are many, many different meditation techniques, and you should find the one that feels right for you. Do some research and see which ones resonate with you, then try them out.

Some Benefits of Daily Meditation

• speeds up brain processing potential
• loosens neural pathways
• reduces the risk of heart disease
• improves memory
• boosts immunity
• improves sleep

• reduces blood pressure
• reduces stress, anxiety and depression
• increases wellbeing
• enhances self esteem and self acceptance
• increases optimism, relaxation and awareness
• regulates blood sugar levels
• creates a deepening capacity for love and compassion

These are just to name a few. Here is a fancy infographic that lists some of meditations amazing benefits.

Meditation Health Benefits : Chinese Medicine Living

 

Coconut Oil Pulling

Coconut Oil Pulling for Health : Chinese Medicine Living

For those of you who haven't heard of oil pulling, it is simply the act of taking a spoonful of coconut oil and putting it in your mouth to swish around for anywhere from a few minutes to 20 minutes. I try to keep it in there for as long as possible because I know all the good it is doing. :) Here are some of the amazing benefits of coconut oil pulling...

• cleans and whitens teeth
• reduces cavities
• prevents bad breath
• detoxifies the body
• clears the skin
• increases energy
• reduces headaches
• prevents heart disease
• reduces inflammation
• boosts the immune system
• strengthens gums
• soothes dry throat
• improves sleep

Water with Lemon

5 Morning Health Rituals : Chinese Medicine Living

Benefits of drinking water with lemon every morning...

• boosts the immune system
• flushes toxins out of the body
• balances the body's PH (lemons are alkalizing and viruses and bacteria cannot survive in an alkaline environment)
• clears the skin
• boosts the brain and nervous system
• helps the digestion
• freshens breath
• reduces inflammation
• increases energy
• stabilizes blood sugar
• purifies and cleanses the blood
• reduces fevers

Smoothies

Smoothies for Health : Chinese Medicine Living

If you are a busy human like I am, eating properly is sometimes difficult. One easy way I have discovered to get some much needed nutrition and energy in the morning is my morning smoothie. The ingredients vary, but they are always smashed with fresh, organic fruit. I try to keep the ingredients seasonal too, as Chinese medicine teaches to try to eat as many seasonal foods as possible to keep our bodies in balance. I add supplements as needed and sometimes go green, but the fruit ones are my favourite because they are so delicious and a feast for the eyes too. So, be adventurous with your ingredients! A smoothie is a great way to start your day.

Gratitude

5 Morning Rituals for Health & Longevity : Chinese Medicine Living

This is a big one for me and it has probably been one of the most consistent things that I try to be aware of every morning before I start my day. One of the things that treating patients has taught me is that no matter how hard we try to live a simple life, free of stresses and problems, life will present them to you on a pretty regular basis. Instead of trying to avoid them, I have found that it is better to learn how to manage the stresses in life, and I have found no better way than to wake up every morning and spend a few minutes going through all of the things I am grateful for. Once you start doing this, you will find that it will attract more and more positive things, people and experiences into your life and problems, which will still happen, will be a lot easier to deal with because you will have an acute awareness of how amazing your life is and how lucky you are to be an inhabitant of this wonderful planet.

I hope that every morning leads into fulfilling days full of love and light for all of you.

Gratitude for Health : Chinese Medicine Living

5 Morning Rituals for Health & Longevity : Chinese Medicine Living

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Buddha Bracelet : Chinese Medicine Living


Vipassana 2.0.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I am constantly reminded that the moment I think I might know something about something, I really don't know it at all. Sometimes this is a kind and gentle reminder, and sometimes it is like being hit by a train. Vipassana is the ultimate truth teller.

I have just returned from another foray into the bewildering/fantastical/frightening world that is my subconscious. That trip manifested itself as a 10 day Vipassana meditation in Georgia. It was my second, and so very different from the first. My reference above to the "thinking I know something" and the "not really knowing it at all" were at play during my time there. The reminders came gently, but relentlessly, with the cold, the hunger pangs, the bad taste in my mouth and my walks in the woods.

I tried to go having no expectations. I had only been once, and, intellectually at least, I thought, every time will be different. You are a different human being each time, arriving with different baggage that needs unpacking. But, even though I understood it with my mind, I didn't really believe it, because I was surprised and to be honest, a little disappointed each time something was different. Immediately I am reminded of the Sanscrit word for impermanence - annicca which we heard over and over again. Let things arise and then pass away. Don't have expectations. Just observe without craving or aversion. Lovely words, such lovely words...

Vipassana Meditation : Chinese Medicine Living

The two experiences were wildly different. I was surprised by how different they were, but I now have to consider that it was a different human being that attended a year and a half ago than the one that arrived on that cold Georgia morning a couple of weeks ago. I was wildly different. Both times.

One of the first observations I had about the difference was that this was a very yin experience. Very contracted. Serious, and a little dark. This was partially the weather I am sure, it was cold as @#*! (in Georgia, really?) and it felt like we were all struggling with our psyches as well as the cold in our bones for ten days straight. Waking up at 4am to haul yourself out of a moderately warm bed to plunge yourself into the middle of the night where you could see your breath and there was ice on things was simply more than I could bear on some mornings. I slept in my hat and sometimes my scarf, and I wore the one pair of long underwear I had day and night for ten days. (I lost my dignity long ago...). Another reason for the yin nature of this experience was also I think that the average age of most of the ladies participating was over 50 which was really interesting. I felt young. (whee!)

My first experience was in late June/July and it was hot as the devil. It was lush and green and everything felt very alive, including all of us. The experience felt like it was awakening something in me, something dormant and decidedly yang in nature. Also, most of the girls were under 30. There were a couple of older ladies, but the rest were young. It was a very expansive energy and much lighter. Less serious. There was joy in the air amid the occasional snore and sob heard in the meditation hall. An occasional titter when someone farted while we were all concentrating so hard.

The Silence

Noble Silence : Vipassana Meditation

 The ten days (actually it is eleven) that you are there, you are completely silent. There is no speaking. There is also no technology of any kind, so you hand over your phones, tablets and all things technological when you arrive. You cannot have books, pens or paper either. And there is no eye contact. This may sound harsh and kind of a terrible way to spend ten days, but honestly, it is the best way for you to get the most out of the experience. And it is sort of awesome.

Personally, I loved the silence. Both times, I was sort of sad when we were allowed to speak again. The world gets loud, and so do your thoughts. How many times in your life do you spend ten days in the woods being completely silent? What HAPPENS to you when you remove the noise from the outside world and the noise coming out of your face? Well, it gets quiet. Really quiet, and eventually, something amazing happens. Your mind gets quiet as well. And when it stops churning and running and make believing (I did a lot of that), then some pretty profound stuff can happen. And some painful things too. For me, this time was a lot about the pain. I brought a lot of it with me, and I knew I was going to have to face it while I was there, because there were no distractions and there is nowhere else to go. Vipassana is like holding up a very large mirror helping you to see things the way they really are. That is the definition of Vipassana. And sometimes the way things really are isn't pretty. But that's ok, because it will pass. It isn't permanent.

I found that this time I knew the mechanics of things, the way things worked. The logistics. And this seemed to free my mind up for deeper, slightly scarier and more intense work. I had a lot to work through this time. The last time I went with a problem, a question I was grappling with and a curiosity about what this thing was and what it was going to do to me, but this time I was arriving after a complete life collapse. And what I wondered about this time was that if I delved deep into the darkness that had become my world of late, if I would ever come out. If I faced my demons, if they would overcome me or if I would come out the other side, back into the light. I am happy to say that I did come out the other side, and was reminded that darkness can't exist without light. They are both there. Always. It just depends on which one you are focussing on at any particular moment.

My favourite part of each day was the hour after lunch when I would walk in the woods. The woods are so wonderful and full of healing energy. When there is no outside (or inside) noise, it is like every tree, every insect and every blade of grass is speaking to you. It is the hum of nature, the qi of everything that is alive. I remember this from the last time too. Nature becomes so powerful. So communicative. I wanted to touch everything. Appropriately. I picked up leaves, ran my hands along ferns and touched the bark of trees communicating back to nature through my hands. Interestingly, everyone else seemed to be feeling the same thing. All the ladies could be seen out and walking in the forest, drinking in every bit of energy that radiated from it. Some would be standing looking up at trees, crouching looking at something on the ground or inspecting some flower or plant along the path. At one point early in the ten days, something cool happened. Someone drew a heart with a stick in the sand on the path. I smiled when I saw it. Every time I saw it. And then some lovely being made a piece of art out of different coloured leaves and twigs and left it by the path for others to enjoy. And as the days went on, more and more of these lovely pieces of art began to appear along the path, like a burst of creativity, being pushed out through nature by the ladies in our dorm. I was amazed at how creative they were. And how up lifting. I was excited to get out each day and see what new ones would be waiting.

Something I was not expecting was that I didn't sleep. The last time I slept like a corpse. Every night. I was practically asleep before I got into my bunk, but this time I feel like I didn't sleep a whole night the entire time I was there. I felt haunted. And was uncomfortable in my bed. It wasn't my bed that was uncomfortable, it was me. My mind was uncomfortable. My thoughts restless and dark. Sometimes I was still awake when the gong rang at 4am and wondered how I would sit for 12 hours in meditation on no sleep. But amazingly, I did it. Every day.

Another thing I noticed about this time more than the last was the need (or attempt) to overcome the body. There are three meditations in the day where you are asked to sit for one hour straight and not move. You work up to this, and I think these start on day three or four. At first, you feel like you are going to be paralyzed. That your knees will explode or that you will simply go insane. I know because when speaking to the girls at the end, we had all had this thought. More than once. But after a few sessions, you start to be able to sit, and to not move and you sort of surrender your body to it and that helps. Eventually, you can drop into it no problem when only a few days before you were sure they were going to have to carry you out of there on a stretcher. You are not "in" your body identified with it, you are a casual observer, looking from the outside. This is the point. Start with the body, and move it into your life. Its a powerful lesson.

The lesson is compounded by the fact that as an "old" student - which means that you have done at least one full ten day Vipassana course - that you will not eat after the 11am meal. At 5pm there is a snack which consists of tea and fruit for "new" students, but old students must refrain from eating. So... breakfast is at 6:30am, and lunch is at 11am... then you don't eat again until 6:30 the next morning. Now, I don't know about you, but I am a lover of food. Eating is like the best part of my day. I am also not a breakfast person as it takes my stomach a while to wake up. This usually happens fully at around lunch time. This caused serious problems considering 11am was the only meal my stomach was awake for. I had to really maximize that meal without looking like a greedy lunatic. For the first few days I did pretty well. I just decided, well, there is no food after lunch so don't think about it. Even at 5pm when the others were eating, I made a point not to look at the fruit they were eating and that did it. I just didn't think about it and therefore, wasn't hungry. Then on about day 4 I accidentally made eye contact with a bowl brimming with delicious and tasty looking fruits and it was all over. It was all I (and my poor stomach) could think about for the afternoon and evening meditations. All 8 hours of them. I was hungry. SOOOooooooo hungry. And that continued every day until the end. I managed, but the feeling of hunger never went away. I am not sure my stomach will ever forgive me.

Another thing that is granted to "old" students is a meditation cell for some of your ten days. I was given a cell for two whole days. The meditation cells are in a hallway located behind a mysterious door next to the meditation hall. I remember last time I was there wondering fiercely what was behind that door and what the meditation cells were like... Behind the door is a narrow hallway and 5 or 6 doors, all very close together. I was in cell number one, the first. I opened the door and there was a meditation cushion on the floor. That was it, it was the size of a meditation cushion with enough space to open the door. I spent two intense days in that cell, burning through all the painful emotions that I brought with me. Those were by far the most intense days for me, but it was a good chance to feel through them and finally let them go.

All in all I am so glad that I went. People asked when I got home if it was a good experience. It was a difficult experience, but a worthwhile one. I came back exhausted and had lost some weight, but I felt clean. Purified. It was a healing experience. A friend who had come with me and I spoke at length on the way home in the car and this was a fascinating and extremely edifying conversation. How interesting how two people could have the same experience, but, at the same time have a completely different experience. It was a really helpful conversation.

Again, I am struck by how pure it remains. It doesn't matter what you believe, what colour you are or what your background is, all are welcome. The goal is to bring human beings out of suffering by teaching them to gain mastery over their minds. A worthy goal, and one the planet so desperately needs. I think the intensity of the experience is really up to each individual. How deep you are willing to dig, how much light you are willing to shine on the dark places. And what you brought with you. I will go back. I am going to try to go every year to keep myself sane. As an attempt to be a better healer and a better human being. It is a work in progress.

Happy Beings : Chinese Medicine Living*Image from Root Down Coaching & Yoga 

If you would like to read about my first 10 Day Silent Vipassana Retreat, you can do so here - My 10 Day Vipassana Retreat. If you would like to learn more about Vipassana meditation, you can watch this excellent documentary called The Dhamma Brothers. It will leave you inspired. :)

 

Vipassana 2.0 : Chinese Medicine Living


Documentary - Cancer Is Curable Now

This is a very interesting documentary about curing cancer with non-conventional (non Western) treatments. Is this even possible? YES, and it has been going on all over the world for years. There are many, many alternatives to the standard Western treatments of radiation and chemotherapy. Cancer is big business, especially in the United States, so many of the other treatments available for cancer are suppressed so people don't find out about them. Most of these treatments are safer, less expensive and way less destructive than conventional treatments. If you know anyone with cancer, this is definitely something they should see. Everyone of course has the right to choose what treatment they would like, but it is important to make an informed decision and get all the information about what it out there.

Many of these treatments use the philosophy that if you rebalance the body and give it what it needs then it will heal itself. (This is also the Chinese medicine philosophy). This is so often why conventional treatments may work temporarily but the cancer inevitable returns. It is because it is dealing with the symptoms (the cancer), and not the reason the cancer developed in the first place.

There is a lot of excellent information in here, and hopefully this will introduce some of you to some treatments that you did not know about. It all seems like common sense to me, but I will let you be the judge. Knowledge is power. :)

Documentary - Cancer is Curable Now

 

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