Chinese Year of the Dog

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

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

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

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

Wood Dog - Years - 1934, 1994

• Sincere
• Reliable
• Considerate
• Patient
• Understanding

Fire Dog - 1946, 2006

• Sincere
• Hardworking
• Intelligent

Earth Dog - 1958, 2018

• Excellent Communicator
• Responsible
• Serious

Metal Dog - 1910, 1970

• Cautious
• Conservative
• Always helpful to others
• Desirable

Water Dog - 1922, 1982

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

Lucky Things for Dogs

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

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

Lucky Colours - Red, Green and Purple

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

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

Lucky Directions - East, South and NorthEast

Lucky Flowers - Rose, Orchids

The Dog Personality

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

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

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

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

Famous People Born in Dog Years

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

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

The featured image photo by Hyunwon Jang on Unsplash


Spirituality and Traditional Chinese Medicine

By John Voigt

The key character in the Chinese word “spiritual” is shen ().

Shen Spirit in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from West Learns East

From the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine: If you have shen, you will progress towards health. If you lose your shen, you will lose your life. [1]

The modern standard reference book for Chinese characters, the Hanyu Da Zidian (2006) defines shen this way: Celestial gods/spirits of stories/legends, namely, the creator of the myriad things in heaven and earth and the supreme being. Spirit-mind-consciousness. Magical, supernatural, miraculous; mysterious, ability to divine the unknown, amazing foresight. And—(especially telling for our purposes)—a highly skilled doctor.

Shen can show itself as something good or something evil.  The word shen may be easily applied to such entities as ghosts, goblins, devils, monsters, and demons, all of whom (historically at least) have been said to bring about illnesses. [2]

The goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that by effecting a healthy flow of qi-life energy in the meridians, and gaining a correct balance of yin and yang energies in the organs, the body and mind gain health and wellbeing.  A goal of the spiritual path is turning away from the myriad attractions and distractions around us and returning to a union with the Infinite, the Absolute, the Divine.

Both these health and spiritual goals are alluded to in the opening of chapter 42 of the Dao De Jing.

Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching

Chapter 42 (excerpt) - Genesis

(Before the beginning was)

Dao from which is born One (unmanifested Qi).

One which gives birth to Two (the static polarities of yin and yang).
Three - a dynamic Qi appears opening Yin and Yang into a harmony of interaction.

And from Three, creation [in time and space] unfolds and all things are born.

All things carry yin on their backs and embrace yang in their arms.

When female-yin and male-yang mix and blend their Qi (breath/life energy), harmony is obtained. And from Three, creation [in time and space] unfolds and all things are born.

The author, Laozi (Lao Tzu) purposefully has used the seemingly vague open-ended words: Dao-One-Two-Three-All Things. But their lack of specificity enables the thoughtful reader to creatively interpret each word.

The Dao (the “Way”) as an archetypal Mother giving birth to the One, its alter-image, the Hidden Qi: the potential for time, space and consciousness to exist.  From the Hidden Qi there appears Two, the separate as yet non-interacting Yin and Yang [3] - therefore there is no movement and so there is nothing to be seen.

From the Two comes Three, a manifesting  Qi generating interaction and movement between the previously static yin and yang.  And so is born all the myriad things and thoughts possible throughout the entire universe. [4]

The key to spirituality in TCM, as well as in certain mystical religious practices, is to walk the walk of this cosmological emanation in reverse. That is to say from the All (“ten thousand things” of the original text) to Three (Heaven, Earth and Humans), then Two (yin-yang), then One (unmanifested Qi) as the traveler maintains her connections to the commonplace ordinary world of others,  thus safely returning into the harmony, purity, power and compassion of the Way.

The Five Elemental Energies in Nature and in Man

5 Elements : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

There is another Daoist concept of creation that places Five after Three - (perhaps four is missing because, like our thirteen, it is a bad luck number in Asia).

From a primordial infinite nothingness (wuji) comes the One Supreme Ultimate (taiji), a source of creation but without any human personality of a Judaic-Christian God. Then appears Two as the always connected interacting polarities of yin-yang. Then Three as the Heavens above, Man in between, Earth below. [5]

Yin Yang : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

From Three comes Five: the “Five Phases of Universal Energy” - or more commonly but not more accurately called, “The Five Elements.” [6] These are the energies of Wood [actually the energies of growing trees, even all the green leafed flora that grows up from the earth],  burning Fire, fertile Earth, cutting Metal, and washing Water. They represent the changing conditions of all phenomena. Each of the Five has a specific correspondence with a season, direction, color, taste, and internal organ; which helps to explain how the body functions and how qi-energy changes during disease and during healing. Each of the Five has been deified into a god, or could be thought of as a god.

Animal gods have also been assigned to each of the Five. [7]

5 Elements : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

Five Animal Frolics

The Chinese physician, Hua Tuo (circa 140-208 CE) was famous for his abilities in acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine, and medical qigong exercises.

Hua Tuo : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

Similar to the earlier Shamans and WuYi, Hua Tuo developed his “Five Animal Gymnastics” (Wu qin xi) from studying the movements of animals and birds. What exactly were the creatures and movements is now unclear,  but what is obvious is that the Five Elemental Energies, and their ability to heal, are in play here.

The Body heals with play. The Mind heals with laughter. The Spirit heals with joy, [Chinese Proverb].

Often in my qigong classes we do a free form interpretation of some the five creatures. It may be done alone, but it is especially fun with others or in groups. Not surprisingly little kids get it right away; we should be more like them.

Tiger. Walk in a slinky way like a tiger. Growl, and make clawing gestures.

The Tiger represents the elementary energy of growing trees. It relates to the Liver, anger and its opposite,  peacefulness. The grasping motions may help open the acupuncture points at the tips of the fingers and in the palms.

Phoenix. The Phoenix is a mythological creature that reincarnates itself by rising up from the ashes of the fires of its past.  With this qigong there is an implied rebirthing of the self. The Elemental Energy is Fire, the organ is the Heart.

The Gymnastic: In a wide stance, turn to the right, inhale and lift the arms up by your sides.  The heel of the left foot should rise up as you do this. When the hands are level with the ears, open and unfold the hands and arms as if you were a beautiful Phoenix unfolding your wings.  Pause then slowly exhale and float your arms (as wings) back down and return to facing forward with arms hanging down by your sides. Then turn to the left and repeat the gesture, now with the right heel lifting off the ground. Do six times or for as long it feels good to do. It may be viewed on YouTube done by its originator, Lin Housheng. Go to 32:47 of  “…18 Motions of TaiJi Qigong, Disk 2.”

Cat and Cow. The Yoga Cat and Cow pose is normally done on the floor by first arching the back up like an angry cat, then letting the belly loosen and drop down like an old cow. As with most hatha yoga these are static  positions. It becomes more of a qigong gymnastic if you make smooth, gentle and continuous cat and cow movements. The Elemental Energy here is Earth, the organs are Spleen and Stomach.  But this gymnastic also massages the spine, shoulders and all the organs of the lower torso.

An advanced way is to stand and with the chin and hips gently make vertical circles; first forwards then backwards,  the shoulders are kept loose. Go easy with this one: even a hint of pain and you should immediately stop. [8]

Gorilla. Be like Tarzan and tap around your collarbone area. You might make his “King Gorilla of the Jungle” call. (His girlfriend Jane did it as well). It’s great for the important thymus gland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thymus .This qigong gymnastic relates to Metal, and the Lung area.

Peacock. Peacock Spreads Tail To Show Beautiful Feathers.  Pretend you are a peacock and raise your hands straight up. As they go above your head spread your arms open.  From the sides of your eyes using peripheral vision imagine your beautiful feathers.  With your arms uplifted and palms facing out, slightly bend the elbows and slowly sway to the left and right like audiences at a rock concert. The Energy is Water, relating to the Kidney area.

Healing Prayers

The Ultimate Absolute within Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism is devoid of any human qualities. But in the way that the Abrahamic God gained anthropomorphic qualities, the Asians added many buddhas, bodhisattvas, avatars,  gods, and immortals as a gateway into experiencing the divine Absolute. In both the East and West prayer to the Divine or to divine human-like forms, personifications, icons, etc. has had many instances of miraculous healing take place. Even if no cures happen, prayer can lighten the pain and travail of the passage from life to death.

For Buddhists, the traditional god of healing is Bhaisajyaguru who is also called Yao Shih Fwo. He sometimes functions rather like an Asian “patron saint of healers.” The Medicine Buddha Mantra

Bhaisajyaguru The Medicine Buddha : Chinese Medicine Living

This lovely image from wikipedia

NAMO (I take refuge in) BHAGAVATE (the World-Honored One) BHAISAJYA-GURU (the Master of Medicine) VAIDURYA (the lapis-lazuli colored ) PRABHA (light) RAJA YA (the king) TATHAGATA YA ARHATE (the Thus-Come-One, the One-Worthy-of-Offering) SAMYAK-SAMBUDDHAYA (the equal and correctly enlightened), TADYATHA (and I speak thus): OM (Hail!) BHAISAJYE (Healer) BHAISAJYE (Healer) MAHA-BHAISAJYA (Great Healer) RAJA (king), SAMUDGATE (the path to enlightenment) SVAHA! (So be it!).

Guan Yin / Kwan Yin

Guanyin/Kwan Yin is the goddess of Compassion. Her name literally means “Hearing the Cries of the World.” Although originally a Buddhist god, she is now honored by Daoists, Confucians, Hindus—She has gained the love of the masses in the East, and many in the west. As with Mary or Jesus, angels or saints she is often prayed to for healing.

Quan Yin : Chinese Medicine Living

This beautiful image from wikipedia

Her mantra/prayer is Namo Guan shi yin Pusa, meaning

“Salutations to the most compassionate and merciful Bodhisattva Guanyin who hears the cries of those who suffer.”  Here is a link: Kuan Yin Mantra - Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa.

The mantra "Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa" with a variety of artwork depicting the Chinese goddess of mercy who relieves suffering.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6JhSegPjOM

There are many more mantra prayers in the religions of the world that may be used for healing. Perhaps search on YouTube for one that captures your heart.  I typed “healing prayers OR mantra” on my browser and came up with this URL.

Of course with a clean and pure heart, you could compose your own prayer or mantra.

A Few Simplified Spiritual Techniques

Disclaimer:

This article is for educational purposes only. It is not offered for the healing of any illnesses.  If  a person is sick they should see a proper professional in either (or both) western or traditional Chinese medicine. If doing anything in this article is physically or mentally uncomfortable, painful, or feels strange or weird immediately stop doing it.

1. Since the harmony of the Dao is reflected in nature - take a pleasant walk by the ocean or in the country. Or have fresh cut flowers in your home.

2. Daoist and Buddhist rituals include lighting incense and candles, singing prayers, and ceremonial dances.  If at home alone feeling glum, why not light incense and/or candles, sing and/or dance?

Qi Breathing Exercise

Qigong (chi kung) is a basic modality of TCM. It often is defined as “breath work.”

A person can sit comfortably with a straight back, and focus their mental attention on their breathing. Then calmly breathe more slowly and deeply. If the mind wanders simply count the breaths up to five (or any other number) and repeat the counting, or use a mantra like “peace,” or “relax,”  or “I am calm,” etc.  More Advanced: next be aware of the coolness on the nostrils. Then move that awareness to the qi-breath entering the lungs, from there be aware (or just imagine) the oxygen–qi in the blood entering all parts of your body, helping healing and refreshing you.  Having a simple smile seems to help this qi breathing exercise along. A really easy version of this exercise is to slowly, calmly and fully breathe into your lower lungs, only paying attention to how it feels.

Get a massage; I recommend Chinese Therapeutic Massage (Tuina). But massage can be done at home with a partner or by one’s self: rub and squeeze the body - especially the arms, legs, belly and kidney areas and feel energy blockages open up inside. Again keep your attention on how if feels, what the qi flow is doing. That may aid in making this a spiritual healing experience

Amulets are often used for healing.  An interesting way to do this is keeping on your person a mini-sized Daode Jing. Shambhala Publications has a 3 x 1/4  x 4.5 inch size copy.  

At night when the sky is clear and the moon is full, with open eyes look up to the moon and see it smiling down on you then smile back at it. The advanced Daoist qigong version of this is in the Endnotes, see [9].

One Last Thought

The belief systems of a non-spiritual TCM practitioner and a practicing Daoist healer may differ; nevertheless a raison d'être of each is similar: the goal is the gaining of wellbeing. One might say the absence of illness while the other says being in harmony with the Dao. However putting the best of both together offers the possibilities of a long, healthy, and happy life.

Endnotes

[1] Zhang Yu Huan & Ken Rose. Who Can Ride the Dragon? pg. 211. Paradigm, 1999.

[2] Illness are said to be produced by xie qi: bad, evil, pathogenic, demonic, devilish, evil life energy. See “Turbid Qi” http://qi-encyclopedia.com/index.asp?article=TurbidQi by Jerry Alan Johnson

[3] Yin originally meant dark and shaded. Yang originally meant sunny, full of light.

As mentioned above, these are not hard and fast static concepts.  As time (night and day) moves forward each continually folds into and becomes the other. So by extension we have light-positive-masculine qi and dark-negative-female qi (no sexual value judgment is implied). Everything in the universe has both aspects of interchanging yin and yang.

[4] When this emanating process is balanced and in harmony all is as it should be. When disharmony happens (as in much of our modern civilization) there can be a harmful damaging chaos; things are no longer with the Dao. Examples are global climate change, widespread mental and physical illness, and continual killing warfare.

[5] The Chinese have different terms to expound on the meaning of this Three. With San Cai (Three Powers) yang becomes the Heavens, yin becomes the Earth, and in between are we, Humanity. Or San Bao, (The Three Treasures) of Jing (Essence) Qi (Vital Energy), and Shen (Spirit). Those knowledgeable with TCM working principles will recognize fundamental terms here.

[6]  The Chinese name for Five Energetic Phases is Wuxing (wǔ xíng -五行) which is an abbreviation of wu zhong liu xing zhi qi — “five types of universal energy [qi or chi] dominating at different times.”

[7] The White Tiger rules Metal and the Lung. Black Tortoise rules Water and the Kidney. The Green Dragon rules Wood and the Liver. The Red Phoenix rules Fire and the Heart. The Gold Dragon rules Earth and the Spleen/Stomach.  http://realm-of-midgard.wikia.com/wiki/Five_Gods_of_Wu_Xing .

[8] Sorry, I have no video for this, but Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming’s “Simple Qigong for Back Pain Relief (YMAA)” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BObNy_LBFRU from 0:04 to 0:41 offers some clues; it’s all about those concave – convex movements of the spine.

[9] Taking in Moon Cream Tonifies yin-essence. Gathering Sun Essence replenishes yang-qi. As the sun begins to rise at daybreak, with mostly drooped closed eyelids, breathe in one mouthful of soft gentle reddish sunlight (imagine it); hold the breath, then swallow it; then exhale and send it down to the dantian. Do ten times. At night when the skies are clear and the moon is full do the same swallowing with moonlight, six times.  Adapted from Chinese Qigong, Zhang Enqin, (1990) p.108.

A Daoist source of this exercise may be found on pg. 54 of Early Daoist Dietary Practices, by Shawn Arthur. https://books.google.com/books?id=idBrd_dKCkYC&pg=PA54&lpg=PA54&dq=Early+Daoist+Dietary+Practices+%22solar+lord%22&source=bl&ots=9-fKlt71__&sig=UVFqKokBlpyKOz-1qk4wsF5L0Nc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwip4qzt24nMAhUFPj4KHYjTAakQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=Early%20Daoist%20Dietary%20Practices%20%22solar%20lord%22&f=false

Bibliography/Sources

“Chapter 1, What is Shen (Spirit)?” http://www.itmonline.org/shen/chap1.htm

http://www.yellowbridge.com/onlinelit/daodejing42.php

“The Chinese Cosmos: Basic Concepts.” http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/cosmos/bgov/cosmos.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_mythology

“Daoist Magic - a conversation with Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson, Ph.D, D.T.C.M.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckpN8TWPbhE&nohtml5=False

Guan Yin Goddess of Healing. http://www.quanyinhealing.net/quan_yin.html

Timothy Leary. Psychedelic Prayers after the Tao Te Ching. http://www.holybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/Timothy-Leary-Psychedelic-Prayers.pdf

Lin Shi and Chenguang Zhang. “Spirituality in Traditional Chinese Medicine,” [in] Pastoral Psychology, October/December, 2012.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257635748_Spirituality_in_Traditional_Chinese_Medicine

Elizabeth Reninger. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Five Element Styles of Practice. http://taoism.about.com/od/qigongchinesemedicine/a/TCM.htm

Taoism and martial arts-Opening Dao. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SP0vS4hTJs

Terebess Asia Online (Tao). The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, [125 translations]. http://terebess.hu/english/tao/_index.html

John Voigt. “Happy Fun Qigong.” Qi Journal, Vol. 25, No. 3: Autumn 2015

Ibid. “Qi in the Daodejing—The Way and its Power.” Qi-Encyclopedia. com http://qi-encyclopedia.com/index.asp?article=Qi-in-the-Daodejing

Ibid. “Six Healing Sounds: Chinese Mantras for Purifying Body. Mind, and Soul. Qi Journal, http://www.qi-journal.com/Qigong.asp?Name=Six%20Healing%20Sounds&-token.D=Article

Wu Xing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_Xing

Featured image from wikipedia.
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Spirituality and Traditional Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


The Spleen - The Earth Element

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I don't want to play favourites, but the Spleen is a pretty awesome organ. The Spleen and I have gotten pretty cosy over the years, as I talk about it a lot and treat it probably more than any other organ. In Chinese medicine, the Spleen, along with its Yang partner the Stomach, are the main organs of digestion. The Spleen has an important job in the body and psyche, processing not only all the food and drink we consume but all the stimulus as well. If you think about how we live you will realize that the nature of our lifestyles - which is to constantly be doing many things at once - puts a lot of pressure on the Spleen, and I would say that most people in the West have some level of Spleen deficiency as a result.

People new to Chinese medicine might think it strange that the Spleen is seen as an organ of digestion, as they probably know it as an important part of the immune system which is how it is viewed in the West. In Western medicine, the spleen is a part of the immune system and is where old red blood cells are recycled and platelets and white blood cells are stored. It is on the left side under the rib cage and sits next to the stomach. You can live without a spleen (called a splenectomy), but this makes you much more susceptible to infections. The spleen is sometimes removed in emergency situations like car accidents or serious traumas, but you definitely want to keep your spleen, as it serves many vital functions both physiologically and psychologically.

5 Element Chart - Spleen

This lovely 5 element chart designed by Angel B Lee in New York, NY

The Spleen

In Chinese medicine, the Spleen has a list of responsibilities. Every organ has a unique list of things they are responsible for in the body, and from an emotional point of view. Here are the things the Spleen is responsible for.

Controls Blood

The Spleen is responsible for manufacturing the Blood and the Spleen Qi keeps it in the vessels. If Spleen-Qi is weak, a person will bruise easily, and/or will have problems with bleeding.

Controls The Muscles And The Four Limbs

the spleen controls the muscles

The Spleen is responsible for circulating nutrients to the muscles and tissues. If the Spleen is weak, then the muscles and limbs are not nourished and become weak and tired.

Responsible For
Transformation & Transportation

The Spleen is responsible for the intake, processing, and distribution of nutrients extracted from food and drink. The Spleen takes these nutrients and creates Qi and Blood, both vital substances for all the body’s functions and maintaining proper health. If transformation and transportation are functioning properly, the Qi is strong, digestion is smooth and the body is kept moist. When malfunctioning, the Qi is weak (lassitude and lethargy), the appetite is poor, digestion is sluggish and the stools are loose and watery.

Opens Into The Mouth &
Manifests On The Lips

The Spleen manifests on the lips

Chewing is necessary for the functioning of the Spleen and if the Spleen is deficient, the sense of taste may be dulled. Red, moist and vibrant lips indicate a healthy Spleen. If the Spleen is deficient, however, the lips will be pale from lack of nourishment.

Controls The Upright Qi

The Spleen is responsible for the body’s “holding” function. This is called the upright Qi. It is specifically the force that counteracts gravity when it comes to holding things, specifically the organs, in place. This is very important! Without healthy upright Qi, all of our organs would be at the bottom of our abdomen! When the Spleen is weak, we see prolapse of organs (uterus, bladder, stomach), prolapse of the vagina as well as things like haemorrhoids (prolapse of the anus, PLUS bleeding also attributed to the Spleen).

Houses Thought

Every organ in TCM is seen to have its own unique Spirit, and the Spirit of the Spleen is called the Yi. The Spleen is directly related to our capacity for thinking. How well we manage our thoughts, concentrate, exercise discernment and form intentions is dependent on the strength of the Spleen.

The Spleen in 5 Element Theory

In 5 element theory, the Spleen is attributed to the earth element, the centre, and the colour yellow. The season is late summer, but more specifically, it is the late stage of each of the seasons. The taste is sweet and the emotion is worry / overthinking.

Spleen and the 5 Elements

This lovely image from http://thespicedoc.com/content/glossary and designed by Patricia Callison

Late Summer and the Spleen

In the summer, we reach a maximum of Yang energy, so when we move into late summer that energy shifts and begins to turn to more Yin in preparation for fall. It is also the beginning of the harvest with fruits and vegetables at their peak of growth, so it is the perfect time to pick foods right off the vine and benefit from good Qi that they have been soaking up from the surrounding environment all summer. The earth element represents being grounded and having solid roots connected to the earth. Late summer is also a time to prepare for the coming year's work, so it is a time to go from the outward expressions of summer to a more inward expression to prepare for the year ahead.

"The Earth Element, represented by the Spleen-Pancreas, regulates the "centre," that which is constant, from where it harmonizes the effects of the four seasons."
~ Inner Classic

The flavour of the Spleen is sweet, and just as foods with a sweet flavour are stimulating and healing to the Spleen, too much can be damaging and decrease your energy level so balance is the key.  The Spleen likes to be warm and dry so avoid cold foods like putting ice in your drinks and ice cream if you have digestive troubles. Chewing your food very well is another simple way to support the Spleen.

Beneficial Spleen Foods

  • Millet
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Garbanzo Beans
  • Soybeans
  • Squash
  • Potatoes
  • String Beans
  • Yams
  • Tofu
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Sweet Rice
  • Rice
  • Amaranth
  • Peas
  • Chestnuts
  • Filberts
  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupe

Foods in late summer should be prepared simply with minimal seasoning to support the Spleen. Because the Spleen is constantly overloaded by the things we eat as well as the stimulus we are taking in, it is a good idea to prepare simple meals with few ingredients as well as longer cooking times (which further breaks down foods, requiring less of the Spleen's energy to digest them) and using water and cooking oils.

Healthy Spleen

Those with a very balanced Spleen will be hardworking, responsible and practical. They like to nurture themselves and others and are very aware of other people's needs. They are strong and stable and live to be active. They have good appetites and strong digestive systems. They will have strong muscles and be very grounded. Those with balanced spleens are orderly and careful and generally are creative and have very fertile imaginations.

Spleen Out of Balance

Those with an imbalance in their Spleen can manifest symptoms of both mental and physical fatigue, loose stools, a feeling of being "stuck" which feels like you are being prevented from moving forward. Weak digestion which is often accompanied by nausea, poor appetite, diminished sense of taste and abdominal bloating are common when Spleen energy is weak. Struggles with excess weight, even if there is no overeating, or being underweight without the ability to gain weight are symptoms of a Spleen imbalance as well. Those with weak Spleen's can tend to have a messy appearance, live in chaos and accumulate many possessions that do not serve them.

As you can see, the Spleen is an organ that gets a lot of attention in clinic. It is out of balance in many people, but there are simple things that we can do to bring this important organ back into balance. Living in a mindful way and being aware of what it needs are the first steps to having a healthy, happy Spleen.

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Suspect you might have a Spleen imbalance? Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP offers consults via skype. For more info, write to info@chinesemedicineliving.com.

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Winter - The Water Element

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Much of Chinese Medicine is based on the theory of the five elements, or Wu Xing. Each element has many associations, including a season, both a yin and a yang organ, colour, direction, taste and emotions. Below is a list of the seasons, their elements, organs and the emotions associated with them.

Summer - Fire  - Heart - Joy
Late Summer (or the end of any season) - Earth - Spleen - Worry or Over Thinking
Autumn / Fall - Metal - Lungs - Sadness
Winter - Water - Kidneys - Fear
Spring - Wood - Liver - Anger

The winter season is associated with water and the kidneys. The kidneys are the foundation of our yin and yang energies, store our Jing (or essence) and govern vital activities like birth, growth, reproduction and development. The kidneys are said to open into the ears, thus our ability to hear clearly is dependent on strong kidney energy. The kidneys also govern bones, teeth, hair on the head, the nervous system and brain.

Strong Kidneys

The kidneys in Chinese medicine are not the same as they are seen in Western medicine. They are not simply two separate organs that sit at the level of the lower back, remove wastes and release hormones. They are en entire organ and energy system that is connected to the rest of the body, is paired with the bladder, and has important functions both physically and emotionally. When kidney energy is strong we are lucid and able to articulate our thoughts and feelings.  Children grow quickly, and have strong bones and teeth. They are smart, learn quickly and can think clearly. Strong kidney energy will also help a person move through the stages of life without difficulty, giving them the ability to adjust to changes and better able to cope with stresses that come along the way. Strong kidney energy also give the ability to take in information and process it effectively as we go through life, to make keen observations and making you seem wise beyond your years.

5 elements Chinese Medicine

Kidney Deficiency

A deficiency of the kidneys often manifests as developmental problems both mentally and physically. In children these manifest as problems with growth and development, such as learning disabilities, physical deformities, and dental cavities. In adults symptoms of kidney deficiency are sore lower back and knees, frequent urination, prematurely greying hair, weak, brittle bones, arthritis, dental cavities, hearing loss and pain in the soles of the feet. Because the kidneys are also the source of our sexual energy, lack of libido, impotence and infertility are signs of a deficiency of the kidneys.

The Water Personality

The Archetype for Water: The Philosopher

A person with a water type personality will have the following characteristics:

  • Sincere
  • Introspective
  • Modest
  • Observant
  • Sensible
  • Lucid
  • Curious
  • Careful
  • Innovative
  • Resourceful
  • Frugal
  • Objective
  • Particular

Below is a description of a water personality in five element theory taken from the book Between Heaven and Earth...

Revelation propels the Philosopher in her relentless quest for truth. She brings to light that which is hidden, uncovering new knowledge, dispelling mystery, eroding ignorance. Scrutinizing life until the meaning and significance of her impressions coalesce into the germ of understanding, she is like an old time prospector with a nose for nuggets, sifting through the gravel of notions and beliefs, tireless in her effort to apprehend the nature of reality. Just as the miner digs through tons of ore before unearthing a single gem, the Philosopher searches doggedly for truth, which, like a diamond, is esteemed not only for its radiant sparkle, but for its abiding hardness as a tool to advance civilization. It takes millennia to crystallize the residual mineral essence of fossils into this precious stone. Time is the pick and shovel of the Philosopher, who exhumes the bones of culture that endure. The Philosopher yearns for meaning that transcends the rudderless meandering of human affairs.

As she offers insight to the world, she relies on her hope that knowledge will be married with wisdom, power and compassion, aware that destiny is the final authority. Able to envision what can be, she is critical of what is by comparison. She discerns the inevitable disparity between apparent and ultimate reality. As the custodian of our memories and dreams, she articulates our aspirations, our ends, but does not define for us the machinery of their realization, our means.

*From Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfeld and Efrem Korngold

The Water Body Type

There are certain physical attributes that each element portrays. The water body type has a round face and soft, white skin. They love to move and they have long spines. They are loyal to their friends and colleagues and are excellent negotiators. They are sympathetic, slightly lazy and don't always tell the truth. They are usually quite sensitive and self aware. The strong point for water types is their digestion.

The Kidneys and Emotions

The positive emotion of the kidneys is willpower, so when kidney energy is strong we will have willpower and live life with focus and direction. When kidney energy is weak we are susceptible to fear and anxiety. This works both ways, deficient kidneys can leave us fearful and anxious, and if we experience an excess of these emotions, it can deplete kidney energy. A person susceptible to anxiety, panic attacks or phobias may be suffering with deficient kidneys.

Winter is the best time of year to build up kidney energy. It is a time for a contraction of energies and introspection. Winter is a time to rest, going to bed earlier and waking later. The diet should consist of hearty, warming foods, like soups and stews. The longer and slower the cooking, the warmer they become. Supplementing our "post heaven essence" by eating well, drinking clean water and living moderately will help to strengthen kidney energy. The first point on the kidney meridian is on the bottom of the foot, so walking and running stimulates this point and floods the body with kidney energy - so regular exercise, especially outside is great for your kidneys. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are also a wonderful way to correct deficiency and keep the kidneys strong. So, enjoy the cold weather, and be sure to take care of your kidneys - they will love you for it.

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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.

 


Winter: The Water Element

Season: Winter
Element: Water
Organ: Kidney
Weather: Cold
Direction: North
Taste: Salty
Sense Organ: Ear
Tissue: Bone
Emotion: Fear
Sound: Groaning
Smell: Putrid
Colour: Black
Developmental Stages: Storage
Body Types: Round Features / Strong Digestion / Loyal / Enjoy Movement