Meditation: Improve Your Health in 20 Minutes a Day

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Says - Balance Equals Health

Chinese Medicine is all about balance. Balance in all aspects of life is what keeps us healthy and keeps disease away. In a time long ago, this balance was the normal way of life for most people, and they understood the importance of doing things in moderation - like eating, physical activity, expressing of emotions and all aspects of life. Chinese Medicine has always taught that this moderation in all things is the way to achieve balance and is ultimately the path to health. When something in life becomes unbalanced, illness can result. When this happens there are wonderful tools to help put the body, mind, and spirit back into a harmonious state - like acupuncture, Chinese herbs, moxibustion, gua sha and tui na. These are just some of the tools that Chinese Medicine has in its formidable toolbox. But ultimately, the goal is to live a balanced life so that illness never has a chance to develop, Chinese medicine is a medicine of prevention.

Losing Our Equilibrium

Now, many of us are living unbalanced lives in an increasingly unbalanced world. Finding the equilibrium that our ancestors enjoyed becomes more difficult as we live in a world that is more complex, and needs us to work more in a time where most of us are able to have less. There is a growing disparity between people who have and those who have not. Cities are growing as nature dwindles. People are being pushed, working more, sleeping less and getting sick because that balance has been lost. So what can we do? It is not realistic to quit the jobs we need to survive, and many of us live lives that we must and not the lives we would like to. One of the ways that we can get back to that balance, that equilibrium that keeps us aligned and happy is to slow down, sit and listen.

What is Meditation?

Meditation - Finding A Way Back to Balance

There are many ways to meditate, and everyone needs to find the one or the ones that are right for them. For some, walking is a wonderful healing type of meditation. For others, painting, cooking or writing poetry is their meditation of choice. I like to define a meditation as being in a state of complete harmony and flow. Like you are completely connected to the universe and in a state of bliss where time completely disappears. This is only my definition, but a similar sensation has been described by others in a state of deep meditation. It is like being in a complete and all-encompassing state of mindfulness.

Practical Meditation

In all my years of treating patients, I have found meditation to be one of the most effective healing tools, and one of the most empowering for patients. I often give patients a "prescription" for daily meditation to help them with their health and overall well-being. There are lots of reasons why it is such a great healing tool and why people love it so much. Here are just a few:

  • You can choose a meditation technique or practice that resonates with you - it is highly individualized
  • You can do it in the privacy of your own home
  • You do not need any special gear or equipment (although a lovely meditation cushion is so nice)
  • Meditations positive effects can be felt by doing it in as little as a few minutes a day
  • You can use your creativity to design a practice and a space that supports your meditation practice
  • The beneficial effects will ripple out into all aspects of your life
  • The positive effects will be felt by the people around you
  • With time, you will be able to handle stress and other difficult situations with more equanimity
  • Your memory, concentration and mood will be improved
  • You will have better quality of sleep
  • The power of this healing tool is completely in your hands

The list of meditations benefits is really enormous and there isn't enough room here to list them all. But for practical reasons, I can share an example of a meditation practice that can help to rebalance mind, body and spirit as well as all the benefits listed above.

Creating a Beautiful Space

One of the first things you can do, is to create a beautiful, calming, peaceful space where you will do your meditation. If you can, remove all electronic devices so that the space is quiet and you will not be disturbed. Keep the space clean and clutter free as this will help eliminate distractions while you are meditating. If you have a meditation cushion, you can arrange it so that it is appealing to the eye and when you look at the space in its entirety, it gives you a feeling of calm and joy. I am lucky to have a beautiful meditation cushion (which is from the lovely people at Chattra) - whenever I look at it, it makes my heart so happy and I thoroughly enjoy sitting on it. I don't have a lot of space, so I create a tiny space for myself with my cushion and a mosquito net which is lovely and really gives it an enchanted feel. Create your space however you desire, using objects (or the lack of objects) that make you happy and help to create a feeling of calm and serenity.

This is my lovely meditation space with my beautiful Chattra meditation cushion. If you would like one of your very own,
you can see all their beautiful designs here in their shop and enjoy 10% off (see coupon below).

20 Minutes to Health

You can choose however long you like in terms of your meditation practice, but I suggest that if it is new to you, to start slowly. You can start with just five or ten minutes a day and work up from there. I find that a good number is twenty minutes a day, or if you are ambitious, twenty minutes twice a day, morning and evening. Twice a day is ideal as it acts as a primer for the day and a bit of a cleansing of the days energies before bed to ensure a good, restful, rejuvenating sleep. If you can set aside twenty minutes when you wake up before you start your morning routine, you will find that you will set your intention for the day and be better able to focus as well as being better able to handle difficult situations. The more you meditate, the more you will find this equanimity in your life and in all things. In the evening, do everything you need to do and do your meditation right before sleep. You will find that the quality of your sleep will improve and you will wake up feeling more rested and ready to start your day with positivity and awareness.

The Meditation

As mentioned above, there are many different types of meditation, and I always recommend to patients that they find the one that feels right for them. A good way to start if you are looking for ideas is to sit comfortably in your meditation space and begin to focus on your breathing. Focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. I sometimes suggest trying to focus on breathing light into the top of your head, gathering the breath and all dark energy, emotions or experiences we are finished with, illness, pain or trauma and breathe it out with every breath. Sometimes, when you begin, it is good to have something to focus on and this one has worked for me, and for my patients.

Keep breathing deeply in and out focussing solely on the breath. Your mind will inevitably wander, but when you notice you are somewhere else in your mind, gently bring yourself back to the breath. At first, your mind will be all over the place - this is called monkey mind by the Buddhists (and here is a great definition) - but just keep bringing yourself back to the breath. This will get easier and easier the more you meditate. And try not to be hard on yourself. There are days when you will do nothing but bring your mind back to the breath, over and over again. But over time, you will find that you will have to do this less and less and that your mind will settle into a peaceful quiet which will allow you to connect to yourself in a way you may not have done before, and that is a wonderful thing indeed.

Chinese Medicine Living readers can enjoy this 10% off coupon in the Chattra shop. Visit www.chattra.com or click on the coupon below.

Chattra Meditation Cushion Review

If you would like to read my review of the lovely Chattra meditation cushion, you may do so here - Chattra Meditation Cushion Review

 



Alignment - Part 2

By Steven Lubka

There are many ways to begin addressing spinal alignment, infinite ways really. I am going to outline some basic habits that can produce tremendous benefits. These are simple modifications to one’s lifestyle that one can implement immediately and don’t require complex explanation nor the learning of technique. Later I will delve into technique, but for now it’s best to start at the beginning. I will also describe how to perform a basic cranial-spinal reset.

The easiest way to begin restoring the muscular-skeletal systems of the body is through awareness, sitting postures, sleeping habits, and the mouth. If one can say that posture starts anywhere, it starts in the mouth. Many people never touch on this component and those that do address the mouth neglect the other parts of the body. Malocclusion, the development of a bite in which teeth do not properly connect and poor oral posture have existed as long as civilization has existed. Hunter Gatherer populations typically have excellent bites and good oral posture. This creates well balanced and beautiful facial structure. Civilized populations often have poor oral posture and misaligned teeth. There are many explanations for this but no definitive conclusion for why this is.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

See the difference?

Addressing oral posture keeps the skull sitting properly on top of the spine. Atlas chiropractors have found that by bringing the Atlas Vertebra into alignment it balances the rest of the musculoskeletal system.

To do this one must maintain a consistent awareness of their oral habits. Correct oral posture involves keeping the mouth closed, the back molars touching, and tongue on the roof of the mouth. The tip of the tongue should rest on the bump just behind the front teeth. To find this location simply make the sound “nah-nah-nah-nah”. The spot your tongue goes to is where the tip should rest. One should also attempt to raise the posterior part of the tongue so that it is pressing up on the palate. This is incredibly important but also very difficult for most people at first. It is important to simply do what one can do , if it’s only the tip at first start there, eventually you will be able to raise the whole tongue. One should hold this mouth posture at all times when not eating or breathing, but this is something you will work towards. By doing this you will not only take huge steps to balancing your spinal alignment but will over time improve the form of your facial structure.

By pressing upwards with the tongue while keeping the jaw closed you create an upwards force which moves the maxillary bone of the skull forward and a downward force which unsticks the jaw  and allows it to hinge properly. This can greatly help in alleviating TMJ and other jaw disorders  as well as improving breathing. This technique also helps train one in a practice of consistent body awareness which even on its own is a powerful restorative force.

Developing new sitting postures will confer great benefit as well. The most useful posture to learn is a resting squat. This will help to align the spine and bring greater health and mobility to the joints. A resting squat means the heels are flat on the ground and your butt is as low as it will go. For the purpose of a sitting posture it doesn’t matter if your spine is straight or curved. Find whatever way of positing your feet is comfortable for you, there is no one correct way.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

For most this may be challenging at first, but it will come easily eventually. A great way to make this posture one of comfort and ease is to spend 30 minutes a day for 30 days in it. The 30 minutes are a cumulative time goal, you simply do a minute or two many times throughout the day. Soon it will be easy. Try watching the sunrise every morning in a deep squat, with your bare feet on the earth. This will bring many benefits. The first is that it will ensure proper circadian rhythm which is crucial to your whole system. The second is that it will put you in touch with the electromagnetic field of the earth while developing your squat. It is important that you view the sunrise without glasses or contact lenses in as the early morning UV light will not penetrate glass or lenses. It is crucial this early morning light reaches your eyes because it is the signal which turns all your daytime metabolic and hormonal processes on. This will influence everything from mental health and dopamine levels, to proper melatonin production, reduce the risk of alzheimer's and dementia, and combat diseases such as diabetes, MS, and autoimmune disorders.

There are many other sitting postures one can use that will bring benefit. The traditional Japanese meditation posture where one’s legs are folded underneath oneself and you are sitting on top of your ankles is a good one. The half and full lotus meditation postures can also be useful if they are comfortable for you. There are many variations one could use, the most important thing is to simply start sitting on the ground and allowing your body to support itself instead of using chairs and furniture.

Along with sitting habits it is important that one also begins to develop the ability of the body to hang. Simply grab a tree branch and hang from it passively. If this is too hard to do with a tree start with a standard pull up bar.

Sleeping habits are the next key area to address. It is imperative that you get rid of your mattress and transition to a firm sleeping mat on the ground. All primates suffer from musculoskeletal problems however nature has given us a way to correct this. However one cannot take advantage of this while sleeping on a mattress. It is similarly important to get rid of one’s pillow but take one step at a time. Many of these sleeping postures create a mechanism where the diaphragm movement during sleeping in these postures resets the vertebra of the spine.

The first involves sleeping on the side using an externally rotated arm as a pillow. The shoulder that is used as a pillow is hunched and the feet are relatively pointed. One can also sleep with one’s head directly on the ground if the shoulder is hunched properly.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

The second involves using both folded arms as a pillow.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

The third and my personal favorite creates an unwinding of rotational imbalances of the spine.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

These all make fantastic sleeping and resting postures that will yield tremendous benefit simply from relaxing in these poses.

Here is what I was able to achieve in 2 years, from age 19 to age 21. I am now 23 at the time of writing this and have continued to experience great benefits from these kinds of practices. I did not even learn about the oral posture work until well after the photos displayed below. It held the key to correcting my forward neck posture.  

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

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Buddha Bracelet : Chinese Medicine Living


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


What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an umbrella term for the many different modalities used in Chinese Medicine. These include Acupuncture (electro, auricular, cosmetic), Tui Na (Chinese medical massage), Herbal Medicine, Gua Sha (scraping), Moxibustion (the burning of the herb mugwort), Cupping, Dietary Therapy and Energy Work (Qi Gong, Tai Chi).

Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of the oldest continuous medical systems on earth, with instances dating back more than 4000 years. The philosophy of TCM is based on the Taoist view that human beings should strive to live in harmony with nature and their natural environment. Eating foods that grow locally and in season, practicing Tai Chi and Qi Gong, expressing our emotions, being self aware and listening to our needs and desires are, in the TCM view, the way to a healthy and balanced life.

The TCM philosophy offers us different approaches to looking at the workings of our bodies, the development of disease and the process of healing. The emotional self, for example, is just as important to the TCM practitioner as the physical body. When a patient arrives with a specific complaint, all physical as well as emotional and psychological aspects are evaluated, as it is the entire person who must be rebalanced, not just one aspect. This holistic approach is the strength of the TCM model, and why it is so effective. Treating the whole is in opposition to the reductionist model in the West which reduces the body into parts, not taking into consideration that they operate synergistically as a whole. This is one of the reasons why TCM is still able to treat a huge variety of ailments in the modern world.

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Illness is described in the way it is seen to exist and develop, in natural terms. Terms like water, fire, wind and earth are used to describe a person and aspects of their health, personality and disease. Illness develops when something is out of balance, is deficient, in excess or stuck. The energy of the body, or Qi, must then be rebalanced, topped up, sedated, and moved depending on the presenting condition. Qi moves along specific pathways in the body called meridians. The acupuncture points are places where the Qi comes to the surface and is able to be manipulated by the acupuncture needles.

Herbs work internally to achieve the same goals. They are powerful tools and can be used alone or in conjunction with acupuncture or any of the other modalities, like Tui Na, Cupping or Gua Sha. All are used to rebalance the body and return it to a state of equilibrium. It is up to the practitioner to decide which ones or combinations are most effective for the patient and the imbalance that has led them to seek treatment.

In conclusion, Chinese medicine holds the body and its capacity for healing in great reverence. It does not see itself as an outside force that is able to heal the body, but as a way to help adjust the body and bring it back into balance so that health is restored. In essence, it is not the practitioner doing the healing, it is the body. Advice on nutrition, living with the seasons and moderation in life empowers the patient and enables him to participate in his own healing. The goal of the TCM practitioner is to use these concepts to guide the patient on how to live a healthy, happy and balanced life.