Emotional Healing In A Time of Crisis

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

We are living in unprecedented times in our world. We have just lived through a global pandemic of COVID-19 and the world we knew no longer exists. Anger and frustration are coming out in so many ways all over the world as people struggle with the new reality and many struggle to survive. 

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

To me, it isn’t the physical challenges that the virus presents that worry me, it is the emotional state of our global population. In the US we see riots, campaigns to defund the police, racial tensions, destruction of property and businesses and unprecedented violence. No matter how many of us may want to politicize what is happening, I think it points to something much deeper that has been brewing for much longer than many people realize. People are angry. They are frustrated. Life is getting harder. People work more for less money. There is so much uncertainty about the future. Many have lost their businesses. Their jobs. Their abilities to support their families. People are exhausted and scared. And they see more and more corruption at every level of business and government - which only feeds the anger and frustration that a few profit at the expense of so many. 

 


Photo by Tito Texidor III on Unsplash

I can’t offer a solution to the problems we face as a global community, but I think that we need to be honest about what is happening and be able to express those feelings. We have a right to be angry, frustrated and afraid. And we need to give those feelings a place to go. There is so much “political correctness” that people these days feel that they can’t say anything for fear it will offend somebody. We need to be able to have honest discussions about what is REAL and TRUE. And yes, it might offend somebody. In the present climate, the truth seems to have become a dirty word. The truth might hurt someone’s feelings. The truth might not be what someone wants to hear. And this is part of the problem. Because the truth is what is going to save us. 

For most of my life and career, I have been very conscious of focussing on the good. The positive. Practising kindness. Being loving. Having compassion. But I don’t insulate my life and not let anything negative come in. That would be delusional. When you are healing, people come and they need those things. They are hurting so they need love, kindness, compassion and your positivity and light. Those are the things that start the healing process, and support it until the end. But now I see that we seem to be having a reality problem. Some people are unable or unwilling to accept what is happening in the world. I understand this, as often, the reality is dark. It’s hard. There are things that are difficult to accept. And they hurt. 

There have been a lot of difficult truths coming to the surface lately. And if you don’t know what I am talking about, then you aren’t paying attention. This has been causing a lot of pain and a lot of grief. The new reality, for many, is difficult to accept. 

Another theme I see that is contributing to a lot of pain is that there seems to be a conscious effort to divide us. Break us apart and make us fight with each other. This breeds fear, fear of the “other” and only compounds the feelings of grief, depression, anxiety and isolation that have exploded since this all began. They want you to feel that you are alone. But the truth is, that you are not alone. There are more than 7 billion of us on the planet. We are a global community, and we have the intelligence and creativity to solve any problem we may face. But we can’t solve problems when we are angry, sad and afraid. You cannot focus your energy on solving problems when you are fighting an enemy.

I have been thinking about how we might go about trying to heal from so many of the powerful emotions we are dealing with right now. Both ones that have been building up for years, and the ones that are a result of this new situation that we find ourselves in. Chinese Medicine is really unique in how it looks at our emotions and how important they are to our health and wellbeing. As many of you know, each of the emotions is associated with an organ or an organ pair and when that emotion is healthy and in balance, it is strengthening to the body and that organ in particular. But when that emotion is out of balance, in excess or unexpressed, it is depleting to the body and its respective organs, causing problems in all aspects of your life and health. Generally in our culture, we are not taught that emotions can make us sick, but I think that most of us instinctively know that this is true. How does your stomach feel when you worry? Or how about those headaches when you are angry and stressed? How does your heart feel when you are grieving?

The good news is that because the emotions are built into the system of Chinese Medicine, it also offers solutions and practices we can use to keep emotionally healthy. Each of the seasons, for example, offer us an opportunity to really work to clear old emotions we’ve been holding on to and balance and strengthen the system. I have been thinking that this wisdom is so needed right now. 

The emotions - things that hurt us, cause us grief or stir up anger can be an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. Why are we having these reactions to things that are happening? Why does one person respond to a situation in anger when another might feel grief?

Treating Emotions in the Real World

Helping us to manage the tsunami of emotions we are all feeling right now is the understanding that we must first become aware of the emotions, and then work to change not WHAT we are feeling but how we REACT to those feelings. Read that again. It's so simple, but it will likely change the way you think about how you may be feeling.

In my work with patients, we often start with simple awareness. Let's use an example.

If you are struggling with a particular emotion, let's say grief. Usually (but not always), the person is aware of the grief. The cause is the death of someone close to them, their loss is causing the grief. The lungs in Chinese Medicine are associated with grief, so there might be lung symptoms as well- shortness of breath, asthma, dizziness (not enough oxygen), coughing, etc. Their grief can literally be causing the lung symptoms because intense or excessive grief weakens the lungs' Qi. The person is describing how they are feeling, saying they feel consumed by their grief, out of breath, have no energy and are anxious and stressed because the grief is making it difficult to function because they still need to go to work and look after their young children. And this is it. The grief is a completely natural result of someone important in your life passing away. But the reaction is an increasing feeling of anxiety and panic because there is no space for the grief in their life because they have to keep going to work and looking after children.

So, we look at those feelings first - the anxiety and panic - and we figure out a way to help to manage them. Are you able to take some time off? Could the children go to stay with a grandparent for a few days? Can you take some time to allow yourself the space to grieve? Do you have someone you can talk to about everything you are feeling? All of these things will help release some of the pressure that can make these emotions so overwhelming. Just the acknowledgement begins the healing process. We start with the reaction - the anxiety because of the pressure to keep going normally while you are suffering - and work backwards to the grief itself.

When we get to the grief, there are a few ways that we can help reduce its intensity. We work to strengthen the lungs and build up their Qi, which very often helps lessen the grief's potency. We create a space for the grief to be felt, fully allowing those feelings to be expressed. In Chinese Medicine, the way emotions can be causes of disease is if they are repressed or unexpressed, leading to a stagnation in the body and eventual toxicity. Anyone who has a secret or something in their past they have been holding on to for years can tell you. It has an effect. Holding on to emotions isn't good for you, so finding the proper avenue for their expression is an important part of the healing process.

We are living in challenging times that are unprecedented in our history. Our struggles are multi-faceted right now. People are struggling to find their way in the new reality we face as a global community. The good news is that human beings have incredible intelligence, adaptability and resiliency. If we are able to stay positive, stick together and express what we are all feeling honestly, we can come out the other side of these difficult times stronger and with a new appreciation for everything good that still exists in this world.

If you need help working through what you are feeling right now or healing in general, I am here for you. My information is below.


Featured image photo by Mitchell Griest on Unsplash - Thank you!



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Chinese Medicine Aids Deep Sleep to Revitalize Mind and Body

By Sally Perkins

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

Sleep to Stimulate The Mind

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

Rest to Repair The Body

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

Photo by Antonika Chanel on Unsplash

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


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Living in Harmony with Spring According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Theory

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

Spring - The Season of the Liver

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

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

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

Behaviours in Spring

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

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Activities in Spring

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

Beneficial Foods in Spring

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

Photo by Scott Eckersley on Unsplash

The Liver and Anger

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

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

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

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

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Some Symptoms of Liver Stagnation & Imbalance

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

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


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Practical Qigong - A Quick Mental Tune Up

by John Voigt

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

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

My email begins:

Be Seated.

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

Feel yourself as a physical being.

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

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

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

For Mental Tuning Up.

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

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

Yintang.

"Hall of Seal." Calms the mind.


This image from A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

Earlobe.

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

Taiyang.

"Great Sun."  Head pain. 


This image from tcmpoints.com

Bl-15. Xinshu.

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

This image from tcmpoints.com

Si Shen Cong.

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


Image from A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

GV-17.

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


This image from tcmpoints.com

GV-18.

Qiang. Sleep issues.


This image from tcmpoints.com

GV-16.

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

This image from tcmpoints.com

The Bladder Channels.

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


This image from tcmworld.org

Kidney-1.

Flushes out the schmutz (bad stuff). 


Image from A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

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

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

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

My Struggles Have Made Me A Better, More Empathetic Doctor

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Some of the most useful things that I have been able to bring to my patients are things that I have learned through my own experiences with trauma, pain, emotional issues, illnesses - and how I was able to get through them. These experiences also allow me tremendous empathy for the people I see, both in clinic and in everyday life. My thinking is that the more I go through and GET through, the better I can serve my patients and ultimately, my fellow human being. No matter our financial status, where we are born, our religion, colour or beliefs, we will all experience difficulties, pain, fear, sorrow, and illness at some time in our lives. And it helps to know that you are not alone and that you will ultimately get through it, and be stronger for the experience.

An Unusual Life (Let me get philosophical for a moment)

I have had, well, an unusual life. This has been mostly of my own making, and even though there have been a lot of ups and downs (oh *so* many), I wouldn't change any of it. I have never believed in regret. I believe that every experience that we have in this life contributes to making us who we are - that we are an accumulation of those experiences. I also think that it is important that we are at peace with the person we have become, no matter what may be happening in our lives. This certainly is not always easy. Remembering to be kind with ourselves as we are a young species, and here to learn a great deal which includes things which we judge to be unpleasant like pain, grief, loss, fear, anger, and frustration are all important pieces of the whole. Like Chinese medicine, I believe in a holistic system, with every part synergistically connecting to every other. I can draw so many parallels back to Chinese medicine, which is why I connected to it so strongly and why I fell so deeply and passionately in love with it. It is an allegory for life, and perhaps, all things in the universe and beyond.

Ever since I can remember I have been hungry for so many of the experiences that life has to offer. I didn't have a choice in the matter, it was like there was a force driving me, and I could either allow it to push me in the direction of experience or be crushed and ultimately destroyed by it. I wanted to do everything, try everything. I was driven by a curiosity about the world and my existence that has lead me to live a very, uh, interesting life. I was fascinated with travel and wanted to see as many places and cultures as I could. I loved the way that each place had a unique smell, a look, a feel and each would arouse such emotion. I also loved the newness of a different country, a new city or tiny village. I thrived being immersed in a completely alien culture and absorbing as much of it as I could, being exposed to its magic, its customs, rituals, food, and music. There is such beauty, creativity, and wonder that permeates the cultures of the world, and that is what I was after. I loved seeing what each had to offer, and learning how its people communicated, loved, celebrated and mourned. I absolutely think that travel is the best education. I learned more in my travels than I ever could in a classroom or books.

I have also been living my life in, I suppose, a unique way. I knew from very early on that I would never live the life that most people end up living. Buying a one-way ticket to another country and not knowing where you were going to stay, not having a job and not knowing how long you would be there? This is insane! they would say. Going to China alone to work in a tiny city so small (6 million people) it wasn't even on the map, and just hoping it would be ok? Foolish! Moving to Central America with a tiny baby to make a better life with hopes to buy land, live off the grid and create a sustainable community and healing retreat without the resources (yet) with which to do it? Madness. And yet, I have done all of these things with varying degrees of success. With these experiences came a lot of worry, grief, loneliness, frustration, and despair, I am not going to lie to you. And yet, even though they involved a lot of pain and emotions which are hard to deal with, I am glad I did those things because I learned a lot about myself, and how to process all the crazy things that life can throw at you. And even when things are difficult and painful, you do come out the other side, and the feelings then, are often intensely joyful because you have passed through such darkness to get to them. And yet, these experiences are not for the faint of heart. And many would say choices made by someone who may be a few crayons short of a full box.

I was once sitting in a session with a therapist before my imminent departure to a foreign country and he said to me "you know, this thing you are doing, would scare the hell out of most people. Aren't you afraid?" And, this was the first moment that I really thought about fear in connection with the situation. After a minute I said, "no, I am not scared of this at all." And then he asked me the inevitable question. "Well then, what are you scared of?" And the answer came to me quickly. I said "I am scared of being married to someone I don't love, working a job I hate and feeling trapped in a life I don't want. I fear getting to the end of my life and feeling like I never really lived."

Pain & Growth

In my experience, it has been the darkest moments, the most difficult times and when I was deeply suffering that I learned the most. It took me a long time to admit because I didn't want it to be true. I wanted to be able to learn from happiness, joy, freedom, and love, and I have. But not like I evolve when I am facing darkness. But maybe it is just me...

Take Vipassana meditation for instance. This, by definition, is taking a stroll through the winding path of your consciousness, that inevitably leads to some of the darker places in your subconscious. Vipassana is defined as "seeing things as they really are", which, at least in my experiences, have meant the whole she-bang. The light bits and the darker ones as well. And it is the darker ones that we tend to hide from, the ones that hurt us, leave scars and can hinder us in the present until we are able to heal them (acknowledging them first which is usually not easy and can bring up a lot of difficult feelings) and finally let them go.

**if you would like to learn more about Vipassana Meditation you can read about my two Vipassana retreats here - My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation and Vipassana 2.0.

I have seen this for many years with patients. As a practitioner, I like to get deep into things. I want to understand why you are having those headaches, the insomnia, and the panic attacks, so I ask a lot of questions in an attempt to get to the root of things. And I have found that so much of what makes people sick are things that have hurt them in their past that they are dragging with them into their present. That may sound strange, but in my experience, it is absolutely true. As a culture, we are all striving for health, but most of the time that is limited to the physical realm. And yet, as well as physical bodies, we all have emotions, but few of us are taught or have the skills to deal with them in a healthy way. I think that because I was such a sensitive child, and constantly overwhelmed by not only my emotions, but by the emotions of others, that I have been working my whole life to find a balance and a way to deal with them effectively so that they do not become demons that haunt me in my present.

Chinese medicine is well aware of this phenomena and the emotions are considered to be one of the causes of disease. Now, to clarify, HAVING emotions is not a cause of disease, but emotions that are suppressed, unexpressed or expressed in an inappropriate manner are seen to contribute to disease. So basically, emotional health is just as important as physical health, and so it should be. Patients are often surprised at how much attention I give to their emotional state as we talk in each session. And I tell them that it is a hugely important factor and that I need to be aware of how they are feeling so that I can better help them to rebalance and gain the equilibrium that will bring them back to health - body, mind, and spirit.

A Better Healer

I hope that because of all the experiences that I have had, and all the pain that I have been through, that those experiences have made me a better version of myself. A wiser, more compassionate self. And I also think that my struggles with pain, grief, anger, loss and my journeys into the darkness have given me the ability to recognize those struggles in others. I know that darkness, I have spent a lot of time there. I know that place and I can empathize with you if you are there too.

It is rarely the thing that people say they are coming in to see me for that is the thing that needs the most attention. And, because I have been there, in that dark place where you feel like you are hurting and all alone, that I can see that person, take their hand, and hopefully, lead them back into the light. Which is, after all, where we all want to be.

This beautiful quote by Ram Dass is one that has always really hit home for me, in my life and in my work. <3


Biophilia: Ways to Connect With Nature in Your Daily Life and Watch Your Spirituality Grow

Contribution from freelance writer Sally Perkins

We are a species of biophiliacs. In 1984 an American biologist called Edward Wilson published a book on man’s innate love of nature: biophilia. Wilson’s hypothesis is that human beings have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. This means that connecting with nature will improve your physical, mental and spiritual health. Since Wilson’s thesis, a hoard of science to back it up has been published including this 2015 study from Nature, showing a strong link between health and green spaces in cities.

Of course this only confirms what practitioners of Chinese medicine have known for centuries: the universe and the human being are interconnected. But these days many of us live in cities, doing technology focused jobs that keep us inside all day. Here are some ways to connect with nature and reap the spiritual benefits.

Understanding the link between spirituality and nature

The first step is to understand and accept that nature and spirituality are inevitably interconnected and both are necessary for your happiness. New research has found that spirituality leads to better mental health across the course of an individual’s lifetime. Spirituality is an intimate connection between our inner selves and the outer world. Thus while spirituality is related to your inner being, your place in nature and the world is equally important.

One you accept the importance of nature to your spiritual growth, you will find yourself drawn to natural spaces without expending much effort and the next steps will come naturally, integrating nature into your life.

Travel

The most obvious way to connect to nature is to travel to a natural space. When we think of ‘travel,’ exciting journeys to exotic places come to mind . These kind of trips can also be hugely beneficial but you don’t have to cross the earth to connect with nature. A day trip to a forest or a hill an hour outside your city will do. This works better if you can turn off your digital devices for your trip and really allow yourself to be in the moment. Done right, you will come back to your daily life spiritually refreshed.

Find natural spaces in your city

Of course, in our hectic life, opportunities to take a day trip may be few and far in between. Never fear, nature doesn’t stop at town borders. Search for parks, gardens and rivers in your area. Even fifteen minutes in a small park during your lunch break can make you feel more spiritually centered and ready to face your afternoon.

Bring nature into your space

For the days where even getting to a park sounds too much, make sure you have a little bit of nature in your home. The benefits of houseplants are numerous and well documented, including cleaning the air, helping you breathe and work better.

Even for urban dwellers, there are many opportunities to connect with nature and indulge your inner biophiliac. Integrate nature into your daily life and watch your spirituality develop and your happiness grow.

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

The beautiful featured image photo by Beata Ratuszniak on Unsplash


Cancer and Chinese Medicine - Part 2

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Nutrition - The Biggest Weapon Against Cancer

It is always amazing to me that patients receiving conventional treatments for cancer (chemotherapy and radiation) are given little to no information about what to eat. I know because I always ask if there was any nutritional counseling that went with the other therapies and more often than not, the answer is no. This shows an alarming lack of understanding about how important what we eat is to our health, and especially in the case of cancer.

I think that the correlation between what we eat and our overall health is understood by many industries, and certainly by many informed people, but the cancer industry (and I say that because it has turned into an industry), seems to be decades behind. Now, without getting into why that might be (which would be a whole other article), let's just say that there is a tonne of evidence to suggest that our food can both give us cancer and help keep us healthy so that we never get cancer. Food is also a powerful weapon in detoxing the body and healing from a cancer that already exists.

Foods to Avoid

Sugar

In my opinion, the number one thing to know concerning diet and cancer is to stop eating sugar. Completely. It is literally the food that cancer eats. The tests that Western medicine uses to find and diagnose cancer in the body, called PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and CT (Computed Tomography) scans, actually inject glucose - a type of sugar - and watch the cancer gravitate to it because sugar is what cancer eats. Eliminating sugar from your diet is the most important thing to do if you are either struggling with cancer, or having health issues in general. Sugar is a poison to the body, and most people in the developed world eat far too much of it. Now, let me be clear, I am talking about refined sugar which is in a huge amount of our foods, especially processed foods. There are naturally occurring sugars in things like fruits, and although we need some of these, it is a good idea to cut back when you are trying to heal from cancer. Refined foods of all types should be avoided whenever possible, and refined sugar is the worst of all.

Chemicals

We also have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of chemicals used in our foods, many of which are untested on human beings and cause harm to not only us, but pollute the earth we live on, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Our food becomes more and more processed all the time with the addition of these dangerous chemicals, and our bodies are not designed to deal with them. There are also the dizzying amounts of chemicals in other products that we use in our homes, like makeup and personal care products, soaps and detergents, cleaning products, gardening products, etc.. not to mention toxic chemicals that are the byproducts of industries which are released into our soil, water and air.

It is a good idea BEFORE you get sick to have a look at how many of these chemicals you have in your home and are coming into contact with on a daily basis so that you can eliminate any that are not absolutely necessary. I would always recommend eating fresh, local, organic food (more about that below), using completely natural beauty and personal care products free of toxic ingredients, make sure the water you are drinking is as clean as possible and limit any environmental toxins that you can. All these toxins combine to place a huge burden on our immune systems which we need to be at full strength to keep us disease free.

Eat Real Food

Because of the philosophy of living as harmoniously with nature as possible, this obviously bleeds into the foods we consume as well. I believe that many of our current health problems as a society are due to the UN-natural nature of the foods that we eat. Small farms are disappearing and being replaced by large-scale factory farms, our soil is depleted of essential vitamins and nutrients, and men in hazmat suits spray toxic herbicides and fungicides on the foods we are supposed to confidently feed our families. It is becoming increasingly difficult to even understand food labels, and corporations spend billions of dollars to keep what is actually IN our foods off the labels, which is certainly a worrying trend and not designed to make us feel confident about what is being put into our food.

My solution is to keep it simple. Eat as few processed foods as possible (this means anything in a box or can that has been altered from its natural state), eat as many fresh, local and organic foods as possible. Keep your diet mostly plant-based, especially if you have cancer. If possible, grow as much of your food as you can in a backyard or front yard garden. Vertical gardens are awesome for this! If you have limited space or live in an apartment, make friends with a local farmer, or frequent a farmers market. Also, take time to lovingly prepare meals for you and your family. Energetically, this is important too. Be mindful and thankful to the food you are eating for sharing its life force with you. Being grateful is also a powerful tool and beneficial to your health and the way you feel.

Acid & Alkaline Foods

Disease thrives in an acidic environment and cancer is no exception. As a culture, we eat a disproportionate amount of acidic foods (as you will probably see the list below) and precious few alkaline ones. Use the information below as a guide and a good way to begin is to slowly start replacing acidic foods with alkaline ones. It may seem hard at first (because who doesn't love a burger every once in a while?), but you will soon notice how much better you will feel, as that you will no longer have the cravings for the fatty, sugary foods that are so acid forming once they have been out of your system for a while. I promise you will definitely feel a difference!

Acidic Foods

**Note - there are different ways to measure the acidity and alkalinity of foods, but this one - from Energise for Life - makes the distinction of measuring a foods acidity and alkalinity AFTER it has been ingested - therefore, how it is affecting your body. If you would like to have a copy of a good few charts detailing acid and alkaline foods, you can find them here - Energise For Life.

Below is a list of acidic foods. If dealing with cancer, cut out as many of these as possible (I would recommend ALL) and introduce alkaline foods as an alternative. Remember, cancer thrives in an acidic environment.

Acidic Foods

Look yummy? *sigh*, I know. But these foods are highly acidic. Try eating some cucumber instead!

MEAT

  • Bacon
  • Beef
  • Clams
  • Corned Beef
  • Eggs
  • Lamb
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Organ Meats
  • Venison
  • Fish
  • Oyster
  • Pork
  • Rabbit
  • Sausage
  • Scallops
  • Shellfish
  • Shrimp
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Veal

DAIRY & EGGS

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Whey
  • Yogurt
  • Nuts & Seeds!
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Oils!
  • Cooked Oil
  • Solid Oil (Margarine)
  • Oil Exposed to Heat,
  • Light or Air
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Ice Cream
  • Sour Cream
  • Soy Cheese
  • Eggs

FRUIT

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Currants
  • Dates
  • Grapes
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tropical Fruits
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Orange
  • Pineapple
  • Plum

NUTS & SEEDS

  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts

DRINKS

  • Alcohol
  • Black Tea
  • Coffee
  • Carbonated Water
  • Pasteurized Juice
  • Cocoa
  • Energy Drinks
  • Sports Drinks
  • Colas
  • Tap Water
  • Milk
  • Green Tea
  • Decaffeinated Drinks
  • Flavoured Water

SWEETENERS

  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Carob
  • Corn Syrup
  • Fructose
  • Processed Sugar
  • Saccharine
  • Sucrose
  • Sucralose
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup

OILS

  • Cooked Oil
  • Solid Oil (Margarine)
  • Oil Exposed to Heat,
  • Light or Air

SAUCES

  • Mayonnaise
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Soy Sauce
  • Pickles
  • Vinegar
  • Tabasco
  • Tamari
  • Wasabi

OTHER

  • Mushrooms
  • Miso
  • White Breads, Pastas,
  • Rice & Noodles
  • Chocolate
  • Chips
  • Pizza
  • Biscuits
  • Cigarettes
  • Drugs
  • Candy

Alkaline Foods

Some super yummy alkaline foods. They look fresh, cleansing and delicious, don't they? ;)

VEGETABLES

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Chilli
  • Capsicum/Pepper
  • Courgette/Zucchini
  • Dandelion
  • Snow Peas
  • Green Beans
  • String Beans
  • Runner Beans
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Wakame
  • Kelp
  • Collards
  • Chives
  • Endive
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Potato
  • Coriander
  • Basil
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrot
  • Beetroot
  • Eggplant/Aubergine
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Watercress
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Broad Beans
  • New Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Radish

FRUIT

  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Lemon
  • Grapefruit
  • Fresh Coconut

GRAINS & BEANS

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Brown Rice
  • Chia/Salba
  • Kamut
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Nuts & Seeds!
  • Almonds
  • Coconut
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Oils!
  • Avocado Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Udo’s Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Lentils
  • Lima Beans
  • Mung Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Red Beans
  • Soy Beans
  • White Beans

GRASSES

  • Wheatgrass
  • Barley Grass
  • Kamut Grass
  • Dog Grass
  • Shave Grass
  • Oat Grass

NUTS & SEEDS

  • Almonds
  • Coconut
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds

OILS

  • Avocado Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Udo’s Oil
  • Olive Oil

BREADS

  • Sprouted Bread
  • Sprouted Wraps
  • Gluten/Yeast Free
  • Breads & Wraps

SPROUTS

  • Soy Sprouts
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Amaranth Sprouts
  • Broccoli Sprouts
  • Fenugreek Sprouts
  • Kamut Sprouts
  • Mung Bean Sprouts
  • Qionoa Sprouts
  • Radish Sprouts
  • Spelt Sprouts

This comprehensive list of acid and alkaline foods came from a great chart I found from energiseforlife.com There is an 8 page PDF that you may download with more information which can be found here - Acid & Alkaline Food Information.

Water

Water is also something that I don't think people think about enough in terms of health. I think there is a misconception that if we are drinking bottled water and not water out of the tap that we are somehow safe from many pollutants that may be in our waterways and make their way into water processing plants. Unfortunately, this has been shown not to be true, and many bottled waters' are just as unhealthy as drinking straight out of the tap. If you must drink tap water, find out from your local city or town, what they are adding to it. Is there flouride in it? What levels of certain contaminants are acceptable as far as they are concerned? Do some research. If you have a water filtration system, again, do your research and get one that filters out as many undesirable chemicals as possible. Water is incredibly important for our health and it is worth the effort to be drinking the healthiest and cleanest water possible. The good news is, that there are many good water filtration systems out there that will allow you to enjoy clean, healthy water which is essential for a strong, healthy body.

Emotions

Expressing emotions freely is just as important to our health as a strong, flexible body.

I really feel that the emotions do not get enough attention or recognition for the role they play in our health. This is another area that seems often entirely left out of the diagnostic as well as the healing process in Western medicine. In Chinese medicine, the emotions are just as important as what is physically happening in our bodies. The two are inseparable and when someone is going through the intake process with a doctor of Chinese medicine, there are a lot of questions inquiring about a person's emotional life. You may be wondering how much of a role the emotions can play in a disease as devastating as cancer. My answer is - a HUGE one.

In my experience with my own cancer patients, the emotions are often where it starts. Complex and serious diseases often begin with extremely stressful, difficult, and emotionally devastating events that the body is simply not able to cope with. Preceding almost every case of serious disease I have treated, there was either one or a series of extremely stressful/emotional or difficult events that the patient had to contend with. I have made this observation over and over again. The body can handle a lot, but it has its limits, and the way we live along with the pressures and stresses we are under often are too much for our bodies and psyches to bear which can result in disease and illness.

In terms of how this relates to the emotions I want to be clear, it is not HAVING emotions that can make us sick, in Chinese medicine, it is how we deal with our emotions that is the key. In modern culture, at least in North America, we are not taught what I like to call "emotional intelligence". We spend decades in school learning how to live in this world, but I find that so many of the most important things that we need to be healthy and happy in our lives are missing. How to express our emotions in a healthy way is one of them. This expression is important not only to our health but to our happiness and well-being as well. So often our emotions can come out in hurtful or destructive ways to ourselves or the people around us, or worse, they are held in where they fester and eventually turn into disease. So, find healthy ways to express the emotions you are having. Write, talk to a friend, acknowledge them, process them in a healthy way and let them go. They are taking up precious space, that, once they are dealt with and let go, can be replaced with lovely things like love and light, happiness and feelings of joy and gratitude.

Managing Stress

Stress is something we hear about a lot and I believe is also a huge factor is our health and well-being. Stress is something I ask every single patient about both in our initial consultation, and at almost every visit. I give it a one to ten scale and ask patients to rate where their stress is in relation to that scale. Most people are at the top end, and many have become resigned to living there. Stress is difficult to avoid, but what we do have control over is how we deal with it. Managing the stress we are feeling is the key, not eliminating it altogether. I am not even sure if that is possible considering the world we live in. I have seen patients doing everything right - eating the right foods, exercising, sleeping enough, really taking care of themselves and still they get sick. Those cases very often lead back to stress. You can't work hard to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle but be in an unhealthy relationship that is driving you crazy or going to a job that you hate every day and still expect to be the picture of health. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work like that. In Chinese medicine, as in life, it is all about balance.

One of my keys to managing stress is meditating. Now the thought of meditating can be intimidating for some people and I understand that. This doesn't mean having to give up all your worldly possessions, shaving your head and going to live in a cave in the Himalayas. That is totally cool if that is how you want to do it, but what I am talking about for the rest of us is just taking some time for yourself every day to sit quietly and try to empty your thoughts. In our hectic, modern lives, we hardly ever get a chance to do this. Stop. Listen. Relax. Breathe deeply. Meditating is like a gift you give yourself. It benefits your brain, your nervous system, your heart and your psyche. Think of it as preventative medicine. I think we all need to start thinking about medicine and health differently and Chinese medicine can teach us how to do it. Do small things every day. Tend your garden (the body and spirit), and disease will never develop. Disease cannot thrive in a healthy garden.

If you would like to read about a bit of a hardcore immersion into meditation (and the amazing benefits that it yielded) you can read about my two intense Vipassana meditation retreat experiences. They are not quite the shaving your head and disappearing into the Himalayas, but they were definitely the most intense meditation experiences I have ever had. They were also the most edifying and positively life-changing experiences of my life.

 


Happy Fun Qi Gong - Part 3

**This article originally appeared as "Happy Fun Qigong."Qi JournalVol. 25, No 3, Autumn 2015.**

By John Voigt

Laughter.

Learn to laugh deep inside, feel that the laughter is vibrating tremendously inside you. When you do this, the blood, the chi [qi], the energy are all moving. So the stagnant chi is gone, and the most important pump, the heart, can work with less effort. Mantak Chia. Wisdom Chi Kung. Destiny Books, 2008. pg. 64.

 

With a big smile and without saying what you are about to do, go up to people in the group and slowly and softly start making “Ha” sounds. When someone joins in, show your approval with grinning nods and thumbs up gestures. Wave your hands inviting others to join in. When you have as many folks conscripted into this as you practically can get, increase the tempo and volume. Once they catch on they have been tricked into laughing, they will laugh even harder. After a minute or so of this stealth hilarity, signal them to stop. Some should still be giggling or at least smiling. Most of them should be feeling good all over. Now you may want to give a mini-lecture along these lines: “As an old great qigong master of the past said, Laughter is not only the best medicine, sometimes it can be the best qigong. [Note to reader: actually I made that one up, but I like the way it sounds and anyway it isn’t totally wrong.] I continue with, “Much of the so-called “civilized” world that surrounds us is just plain nutty, and has the ability to creep behind our eyes into our minds with its worries, fears and negative judgments—and that can mess us up. Laughter helps prevent that from happening.”

this joyous image from thegospelcoalition.org

 

Five Organ Laughter for Emotional Wellbeing.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there are five major organs, but these organs are not exactly like the body organs of western medicine. Rather than being like something seen in a display case at a butcher shop, the Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung, and Kidney are interrelated profound energetic forces. That is why they are capitalized and not written as plurals. Even though understood as being in part physical, in traditional Chinese thought these organs are more like active verbs than stationary nouns. The way they function is the basis for all life, including physical and mental health or sick- ness. For our purposes sending laughter into any organ enhances its well-being.

 

Have the group begin with some deep belly laughs. A minute or so is enough. This should bring qi into the dan tian located in the center of the lower abdomen; this is the place where qi is gathered and stored for future use. Carefully monitor the group so that no one laughs too hard. At times you may need to lower the volume to a quiet or medium laughter so no one hurts themselves. Finish with a clockwise rub- bing of the lower belly. Cats and dogs like their dan tians rubbed this why. Why shouldn’t we?

 

Next laugh gently into each of the organs in the order given below. Silent laughter and even humming into the chosen organ seems to help break up negative emotions. Simply smiling into an organ might even produce good results, as long as a full but comfortable abdominal breathing is maintained throughout this gymnastic.

Liver (on the central right side of the torso).

When the qi flow is harmonious in the Liver a person feels empowered. When the flow is disturbed a person may suffer from personal frustration and feelings of being too vulnerable. Laughing into the Liver can function as a way to change feelings of anger into a sense of relaxed self-assurance.

Heart.

The Chinese traditionally conceive the Heart as being the center of both mind and emotions. It is located in the upper center of the torso, in much the same place as the heart chakra, or the Middle Dantian. When the flow of Qi is disturbed or if there is an excess of qi in the Heart, a person may become mentally hyperactive, even hysterical. Laughing into the heart will not only increase the healthy circulation of blood in the arteries, veins, and capillaries, it is said to smooth out and reduce excessive emotions; and the over-thinking of what the Chinese call, “too many monkeys in the head.”

Spleen.

This organ is on the lower left side of the torso and governs digestion. In TCM it often includes the pancreas and stomach. (Mantak Chia tells his students the importance of owning an anatomy book and study at its pictures so you know where to look inside yourself when doing qigong). Disharmony here triggers worry. Harmony here helps create a state of clear calm mindfulness. Laughing aloud or silently into your lower left abdomen seems to drive away worrisome thoughts and replace them with feelings of clear happy confidence.

Lung. (upper torso).

It is given as a singular and not plural “lungs” because we are talking about one interrelated group of energetic

It is given as a singular and not plural “lungs” because we are talking about one interrelated group of energetic functions, and not simply a physical organ on both sides of the chest. Here disharmony, stagnation, and depletion of qi can create - or be created by - feelings of isolation, grief, and depression. (It’s the same in all the organs: the emotion effects the qi and the qi effects the emotion.) The Chinese saw that when a person was in a state of intense grief and or depression they would seem to stop breathing, and often bend over so much that they could hardly breathe at all. If we understand the word “qi” can also mean “breath” it makes sense that laughing into the Lung can bring about feelings of courage and victory. I like using the image of the Tarot card The Chariot, as a visual metaphor of this positive state of being, with the breastplate of the Charioteer signifying the ribs of the chest.

Kidney.

As mentioned above, the Kidney is a singular term in Chinese traditional thought. When a person is very frightened they may “pee themselves.” Therefore the Chinese posited that the Kidney relates to the energy element Water, and when the qi is not right in the Kidney the bad emotion most likely to appear is fear. To create harmony in the Kidney, access it by laughing into both sides of the lower back, and into both sides of the lower front of the body just below the belly. Breathe in, and with short staccato repeating exhalations, laugh into the Kidney. As with all Happy Fun practices be relaxed and don’t force anything. A minute or so of this inner laughter can help in dissolving the emotions of fear into feelings of joyful personal power.

If the group would be comfortable with it, here is a way to close the Laughter gymnastics. It comes from http://www.laughteronlineuni- versity.com/150-laughter-exercises/64. Heart to Heart Laughter: (Intimacy Laughter) Hug each other and laugh by feeling the vibrations in each others’ bodies; alternatively, you can hold hands and laugh. The participants come closer and hold each other's hands and laugh with compassionate eye contact. One can shake hands and hug each other while laughing if convenient.

Ending The Happy Fun Qigong Session.

1. Total Body Shaking, Twitching and Wiggling.

This is a quick gymnastic to cleanse and refresh the organs and meridians. It should be done quickly and loosely. It should feel good and be fun to do. We start twitching, shaking and wiggling the toes, then the feet, and continuing these nervous wiggle twitching movements in the feet, we move it up the legs, waist, body, head, and still continuing this wiggle twitching in all those places, we move it into the shoulders and down the arms and into the fingers. Now your entire body, legs, arms, and head should be twitching and wiggling like a rag doll in a wind storm. Now reverse the process. As quickly as you can, stop the wiggling in the fingers, then stop it in the lower arms, upper arms, shoulders. Then stop in the head, upper body, lower body, hips, upper legs, lower legs, feet, finally the toes. End by taking a deep breath and carefully jumping up and coming down with a shouted “HA!” Next, pretend you are a collie dog coming out of the ocean after a swim and shake the water off your fur.

2. Flicking the Schmutz Off.

Next, we do some outer gymnastics I have often seen people doing early in the morning in parks around the country. It is a way to get rid of any remaining xié qì! meaning “bad qi.” (For any Mandarin purists out there it is pronounced shay chee. The arrows indicate pitch direction of the words.) Schmutz is a German word, and the similar“ shmuts” is Yiddish; both mean “nasty, filthy, yucky, or xié qì.

The Gymnastic. Bring your hands up and out to your sides and as if they were covered with dirty dish water shake and flick the schmutz off - especially from the fingers. I instruct those in my groups to do it this way. Shake off the bad stuff. Wipe it off yourself, wipe your arms, hands, legs and toss it on the ground. Don’t worry about ecology, this stuff goes right down into the earth like compost.

3. Kicking the Schmutz Off.

Next, I lead the group in kicking their feet forward as if we were getting rid of dog poop on our shoes. Then we kick the heels back. Then we kick the feet out sideways. Having the group move about kicking this way is a lot of fun. It gives me a chance to yell out, “Don’t kick that stuff on me!” to really enhance the experience, (and I seriously don’t want that stuff on me anyway.)

This all may seem silly, but nevertheless, it is a valid Chinese technique to get rid of xié qì. If you are doing this gymnastic outdoors and there is sidewalk close by, go to it and wipe the bottoms of your shoes on the curb, the area between the sidewalk and the road. We don’t want to be tracking any bad qi into the house, now do we?

4. Close the session.

You can close the session with any standard smoothing and centering the qi exercises that you might normally perform.

Disclaimer.

Happy Fun Qigong is practiced to gain feelings of health and well-being. It is not meant to be a substitute for medical treatment for physical or psychological illnesses. Consult your doctor or an appropriate medical professional before beginning this or any other exercise regimen. Otherwise, Fun Happy Qigong is not suitable for people who have physical or mental health problems. This is even more so for anyone who may suffer from uncontrolled high blood pressure, heart disease, metastasized cancer, epilepsy, hernia, serious backaches, or psychiatric disorders. If discomfort or pain is felt when doing this or similar exercises consult a doctor immediately. The author and the publisher disclaim any liability or loss, personal or otherwise, resulting from any of the procedures and information presented in this article.

Concluding Comments.

Even though I used the word “visualization” in this article, I really do not like the term; it puts too much of a distance between the individual and what she or he is imagining. “Visualization” carries the idea of internally seeing something, and not actually being it or doing it. As in: You are here. It is there. You are watching it. It is being watched.

Instead of “visualizing” I prefer the terms “active imagination” or even better “inner-imaging.” But most people do not know what they mean. I want the practitioner to internally create an imaginative reality and then actively merge with and become it. However, this is advanced inner-energy work and therefore best studied with an advanced master. I am not saying don’t do it by yourself. What I am saying is that it is mandatory you are able to leave this “inner imaging” state whenever you wish and return to a more normal everyday reality. Otherwise, it could begin to resemble insanity. After all, you are not really Tarzan, Jane, or the ape.

In summary, Happy Fun Qigong uses inner-imagining yourself to become some or all of these formidable characters: Franz Liszt, a hula dancer, LeBron James, Tarzan (or Jane), a tiger, phoenix, peacock, a car lube air dancer. In this qigong you talk and listen to your smiley heart, laugh into your organs, shake twitch wiggle and jump, then flick and kick off the schumtz.

After all that I hope we all return to our everyday lives happier, healthier, and full of radiant healthy qi. BTW: Feel free to keep Tarzan and any of the other creatures alive inside yourself and ready to bring out of hiding and use whenever you wish - as long as you can put them back whenever you want to.

Endnotes

  1. If you are going to send qi-energy to anyone first always ask and get their permission; not to ask is impolite, improper, and invasive. The same with touching anyone to correct a posture or to show them an acupressure point: always first ask permission.
  2. Wiggling Fingers A personal note. This practice has helped me heal, or at least eliminate, the pain of arthritis in my fingers. Some of the joints are still gnarled, but now I can move my fingers easily.
  3. See “T-cell Modulation Group” at http://www.tcells.org/beginners/tcells/.
  4. “Five Animals.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Animals.
  5. “Phoenix (mythology)” [at] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_(mythology).
  6. “Fenghuang” [at] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenghuang.
  7. The “Phoenix Spreads its Wings” gymnastic presented in this article is a simplification of number 15 of the second set of Taijiqigong- Shibashi created by Lin Houshung, See “Lin Housheng’s Qigong” [at] http://www.lin-housheng.com/products.php.
  8. After these techniques are learned there is the potential of adding to them other Asian healing modalities such as using mantras, hand mudras, qigong gestures, ritual movements, affirmations and tuina massage. And adding some love into all this increases its effectiveness. Only the safety and security of the group and the presenter limit what may be done. Nevertheless laughing into the organs creates a foundation for any such future work.

Gratitude. It's Good for Your Health.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I thought that in light of the events of the past few weeks that I would write about gratitude, and how it affects our health. I am not just talking about physical health, I am more talking about the health of your mind and spirit, which if course, directly affects your physical person.

The connection between how we feel and our health has been known about for a long time, certainly Chinese medicine puts great importance on the mental and emotional state of the patient and takes all aspects into account when evaluating overall health. Science now, has proven for example, that people with a positive outlook are generally healthier and get sick less often than people who tend to see things more negatively. Chinese medicine takes this a step further and partners specific emotions with their associated organs; sadness affects the lungs, anger the liver, fear the kidneys and worry the spleen, to name a few. This may sound strange, but I have seen it over and over again in practice, the connections are quite real.

Quantum physics now has postulated that reality can actually be changed by the observer ( see this double slit experiment which explains how) which just tells us what many of the Eastern philosophies have known for centuries, that we are creating our reality all the time. Buddhists spend a lifetime gaining mastery over their minds, because they believe that it is one of the elements that lead to great suffering for human beings. If we are creating the reality in which we live, it gives us all tremendous power to decide what that reality might be.

Gratitude is Good for Your Health : Chinese Medicine Living

The events of the past few weeks have been seriously bumming me out. There is the US election (which is bringing out the worst in a lot of people, and sparking such anger in so many), the mass shootings that seem to be happening on an almost daily basis, and the tensions between the black community and the police. Everyone seems on edge, scared, but most of all, angry. And as Chinese medicine dictates, people need an outlet for all those feelings or they can make you sick, and that seems to be what is happening.

One thing that I have found in my own life, is that in the past, when I was going through something difficult and feeling frustrated or sad about it, when I made a decision to change my attitude (which isn't easy, especially when you are in the dumps), I noticed that how I felt improved immeasurably. It may have taken some time for my situation to improve, but it inevitably did, and feeling good, hopeful, grateful, loving, made my reality a much lovelier place to be until that happened.

The biggest one for me is gratitude. This one is huge and has an enormous impact on how you feel, and what will come into your life if you are feeling it passionately. No matter what may be happening in your life, there are always things you can be grateful for. I have a ritual that I do every morning when I wake up. I go through all the things that I am grateful for (there are so many!) which floods me with good feelings and that sets the intention for the rest of the day. It is a lovely practice and I find it keeps me in a positive state of mind no matter what my day might throw at me.

There is another reason that I think that gratitude is so important. One of the most surprising, and the most profound things that I have learned in almost eleven years of being an acupuncturist is how many hard things people are dealing with on a daily basis. I have been so humbled by the things that my patients have shared with me about their struggles, their fears and their experiences in this life. I found that it made me a more compassionate, more patient, and more loving towards my fellow human being. It also, and this happened pretty early on, gave me an appreciation for how powerful gratitude can be. Every day on my way home from work I would think about those stories and remind myself of all I had to be grateful for, and, no matter what is happening in your life, you have a lot to be grateful for too. We are all alive, living on this beautiful planet and having this wonderful experience called life. It isn't always easy, but a little gratitude makes the journey one that is definitely worth taking.

Check out this fancy chart that lists the many health benefits of gratitude. Thank you to Megan Wilson and fix.com for sharing it. :)

The Health Benefits of Gratitude
Source: Fix.com Blog

Tips to Maintain Successful Gratitude Journal
Source: Fix.com Blog

30 Day Gratitude Challenge
Source: Fix.com Blog


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

This image from psychologies.co.uk

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

This lovely image from penmastersonline.wordpress.com

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