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. 

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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. 

 


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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.


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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

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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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Why You Need Your Intuition

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I am presently reading a book about people who healed themselves of cancer either without conventional Western medical treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, or after their doctors and oncologists had sent them home to die. It was written by a researcher, lecturer and consultant in the field of integrative oncology.

The book was given to me by my patient, who is at the moment healing from pancreatic cancer. The book was one of the main reasons that he sought out what some people call "alternative medical treatments" but what I simply call medicine. These included reiki, acupuncture, Chinese herbs and massage therapy. He was using these treatments in conjunction with chemotherapy, both to combat the side effects and build his immune system while receiving chemo, as well as to build up his body and regain health after the chemo was finished. I am happy to say that he is doing extremely well and that his tumour markers are back to normal levels.

So far the book details many of the common threads that are shared between all the people who managed to heal their cancers without conventional treatment (or after conventional treatment failed), and one of them is intuition. This was surprising to the author as intuition is not something that can be understood in scientific terms, but when she started seeing that cases of what they sometimes call "spontaneous remission" occur, she thought that someone should investigate and see if there was anything that could be learned from the many people who had had this experience.

Acupuncturist. Mug : Chinese Medicine LivingThe Acupuncture Kit : Chinese Medicine LivingChinese Herbal Medicine Cabinet - Basket : Chinese Medicine Living

I believe that many of us have lost our connection to our instincts. We have lost connections with so many things that used to be vital to our survival. The planet. Nature. The weather. Our bodies. Each other. And our intuition. Our intuition used to serve us in many ways. Our ancestors living in hunter gatherer societies (the societies we all lived in before the development of agriculture) relied on their instincts in many ways. Sensing a storm was coming and when to seek shelter, what foods were safe and which were unsafe to eat, and sensing that a predator was near were all ways our instincts kept us alive. We have insulated ourselves from our natural way of living in many ways so that the senses that evolved to serve us are now no longer being used and, like an old car that never gets driven, have fallen into disrepair. Intuition is like a muscle that you need to exercise, and many of our intuitive abilities have gotten flabby.

intuition can save your life

The Role Of Intuition In Healing

Intuition is one of nine things that the people healing themselves of cancer had in common. There were nine things that came up again and again in these cases, although, as she states, it often goes against the Western medical way of treating disease, it was one of the things that contributed to people actually getting better. Curing cancer, and that is something many Western doctors cannot believe happens without treatment, managed to happen over and over again, often without the use of chemotherapy and radiation. It seems that there are many things at work, and that perhaps we don't completely understand them all and there is always more to learn.

One problem with conventional treatments for any disease is that they often remove the patient completely from the treatment and healing process; the doctors are making the diagnosis and recommending the appropriate treatment. Many ancient traditions know and believe (like Ayurveda - the healing tradition of India, and traditional Chinese medicine) that the intuition is a vital part of the healing process. This is taken into account and a relevant part of the treatment plan and subsequent healing of the patient.

Intuition And The Brain

intuition and the brain

Humans have two very different ways in which they process information and make decisions. The first is the quick, instinctual and often subconscious way in which we process things. That is controlled by the right side of the brain in some of the very oldest parts of the brain called the limbic system, also called the reptilian brain. The other way in which we process information is the slower, more analytical and very conscious way, which is part of the left hemisphere of the brain in a part that has only evolved relatively recently called the neocortex. Intuition is part of the first way. It is quick, and often doesn't make sense to us, as it is operating at a level below our conscious mind, but it has evolved over a very long time and is the part that kept us alive throughout human history. It is part of the reason we are all still here today.

Some interesting studies have revealed that over a hundred million neurons - the type of cells found in the brain - exist in the GI tract. This explains why people often say that they have a "gut feeling' about something. Your gut literally is your second brain. Another fascinating discovery is that the human digestive tract is able to operate separately and independently from the brain, meaning that it can make decisions without any input from the brain at all. What this means is that there is now a scientific explanation for why many people have a very strong "gut reaction" to things. There are many, many things that ancient cultures have known for thousands of years, but science is just now able to prove their existence scientifically.

There are also many scientific studies to show that the intuition knows the right answer to things, long before our conscious minds do. Some studies even suggest that the intuition can allow people to predict the future, even if it is only by a few seconds. Another study shows that people using their intuition to make major life decisions, such as who to marry, where to live or if they should take a certain job are 60% happier with their decisions, compared to people who had a lot of time to pour over all the information and think through their decisions.  Their satisfaction with their ultimate decision was only 25%. Food for thought.

The Ways Intuition Can Manifest

developing your intuition

There are many different ways in which your intuition will communicate with you, and it will be different for everybody. Some people hear a voice that tells them very clearly when to do or not do something. Others have feelings, such as "gut feelings" that tell them if a decision is right or wrong for them, others say their intuition comes to them in circumstances, such as speaking to a friend who tells them exactly what they need to hear or for others it is serendipitous "coincidences" that help them choose the right path. Another way that intuition can communicate with us is through dreams. Many people communicate with different parts of their subconscious through dreams, and this is a common way to get the information you need for whatever situation you are contemplating.

I have to say that reading through the chapter on intuition in my book was wonderful because of all the documented cases of remission from cancer because people listened to their intuition (even when other people thought it was a crazy idea), but none of it was SURPRISING. When it comes to things like that, the author was essentially preaching to the proverbial choir. But, it did yield two other very excellent results. One was that this researcher, someone who had never even considered that intuition had a role in healing now KNOWS that it does. I am always so elated when people who have come up through the annals of science are open to things that perhaps do not fit within the confines of their chosen profession or world view. And the other thing is that my patient had his world broken open. These concepts, as he told me, had never occurred to him before. The contents of the entire book were a departure for him, and reading it was both a profound experience and gave him something that Western medicine couldn't, HOPE that he could get better. And there is nothing in the world more healing than that.

 

why you need intuition

* Lead image from The Emotion Machine
* Brain image from Conscious Life News
* Eye image from Reality Pod


Grief. A Chinese Medicine Perspective

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I have been dealing with a lot of grief lately. This is usually the way it goes. A patient comes in who is suffering from loss. Perhaps it is the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a pet or the death of a loved one. There is nothing more devastating to us than loss. It hurts the heart and leaves us with an emptiness that is difficult to fill. It is something that everyone on the planet will have to deal with many times in their lives, so I thought that I would talk about some of the ways that it can be made a little easier, less painful, and with minimal suffering in the context of Chinese Medicine.

I find that I tend to treat conditions in waves. It is common for a patient to seek out treatment for say, anxiety, and then you find that for the next little while, there is a constant stream of anxious patients coming to see you. You can speculate as to what the reasons for this are, and I suspect that might be the subject of another article, but for now let's just say that in my experience, this is how it happens. And lately, many patients have been suffering from grief. Overwhelmingly.

Who doesn’t have to deal with grief at some time or another? Grief is a natural, healthy emotion and is an important part of being human. Unpleasant as it may be to feel, it is important that we feel it, make our peace with it, and let it go. I am not talking about letting go of the memory of the pet, the person you are no longer with, or the loved one who has passed away. Those are memories you will have forever. It is the grief itself that must be expressed so that it can be let go. This is healthy.

So, how do we measure grief? How do we know what we are experiencing is not “normal” and that we may need help in letting it go? It is true that you cannot listen to grief with a stethoscope, or measure it with a blood test. How it is experienced is highly individualistic. The severity of the grief is not reflected in how it is seen from the outside, it is measured by how it is felt by the individual, or experienced from the inside. The breakup of a relationship may to one person be sad but manageable, but to another may cause the fabric of their life to unravel. The loss of a pet to one person may be unpleasant, and devastating to another. The severity of the loss is measured in how it is FELT, not by some external metric, comparing situations with levels of grief.

Chinese medicine is concerned with grief that is repressed, unexpressed, (unable to be expressed), expressed without control or in the proper context. Emotions are only considered pathological when they are particularly intense, felt for prolonged periods, unacknowledged or unexpressed.

eye

So how do we express grief in a healthy way? This is what I would like to share with you. And to do so, we will have to look briefly at the way Chinese medicine sees the body, the emotions and their connection to our health.

The Chinese Approach To Health - A Holistic System

Chinese medicine has a holistic view of the body. Everything is seen to exist within the continuous circle of nature. When the elements of nature are in balance, life is in harmony and flourishes. Humanity cannot be separated from nature, we are nature, manifest as people. Living in harmony with the world around us is the way to maintain health. If one were to live out of balance with nature, illness would develop.

Another vital aspect of the TCM model is the psychological aspect of our beings. What we feel has a huge impact on our physical bodies, thus, emotional wellness is an important aspect of our health. In the West, I believe this connection is just recently being acknowledged and accepted, but the Chinese have known this for thousands of years. How could it not be a factor? Our bodies are the way we physically experience the world, but only one aspect of how we experience our existence. In TCM, every aspect on every level is important, and all must be considered when evaluating a person’s overall health.

Grief - The Emotion of the Lung

The Function of Lungs

Let us look at the lung, the relationship it has to specific mental states, diseases and our ability to maintain health.
Every organ in TCM is associated with an emotion. For example:
Liver = Anger
Spleen = Worry or Overthinking
Heart = Joy
Kidneys = Fear
Lungs = Sadness or Grief

The lungs are responsible for taking clean, oxygen-rich air into the body, and breathing out air full of harmful carbon dioxide. They are responsible for taking in the new and letting go of the old, the constant cycle of life.

Every Organ in TCM has a partner organ. One is yin, the other yang and they work together to keep the body in balance. The lungs are yin and their yang partner is the large intestine. The lungs take in the new, and the large intestine releases the waste. Many breathing and bowel disorders are rooted in excess grief and sadness and excessive grieving can lead to disorders of both the lungs and the large intestine. Therefore, our abilities to accept and be open to new experiences, and to let go of things that are painful or harmful is important to both our emotional and physical well being.

Overview of the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, every organ has a series of things associated with it. These are the clues to dealing with the organ when it is out of balance, either in excess or deficient. For example - when the lung is weak, eating pungent foods is beneficial. The best time to tonify the lung is in the autumn when its energy is at its peak, and the emotion of sadness affects the lungs more than any other organ.

Related Organs (Yin-Yang Partner): Large Intestine
Emotion - Grief / Sadness
Season - Fall / Autumn
Flavour - Pungent
Colour - White
Healing Sound - sssssssssss

In Chinese medicine, we don’t use words like “disease” or “illness”. These are Western terms. In TCM, we say the body is suffering from an imbalance, or a disharmony. In TCM, the emotions can be either the cause or the result of the imbalance. For example - asthma can be caused by prolonged sadness (the emotion of the lung), conversely, a person suffering from chronic asthma over many years may develop grief (the cause of the grief is the asthma). It is a circle of interaction.

From a seasonal perspective, autumn is the season of the lungs, so this is the season where it is most important to take care of this delicate organ so that we can avoid colds, flus and allergies. From an emotional standpoint, It is the season where we should become a little more introspective and concentrate on resolving or at least coming to terms with any underlying emotional issues and letting them go. This will allow us to make new space to bring positive emotions into our hearts and lives. Walks in nature, and breathing in the crisp, dry air will help immensely in this process.

The energy of the lungs is the lung "qi" (pronounced chee). Qi is best translated to “energy”. Lung qi is the energy by which the lung functions take place. If these aspects are functioning properly, then your lung qi is strong. The lungs have many functions in TCM. Here is what the lungs are responsible for...

breathe

Qi and Respiration

The lungs are the organ that take qi from the world and breathe it into the body. The lungs govern qi. Qi is the energy that is needed for all the body’s processes. It is like the gasoline that a car needs to function and go. The stronger the lungs, the more qi they are able to take in and distribute to the rest of the body, necessary for all its vital functions. The weaker the lungs, the less qi there will be, and an imbalance is created.

Skin, Body Hair & Sweat

The condition of the skin and body hair is a direct reflection of the strength of lung qi. This includes the sweat glands which are part of our ability to remove toxins and waste materials from our bodies, as well as protect us from the outside from things like pathogenic factors. The skin, body hair and sweat glands can be loosely translated as a part of our immune system. If your lung qi is weak, you are susceptible to colds and flus. If these colds and flus are not resolved quickly they get deep into the body and can turn into bronchitis and pneumonia. The lungs are particularly susceptible as they are one of the few organs that have a direct connection to the outside of the body.

Dominates Descending

The lungs are the boss of qi. They are located in the upper region of the body and are therefore responsible for making sure the qi descends into the lower part of the body and gets everywhere it needs to go. A chronic cough illustrates this function as a cough in TCM is energy ascending rather than descending due to weakness of the lungs energy.

Opens into the Nose

As anyone with allergies can tell you, we need our noses for breathing. The energy or qi of the lungs is needed for proper respiratory and olfactory function in the nose. When the lungs are strong, we will breathe easily and our sense of smell will be sharp. When lungs are deficient, we will be congested, have a runny nose and our sense of smell will be impaired.

The Emotional Aspect of the Lungs

The lungs are associated with clear thinking and communication, openness to new ideas, positive self-image, and the ability to relax, let go and be happy. When the lungs are out of balance or you are dealing with excessive grief, you will have difficulty coping with loss and change, a sense of alienation, and experience a prolonged sense of sadness that does not dissipate. The lungs are also associated with attachment, so if you have a hard time letting go of people, objects, experiences or spend a lot of time reliving the past, this can point to a deficiency of the lungs. If the energy (or qi) of the lungs is weak, you may experience an overwhelming, constant state of grief that does not ease. This deficiency, if prolonged, can lead to depression and other issues.

In contrast, grief that is expressed fully and resolved is strengthening both physically and psychologically. Therefore it is not avoiding grief, but rather dealing with it in a healthy way that is the key to being happy and maintaining balance in all aspects of life.

What Can I Do To Help With My Grief?

There are many things that you can do to help you through a difficult period of grief. One of the most important is to acknowledge how you are feeling. It is common for people to avoid feeling emotions that are overwhelming and/or unpleasant, but it is only in acknowledging our feelings that we may begin to deal with them and move on. Secondly, don’t judge. One of the most harmful things that we can do is to judge our own feelings. This is often worse than the emotion we are judging.

Here is an example:
I am feeling frustrated because I have been plagued by headaches lately. The pain makes working difficult and it is hard to concentrate or get anything done. When I think about my anger I instantly feel ashamed because my best friend is in the hospital dying of cancer. How can I be irritated by headaches when she is suffering so much more than I am?

You see, anger is the emotion and shame is the judgement. There is nothing wrong with being frustrated by having headaches. That is normal. But judging that emotion is not healthy and only makes you feel worse. It is also entirely self-imposed. I mention this because I have seen this so much in practice. I find that people are very hard on themselves, as there is a constant comparison to what other people are dealing with. So, my advice to you is this. Feel what you are feeling. Don’t judge it. It is good and valid. Try to step outside of it. Observe it, and let it pass. And be kind to yourself. I think we could all use a little more self-love too.

Below are some exercises specific to grief, some beneficial foods for the Lungs, and other recommendations to help deal with grief in a healthy way, and let it go so we can move onto better things.

breathing

Breathing Exercises - Releasing Grief

Because grief is associated with the lungs, the way to release it most effectively is through deep breathing exercises. By deep, I mean by breathing into the diaphragm and filling the lungs to capacity. Deep breathing is practised in meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong and many of the internal arts. Even more powerful is breathing with visualization which helps to cleanse, detoxify and release grief from the body. Below are some breathing exercises for releasing grief.

Breathing Exercise 1- Deep Breathing

Breathe in through your nose, and think of breathing in all the way to your belly, taking is as much air as possible. Once the lungs are completely full, hold the lungs full for a count of five. Once you have counted to five, exhale through your mouth from the very bottom of your Lungs until they are completely empty. Do this three times. This exercise should be done three times daily.

Breathing Exercise 2 - Healing Sounds

Find a comfortable place to sit with both feet flat on the ground. Place your hands in your lap, left over right. Mentally locate your lungs in your chest, and connect to them. The more clearly you are connected to them, the better and quicker the results.

Practice the breathing technique from above, filling your lungs (through your nose) to capacity. Do this a few times and really connect your awareness to your physical lungs in your chest. As you exhale, tilt your head back with teeth loosely clenched, tongue pressed gently to the roof of your mouth.

Exhale while making an ssssssssssssss sound. It is like the ‘s’ in snake. Repeat at least three times. Do as many times as you wish, but always in multiples of three. You are breathing out the toxicity and negative energy in your lungs. You are literally breathing out the grief and sadness.

The more you do this exercise, the more grief you release and the better you will feel.

love

Breathing Exercise 3 - Love and Light Technique

This technique uses two things along with deep breathing. Love and light. The colour associated with the lungs is white, so we will envision white light.

If your grief is the loss of a person or animal, imagine a happy time or funny situation you shared with them. This will cause you to smile and feel love. We will use this energy to heal the lungs. Use this technique after doing the healing sounds exercise.

Using the same breathing technique as the healing sounds, take this love energy after a deep breath (through the nose) and hold the breath while directing the love energy down into the lungs. Exhale through the mouth. Send the love energy down into the lungs as many times as possible, at least three times. Sense the love energy in your lungs.

Use the same breathing technique but now, when holding your breath, picture white light flooding your lungs and filling them to capacity. This is white, healing light. Exhale through the mouth. Repeat at least three times and repeat as many times as possible in multiples of three. Sense the white light healing your lungs.

noodle bowl

Beneficial Foods

Below is a list of foods that are beneficial for the lungs. Since these foods strengthen the lungs, eating them will give the lungs the energy they need to help you to move through your grief more quickly.
The flavour of the lung is pungent, so foods that are the most nourishing to the lungs are considered pungent in TCM.

~ Garlic
~ Sweet potato
~ Ginger
~ Onion
~ Cabbage
~ Pears
~ Walnuts
~ Black pepper
~ Radish
~ Rice
~ Chili
~ Cinnamon
~ Cardamom
~ Leek
~ Miso
~ Navy Beans
~ Soy Beans
~ Almonds
~ Asparagus
~ Broccoli
~ Cucumber
~ Celery
~ Mustard Greens
~ Apricot
~ Banana
~ Eggs

acutx

Get an Acupuncture Treatment

Once grief has taken up residence in your body and psyche it is doing damage that is important to have undone. Experiencing prolonged grief has a negative effect on every part of your being. The acupuncturist will help you to rebalance. When you are speaking with your acupuncturist, be honest. Tell them how you are feeling. That you have experienced a loss and are feeling sad is just as relevant to them as having diarrhoea or a yeast infection. Acupuncture works to rebalance the body, but is also immensely helpful for moving emotional blockages, and opening things up so they can be released.

I have treated grief many times. I have many protocols for moving it out of the body. There is often crying. Sometimes people cry and can’t stop. Frequently they are alarmed by their own outburst, but I know why they are crying, it is because the grief is moving, and they are finally letting it go. I am prepared with tissues and a kind heart.

In the privacy and safety of an acupuncturist's office, people manage to let go of what has been festering for weeks, months and sometimes years. And that is wonderful. I include this because I think that many people don’t know about both the scope of acupuncture and what it can treat, and the importance of the emotions in the TCM medical model. If you have emotional issues that you are having difficulty dealing with, I urge you to try these exercises and foods, and if they are not enough, to seek out an acupuncturist and work with them to deal with the issues once and for all.

massage

Massage

Massage is a very good way to move any stagnant or “stuck” grief in the body. Massages, like acupuncture, are very moving. If you have ever had a massage and been surprised by knots in your muscles that you didn’t know you had, you will understand how emotions affect the physical construct of our bodies.
Unpleasant emotions cause our bodies to constrict and stiffen up. That is why when people are sad, depressed and angry, their bodies often ache and they have a tendency to headaches, and other problems. These are the body’s way of communicating to you that there is something wrong. Massages of all sorts are wonderful for releasing tension, alleviating pain and moving grief and sadness.

Like acupuncture, it is not uncommon for someone to cry when they are having a massage. But, that is good, that means that the pain, grief and sorrow are being released and moving out of the body. A massage along with the breathing techniques listed above walks in nature (while breathing in the fresh, new air), and adding some beneficial lung foods to your diet will have a huge impact on your ability to deal with your grief.

Self Massage

Another thing that you can do to help with grief is to massage along the lung meridian, which is located on the arms. When a patient comes in suffering from grief, I always include this in the treatment to help move it. The lung meridian is located bilaterally (on both sides of the body), begins under the clavicle, and descends down the arms, terminating at the corner of the nail on the thumb. I have included an image so you can more easily visualize it. Massaging the arms along the lung meridian is helpful, and they will often be sore if you are grieving. You can massage your arms, or have someone do it for you. Remember if you are using long, sweeping motions, always massage towards the heart.

In summary, I hope this gives you a better understanding of grief and how it is viewed in TCM. One of the reasons I wanted to write about it is because grief is so common and something I see so much in my practice. It is something we all experience, and Chinese medicine offers us many ways in which to deal with it in a healthy way. Our emotional lives are just as important as our physical ones, so staying balanced in all aspects is important to our overall health and wellbeing.


If you would like to learn more about the fall season, which is associated with grief and the lungs, you can download one here - The Summer Season in Chinese Medicine, or if you are interested in the set of all four seasons you can download it here - The Seasons in Chinese Medicine - Set of 4


If you suspect you are having problems with grief or your lungs and would like an expert opinion, Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP offers skype consultations. Please email us at info@chinesemedicineliving.com for more info.

 

 Grief. A Chinese Medicine Perspective 


Love Your Spleen.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Helpful tips - How to Keep Your Spleen Strong According to Chinese Medicine.

One of the most common things I see in my practice is problems with digestion. Interestingly, this isn’t usually the reason that people come to see me, but when I am going through their medical history, it usually comes up. The sad thing is that most people live with digestive problems when in Chinese Medicine they are relatively easy to fix with a little treatment, nutritional counselling and some tips on how to help support and strengthen our digestions.

Now, a lot of people think of the spleen as in the western medicine spleen, part of the immune system and responsible for the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes) and removal of old red blood cells. It is not the same as it is in Chinese Medicine. The spleen in Chinese Medicine is paired with the Stomach, and both are the main organs of digestion for the body. The difference is that they not only digest food but also stimulus and information - everything that comes into the body through our sense organs.

What you learn your first year in Acupuncture school when learning Chinese Medicine theory, is that we live in a Spleen deficient culture. We are constantly taking in information, and that information has to be processed by, you guessed it, the Spleen. We eat in front of the TV (taking in food, and stimulus at the same time), we are constantly looking at our mobile devices on the road and wherever we go, and we are always multitasking. Never doing just one thing at a time. And thus, we are overloading our poor Spleens.

So, what can we do? There are lots of things that, once you are aware of them, can help take the burden off your Spleen.

Don’t Put Ice In Your Drinks. Avoid Cold Foods.

The Spleen hates cold, so one easy way to help your Spleen is to avoid ice in your drinks. Because the Spleen is responsible for breaking down your food through the process of digestion, and this is powered by heat. Eating and drinking cold foods such as icy drinks, eating ice cream (a TCM nono!), or eating a lot of frozen or very cold foods (many foods in raw form are considered “cold”) taxes the Spleens energy, as it has to heat up again to be able to do the work necessary for digestion.

Be Mindful.

This is not just good advice for helping your Spleen, but a good life philosophy. One of the best things you can do for your Spleen is to do one thing at a time and be absolutely mindful when you do it. This means when you are eating, JUST EAT. Don’t sit in front of the TV, read, study or catch up on work. In such a fast-paced world where everyone is short on time, it is understandable that people are always doing many things at once, but this small thing will not only help your Spleen, it will relax your mind and body as well.

Chew Your Food.

We can all help our Spleens by making sure that we really chew our food well. We tend to all be in such a hurry that we do not chew our food nearly as well as we should. Chewing will help the breakdown of the foods before they get to the stomach, making the Spleens job a little easier.

Eat Soups.

Since most of us have at least some Spleen deficiency, one of the best things you can do to be kind to your Spleen is to eat soups. These are warming (the longer and slower they are cooked, the more warming they become) and they are very easy to digest which is why they are prescribed to you when you are sick - your body requires less energy to digest them, focussing its energies to fighting pathogens and getting you well. Soups do not take a lot of energy to digest, saving the Spleens energy for other things. There are many foods that are beneficial to the Spleen which I will list later in the article. I will also list foods that the Spleen is not so fond of so you can at least be aware of what they are and avoid them when you can.

Take A Break.

Because we live in a culture that is so bombarded by stimulus, most people have deficient Spleens. The Spleen must take in and process ALL that information, including the food we eat and liquids we drink, so you can imagine, it is a very hard-working organ. Something that you can do to give your Spleen a break, is to literally, take a break. Go for a walk outside. Leave your phone at home. Sit somewhere quiet and meditate away from the TV, the phone and try to avoid interruptions. Doing this even once a day for a few minutes will really help the Spleen and you will notice a big difference in how you feel. You will notice that you are calmer, more aware and feel more at peace. And your Spleen will love you.

The Spleens Functions in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen is responsible for many functions so that if you have symptoms in any of these areas, they point to a disharmony of the Spleen.

The Spleen Controls Blood

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

The Spleen Controls The Muscles And The Four Limbs

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

The Spleen Is Responsible For Transformation & Transportation

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

The Spleen Opens Into The Mouth & Manifests In The Lips

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

Controls The Upright Qi

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

Houses Thought

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

Worry - The Emotion of the Spleen

All organs in TCM also are associated with an emotion, and the emotion of the Spleen is worry and overthinking. This works in two ways. Excessive worry will damage the Spleen Qi, and a deficient Spleen can weaken the mind and our capacity to think clearly and focus, leaving us susceptible to worry.

Foods Beneficial For The Spleen

  • Organic lightly cooked vegetables, corn, celery, watercress, turnip, pumpkin, alfalfa sprouts, button mushrooms, radish, caper
  • Brown rice, barley, amaranth, rye, oats
  • Legumes, kidney beans, adzuki beans, lentils
  • Small amount of lean organic meat, poultry and fish, tuna
  • Small amount of whole fruits, lemon
  • Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Seaweed, kelp
  • Green tea, jasmine tea, raspberry leaf tea, chai tea
  • Raspberry, peach, strawberry, cherry
  • Walnut, chestnuts, pine nuts, pistachios
  • Lamb, venison
  • Lobster, mussels, prawns, shrimp, trout
  • Black pepper, cinnamon bark, clove, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, peppermint, rosemary, sage, turmeric, thyme, horseradish, cayenne, nutmeg

Foods That Hurt The Spleen

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Cold drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed foods
  • Refined flour, pastry, pasta, breads
  • Cold raw foods
  • Refined sugar and sugar substitutes
  • Coffee, alcohol
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Bananas, avocado

When the Spleen is functioning well a person will feel energetic, their digestion will be smooth, their bowel movements will be regular and firm (not soft), thoughts will be clear and one will be able to concentrate.

When the Spleen is imbalanced there will be symptoms of digestive upset, loose stools, poor appetite, low energy, oedema (water retention), nausea, vomiting, weakness in the four limbs, pale lips, organ prolapse, bruising and a feeling of cold.

Because most of us have some level of Spleen deficiency, we can all help our Spleens by being aware of simple things we can all do to take some of the pressure off of this important organ. Your Spleen will love you for it.

 

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