Topic: Chinese Medicine

What Is Wellness?

What is wellness?

What is wellness, exactly? What does wellness look like for you?

 

Wellness As A Commodity

 

Have you noticed a trend towards people consuming wellness? Objectifying it into a commodity that you can purchase to attain?

Instagram is rife with it. The building blocks of consumerist culture.

Aspirational living is so on trend – as though that is the only direction one should choose.

Isn’t the modern obsession with attaining wellness just sprung from the mythscape of “I’m not enough”?

 

Stop Your Perfectionism

 

In my opinion, the aggressive expansion in wellness marketing drives obsession, perfectionism, neurosis and the undermining of self-esteem.

In the quest for ultimate wellness we see unhealthy obsessions with:

 

These obsessions also flood the internet with unreliable resources, and an ongoing lack of representation of diversity (age, body type, class, colour, style, life stage, ability).

We are perpetuating a myth of what wellness looks like. 

 

What Is Wellness? What Is NOT Wellness?

 

Let’s not be manipulated by all this imagery and marketing.

Wellness is not something that you consume.

Wellness is a state of being, and not always relating to your physical state of health. 

I love what Dr. Gabor Maté said recently on healing being a subversive act:

 

“… our work with people is about subverting their self-image as isolated, simply biological or simply psychological creatures, and helping them see the connections among their existence, the nature of the culture we live in, and the functioning of all of humanity.”

 

On what wellness is not, Dr Mate` also said:

 

“[We need to challenge] the idea that someone’s value is dependent on how well they fit into an abnormal, unhealthy culture. Ideally, as healers in the broadest sense, that’s what we should be doing.”

 

What is wellness?

What Is Wellness from a Chinese Medical Perspective?

 

Chinese Medicine has a concept of Yang Sheng, commonly translated as ‘Nourishing Life.’ 

The Chinese word “Yang” means to nurture, take care of, and nourish. “Sheng” means life, birth, growth and vitality.

Together, “Yang Sheng” means to nurture life or to cultivate health and vitality.

Yang Sheng is the practice of health cultivation/preservation by nurturing body, mind, heart and nature.

Yang Sheng is an accessible practice for ordinary people to cultivate health and harmony through daily activities – the micro-moments in which you choose what benefits you, and then what benefits others.

​Chinese medicine has always considered both the internal landscape and the external environment of a patient – the ways in which the patient participates and interacts in the world.

The cultivation of health, rather than simply the treatment of disease, is a major characteristic of Chinese medicine, strongly differentiating it from modern biomedicine.

 

The Many Ways to Nourish Your Life

 

Nourishing life is about nurturing yourself. This can occur over many aspects of your life.

Nourishing life could look like:

  • Saying no
  • Having pyjama days
  • Chewing your food
  • Watching comedy
  • Giving up on shit that’s not working
  • Shopping for your food
  • Making your own food
  • Spending time with music or the arts
  • Connecting with a community to support a cause you’re passionate about
  • Calling your mum
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Spending time with your family and friends
  • Having fun
  • Watching a sunrise/sunset
  • Having conscious sex
  • Getting good sleep
  • Knowing your limits
  • Playing with animals
  • Financially living within your means.

 

Abandon Perfection, Focus on Balance

 

Seriously, it’s time to stop striving for perfection.

Instead, focus on maintaining balance through an awareness of our connection to nature, to our own bodies, to our heart and to society. Yang Sheng is a powerful practice that can preserve and improve health when engaged in daily.

 

So, What Does Wellness Look Like For You?

 

Maybe take a moment and draw your own little map, keep it simple.

I’m not enough is pandemic in our society. Maybe it’s about what not to do. Be mindful of the endless, unattainable self-improvement list that is stemmed in an inability to accept who you are, as you are.

 

Getting Support for Restoring Wellness Through Balance

 

In the beginning of a holistic treatment process, you may need to apply some discipline to change habits and the corresponding dynamic in your body or behaviour. A practitioner (or, if accessible to you, your community) can support you through that.

Ideally, through that process you glean what you need to do. Your plan of action (or inaction) should be appropriate to your lifestyle, your needs, your stage of life and your capacity, so that you stay well. (Most of the time.)

You will still get sick.

You will still feel pain.

You will still experience difficult emotions.

Your heart will break again.

You will have significant traumatic events happen.

Life will always challenge you.

 

Wellness resides in your adaptability in response to challenge and in your resilience to get through it. 

 

 

The Earth Element in Chinese Medicine – The Yi

The Yi, the Earth element in Chinese medicine

 

Origins of the Earth Element

During March, we approach the Autumnal equinox pivot.

At this time there is a point of stillness, then a swing of seasonal transition. We can feel it in the crispiness in the air. Autumn proper starts.

Yet before that, there is a time of the year that in Chinese Medicine they call Late Summer.

 

“Late Summer” – Traditional Chinese Harvest Time

It’s the season of the Earth element and it’s a time of the completion of the harvest. All the crops that were planted in Spring have fertilised, flowered and grown. They’ve been picked, they have been eaten and some have been set aside to be stored.

The farmers are tired. The land has been worked. The bees are buzzing over the squashed ripe grapes that have fallen off the vines. There is beautiful light.

It’s time to take stock of the love experienced in Summer. The celebration, connection, inspiration and release we may have had – let that nourish the heart.

Time to take that inspiration and plant it into our year – plan how we are going to garden those seeds so they can grow.

 

What is the Earth Element in Chinese Medicine?

But really, what is the ‘Earth’ Element and how is that related to me?

Good question.

I want to share a few of my favourite things about understanding Earth, as per usual inspired by one of my favourite 5 element writers, Lorie Eve Deschar.

 

The Spirit of the Earth – The Yi

Deschar talks about the ‘Spirit of the Earth’ as the ability to concentrate, to be receptive and creative in such a way that we weed and feed the soil of our dreams so that one day we can present them to the world in a substantial form.

In this way, the Spirit manifests as a project, a creation, a body of work, a unique gift that you bring forth.

The aspect of consciousness associated with the  Earth element is named Yi.

 

What’s This “Yi” All About?

Yi is our ability to concentrate and focus our awareness.

Yi is the stream of consciousness that flows through our mind, that involuntarily thinks, just as our heart involuntarily beats.

It also is related to our ‘psycho-somatic’ experience. Does this succession of involuntarily thoughts enable free-flow in our body and behaviour, or does it create discord?

 

The Ideal Expression of Yi

Ideally, we should have unimpeded movement from mind to body. Meaning we have a clear trajectory from our deep inspiration through to vision, plan and execution.

The classics suggest that when this process happens properly, your Tao flows effortlessly through you and into your world through your words and actions.

But how often does this actually happen?

How many of us are actually plagued with self-doubt, insecurity, confusion, worry, anxiety, shame?

These negative forces erode your confidence to grow and move forward in the direction of your deep purpose.

You can’t be creative when ego blocks your way, constructing doubt, comparison, jealousy.

And how deeply frustrating is that?

 

Problems of the Yi Can Lead to Stagnation

This worry, this hesitation, this doubt in taking action in the material realm interferes with your natural flow. It ties Qi into knots and causes it to back up and become paralysed, stagnant.

Qi follows Yi.  Energy flows where attention goes.

Problems of the Yi – problems with thought, concentration, lack of awareness – are actually problems of mental-emotional-spiritual digestion.

You can have obsessive thoughts, projection of responsibility and blame, insomnia, worry, martyrdom, resentment, frustration, anger and fatigue.

If ongoing, this starts to play out in the body, with chronic muscle spasms, digestive and appetite disturbance, epigastric discomfort, IBS, abdominal pain, bloating, distention, fatigue.

 

How to Cultivate and Balance Yi, the Earth Element

How to shift from this state of imbalance to feeling free to execute your dreams and visions? How do you reign in an out-of-control Earth element?

Yi is the aspect of our soul that lets the world know that we mean to stand by our dreams.

 

Get clear and accept your gift, your vision. What it is that feels ‘destined’ for you to bring forth?

  1. Know your centre.
  2. Know your boundaries – just like the river which freely flows in one direction once the banks are firm and holding.
  3. Cultivate concentration.
  4. One task at a time – close the tabs. Practice mindfulness.
  5. Get clear on what to keep and what to discard i.e. mentally declutter and digest. KonMari that shit.
  6. As Hishi Khan said, “You wouldn’t let assholes live in your house – why let them live in your head?” Get to know how you’re mean to yourself. Get that inner critic in check. Transform it into an ally.
  7. Let IT go.
  8. Funnel your energy into INSPIRED ACTION. What is inspired action? Action that creates a ripple in the fabric of life that brings your dream closer to a manifest reality.

 

Realise that by serving your dream/purpose, you are meeting your needs first. That will serve your relationships and your community far greater than trying to live someone else’s expectations of you or any other martyr-type behaviour.

The Yi responds.

 

What You Can Expect As You Heal the Yi

  • You can take on less but finish the projects you start.
  • You’re able to say what you think and express yourself more clearly.
  • You take the time to listen to your inner voice and take its messages seriously.
  • You feel more centred in your own self and less thrown off balance by other people’s problems, needs, demands or opinions.
  • You gracefully hold your ground, not shrinking or puffing up.
  • You begin to feel a sense of solidarity. When you meet an obstacle, you stay clear on your intention and work to find a way to solve the problem and move ahead with your project.
  • You begin to feel as if your actions in the world will result in a bountiful harvest. The world becomes a fertile ground for your ideas and actions.

We often think of Spring as the beginning of a new cycle. It is, in the sense that it’s the emergence of all that has been cultivating under the surface in the deep still Yin months.

Yet this time of “Late Summer” or early Autumn is the time of completion. It’s a time to pause and to be nourished by all that you have created. To receive the gifts of your efforts and let that fill you with abundant confidence of your ability to go around the cycle again.

Like resting satisfied after a great feast. You have had enough. You are enough.


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Nourishing Blood with Chinese Medicine

Nourishing Blood with Chinese Medicine

Nourishing ‘Blood’ is a really important therapeutic strategy in Chinese Medicine.

This strategy you can take on for your own self-care to strengthen the effects of your treatment.  This will help you get where you want to be and  maintain it.

Nourishing ‘Blood’ is really important for women, as most women of menstruating age literally loose blood regularly.

 

What is ‘Blood’ in Chinese Medicine?

So what do we mean when we say Blood in Chinese Medicine? It can be very confusing. Let’s clear it up.

When we talk about Blood in Chinese Medicine, we don’t mean blood in the way you know it from a Western biomedical sense.

It’s the same with organs.

It’s a translation issue. Classically, the Chinese have a very precise way to describe the functional physiology of the human body. They have Chinese terms for it,  I would prefer to  call them by their original Chinese terms. But in Western translation we use Western words that unfortunately have already important associations – ie blood, organs.

 

Blood As A System, Not A Bodily Fluid

Chinese Medicine is systems medicine. We are looking at how various systems in your body function together to generate health but also how they behave in dysfunction.

‘Blood’ in Chineses Medicine primarily includes the functional relationship AND physiology of the:

  • digestive system
  • bone marrow
  • reproductive system
  • cardiovascular system
  • central nervous system
  • endocrine system
  • neuro-musculo-fascial planes.

It also includes:

  • nutritional status
  • tissue hydration
  • hormone and neurotransmitter balance.

Blood is a broad term that you can drill down into depending on what type of pathology you are experiencing.

Nourishing Blood in the human body

Why is Nourishing Blood Important?

When practitioners encourage you to ‘nourish your Blood’, we are talking about your ability to nourish yourself.  This is achieved through a proper digestive process, the building of sufficient material resources and the effective distribution of those resources.

 

Qi + Blood are always connected. Qi is Yang and Blood is Yin.

Qi moves the Blood, and Blood nourishes the organs that produce Qi.

Blood moistens and warms the body and its tissues. Areas that suffer from lack of Blood nourishment are cold and often painful.

Blood tends to get deficient or stagnant or a combination of both.

Blood  ‘anchors your Heart-Mind’. Adequate blood levels are really important for your mental health, cognitive function, emotional resilience and ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

 

What Happens if You Don’t Have Nourished Blood?

Fatigue is the first and most obvious sign. You’ve pushed too hard and consumed your resources. Yin/Yang start to become unbalanced. Qi and Blood are consumed and need rebuilding.

Other signs of lack of Blood nourishment can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Emotional turbulence
  • Depression
  • Feeling faint when you stand up or dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Floaters in your eyes.
  • Poor memory
  • Cold limbs/hands and feet
  • Slow healing and recovery
  • Weak immune system
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Gynecological conditions
  • Absent periods
  • Pale complexion
  • Pale gums
  • Easily startled
  • Feeling weak.

 

How to Nourish Your Blood

  1. Eat food. Sounds basic but part of nourishing Blood is the willingness to be open to receive nourishment and to feed yourself well. Supplementation may be needed in Blood deficiency but you cannot build blood without eating.
  2. Improve your digestion. Improper digestion, inc absorption and assimilation can be the root cause of so many pathologies. How is your micro biome? Do you have leaky gut? Are you experiencing inflammation in the gut? Do you have an overgrowth of bacteria or parasites? Do you have adequate stomach acids and enzyme production? Has chronic stress impaired your digestive function? Do you have chronic bloating, constipation or diarrhoea? Even if you are making great choices with the food that you eat, if your digestion can’t break it down and absorb it, you may be malnourished. See the list below for Blood-nourishing foods. Acupuncture and Moxibustion are very effective in improving digestive function.
  3. Engage in adequate movement and rest. Exercise regularly, have an active lifestyle and know how to rest well, relax regularly, protect your leisure time and have good sleep hygiene.
  4. Replenish after blood loss. Such times include menstruation, postpartum, during breastfeeding and post-surgery.

 

Foods for Nourishing Blood

As Blood (in Chinese Medicine) is also made from bone marrow, bone broths and slow-cooked bone dishes are very effective at Blood nourishment. Protein and good fat in every main meal are essential for Blood building.

 

Excellent foods for nourishing Blood include:

Broths

  • Chicken soup
  • Beef bone broth
  • Lamb shanks
  • Osso Bucco
  • Kombu dashi (V)

 

Meats

  • Pate
  • Parfait
  • Offal and traditional dishes containing blood, eg blood sausage
  • Animal protein and good fats are highly effective at building blood. Any animal products should be hormone free, grass fed, free range and ethically treated.

 

Plants

  • Soaked goji berries
  • Chinese dates
  • Figs
  • Prunes
  • Cherries
  • Pomegranates
  • Dark leafy greens; kale, spinach, watercress, silverbeet, rucula
  • Nettles and nettle tea
  • Macro (seaweeds) and micro (spirulina, chlorophyll etc) algaes
  • Cereal grasses (wheat and barley grass)
Nourishing Blood - pomegranates

Cooking in a cast iron pot can be an easy way to increase your iron intake.

Chinese Medicine doesn’t advocate a vegetarian, vegan or raw food diet, especially for women. It most certainly advocates a wholefood, locally grown, organic diet where you eat seasonally. Any animal products should be hormone free, grass fed, free range and ethically treated.


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Transforming Anxiety with Chinese Medicine

Transforming anxiety with Chinese medicine

Anxiety can be such so insidious. You can feel fine and then you’re hijacked by these paralysing and overwhelming feelings.

You can start to feel like you’re separating from your body, detaching from reality. A veil seems to descend between you and the world. Your mind and heart no longer feel safe and grounded.

You might even feel like you’re going to have a heart attack, pass out or die.

You develop a whole system of checks and balances nuanced to your particular flavour of control, all to avoid being triggered.

You become afraid of your anxiety returning and this creates a type of cage that you comfortably inhabit, because however restrictive, you deem it better than that anxious feeling. And this can work – it does keep things manageable – but sometimes you get stuck there and think it’s a forever thing.

But how to open the door? How to step out of the cage? (more…)

Cultivating Spirit – The Shen or Heart-Mind in Chinese Medicine

Shen or Heart Mind - cultivating Spirit

 

“Life is transformation. There is no life that is not an unceasing transformation.”

– Élisabeth Rochat de la Vallée

 

It’s the final month of our Winter here in the Southern Hemisphere. As we approach Spring we get closer to emerging from our Yin state and the building of Yang will initiate.

Yang is light, activity, movement, initiation, action, the doing. On a metaphysical, spiritual and cosmological level the most Yang manifestation of a human, the purest Yang aspect of our consciousness, is the Spirit or ‘Shen’.

Shen is translated as something which is divine, marvellous, extraordinary or mysterious. In recent times we call it the Heart-Mind. (more…)

The Wisdom of Water – How to Cope with Winter

How to cope with winter

Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.

– Lao Tzu

 

In July in the Southern Hemisphere we are in the depths of winter – that deep dark Yin place of stillness, hibernation and rest. The mysterious and all-pervasive impetus for growth has stilled. The soil temperatures are cool and flower buds that have birthed from their seeds are still just kernels of potential, waiting.

Winter can be hard for some peeps. It can get you down, especially if life has also thrown in some tough times or big changes. In winter it’s easier to descend into the deeper layers of consciousness (the sub and unconscious) to places where the script is written. There can be great fear and resistance from most to go there and experience it.

From a Chinese Medicine treatment perspective, winter is a very important season for rejuvenation and renewal. Daoist and Buddhist traditions (as well as many styles of psychology) would posit that it is from sitting with yourself, with a non-judgemental attitude and willingness to just see what’s there and be with it, that enables transformation and disintegrates old constructs. What is liberated provides the alchemical building blocks for the new.

If you’re the kind of person who struggles in the cold, each year you may wonder how to cope with winter in a way that is less defeating, more empowering.

Since water is the element of the winter season, I like to look to the wisdom of water for answers. (more…)

The Power of Yin

Power of Yin

What is Yin?

Yin is a term that comes from the classical Chinese concept of opposite yet complementary forces, Yin and Yang. Yin is described as the “shadow side of the mountain” in relation to the sunny side, which is Yang. Yin is dark, cool and quiet, and so we often neglect the importance of Yin in favour of the hot, bright and loud Yang elements in life.

It’s an elegantly simple concept, yet Yin Yang can describe mind-bending complexities of the mechanisms of the universe. Its essence is encapsulated in the Yin Yang symbol. No matter how you try to dissect this circle, every slice will contain both Yin and Yang. (more…)

Pre-conception Care – An Holistic Perspective

Pre-conception care with Chinese medicine

Thinking about having a baby? It can feel mega – emotionally, psychologically and physically. Add a trend to have babies later in life, feeling the tick-tock of the biological clock, stepping into the unknown, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Fertility is an arena in which Chinese Medicine gets a lot of notoriety.

In Chinese Medicine, the premise for pre-conception care is to be at your optimal vitality and balance. If you are planning to conceive, both parents should prepare their bodies prior to conception. This will increase your chances of:

  • A healthy and energetic pregnancy
  • Easy breast-feeding and recovery
  • Optimal vitality in your children.

In essence, we are preparing the soil to plant the seed, then nourishing the eco-system to sustain growth. (more…)

The Flower Blooms: 7 Practices for Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health

Women's sexual and reproductive health

When it comes to women’s sexual and reproductive health, attitudes matter. Our culture shapes the way we feel about our bodies and more deeply, how our bodies respond.

“Safe sex” in classical Chinese thought is sex that does not drain the body of needed energy and vitality, but increases it.

Chinese medical history is long and traverses time to places where cultural norms about women’s sexual and reproductive health were quite different.

 

(more…)

How to Detox: A Guide

How to detox

 

I use detox as a clinical tool. I find it makes a huge improvement in my patients, especially for (but not limited to) those suffering fatigue, endocrine issues, digestive disorders and adrenal burnout.

Detoxing is also fantastic for pre-conception care.

I always spend time chatting with my clients and really getting a sense of what is realistic and what they can manage. Aspirations can be admirable. But you must know what you’re getting in to, be invested in the benefits and be up for it.

It can either be pleasurable coming home to your optimal health or it can be a total struggle. Preparation is what makes the difference. (more…)