Autumn, Metal element

I have not opted to post about my Chinese Medicine experiences in a very long time. Mostly because the knowledge and the experiences that I have been having over the years warrants more knowledge and more experiences. It just get so big and plentiful that I realize I cannot write anything in black and white. The body is specific to your individual body. Your body constitution passed on to you thru your parents. The region/climate in which you live. Your life habits (eat, sleep, movement, mind). So what works for me will not affect you in the same way.

That being said, here is Autumn time in Beijing. Autumn is the Metal element, the organs associated: lungs and long intestine. This is the time for the water to go to ground. This creates the changing and dropping of the leaves, the quietening of the zeal of summer. Look around you at what is happening in nature. Likewise, sense how your body is reacting to this season. 

This is the time where drinking soups, li tang (boiled pear water) and eating more qing dan (simple foods with less spice, oil, sweet and salt) and drinking less or no alcohol. Sleeping before 11pm.

As a yoga teacher, I appreciate my lungs, which pulling the breath down to my root, touching all of the organs in the torso, then with a slow exhale, my breath carries out things that no longer serve me. Relax. Look at the sky, look at the trees, appreciate the sun, the moon, the stars.


Resting a month after birth (2013)

Last year (2012) before I gave birth to my first child, I wrote a blog about the month of rest, in chinese is called 坐月子.  Since the birth experience, I've decided I am VERY pro-RESTing. 

I recently re-read my blog regarding the month after. When I wrote it, I was still pregnant and inexperienced. I had no idea what was going to happen. All of a sudden, I was receiving alot of information from mothers; all interesting. From the tone in my blog I can remember believing the information, but not having experienced it, I wrote with assumptions. I had no idea. Going in to labor was an amazing metamorphosis. My body knew exactly what it needed to do. Ploof! My water broke and immediately contractions started coming every 2-3 minutes. Over the next 4 hours my body went thru intense changes. As the contractions intensified and intervals of rest between shortened, I started to throw up and dry heave. (a cool factoid; the jaw and the cervix are connected. the moreyour jaw relaxes, the more your cervix opens too.) My body was changing quickly to shake and push this little baby out. My cervix dilated with every dry heave. I called the nurse…if my labor was going to last for endless hours, I was going to have to have a jacuzzi bath or an epidural. Midwife checked me…almost ready to start pushing. I was shocked how quickly it was all happening. Within another hour, my little girl was born. Absolutely amazing.

My body had opened so much during birth that I could feel the after-effects immediately and very obviously. Over the 1st week, I was happy to discover I had an appetite (and room to actually eat a meal). Mentally, I was still having lots of normal thoughts about our impending move into our new home, and really wanted to help with packing. We did a week and a half of bed resting, breast feeding, sleeping, drinking tonify-ing soups and teas, and getting to know each other. We were giving ourselves time to arrive into this new reality.

The week before moving into our new house, I was concerned that my husband would not pack things in the way I wanted them to be packed. We moved from his parents place into our half-packed house. I would get up and move around, putting things into boxes. Usually after 20 minutes, I was feeling insanely exhausted. I would lay down, a bit in disbelief, having no choice to listen to my body. A few days later, we moved into our new house. I was protected from the whole process; heading to my friend's house for the day with the baby while my family moved us. A seriously big "letting go" on my part was necessary. For the first time, I let go, and let them take care of me and the task at hand. It was too exhausting to pretend I could do it anymore. Surrender was required.

A few hours later, my daughter and I were delivered to our new home. Furniture mostly in place, boxes somewhat unpacked. I was so happy. All I needed to do was unpack and re-organise our lovely new home. I laid down with my daughter and fell asleep.

Over another week, I would walk around the house, unpacking things. Standing after about 15 minutes was not comfortable. I could feel an ache in my lower back where my kidneys are. That's not a good feeling, and is a good warning that the body is over-tired. By the end of the week, I was starting to feel it in my bones that I should've been laying down the whole month. What? Yes. A month of bedrest. I finally understood what my daifu had been explaining about the month after. 

She said, when the body births a baby, it opens every layer in the body - from skin, muscle, fascia, ligaments and bones. In a normal body, these layers are closed and protect the meridians in the body. She explained that if you receive "cold" or "wind" in this completely open state, that the injury to the energetic and physical body is received to the bone…so the injury, after the body closes one month after birth, is deep down in the bone layer, which is VERY hard to treat. It takes many years to overcome injury so deep. THIS is why there is no showering or going outside, or moving unnecessarily; the protection to the body must be given so the body closes back up without receiving any injury. I really didn't get this until I could feel how open I was; likewise, I could feel my body closing back up.

In Chinese medicine, a blow to the deepest bone level will realize itself over many many years later (usually) - could be anything from achy joints or arthritis, to lowered immune system, to tumors, tocancer - it just really depends on where you got the cold in your bones, and what it realizes itself after years of being there, messing with the flow of the meridians that cycle thru all of our internal organs. 

Most of my western women friends think this is a bunch of hoo ha. They say, "My grandmother had 5 kids and lived til she was 86. She was perfectly fine! She never did zuo yuezi."  But any Chinese person, even though they might not know exactly why, is convinced that doing the month of rest is without any question, a necessary part of the process of having a baby. 

I have to agree. After those first 2 weeks, I stopped getting up all the time. I laid back down. I spent more time with my newborn. I watched a lot of tv series and movies. I surrendered, and stayed in for another 4 weeks, allowing my body to rest and close back up, hoping that I hadn't done any harm in those first 2 weeks.

If or when I have another baby, I will abide to my body's needs and take full advantage of being waited on like a resting queen. Cuz new mommies to be - you are gonna need to be in tip top health for when the baby starts moving around. My motivation for making this month of rest possible is only this - it's to enable my life last a little longer so I can enjoy every moment with my family. Surrender. Do it!


Sugar (post from 2015)

Lately my thoughts go to sugar and sweets in general. I'm now in year 4 of my treatments with my chinese medicine doctor. The changes i have experienced over the past 4 years are obvious. I used to think with a western medicine mindset that first of all, I was doing something really wrong to always be getting sick, and secondly, I would have to live with consistently diminishing health for the rest of my life. The bronchitis, losing my voice at least 2 times a year, the constant migraines, my eczema, the swelling skin during spring summer and fall (drs said were allergies), not to mention being FREEZING all the time; my whole body was failing me in my thirties. This wasn't right!

This balance in my body is of utmost importance. Balance of life habits and choices. Four years of talking shop with my TCM has taught me this. I had lived in CHina for nearly six years before TCM (traditional chinese medicine) revealed itself to me.

These treatments over the years have RATIFIED my body, mind and life. Every symptom I described above has been minimized. With every treatment, my body awakens and my awareness is finer. Years and years of slamming my body with bad life habits, western medicine, horrible eating and drinking habits - I can feel it all slowly changing my physical and mental health.

SUGAR. Sugar is a good thing, just like everything else we can ingest, but the excess in which we consume it is unbalanced. As with anything in too much excess, it affects our stomach and spleen meridians profoundly. The Pi Wei Jing Luo (spleen stomach meridians) are the Earth element in the 5 element cycle. It is the center, for if we do not eat, we will perish. The earth element nourishes all the other elements (the cycle goes like this: 

Water (kidney and bladder) feeds Wood (liver and gall bladder) feeds Fire (heart and triple warmer) feeds Earth (stomach and spleen) feeds Metal (lungs and long intestine) feeds Water.

Sugar is found in just about everything. There are natural sugars we get from vegetables and fruits, grains which make our staple foods. Then there is the added sugar, coming to you in a variety of sweeteners - from corn syrup to agave to fructose to 'natural' sugar to processed sugar. Sweet perhaps a long time ago was more a dreamy sometime, but nowadays, is part of our every meal.

Sugar is fire. Eaten in excess, you might not feel it after years of conditioning, but it affects you. Fire symptoms can include:  Phlegm. Heartburn. Gas. Canker Sores. Migraines. Dry skin. Blemishes/Acne. Dandfuff. Eczema. Diahrea. Constipation. Yeast Infections. Athlete's Foot. Shingles. They continue to intensify as the meridians get rougher and more backed up. Just like a wheel filled with gears and pathways, if you don't maintain your 'roads' then the routes will slowly break down causing your qi to reroute or get stuck. Dis repair and dis-ease result.

Here's a really simple example. Halloween. Kids are bombarded with sweets. Consumption of sugar goes up significantly, and right after halloween, the phlegm in the body multiplies. Oh, it must be a virus, you say to yourself. Nope. It's sugar. If you don't believe me, give it a try. Eat sugar excessively for a day and see how you feel. Feel what happens in your body.  Or, cut out sugar for a day and see how your body responds.

I've written other blogs about 'living with injury' in the west; a person suffers unnecessarily because they think that's just the way it is. But in Chinese Medicine, most things can be repaired. 

Suffering is silly, and is YOUR decision. As your disheveled roadways/meridians are still roads that the qi (energy) travels around, the imbalances realize themselves in symptoms that, after they become intense enough, you start to notice.  I must be "coming down with something" "feeling feverish," "breaking out," all these things are coming from what's inside you. 

Western medicine recommends drugs, then surgery, and as you walk out the door, you get a lollipop. Ha. Western medicine treatments exacerbate the problems you're having because it only focuses on the symptom; foregoing the disrepair issue at hand that is causing all the ailments. I liken it to the Golly Gump mindset; eat a frog to kill the fly, eat a cat to kill the frog, etc. Chinese medicine is all about repairing the roadways to PREVENT the symptoms from ever occurring. My TCM calls this "yang shenti" (nurturing the body) rather than "zhi shenti" (curing the body). Just think about the difference in these two concepts NURTURE or CURE. 

So what do you do? Slowly change. Make the decision to alter your life habits to include nurturing habits. Change is exciting and at times fearful. But change is always a great catalyst to learning, something humans always do.

Find a TCM in your area. Check out their payscales. In the US they usually have a sliding scale for treatments. It is recommended that you see someone 1 -2 times a month, if possible once a week. The work you do on yourself is what carries the treatments into fruition. If you don't change your life habits, the TCM has minimal effects. To really feel it, you gotta do the good work. Repairing your body's meridians/roadways requires time, change in habits, acupressure and acupuncture. 

Contagious vs Susceptibility

(Written in 2014)Along my journey, I have been learning more and more about the concept of taking responsibility for my SELF. At first I was quite impressed by it from an action perspective - to practice taking responsibility for my choices - was a great first step. Instead of blaming circumstances, people, i.e. things outside of myself, my entire life took on a new enthusiasm. I looked back thru my past, and saw that, yes, each choice was a choice I made, even when I didn't think I had a choice. The truth is - one always has a choice. It feels good to realize that I am responsible for what happens every day. A powerful and easy realization.

The journey is internal to external, not the other way around. I spent many moments trying to fill myself with things from the outside. Love, attention, appreciation - just to name a few - when in fact those things I desired so much first needed to be cultivated IN myself, instead of seeking them outside of myself. Ah ha. And practice. Practicing "I choose" rather than "I blame" or "I need/want." 

Naturally, the same can be applied to your physical body's health.

In western medicine, there is all this talk about the germs. Contagions. Bacteria, viruses, flus, etc. These little microscopic things that "make" us sick. They are visible under microscopes. They are blamable.  "He gave me the cold." Uhm, actually, he just presented the germs. Your body was susceptible. Let me explain.

In Chinese medicine, there is the concept of meridians and the balance and flow of your energy thru these channels. These channels connect all of your internal organs together, and run in a beautiful, natural cycle. When they become unbalanced, it causes imbalance in the cycle, and therefore, the overall health of your body. The more imbalanced, the more susceptible you are to dis-ease. All those little germs are given a welcome mat and easy place to thrive when your body is out of sorts.

So this idea of blaming another person for 'giving' you germs doesn't really work in Chinese medicine. One must look at why he/she is susceptible to these germs, rather than just assuming if there is a virus, that one will automatically get it if he/she comes into contact with it.

What are you doing to cultivate good health in your meridians, and therefore, in your body?  Consider your lifestyle, food, drink, sleep, exercise, thoughts, stress, pleasure - your life habits. Are they balanced?

The Western perspective. Here is a small list of a few things I can recall believing about good health (before I learned about Chinese Medicine):

Exercise (any) is good for your health, and good anytime.
Sweating is good.
Eating less is good.
No pain, no gain.
A pill/fast/diet/healing technique is good for my friend means it will be good for me.

Here's how I'd reply to these after living in China for 15 years, with all the experiences I've had practicing 5 elements natural living, yoga, learning about and getting TCM treatments.

- Exercise that is appropriate for your age will make you feel fantastic. Depending on your age, the season and the time of the month, will determine how "hard" a person should exercise. For example, a 35 year old shouldn't do the same kind of exercise that a 22 year old does. Our physical bodies go thru phases as we mature. Men in 8 year cycles, women in 7 year cycles.  Another example, a woman shouldn't exercise the same way a man does. This is not sexist, this is the physical truth. Male and female bodies are different. Of course, there are exceptions. But naturally speaking...

- Sweating can be good, or it can be really bad. It depends on where you live (climate), what kind of constitution (body makeup) and what kind of lifestyle you live. 

- If you are constantly in a "fiery" state (shang huo 上火, in chinese medicine means "up fire" where your yang energy goes up instead of down) will result in a variety of symptoms which will be amplified if you sweat your moisture out. So sweating is good for some, not good for some others. Here is a common list of results of too much fire in the body:

*dryness inside your organs/meridians
*cold limbs/hands/feet
*skin breakouts
*upset stomach
*easily angered
*easily annoyed/irritable
*irritable bowels
*obsessive thinking
*inability to sleep or fall asleep
****and so much more

- Eating less is good for people who tend to overeat.  Completely eliminating meals iS VERY BAD. Your body's digestive system requires food regularly in it for it to remember how to digest. If you starve yourself, your body will slowly stop being able to perform its digestive skills, and oh, how it will injure your meridians!

- No pain, no gain.  This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. There should be nothing painful about practicing. It can be challenging, but never, should it be painful. Pain is the body's natural way of messaging you, "hey. there is something wrong." LISTEN to your body. It does know. 

- Yes, we are all human beings. Male/female, different age/stages of life, constitutions, imbalances, biorhythms - we are all different and varied, and so what is good for one person will not necessarily be good for another person. Just like nature, we humans require different kinds of things to balance our individual bodies. This is why it is so important to tune IN to yourself, instead of paying so much attention to what is outside of you. You have the answers inside, and the more you practice deepening your awareness of your self, the easier it is to hear what your body is asking you for. 

On the TCM side of medicine

Dr. Pan tells me that most of her patients (super including me) are very sensically numb when they first start with her. Over time, as she wakes the meridians, unclogs the congestion and encourages the energy to flow naturally, the patients become more aware of the sensations in their body. It's a beautiful process that me and my circle of friends marvel at on a regular basis (we're all going to Dr Pan).

For example: Drinking cold beverages. At first I and many of my friends who were also going to see Dr Pan did not believe that drinking a cold beverage could be harmful. She would insist that drinking room-temperature things is the most beneficial to your body's digestive system. Yah yah yah. I've been drinking ice cold coca cola and icy smoothies all my life. But after seeing her for a while, all of us began to discover that when we would drink a cold beverage, our bellies began to reply. Mine would gurgle uncomfortably, I would immediately have gas, and I would be uncomfortable and crampy for at least an hour. We all started to feel it…the numbness was wearing off, our bodies are returning to their original healthy state. Our bodies are sending us good info, after years of ignoring and training our bodies to accept what we were giving to them.

So getting back now to the catching a cold, flu, virus.

Taking responsibility for the health of your meridians, the relaxation and ease of your mind and your body, by living in a more natural state, lessens your susceptibility to catching a cold. How you eat, sleep, think, live will affects the balance. Because alot of us are already quite out of balance in our meridians from the habits we've grown accustomed to, having acupuncture and acupressure treatments are amazingly helpful and go together well with life-adjustments to help you return your meridians back towards being more balanced

I'll go ahead and make an example of myself.

I've been getting sick since I was very young. Phlegm was the main character in all of my sick times. Phlegm, Dr Pan explains, is the product of the Pi/Wei (Spleen and Stomach). Have a quick look at the cycle of the 5 elements  click on that link or pan down to the bottom on the blog.

The Spleen/Stomach (Earth element) feeds the Lung (Metal Element) in this five element cycle. The phlegm, a product of pi-wei has to come out somewhere, so it comes out in the next element (it's child); The Lungs. Walah. Phlegm.

If you are not eating naturally, with balance in mind, then phlegm comes. That was me. I was eating, but I wasn't eating foods that nourished me. I ate alot of sweets, alot of fiery foods (fried, salty, processed, carbs). Phlegm. Then I'd take some medication as it was coming on (Western medication weakens your Kidney/Bladder Meridian "Water Element" - which would only feed the fire because it was depleting/weakening my water element.) The Water Element is directly related to your immune system. SO I'd just get sicker, and sicker and sicker.

Every year of my life, at least twice a year, I would get insanely phlegmy, coughy, fevery, blah. As I got older, I was losing my voice 2 times a year (at least). As a professional singer, you can imagine, this was not ideal for me.

Western doctors loaded me up with antibiotics, which I eventually developed severe reactions to. They suggested I had allergies. I got shots twice a week. They removed my enlarged adnoids. None of this helped. I was still getting sick. Why? Lifestyle, food intake, stress, exercise, blah blah blah…Meridians out of balance, and me, feeling like shit alot.

I started to see Dr Pan in Sept 2010. I went thru a huge exorcism of phlegm in my body for about 3 months. It was insane. But since then, I have not coughed, or been sick like that ever again. I have been re-balancing the injury I created in my meridians over a span of 25 years. So it's not a quick recovery; it's slow, natural, and amazing.

I am living proof that I am less susceptible to "germs" and therefore unwellness, because of the practice of deeper awareness and more balance in my meridians.

It's no joke. It's real. Western medicine is not the key. I'm so tired of hearing about people I love being told by physicians "they don't why there isa tumor" or being prescribed tons of drugs to help their incessant migraines. In Chinese medicine, it's very obvious why there is a tumor, or why a person gets crazy migraines, or why a person's skin breaks out or why a person gets ill all the time. Imbalance versus balance.

Check it out. Thanks for reading. It took me a while to write this blog, because honestly, there is so much information to include. I'm trying to keep it simple and factual with out overwhelming you. Hope it's helpful. Namaste. 

More info about 5 elements:

Cameron Tukapua (one of my beloved 5 element teachers) 

Frances Ren (another amazing TCM) and good friend.