(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
*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.