Making Choices

Lately I’ve had a number of patients that I have recommended come in more often than once a week. In many cases these people do not feel they can. I had one woman nearly in tears because she wanted to be able to do anything to help herself but couldn’t afford that.

I remind these people that we do what we can do. I can help but it may take longer (and cost more in the long run). However, it doesn’t mean they won’t get help. Also, when they talk about things they have read about or are recommended to do, I always tell them that if they are supposed to do it, they will. They need to explore those things that resonate most strongly with them.

There is so much out there that makes us think that if we do A, B and C and if we skip anything we won’t get better. That somehow by not doing it all we will have failed ourselves. Sometimes we need to realize that not doing can be healing as well. Sometimes it’s not about doing the healing, but just slowing down and being.

Crazy Madness

The other day I heard someone talk about craziness in a way that made me want to say mad instead. I realized that at the time we used the word “mad” to denote someone who was not quite in their right mind we might have been more correct than we thought.

I keep thinking about the craziness that happens. Someone finds their wife is having an affair and he kills her. A teenager feels left out or is harassed and they commit suicide or take the lives of others. A person is fired from their job and so they go they go on a killing rampage. Are these people really crazy or are they mad?

Mad evokes something in me that crazy doesn’t. Crazy just sends them outside the realm of feelings that I know. Mad, however, I understand. I really think the situations above are not the actions of crazy people but mad people. I don’t mean mad in the way it just means angry. I do mean mad in the way that means abnormal or is a synonym for crazy. Why is mad a better word? I think in those cases those people started out frustrated and angry. That anger and frustrated built up into the crazy rage that just had to explode and because of that lives were lost (in each case).

It seems like this sort of madness is all around us if you look for it. Road Rage. The anger in politics. The rudeness that happens so often at businesses.

As an acupuncturist, I know that anger is typically linked to the liver. When the liver is healthy, anger moves through appropriately and disperses. Anger is also a sign that something needs to be changed. It tells us that the situation we are in is not the way we want it. It may be bad for us in some way. Anger shows us that we need a creative solution to our problem

The liver is also about creativity. It pushes us to action. In today’s world where so many jobs are done at desks with the need for the same type of decision time after time, or the same sale time after time or making the same coffee time after time, is there any reason not to think we are lacking in creativity. We don’t exercise and play the way we should. Exercise is yet another thing that has to be done rather than a time for play with most people. There is a routine but no creative play. No wonder we are becoming a mad society.

We need to find places to move and express our creativity. This could be through writing or poetry, which are traditional creative outlets. It could be in play, creatively finding a way to move the body in ways that just feel good like children do naturally. It could be in making up stories about what we are doing as we garden or looking for a different look in the garden that pleases us rather than the neighborhood. Being able to take action is an important part of our creativity and loosening the hold madness may try and have over us. That means actually sitting down and doing the writing and not just thinking that you will.

Creative action is needed to keep the anger from festering inside. When it festers it can drive us mad. When it is used appropriately, it can make the world better for everyone.

Is it Real or is it Symbolic

I’m reading an interesting book called, “The Ascent of Humanity“. The author talks about how early peoples probably didn’t think in terms of symbolism.

What that means is that they understood symbols to be the thing that they were representing. In other words, a picture of the sun WAS the sun, not just a photographic or hand drawn representation. I was thinking about this in terms of acupuncture, which was no doubt being observed and understood around the time period the author is talking about.

From my Western point of view, we see the elements in the body as being LIKE the things in nature. For instance, the liver, which is considered the wood element, behaves LIKE wood does in nature. What if the communication was not that the liver is LIKE wood, but rather the liver IS wood. It is the living wood inside the body. With enough water it expands and grows and blooms and later on in time it may be harvested or will set seeds to create something new. As an acupuncturist my mind takes that as a sort of metaphor. Spiritually or emotionally or even physically, I need enough of the water element to allow my creativity to grow and expand. It will bear fruit at some point and then I will have seeded a new idea or where I will grow. What if I take that more literally? What if I really envision that part of my body growing and changing and absorbing water and clearing out the stagnant ponds that may exist in it’s thirst and using that grow and change? How does taking this literally change the way I view the medicine?

I get this little aha that suggests it is deepening my understanding. I can’t explain in words exactly how that changes. Likely it is because it is so culturally ingrained to interpret through metaphor (culturally the author of Ascent suggests that we like to think of ourselves as apart from nature which is why this is so ingrained) that I don’t even have words to describe the differences.

I think it helps me remember the cyclical nature of things in both my body and the world. To be wood, there will be times when creativity is lowered. There will be times when it bears fruit and other times when things fall to the ground (and create more fertile soil for further fruiting). There will be times when everything seems to be growing and changing and there is so much creativity that it can’t be stopped. While the seasonal nature of the world offers some clues as to when this will happen, some years are better than others. A year of drought will likely mean less creativity that year. However, a year of good rain (just enough) will allow further creativity that is likely to bear more fruit later on.

I know that I frequently think about trying to force my body into better health. This mind set allows me to flow with my body. It opens to the possibility that everything is as it should be. I hope that I can communicate these ideas to my patients more fully.

Global Yin and Yang

I was thinking about global climate change. We call it warming and eventually it will be. Until then, we just get more severe weather of all types. I was thinking about this because I had a great seminar about acupuncture and we talked about too much heat in the body.

In acupuncture theory are bodies are made up of yin and yang. Yang is the warming and active energy. Yin is the cooling and resting energy. In our world, we keep moving. We are moving all the time, every day. There is always something to do. We find it hard to stop and rest. More and more people have problems of heat and fire. Many neurologic disorders are heat disorders in acupuncture theory. There is too much fire and not enough water. The fire, like all fires, rises and causes problems in the head. This may be problems like multiple sclerosis, stroke or common headaches. Fire causes other problems too but the seminar was on MS, stroke and epilepsy.

As our teacher spoke he talked about how culturally we are always moving. We are depleting our yin more and more quickly. We are getting warmer and warmer at a younger age.

It occurs to me how when one organ in acupuncture theory gets too hot, like the liver, the liver then lights other organs on fire. I wonder if as more and more people move too quickly it forces others to move more, depleting their yin. Is it possible that we are hitting a place where so many people are so energetically yin deficient that even our world is becoming yin deficient? Is global warming really global yin deficiency?

The Changability of Life

I had a comment on my Power of Naming Disease Post which made me think. Diana said that in Chinese Medicine, they don’t name the disease as a disease but rather use terms associated with nature. In other words, I don’t get a cold in Chinese Medical theory, I get a Wind Heat External Pathogenic Influence or perhaps a Wind Cold External Pathogenic Influence. In nature, of course things are always changing.

The change allows us to consider that something is moving through. Many disease in Chinese Medicine have a wind component and everyone can observe that wind goes from strong to weak to strong or perhaps to nothing. Wind comes and goes. Even if wind doesn’t go away, consider the changes that wind brings to nature. Leaves are moved, debris is stirred up, something is uncovered and yet something else covered.

Even while the wind is there, change is always happening.

In the allopathic medicine, we are used to thinking of things as static. In Eastern medicine things change. Even cancer, which is often a stagnation of phlegm fire, seems like it can be changed. After all, all we have to do with that stagnation is get it moving. Fire is always put out by water. Phlegm may seem daunting but consider that what we understand about phlegm is usually what we are doing when we blow our nose or cough something up. Phlegm can be expelled. In nature everything is changeable.

As we reconnect to the natural world, we can begin to understand our own changeability. We stop being separate from nature but rather become one with it, changing all the time, even if we can’t see it.

Broth: Perfect Balance

As an acupuncturist, I see the world through the eyes of the paradigm that we learn in acupuncture school. I am not classically trained, but from what I understand in classical acupuncture, there is the theory that in the beginning there is the Tao. Within the Tao is everything. All of our opposites are included in the Tao: heaven and earth, male and female, yin and yang. Additionally, within all males there is some female energy. Within earth there is heavenly energy. Within yang there is yin. Nothing is ever completely just one thing. There is always a little kernel of it’s opposite within the first.

Foods also tend to be yin foods or yang foods. Some foods are very warming. Others are cooling. At the most basic level, this is how herbal medicine is categorized. Of course, as you mix herbs and foods, things become very complex. Yin and Yang are not the only opposites that are encompassed by the Tao.

Learning more about traditional diets, via the Weston A Price Foundation, I have found that within my own body, that saturated fats tend to boost yang energy. This is the warming energy of the body. It is the energy that keeps us moving, gives us the motivation and warms our bodies. Traditional acupuncturist will often recommend a bit of meat products to those who are yang deficient, usually in a soup or stew with vegetables to help boost yang. I used to think it was the meat but as I eat and consider the nuances of food a bit more, I believe the saturated fats tend to be yang.

Marrow, however, tends to be yin. Marrow is a very earthy thing within the body. It is deep and it doesn’t move much. In the thought process that like builds like, marrow is yin. Gelatin is often a yin substance as well.

Consider broth. I heard a lot about broth as a sacred food at this year’s Weston A Price Conference. Good broth, as they say, can almost raise the dead. Broth is cooked from the bones and feet and anything else that is tossed into the pot. This gives it a great mix of saturated fat (required to gel and make the yin tonic gelatin) as well as marrow from the bones.

Traditional acupuncturists always recommended eating soups and stews. In the Western World, we are taught that this is because the water catches the vitamins from the food so that they are not lost. Additionally the food is cooked and easy to digest. Instead, I think it is because the ancients knew the importance of broth and added it to as much of their cooking as they could. Broth doesn’t just tonify the yin or the yang. It builds both. Someone who is very ill often needs both to be built up. Another advantage of broth is that those things that build yin are often hard to digest, but broth is not.

Bone broth is now my number one most recommended food. So many patients have deficient yin or yang (or both), particularly with the poor eating habits in today’s world. Broth can be such a great help.

imarenegade_150This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.

Root and Branch

I just stared reading Mona Lisa’s Shultz’s new book The Intuitive Advisor: A Psychic Doctor Teaches You How to Solve Your Most Pressing Health Problems. In her preface she talks about the fact that there is no single reason for any illness. It’s not just the environment or just a spiritual thing or just this or just that. There are many things involved.

The eloquence with which she spoke about this reminded me of the root and branch of acupuncture theory. We learn in school that symptoms always point to roots and branches of an illness. Insomnia, for instance, is often a branch of something deeper. Insomnia and other issues may point us towards the root. If our patient comes for insomnia, we will often do points to help them sleep but we will also do points to make sleeping easier for them in general. We must always treat the root of the problem to be good practitioners.

It happens that we can think the root of the problem is one thing but as we treat that one thing and the symptoms resolve, we begin to see another pattern, leading us somewhere else. Our first diagnosis was not the root. However, by treating that area we were able to trace another path that may bring us to the true root of the disease.

In our own lives, we often wonder why me? Why did this happen to me? Why am I sick? Why do I get colds? As we ask these questions, it is helpful to be aware of the fact that our answers might not be complete or completely correct. As we look at another person who is sick, we must always keep in mind when we are tempted to judge them in their illness that we are probably not correct in our judgements. There are many reasons for illness. The root is often buried deep.

Thoughts Teeth and Fear

This week I am reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
by Weston A Price. Price went searching the world for people with good teeth and bones and he found them. Further, I am struck by the fact that Price always comments on the joy and honor found in the people he studies. He comments more than once that there is little theft, although people leave their personal items around. In many ways it is a tribute to the trust of the people who leave their person belongings around as much as the lack of theft.

From an energetic standpoint this is important.

Price talks about nutrition and good teeth. From an energetic standpoint, good teeth and the lovely bone structure found in people eating a natural diet signal strong kidney energy. When the kidney energy is not strong a number of things happen. One of them, as Price points out, is that the teeth become subject to more decay. Bones are not as well formed and may break easily. Another thing that happens when people have weak kidney energy is that they are easily fearful. This does not mean that those with strong kidney energy are never fearful but that they are only afraid in moments where it is appropriate. Those with strong kidney energy are able to trust when appropriate, as Price observes in place after place.

Consider our nation today. Not only is a person without cavities a rarity, but we are ruled by fear. We are led by advertising that tells us we should be afraid of what will happen to us if we do not buy this product. We should be afraid that we will not be loved, strong, safe or accepted if we do not listen to these advertisers. We are afraid if we do not vote for the proper candidate our lives will be ruined. We are afraid of anything that is different from us. Advertisers and politicians play on our fears. The more afraid we are, the weaker our kidney energy and the harder our body has to work to not be afraid and to keep us healthy.

No wonder our health is so poor. We have poor nutritional options. We are afraid. Those who are afraid and think that money will help them be less fearful prey upon our own fears, thus making us even less healthy than we were to begin with.