A discussion of many diverse topics within the realm of Alternative Medicine and Healthy Living, some of which include: Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Eastern Nutrition, Pulse Diagnosis, Psychology and Bodymind Medicine, Aromatherapy, Philosophy, Spirituality, Buddhism, Meditation and Family.
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My son has embarked on a new project: he has entered the world of blogging. Most days he will create blog posts with the intention of teaching and inspiring others to change the world. His topics will be on conservation, recycling, respect for nature and the environment and simplifying. If I were you, I'd bookmark it and check it out regularly.
Ben Saves The World blog
Saturday 12th of April 2008 01:23:43 PM | Comments
A very interesting discussion by my teacher Jeffrey Yuen related decreased metabolism (and metabolic issues) and lack of sleep. The idea is that we are highly affected by seasonal/climactic factors and the amount of light that our eyes pick up (i.e., BL 1 and activation of wei qi). The more light our eyes pick up, the more our body thinks it's summer all the time (ie, lots of yang energy). Due to technology, we live with light most of the time, albeit artificial light in our homes, workplace, etc. The body' natural mechanism is that it wants to consume more carbs/sugar/fruits because the more the body can take in, it can store it as energy for the winter. However, winter never truly comes for us anymore because of artificial heating and lighting. So, we keep consuming sugar/carbs. The excess sugar stimulates fat and cholesterol accumulation, and leads to imbalances like diabetes and arteriosclerosis because our bodies are not following the cyclical nature of sunlight and seasonal influences. One major treatment is to increase sleeping. Without sleep, we lose/consume jing-essence faster. Taxation occurs. So, there is a cyclical relationship between our eyes (BL 1 and wei qi) and metabolism. The remedy is to synchronize our days with lighting, relaxing/resting once the sun goes down. Wei qi needs to go inwards to support the Kidneys at night. Sleep!
Sunday 13th of January 2008 10:13:05 PM | Comments
To be healthy requires that we experience a balance between yin and yang, and have a smooth flow of qi and blood throughout our bodies. This is best maintained by living a moderate lifestyle in accord with the energies of nature. As summer is not afraid to end and transmute into fall, so we too must be willing to let go and change where appropriate. Part of my path as a Buddhist and practitioner of Chinese medicine is to recognize when I fall prey to attachment towards particular behaviors, thoughts, emotions, etc. Likewise, I must point these issues out as they become relevant to my patients in the course of their healing.
While watching my dvd lectures from my teacher, Jeffrey Yuen, he discusses how so often patients come to see practitioners to rid themselves of their symptoms, but never see the connection to their lifestyles. Most look forward to getting back to their lives pain -free, cancer-free, or free of whatever ailments are plaguing them. But we must instruct our patients that their lifestyles are the problem. To do otherwise, we are simply treating the branch, the manifestation.
To heal, we need to change. We need to be brave enough to change our lives in a way that is conducive to health. On a spiritual level, this means non-attachment. It means cultivating a way of life that transmutes our physicality towards spirituality. The goal of qi gong, for example, is to alchemically transmute our jing (essence) to qi, then from qi to shen to expand our consciousness and experience emptiness, the non-duality of all things.
On a physical level, healing requires significant lifestyle modifications. Dietary changes (avoiding cold, damp, greasy, fried, preservatives, chemicals, refined sugars, etc. and eating for health, not pleasure, eating live whole foods, etc. (see the Resources page on my website for a really good introduction to Eastern nutrition), habitual patterns of movement (ie, sitting all day at a desk leaning over our keyboard which kills the qi in our chest), and perhaps most importantly our habituated emotional responses. If we are living lives of quiet desperation, unhappy in our marriage or work, unhappy with how we look or feel, we must make radical changes to secure our health. If we are having difficulty containing our anger, if we are experiencing depression, we must seek out their roots.
Dealing with roots of our habituated responses is incredibly powerful and the entire subject of humanistic psychology as detailed in Dr. Hammer's Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies is very well laid out. Learning how one's behaviors, rooted in early life, shape our health across the entire bodymind spectrum, and gaining the tools to make the appropriate changes can spark a profound healing.
So, as we have decided this is the 'year of sagely living' we must strive towards this ideal by rooting out our behaviors that are synonymous with imbalance, and replacing them with habits that foster health and well-being.
Friday 04th of January 2008 10:33:45 AM | Comments
The mark of the superior physician has traditionally been a high degree of cultivation. Eastern medicines have long held the scholar-warrior-physician as the benchmark for all doctors to aspire to. In this day and age, the scholar-physicians are few and far between. But there are a growing number of practitioners of Chinese medicine who seek to strive towards this ideal and see the importance of resurrecting this tradition.
The "Year of Sagely Living" is the brainchild of my good friend Brandt (Abdallah) Stickley (see Even Unto China) and Eric Grey (see Deepest Health) and I am fortunate to be involved in this at its inception. The idea is that over the course of the next year (beginning today) we make the commitment to cultivate the skills (academic, clinical, spiritual, etc.) of the superior physician. A syllabus of sorts has been created (see below) that will help guide the process. January 1st marks the beginning of scholarship and study. Each month will have a unique theme based on a synergy with the energies of each season and time of year. Excerpted below is the syllabus from Deepest Health.
While all these categories are areas that many of us are already cultivating to various degrees, the syllabus will allow a renewed commitment and strengthened focus on a monthly basis. Each of us involved will also share our experiences online on our respective blogs.
January - Gall Bladder, Zi 子 (Rat): Scholarship/Study: This category will contain practices to develop us into true scholars in the Confucian/neo-Confucian tradition. Why this pairing? The seasonal energy is still in winter, a contemplative mood prevails, but the Yang is rising. Similar to this, we can see scholarly pursuits as ACTIVE passivity. One generally sits still, but one’s mind is hard at work.
February - Liver, Chou 丑 (Ox): Strategy/Business: This category will contain practices in the realm of business development and strategic planning in the professional world. Why this pairing? The Liver is the general of the body, so has a natural affinity for this kind of activity.
March - Lung, Yin 寅 (Tiger)- Activity/Rest: This category will contain practices having to do with appropriate cycles of rest and activity in daily life - for instance, appropriate waking times throughout the seasons. Why this pairing? This earthly branch and the essence of the Lung Zang is all about peaceful tension between opposites, like the time of the year associated with both. Further, being mindful of our need for balance between rest and activity is great preparation for the often overactive spring/summer energy.
April - Large Intestine, Mao 卯 (Rabbit) - Care of the planet/consumption: This category will contain practices that develop us into compassionate and sane consumers, while helping to develop our deep relationship with the natural world. Why this pairing? April is a time when we can see the beauty of nature all around us, so is a great time to contemplate our dependence on it and responsibility towards it. Also, the negative side of LI/Rabbit is a tendency to run rough-shod over the needs and wants of others, these practices will seek to counterbalance this.
May - Stomach, Chen 晨 (Dragon): Physical cultivation: This category will contain practices that help us to shape our physical bodies into ideal vehicles for the transmission of healing energy. Why this pairing? The natural world has exploded into full splendor and the weather in the Northern hemisphere will be warm enough in most places to warrant moving around outside. The ST is an Earth organ and is related to the flesh of the body, which we will be building with these practices. Think also of the dragon and its association with martial arts and other physical cultivation practices.
June - Spleen, Si 巳 (Snake)- Food choices - This category works in tandem with the previous one to help maintain the physical form of the body in an optimal way. Why this pairing? June is actually a great time to do fasting or other food restriction activities because most of us don’t feel any great desire to eat excessively in the summer heat. Further, reducing the burden on digestion will help us to focus on absorbing the pure Yang energy so abundantly available in June.
July - Heart, Wu 午 (Horse) - Community building/charity - This category speaks to our need to be an integral and contributing member of a number of communities. It also involves the practice of compassion in a world where inequality is the norm. Why this pairing? The summer is a wonderful time to participate in community-oriented projects! Also, the Heart and Fire (the Heart’s element) are about intimacy, about connection to Spirit — both of which are well represented in the idea behind this category.
August - Small Intestine, Wei 未 (Sheep)- Ethical Behavior - This category will include practices not covered in other categories that have some ethical dimension. These practices are likely to be very individual and defined by a person’s background, spiritual/religious practice and culture. For example, practicing “Right Speech” through abstinence from cursing. Why this pairing? The Fu (hollow, Yang) organs are said to transmit the essence of their associated Zang (solid, Yin) organs. SI exemplifies this relationship in its devotion to sacrifice as a way to manifest the Heart’s mandate of connection to Spirit in the purest sense. Also because many of the “ethical behavior” practices we discussed are somewhat prohibitive, it resonates with the descent into metal energy that the earthly branch Wei represents.
September - Bladder, Shen 申 (Monkey)- Arts/Aesthetics: This category involves the use of our creative faculties - particularly as they pertain to the arts associated with Chinese medicine, such as calligraphy. Why this pairing? These activities are Yin within Yang - they are still, yet active - like scholarship. More importantly is the symbolism of 申. One of the meanings of this character is to stretch, and the oracle bones show it as two hands pulling something in opposite directions. We might think about this as the intercourse between Heaven and Earth, the Human Being in the middle being the substrate that is stretched between those two poles. I think Art facilitates this threefold communication.
October - Kidney, You 酉 (Rooster/owl): Chinese medicine specific skills: This category includes the refinement of Chinese medicine related skills, such as hand techniques in acupuncture. For those not in the field, you might look into developing skills that will help you in your work. Why this pairing? The Kidney is often said to be the root of all skill and expertise. Also, with the cool calm energy of autumn, one can become focused enough to substantially increase specific skills.
November - Pericardium, Xu 戌: Relationships: This category will involve practices that help us develop more mature and meaningful relationships with others. Why this pairing? Pericardium is frequently said to mediate intimate relationships. One interesting symbolic note is the association of the earthly branch Xu, which means - essentially - weapon. This speaks on many levels to me. For instance, we must be careful to avoid violence in relationships, on whatever level. Also, relationships are a bit like handling weapons — if you’re not careful and mindful, it can come back to bite you. Finally, the late fall and winter are good times for relationship oriented activity, given that most of us desire to stay at home with family and friends as the weather cools.
December - Triple Burner, Hai 亥: Spiritual cultivation: Although we will be looking at spiritual dimensions of all kinds of activity throughout the year, this month we will give it special attention. These practices will probably be quite individual, but there may be some shared goals - such as having a daily meditation practice. Why this pairing? I’ve always learned about TB as being the mysterious “in between,” the mover between worlds, the ultimate stillness. What a metaphor for spiritual practice!
Tuesday 01st of January 2008 05:08:33 PM | Comments
USDA PROPOSES RULE UNDERMINING ORGANICS AND SMALL FARMS
The USDA is accepting public comments until December 3 on a new proposed rule that would force small farms growing green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and lettuce, to put into place industrial-style sterilization measures that reduce biodiversity and soil fertility. The proposal follows in the wake of the USDA's recent controversial crackdown on raw almonds, continued interference with raw milk production, and bans on the sale of locally produced organic meat directly to consumers. The proposed rules basically cover up the fact that e-coli 0157H contamination in lettuce and spinach crops comes from feedlot or industrial livestock-contaminated irrigation waters or contamination in large processing plants. The rule limits hedgerows, and other non-crop vegetation commonly found on and around small organic and sustainable farms. In addition, although every organic farmer knows that healthy soil is literally alive with multiple types of healthy bacteria, the rules also discourage the development of beneficial microbial life in the soil. Send a message to the USDA today:
Learn more and take action: http://www.organicconsumers
Take action now at http://www.democracyinaction
Wednesday 05th of December 2007 10:44:12 AM | Comments
Check out this article on just how important sleep is to the health of our children.
Monday 15th of October 2007 11:03:09 AM | Comments
excerpted from organic consumers newsletter:
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released the most extensive research to date on the impacts of environmental toxins on children's health. The report indicates that over 30% of childhood diseases can be linked to exposure to environmental toxins. According to WHO researchers, 13 million deaths could be prevented annually by improving the environment. The vulnerability of children is increased in degraded and poor environments. The report states that due to environment-related diseases, one in five children in the poorest parts of the world will not live longer than their fifth birthday. The Organic Consumers Association's "Appetite for a Change" campaign is focused on implementing policies and practices that can one day provide a safe environment for our children.
Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/afc.cfm
Wednesday 22nd of August 2007 11:40:25 AM | Comments
It's one of the biggest contradictions. The scientific method by definition isolates variables and observer in pursuit of objectifiable empirical data. All scientific studies rely on this standard and any claim must live up to it. The problem is that this classical notion of rudimentary physics, in fact, has been effectively undermined and replaced by quantum mechanics which recognizes the need to eliminate the separability of subject and object. With this new understanding of nature, it is recognized in the scientific community that the objectifiability of empirical data is simply an illusion. Yet, for some reason, the lack of objectifiable data in alternative medicines like Chinese medicine (acupuncture and herbs) is portrayed as unreliable, mystical, quackery, etc. And western pharmaceuticals with their double-blinded studies are put on a pedestal as real medicine. Chinese medicine sees through the smoke and mirrors and the illusions. Its focus is on the interrelationships between phenomena; the analysis of the particular stressor(s) on the unique landscape of the individual. The true test of any medicine is on its ability to diagnose deviations from nature and help initiate movement back to its original nature. In this sense, the scientific method is a significant barrier to health.
Tuesday 19th of June 2007 10:09:54 PM | Comments
I probably sound like a broken record, but I can't stress enough the importance of a healthy lifestyle in achieving and maintaining health. Everyone wants to be healthy, but how many of us really want to live healthy? Following natures rhythms, rising with the sun, retiring with the moon. Eating foods that nourish us when we are hungry. Avoiding refined, processed, denatured, store-bought preserved foods. That's right, no ice cream, sorry. And how well does our career fit in with nature. The day to day stresses mostly over office politics and deadlines for the sake of what? How hard would it be to change to a line of work with a social benefit? To walk or ride a bike instead of jumping in the car. You can extrapolate further.
If one understands that the causes of disease/illness are mental/emotional excesses of grief, anger, fear, anxiety, stress, overthinking, greed; environment, pollution, chemicals, habits, diets, posture/structure, one sees the importance of moving back into harmony with nature. So, what price are you willing to pay to live or not live a healthy lifestyle. Will you gamble your health to live for convenience and a scoop of ice cream or will you forego transient pleasures to live in accord with nature and experience good health, vitality and longevity? These are questions I ask myself daily. In theory it is a no-brainer. In practice, a whole different story.
Wednesday 13th of June 2007 10:54:01 PM | Comments
When is the right time for a baby to be born? The obvious answer is when he/she is ready. But so often this momentous occasion is interfered with, expedited, hurried for the sake of others, whether it be for impatient parents-to-be or perhaps obstetricians who would rather schedule a delivery than be woken up in the middle of the night or during a busy patient shift resulting in loss of income. Insufficient knowledge regarding the significance of the birthing process to the health of the baby has led to unnecessarily scheduled inductions and C-sections at a great cost to the health of our children. (See some of my prior posts on birthing trauma.)
So, currently I am waiting for the birth of my third child. The excitement cannot be described and can only be known by other expecting parents. But, I am waiting. As patiently as I can. Despite that the due date is approaching (and, in fact, is today according to the updated due date given at the 20 week sonogram). Of course, due dates are constantly being pushed forward based on sonograms (despite the accuracy of which is plus or minus 10 days or so). Why? The cynic in me believes it probably allows doctors to schedule inductions in the belief of preventing a baby from going too far past its due date (not the original due date). But, in my experience of three pregnancies, and a significant number of my patients, the original due date is the correct one. Another instance whereby technology fails to achieve the accuracy of nature.
So, I wait. I can't wait. I am very excited!
Friday 04th of May 2007 08:57:44 PM | Comments
Tonight spring has arrived, and as such we are transitioning from the dormancy of winter (water - Kidneys) into a time marking the renewal of life (wood - Liver). Technically, we are not fully there yet, as the 3 week period of time between seasons is mediated by the earth - Spleen/Stomach. The earth phase helps to assure stability in the midst of such dramatic climactic change. And what does it need to buffer?
The springtime (and Liver) are associated with wind. Not just that which we feel on our bodies, or see evidence of moving the trees. Wind is essentially change. Quick change. Change that the body needs to adapt to, or otherwise fall prey to imbalance and sickness. Wind is said to bring in the "hundreds of diseases." It carries in the common cold with all its variations. Should we be unable to defend against it, we get sick. Internal wind makes us dizzy. Without the stability internally, we cannot adapt to the rapid change and we lose our grounding. We become unsteady, uncertain, unable to find our center.
The earth phase helps to buffer the extreme change/wind between the seasons. Moving from dormancy to life requires stability and centeredness. Being careful of what we eat and our digestion during this time is warranted. Starting to move away from winter-fare towards foods that are more alive. Green. Green is the color of spring/wood/Liver.
Something I wrote for a magazine a few years ago on springtime:
In Chinese medicine, every phase (pair of organ systems) has an associated color and energetic seasonal influence. The wood phase (Liver and Gall Bladder systems) is associated with the springtime and the color green. The spring is a time of rebirth or regeneration. It is a time when the reserves protected during the winter are utilized and activated. The growth of the spring gives us hope and directs us towards the future. As such it provides us with a vision and a purpose; it directs us upwards and onwards to grow in the direction of our goals. There is an active, forceful quality to the spring energy. This forcefulness and strength is not hard or rigid, however; it is flexible to accommodate the uncertainty of life.
The color of the wood element and the springtime is green and/or blue-green. It reflects the blooming of flowers, trees and grass. Diagnostically, one can use color to determine the nature of one’s imbalance. For instance, often the color green will manifest most prominently around the lateral aspect of the eyes, between the eyes or around the mouth when an imbalance in the Liver or Gall Bladder is present.
The climate of the spring is windy -- it can bring about rapid and powerful changes. If one’s body is unable to adjust to such change, imbalance can result causing allergies, the common cold, dizziness, skin disorders and other “wind diseases.”
The sound associated with the wood element is "shouting" or "lack of shout." The shout is attributed to the forceful quality of the spring season and the emotion of anger. "Lack of shout" manifests when the wood element is weakened resulting in a person who feels resigned or defeated or unable to express oneself.
The odor of the wood element is rancid. It is the smell of oil or fat that has spoiled. It may also be associated with the bile and oil of the liver.
The emotion of wood is anger. This anger is typically sudden and forceful. When this emotion is not expressed or when the element is weakened, it may manifest as frustration, passive-aggressive behavior, or an abnormal lack of anger. When one’s Liver and Gall Bladder is out of balance, he/she can be overcontrolling and aggressive. This person may be excessively ordered, planning for every contingency, or completely unable to make or execute plans and decisions.
WOOD ELEMENT ORGANS AND THEIR FUNCTIONS
Liver. The functions ascribed to the Liver are: (1) maintaining the smooth flow Qi-energy; (2) storing and detoxifying the blood; (3) controlling the sinews and tendons; (4) influencing the eyes; (5) influencing the nails; (6) controlling the ethereal soul; (7) internally and externally related to the Gall Bladder; (8) responsible for planning and vision of the future.
Gall Bladder. In Chinese medicine, the Gall Bladder (1) stores and secretes bile; (2) is responsible for decision-making, and judgment; (3) assists the Liver in coursing the Qi.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF THE LIVER AND GALL BLADDER
Physical: hypochondriac pain, red burning eyes, vertex and migraine headaches, hernia pain, stuffiness in chest, feeling something is caught in throat, menstrual cramps and clotting, one-sided symptoms, nail disorders, insomnia, stiff muscles, poor coordination, sciatica (side of leg), lateral ankle or foot pain, dizziness, hypertension.
Emotional/Spiritual: timidity, poor self-esteem, depression, impatience, irritability, intolerance, angry, frustrated and aggressive.
Wednesday 18th of April 2007 08:25:06 AM | Comments
Recently I was watching a great documentary on multiples in the womb. It highlighted the numerous stages of gestation and the interactions between the brother and sister fetuses while in utero. One of the very intriguing things brought to light was how often one fetus would dominate the other, in terms of obtaining the better position and space and utilizing a higher share of the nutrition. But what is striking is that these behaviors translate once out of the womb. That same sibling who was the aggressor, who took more food and blood, who pushed and shoved to occupy the prime positioning in the womb, would also be more aggressive towards the sibling, more confrontational and bullying, and demanding more attention from parents and caretakers. The reserved sibling would oblige, retreat easily, and overall tend towards more of an introverted personality.
With this information out in the western scientific world, it's not clear to me why so many often disregard the extent to which early life events and traumas can impact one's personality and physiology, emotional and physical well-being. On my website I have a case study on migraines and cluster headaches. In it, the patient had suffered many years before severe head trauma. All the doctors that she consulted for treatment (of which there were many, and some of which were top neurologists) all discounted these traumas as being sufficiently in the past to have no impact on her current situation. Dealing with this trauma with acupuncture and herbs led to rapid relief and cure of her symptoms.
By no means do I intend to negate the effects of genetics and "nature." Clearly, it has a profound impact on us all. But, I think it incumbent on all of us to critically examine our habits, lifestyle, nutrition, significant events in our lives, etc. to see how they have affected us in the past, and more importantly, how they continue to effect us in the present and will affect us in the future.
Wednesday 18th of April 2007 08:38:22 AM | Comments
I can't believe I haven't seen this movie before tonight. I strongly encourage everyone to watch it and to do what they can to implement lifestyle changes to save our planet. This is truly shocking and profound information.
Check out the trailer here:
Wednesday 18th of April 2007 08:39:57 AM | Comments
My recent trip to Costa Rica reminds me of my post from January regarding living in accord with nature. I am always struck by how well I feel in Manuel Antonio. The minute I get there, until I return back to the states, my energy levels are high, spirit is soaring with an overall feeling of well-being. Perhaps it is how seemless one's experience is with the multitude of living creatures and flora/fauna all around. Things are alive in the jungle, and that life is palpable. A little video of the wildlife is below.
Wednesday 18th of April 2007 08:43:22 AM | Comments
One of the paramount lessons that Chinese medicine teaches is the importance of living in harmony with the cycles of nature. When one resists our ignores these cycles, imbalance sets in and illness is not far off. These discussions were taking place over 2500 years ago as recorded in one of the oldest classics of Chinese medicine, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine (The Huang Di Nei Jing, Su Wen), wherein the Yellow Emperor had the following conversation with his teacher:
Wednesday 18th of April 2007 09:39:07 AM | Comments