Healing Obstacles

Healing starts with removing obstacles. The greatest obstacles being inside our body and mind.

Healing is creating change needed to remove blocks. Anything that is blocked is not whole. Healing is the natural desire to move towards wholeness. 

When we align ourselves with our Heart we intuitively know what our purpose is and our healing path is illuminated. When we know where we are going, then it is just a matter of discovering how to get there.  That process begins with removing obstacles. 

In Chinese medicine there is a saying that the Hun must follow the Shen.  The Hun is the spirit of the liver. In 5 element system the liver is like the General. It’s the visionary, the function in us that makes plans, judgements, assessments and determines the course of action to move forward and accomplish our goals.  It is structure and facilitator.  It is that energy in us that has a sense of the right way to live for ourselves (and often others).  The energetic is the expression of frustration and anger. 

The Shen is the spirit of the Heart.  In 5 element theory, the Shen is the emperor, the center, the Sun.  It is the energy of higher and lower frequencies of love and joy.  When the Shen is awakened we have access to our Higher Heart, a very fine energy/information field.  When a sense of order comes through us, we find the elements begin to relate to one another in a more coherent and integrated way.  As the Heart frequencies strengthen, the lower frequencies of Earth, Water, Metal and Wood bow down and begin to entrain to higher aspects/vibrations. 

Obstacles are simply energies that are denser than our desired state of being. We remove them by raising our vibration, and there are many ways to do that. Here are a few ideas:

  • There is no exercise that will make up for poor eating. You cannot simply burn it off.  A diet of poor foods creates mucus in the body which creates blocks.  Keeping your diet simple, eating organic fruits and raw or lightly steamed veggies in combinations that are few, help empower the body to resolve mucus and eliminate toxins. 
  • Everything is in resonance.  When we are lonely, depressed, in grief, in anger.  When we feel isolated, in pain, or misunderstood. We are experiencing a vibration. Be curious about it. Spend a few minutes tuning into it, listening, perhaps having an inner dialogue with this part of you. Hold yourself gently with your mind as you do this.  Then move your body. Change your scene.  Listen to upbeat music.  Change your vibration. The combination of tuning in with loving kindness and curiosity, and then intentionally uplifting your vibration is much like a mother consoling a child after the fall off their bike.  If there is too much dwelling on the pain from the fall it can smash out the courage to try again.  If there is too little attending to the pain it can smash out our natural humanness.  If we tend to ourselves with just the right amount of both- love/tenderness and strength/discipline to make a change – then we find one level of the meaning Hun Follow the Shen.

This process of refining ones energy to a higher vibration is spontaneous yet effortful. It takes focus, yet arises from nothing.  We can sabotage it with our actions, yet the reason for doing has a lot of wisdom in it. We can only be where we are, we can only take action from what is experienced in this moment.  As the Zen saying goes, chop wood, carry water.

Fire & Metal: Yuji (Fish Pond) to Fish Pose.

Yuji, is the name of the 10th acupuncture point on the lung meridian. It is located on the fleshy part of the palm at the base of the thumb.  It translates as Fish Pond and energetically draws fire energy into the lung meridian, which moves metal energy.  The relationship between fire and metal is part of what is called the Ko cycle, or control cycle.  The control cycle reflects how specific energies temper other frequencies, in this case how fire energy can control metal energy by warming or melting it.

As we look to the organs that resonate fire and metal frequencies we find the yin aspects of each in the chest:  Lungs (yin metal) and Heart/pericardium (yin fire).  Balance is often thought of as equal parts, but if we look at the yin/yang symbol we may come to understand balance, at least in the living, requires more yang than yin energy.  Life is expansion/yang.

When people are expanding their consciousness I see their lung field unifies with the heart field to allow for openness as the energy is flowing in and out of the center of the chest easily.  In a moment of contraction the heart field closes and other frequencies come forward, sometimes the kidneys (water/fear) or the lungs (metal/grief) or the liver (wood/frustration).  When we do our inner work, the lung energy remains integrated with heart even when there is contraction.

If we are mindful we may notice in our bodies when these subtle shifts occur.  One pose to help temper the metal energy of the lungs and ultimately unify them with the fire of the heart is called Matsyasana, or Fish Pose. 

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Matsyasana
1-2 minutes
Props:  2 blocks, 3-5 blankets or 1 bolster.

 

· Come to lie on your back, relax the spine into the floor. Take a deep breath in through the nose, close your eyes and exhale. Repeat 3 times or as many as desired. Breathing deep into the backside of the ribcage.

· Place one block horizontally, on the lowest height, under your shoulder blades, behind the heart.

· Place the second block behind the head, vertically on medium height.

· If using blankets, fold into a thick (5- 10 inches in height) rectangle and place vertically on the ground near your tailbone. Relax back over the blankets, relaxing your shoulders and soften your neck.

Pay attention to your neck. The intention is create length and openness, so notice any compression, tension, or crunching. Keeping a soft and strain free posture that opens through the neck and chest.

The Art of Grief

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In Chinese 5 element theory fall is the expression of Metal energy.  Similar to how the chakras are complex, dynamic fields of information, the elements are also fields imbedded within fields that govern our body, mind, and emotions.  When the physical body is ill, it will siphon off energy from the subtle body, pulling it in through the chakra system into the tissues as a way to counter dis-ease.  The elements are qualities of energy that also contract or expand through our bodymind.  While we see the elements express through the physical body, it is more often talked about how these energies influence the mind and emotions.  Metal energy is the energy of grief.  If we aredoing our inner work, grief becomes an energy that we engage with.  Through our own intention and attention we can begin to refine this energy into the effort of purification, release and reverence.  This process is core to the experience of being human. When approached mindfully many discover a divine beauty to the whole experience, in turn transmuting any excessive contraction Metal energy is naturally susceptible to.

Of course grief is experienced daily by most people, but perhaps given its common resonance with autumn, it can feel more overwhelming this time of year.  Depression, sadness, feelings of heaviness or disconnection, emotional waves, cloudiness feeling, colds, flues, lung congestion, changes in digestion, can be expressions of one’s metal energy expressing itself. 

There is no magic prescription for processing grief.  Everyone responds to it in their own way.  I’ve found in working with my own grief and with others, touch and staying present seem key for healing. 

Be in Touch.

I remember a few years ago sitting next to a woman in the airport.  She got off the phone and burst into tears. I turned my attention to her and she said her son had just died. Without thought I hugged her.  I could feel her energy sink into mine and she began to center herself.  Later as I passed by her sitting on the plane she thanked me.  It's a story that has reminded me we shouldn't underestimate how deeply healing touch can be.  

Being touched with good intentions gives us the sense of being seen, cared for, and acknowledged. There is about 5 million sensory receptors on our skin. When we are touched, electrical pulses are sent to our neurons (nerve cells) and then to the spinal cord. Your spinal cord takes the incoming signal and sends it to your brain. Once the brain receives the signal from the spinal cord, it translates the electrical signal. [Source].  As these signals are decoded, our body reduces our cortisone levels, stimulates our immune system by increasing lymphocytes and decreasing cytokines and vasopression. [Source].

Energetically, touch occurs when fields connect, either through proximity or through morphic resonance.  In one study conducted by the HeartMath Institute,  the data showed “when people touch or are in proximity, a transference of the electromagnetic energy produced by the heart occurs.”

Morphic fields are self organizing energetic fields that, according to the work of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, govern biological and social development, habits, and thoughts.  When morphic fields are in resonance, such as between individuals, the fields act as a channel for communication.  In this way bodies don’t have to be touching, but there is still a sense of it.   Remote healing, telepathy and are good examples of this. 

Be Present.

The basics of wellness care never change, but in times of grief it can be incredibly difficult to do even these.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of what the basics are and find support in friends and family to make them happen. 

Basics: Support your body. Sleep, but not too much.  Eat (good food), but not too much.  Drink water, fresh juices and teas. Support your liver and colon to make sure your body is flushing out toxins.  Meditate, and move your body throughout the day.  Be in nature.  Be in your body.  Breath mindfully for a few minutes each day.  Balance stillness and movement. 

Deeper:  Turn your attention internally to the experience of grief. Feel it objectively and subjectively.  What happens when you give just a little bit of yourself to it?  What happens when you give all of yourself to it?  Grief is one of our great teachers.  Like all great teachers, it can deliver hard lessons, but once you turn towards it, you might find the wisdom gained positively changes your inner landscape.

How we take in our outer experience and let it shapeshift our inner world of thoughts and emotions, and then take those internal experiences and process them further to illuminate who we are, is an art in and of itself.

Frequencies of Fire

 

We can see the fire element easiest in the summer as it is the energy that is all around us.

In our body if there is too much fire energy we may experience excess heat, a short temper, being “hot headed,” headaches, irritability, constipation, dehydration, skin conditions, blurry vision, etc.  If there is too little fire we may experience close heartedness, withdrawn, anxiety, coldness in the body, slow metabolism, slow or foggy thoughts, unclear sense of self, etc.

All of these symptoms are clues from our bodymind that we are out of harmony.  If we turn our attention into the experience we are having we can begin to understand why we are out of sync and then we can know if the imbalance is in the physical body or if there is an emotional component.  Notice there are different ways we can examine our experience - if we are anxious or in a lot of pain we may have a hard time quieting the mind to be an objective observant.  But if we can get ourselves to a state of curiosity, a state of wanting to know ones self more, then we may be surprised how much information we can gather just by quieting our mind.  To quiet the mind means to pay attention and in this case, to direct one's attention on the intention.  Here, our intention is to know why there is an imbalance in the bodymind.  When our judging mind is quieted, then we can find the sense of knowingness as to what is causing the imbalance and then use discernment as to how to take action.   Our action may be to eliminate heating foods and to take in more cooling substances (see below).  We may find meditation helps us clear heat, or doing specific body movements.  Or perhaps we have a conflict old emotional habits that is ready to be resolved,  Sometimes just the awareness of the cause of the imbalance begins to resolve it.

Like all of the elements, Fire has many frequencies (vibrations) within its domain.  As it resonates through our emotional, mental and spiritual energy fields we might experience the range of joy and playfulness, to maturation, transformation and love. Our energy follows where we put our attention.  If we put our attention on the desire to have fun, our thoughts and actions will be governed by that desire, and in turn strengthening that vibration within us.  If we’re oriented on a specific life path, we experience the fire frequencies that help us unfold (mature/transform) on our journey.  If we're on a spiritual journey we may experience Tapas, a Sanskrit word meaning "to heat, to give warmth to, to shine, to burn."  This is a frequency of fire that comes from the fire of our kidneys (will power) and the fire of our heart (Love) resulting in the desire and discipline for self purification, orto know one's true self.

Cooling Foods:

 

 

 

Five Fabrics of Consciousness and Original Frequencies

 

The Chinese 5 element theory describes 5 phases of energy:  Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal.  Each of these energies can be thought of as a distinct vibration.  Vibrations reflect fabrics of consciousness.  This means the qualities of each element manifest in a specific way as determined by the information (frequency) of the field in which it arises.  When we look at the elements as five fabrics, we see they exist in the realm of duality and their natural rhythm is to interpenetrate one another, creating a complicated and dynamic expression of life.  When one of the vibrations (fabrics) is out of balance, it will influence the others, and if the imbalance is great enough, it will change the overall frequency of the life force and we will feel the repercussions in our body, mind and/or emotions.    5 Element acupuncture is a specific form of acupuncture that specializes in perceiving the relationship between the elements and making adjustments to the energy field to optimize harmony.

As mentioned, the 5 elements reside in the realm of duality.  In meditation, we can have an experience beyond duality.  One way to describe this experience is the self tuning into the vibration that penetrates beyond the personality and into the realm of the Soul Plane.  In samadhi, or total absorption, we attune to the frequency that extends beyond the Soul Plane and into the Monadic Plane, the field of Original Consciousness.

Inner plane work is practices that consciously cultivate as a way of seeking what exists beyond our ego.  Our Monadic ray vibrates through all three planes – Monadic, Soul and Personality.  As we refine ourselves the timing becomes ripe for our Soul Rays to penetrate into our denser aspect of our personality.  Then our path shifts from a personal experience to our souls journey.

Esoteric Acupuncture is one tool of many that helps balance the 5 fabrics of consciousness, improving the overall quality health and life experience, and invite the awakening of the Souls Journey. 

 antahkarana, Celestial fullness. by Dr. Mikio Sankey

antahkarana, Celestial fullness. by Dr. Mikio Sankey

Asana and the Elements

In its original form asana was an inner practice of devotion, reflection, and communion with our Devine nature.  In modern culture asana is usually taught as a practice of fitness, a shaping and refining of the physical body.   If we come to our mats consistently, even from the perspective of physical practice, the specific shaping of the body can draw one to a profound inner experience.  Depending on timing, this experience can take one deeper into the practice where one engages with asana as was originally intended; a discipline of bringing the mind into the body as a way of self-purification.

As mentioned here, the 5 elements as described in Chinese 5 Element Theory are specific frequencies that exist in duality.  These interconnected frequencies give shape to our personality and physical experience.  When asana becomes a mindful practice the light of the mind penetrates through the cells of the body and the body’s natural intelligence is perceived by the mind.  This union of body and mind is felt like a flooding of light that fills the physical body.  When this happens the energy fields of the body start holding more light, visibly shifting the physical body and enlightening the mind.  This practice of self purification deepens Self Knowledge and creates an inner plane that is ripe for perceiving the more subtle vibrations of our Soul and Original Consciousness. Then asana becomes the practice, the purpose and the wisdom of the seeker.

 Amber West

Amber West

Keeping your Chakras Balanced through Winter

Winter is a time of year that resonates strongly with our lower chakras.  Chakra, translates as spinning wheel.  There are many chakras in the body, but there are 7 considered to be the main ones.  These chakras sit along our spine, beginning at our tailbone coming up to our crown. Those who are clairvoyant report each of these chakras is about the size of an orange, spinning 3-dimensionally.   Each chakra acts like an information center.   This information is energy that is expressed through our mind, emotions and body.  When balanced, the chakras allow for higher states of consciousness to be embodied.  When out of balance, the chakras can express as limitations.

Not all texts agree on the information governed by each chakra.  This is partly due to the spinning wheels overlapping.  In esoteric acupuncture the lower two chakras are seen as energies that govern our sense of stability, collective unconscious, power, fame, how we manage our money, and sexuality. When balanced, these chakras create a tremendous amount of strength and solidity within our energy field, and in turn our mind and body.

There are many ways to balance the energies of the chakras, acupuncture is just one of them.  Another way to bring harmony and vitality to these centers is through diet.  Every food and drink has its own vibration.  In Chinese medicine, the etheric spleen is understood as governing the function of absorbing and assimilating these vibrations through our energy field.  This means what we consume becomes a part of us.  If we are eating foods that are dense, or stressing our body out, that energy directly influences our chakras, which in turn influences our mind, emotions, and biology.

Our energy fields are always resonating with the vibrations of nature.  In both spring and fall there is the natural pull to release, making them ideal times of year to clean up our diets and detox.  However, as we consider that the lower chakras are in strong resonance with winter, coupled with our cultural stress with holidays and year end, a little mini cleanse might be helpful to keep you feeling steady.

Healing at Home: How to make use of Entrainment

In vibrational medicine there are three basic ways to work with energy:  1.  You can nourish it from one phase to another.  2.  You can control it 3.  You can entrain it.

We see this beautifully laid out in the Chinese elemental theory as what is called the Shen cycle, one element moving into the next (just like one season moving into the next).  The Ko cycle, where one element controls the other (such as water puts out fire). And entrainment, where the weaker vibration attunes to the stronger vibration (Shaoyin or Heart/Kidney axis). 

While all of these have a place and use, I have found entrainment to be the most helpful for making lasting changes and the easiest tool to use at home.

Entrainment is the process where two interacting oscillating systems assume a common period (Wikipedia). During the period of commonality there is coherence.  Where there is coherence there is greater degrees of wellness, health and awareness.  The Heart Math Institute is one organization that has done quite a bit of research on coherence and what happens to individuals and communities when people start to experience extended periods of synchronicity.

When we’re not in coherent states we can feel anxious, depressed, quick tempered, fuzzy, short attention span, ungrounded and self-conscious.  We can have symptoms like panic attacks, insomnia, digestion disturbance, fatigue, mood swings, emotional instability, and illness.  When we’re in a coherent state we tend to feel more at ease, relaxed, clear headed and grounded.  In this state our body is freed from the tension of being scattered and can heal.

Meditation or focused awareness is the best way that I have found to quickly gain a coherent energetic state.  The question is then, what is it we’re entraining to?  We entrain to the strongest vibration, which most people when they experience it describe it as Love.  In the cycle of the elements the Chinese show how each vibration moves into one another.  This is a natural flow that is constantly happening on micro and macro levels.  They also show the Heart is the first energetic.  It’s described poetically and scientifically how the heart needs to be the most empowered energetic for there to be order, health and wellness within a person’s body, mind and soul.  The energy of Love has the ability unlike any other to create a deep state of coherence.  The Heart field is dynamic, opening and closing depending on our experiences.  The purpose of the meditation is to intentionally move into a state of centeredness, allowing all the fields of your mind and body to be nourished by the powerful energy of Heart Love. 

The Practice.

You can apply the basics of this to do a meditation on each chakra, any organ, feeling or trouble you may be experiencing. 

1.        Sit or lay in a comfortable position.

2.       In your mind’s eye see the area you want to work with.  Sense it.  Stay focused on it.  Don’t analyze it, just stay present with it. 

3.       Draw your mind’s eye to the edge of it.

4.       Become aware of the space around it.  Feel the quiet, pure, strong vibration of that silent space.  If you don’t recognize this space as the quality of Love, intend it to become Love. 

5.       Focusing on the sensation of Love, feel it embrace what you’re working with.  Hold your attention on it.  If whatever you are working on starts to heighten, simply intend increase the envelop of Love around it.  Hold this until the sensation dissipates.

Example:

If you experience anxiety, you can close your eyes and locate where you feel the anxiety.  Once you have a sense of where the anxiety is, hold the sensation of it in your mind.  Start to draw in the sense of Love around it.  If the anxiety feels like it’s growing, hold the Love stronger until it calms down.

 

It’s Spring. Are you paying attention?

In Chinese elemental theory Spring is the season of Wood energy.  Wood energy governs the functions of the Liver and Gallbladder in renewing, rebuilding, planning, and taking action.  Wood is also the energy of the Hun, translates as cloud-soul.  Hun is the yang aspect of our Soul.  When in harmony, the Hun gives the right amount of rise and movement to stir the Shen (Spirit).  If Hun is depleted the Heart (Shen) suffers, and we experience symptoms such as depression.  If Hun is in excess the Heart is agitated and we experience mania or aggression.
 
The heart is the anchor of our attention.  If there is an imbalance, then our attention tends to be scattered and dull, dwelling on the past or anxious on the future, or lost in the ego's desires.  If the Heart is balanced then the energy of the Hun will be able to do its job and caste our gaze to the future.  Then we experience one of the most profound gifts of being human- holding onto nothing but the moment and yet fiercely pursuing our own creative unfolding.
 
You can support harmony of the Shen/Hun relationship by paying attention. So much of what we do is a subconscious reaction.  Start paying attention to what you do, how you feel, and the thin threads of coincidence.  Spend time being quite.  Stop thinking and tune your attention to your inner silence.  And then make a plan. 
 
As we come into spring, energy of renewal, we have a natural inclination to make change, to clean up, to start fresh.  Everyone goes about making changes slightly different.  When I want to incorporate a new habit I think of it like a game.  I give it a trial period and I make a ritual/plan for a designated amount of time.  For example I like to do a cleanse in Spring, so I mark a day on the calendar to go through the house and donate things that I no longer need.  I pick a week to do a detox and I decide what that means for me given the state of my health that year.  

These actions feel good while doing them (and after) but the action isn't what I'm really interested in.  For me, they are simply tools for paying attention. Any act may be beneficial, but only partially if we don't pay attention while we are doing it.

The Effect of Seasons on Emotions, Anxiety, and Depression

In western medicine we rarely talk about the influence of seasons on health, except for things like Seasonal Affective Disorder (commonly known as the winter blues), or flu season.  Regardless of how little we may notice, the seasons do influence us a great deal, even in our modern culture.  While our awareness of the power of the seasons has dropped to the background, numbed by things like our access to seasonal foods year-round, and ability to alter the temperature to meet our comfort (thanks to air conditioning and heating), it can still be felt and perhaps most easily observed, through its impact on our emotions.  Anxiety and depression are common feelings that can emerge with the shifts of the seasons.

 

Emotions are highly subjective to energetic changes.  As energy goes through its natural cycle we see it in season changes, as well as how people feel.  We can better understand how the energetic cycle influences us by observing the quality of each season.

Everyone has 5 different qualities of energy flowing through them.  The ancient Chinese described them as the 5 Elements, or the 5 Phases.  They are as follows; Winter/Water, Spring/Wood, Summer/Fire, Late Summer/Earth, Fall/Metal.  Each energetic element or phase fluctuates based on the season, time of day, and individual.  Each person expresses one of the five qualities of energies that run through them more than the others.  In 5 element acupuncture this is called a Causative Factor- the energy that foundationally shapes unique personal expressions.

How one feels during a season is greatly influenced by the resonation between their personal energetic chemistryand the energy of the season.  If there is an imbalance in one’s personal energy a season can accentuate the instability.  (In cooking, for example, if you take a jalapeño , a food that is naturally spicy,  and put it in a recipe that adds onions and chili powder, you’ll end up with what was originally spicy and make it extraordinarily so.)  Similarly in people:  If a person thrives at a fast pace, warm environment, and is outgoing, in summer months this condition may become even more so, fueled by the warm weather and engaging energy.  However, in winter, when the weather is cold and there is a natural inclination to contract and draw inward, it can dramatically impact how one feels and can easily cause the experience of anxiety or depression.

Harmonizing a patient’s energetic system can minimize seasonal negative feelings, such as anxiety and depression.  Harmony occurs when the flow of energy from one element transitions smoothly into another.  When this flow is established a synergy between the season’s energy, and the energies within us, is created, allowing the richness of each element to resonate through us from a stable emotional foundation.

Dancing with Spring | Wood Element

I spend a lot of time talking about the seasons with my patients.  Our conversations go beyond the weather as we chat about what the seasons means and how they relates to health, well-being and, of course, acupuncture.  Nature reflects the energy that runs through it.  This means as the energy changes so do the seasons.  As we move into spring, the energy warms from the winter and what was consolidated and quiet becomes active and dynamic.  A movement of direction emerges.  We see this in plants as the warmth starts to open up their pores and their fresh scents fill the air.  There is a movement leading out of hibernation and into upward growth.  With this movement we can also intuit a vision, a striving to accomplish a mission or goal.  We also see creativity emerge as the potential of winter gives birth to new beginnings.  We see this in the beautiful expression of plants, and in animals we see more mating, creating, and manifesting.

The Chinese called this energy Qi. Qi being the concept of life force, the energy that organizes and animates living matter.  Qi runs through our body, minds and emotions and if we spend a moment contemplating our own life force, we can feel our deep connection to everything.  When we see how things are connected to the movement of Qi we can begin to understand what is in balance and what is imbalance.  As we consciously reflect on this relationship we can begin to understand what is needed to restore balance, harmony, and ease when it is lost.    We can understand how to self-preserve, self-cultivate, and self-transform.  This becomes knowledge of oneself and as we become more knowledgeable of the depth of our own selves the doors for amazing and wondrous possibilities fly open.  We discover how to direct our own nature through the alignment of this greater life force, guided by our observations of how nature responds to its movement.  All of this can stem from a single insight, a curiosity, an awareness of the relationship between man and nature, man and energy, man and Qi.

As we move into spring this year I invite you to contemplate on this movement, notice it in nature and in yourself.  Let your inquiry take you beyond the overarching aspects of spring that I’ve mentioned above and into the subtleties and nuances of this energetic quality and discover how it relates to and affects you.  Come to know yourself in relation to this Spring.

Welcome Spring with a Ritual

Rituals are a great way to transition from one phase to another.  In my acupuncture practice I often recommend them to my patients who may struggle with a loss or a life change.  Rituals are also helpful for solidifying our intentions, expressing gratitude and appreciation, building community and supporting the connection between head/heart and promote forward movement.

While we celebrate the New Year in the heart of the winter season I always feel more inclined to do so when spring emerges.  To me it marks the true end of a cycle and beginning of another.  In addition, the energy of spring is intimately connected to our own ability to create a vision, set goals and act on them.  It has a very dynamic and creative quality fueled by direction, momentum and precision.  When we align with these qualities we can become in tune with the energetic movement of the season and in harmony with nature.  When we are in harmony with nature we not only feel balance, but we become deeper expressions of nature itself by consciously expanding our own liveliness.

Below is a suggested ritual to help you welcome spring and set your intentions:

–          Plan ahead for your ritual.  Set aside a day and time to hold your ritual.  Consider if you want to invite others to participate or if you want to hold it just on your own.

–          Set your intention.  Think about what you want your ritual to represent.  Some hold a ritual as a means to find more clarity, direction, and guidance.  You could also hold a ritual to mark the end of one year and beginning of another.  You can hold one to simply welcome spring.  You can focus on releasing old emotions, grief, or habits and make room for a new experiences to land.  Whatever your purpose of setting a ritual for this spring, be clear about it in your own mind.

–          Decide what components you want to have be included in your ritual.  For example, you may want to have candles to represent the beginning and ending of something.  Or you may want to have a bowl of water to dip your hands in and represent cleansing and releasing.  Or, appropriate for spring, you may want to pot a plant, representing the rooting of new beginnings.  Some rituals contain more reading or writing.

–          Enter your ritual with mindfulness.  Our mind is a powerful tool.  Few fail when they truly set their mind to something.  This means the more we consciously engage with our experience the more likely we are to get the result we want.  When it comes to experiencing your ritual, let yourself immerse in it.  Feel connected to why you’re doing it and what result you want from it.  Trust in your effort to have the experience and effect you desire.

–          Give thanks.  Gratitude is one of the most effective ways to acknowledge receiving.  If we don’t open ourselves to really receive our experiences we will feel disconnected from our efforts and likely disconnected from others or a sense of purpose.  Connection and gratitude are necessary for well-being.  Give yourself the gift of feeling thankful.

Making room for change: Love even more

When you’re ready to heal it can be painful to look in the rear-view mirror and see all the choices you’ve made that were self-destructive, or not honoring what you now realize is really most important.  Itcan be surprising and heart wrenching to see our own capacity to neglect, hurt or sabotage our own beautiful self.  Acknowledging these tendencies, the habits we blindly put into play, we’re faced with two choices- we can either turn away and continue down the same path, or we can change.  It seems obvious that change is the higher road, but not always.  The soul has to be ready to listen to the heart.

To the ancient Chinese the heart is seen as our inner Emperor.  The character for heart, Xin, is drawn as an empty space with fire around it.  It was valued that the emptiness of the heart allowed the guidance of heaven to penetrate our human nature, allowing us to feel calm, ease, warmth and love.  In our modern culture we may use different words to describe heavenly guidance, but it is once again becoming more accepted that living with inner peaceful gives way to a presence that is powerful.

If the throne of the heart is drunk on mundane worries, annoyances, or “heartaches,” there is no room for wisdom that comes from openness.    It may be the soul saying, “I’m not ready to learn that lesson just yet.”  If the deepest part of us is not ready to change, going through the actions will ultimately be result-less.  I see this over and over again as patients try to quite addictions or change behaviors.  The entire person has be to ready or change will not have any room in the psyche for the change to take root.

When one is ready to change the choice extends from the quiet depth of our own heart.  When we are really ready to heal – be it a chronic ailment, emotional instability, or limiting beliefs –  it can be felt deeply, that now is the time to change, do to something new, to expand our own capacity, to transform our self.  Shaming ourselves for past behaviors or regretting the choices we have made, is perhaps a part of the process, but ultimately for healing to occur we must land on love.  From the openness of the heart we can feel the warmth of compassion and recognize what a gift the past is to create this beautiful moment of – perhaps messy, perhaps karmic, perhaps painful – but still undeniably radiant, conscious choice.

Summers Edge & Fire Element

You wouldn’t know it’s a summer day as I sit here writing this, rain pattering relentlessly against the pavement.  The muggy warmth rising up from the busy street, wafting into the cafe where I sit by the rain splattered window.  Sipping on a latte, I feel the bitter of the coffee entice my heart, trying to convince it to emerge and play with the day.   But today my heart prefers the dark cave of my chest.  Grey outside; grey inside.  It’s as though the fire is just about out, the coals glowing slightly under their ashy coat.

We’ve all had days like this, but when the days drain into weeks and the weeks into months; we know something more substantial than just having a down and out day is happening.  We can look to the fire energy for support.  Fire is the third phase of the energetic cycle according to the Chinese elemental theory.  It is when yang energy is at its fullest and in nature the days are long, warm and full of ease.  Nature bursts into full bloom as eagerly as a first kiss.  Our intimacy with ourselves, one another and nature can naturally mature with the support of the warm yang.

The character for summer is Xia, meaning to walk slowly under the fullness of the sun*.  Fire energy is managed in our bodies through the functions of the heart, small intestine and pericardium.  There is a fourth function – San Jiao, or triple burner, that also serves fire.  Though not represented in western medicine San Jiao is very important in Chinese medicine and understood to be our temperature regulator, mediating the circulation and fluids of our body, and tempering our connection between internal and external environments.

Fire can be an easy mask, but when our fire is authentically in balance we can feel a deep sense of joy and ease.  We can connect easily with others and let the warmth of our relationships fuel us.  Without steady warmth we may feel our sense of joy dominated with sorrow, depression, anxiety or filled with low self-esteem.

Our own Fire energy is more like a camp fire that can be cultivated into a sun.  But like a camp fire, it needs to be fueled and tended to until it becomes full and steady.  Our fire energy is fueled with passion, compassion, Love, joy, intimacy and trust.  When we experience that grey feeling inside we can focus on building up our own fire energy to help support ourselves.  The nature of fire is to transform; it reminds us that change is always a possibility.

Navigating the energy of the Metal Element

The veil between the seen and unseen starts to thin as autumn, the energy of metal, envelopes us.  Metal is the final phase of the energetic cycle, completing the process of growth with natural release and absorption.  The Chinese character for autumn, Qui, is drawn as grains ripening under the fierce heat of the sun, representing the final leaves falling to the earth.  It is the character representing the completion of flourishing, and the decay that is necessary to nourish new growth.
 
The energy of the metal element descends and releases.  We see this in our bodies through the function of the lungs and colon, as we breathe in Qi from the heavens, inspiring, and then release what is no longer needed.  As we breathe deeply into our life, we can feel this movement in our minds and emotions as we contemplate our own soul, who we are, where we are going, and all that has come before us.  The nature of such reflections, and the physical sensation of descending qi, can make autumn a very heartfelt and emotional time of year for many.
 
When we are in balance we experience all emotions as transforming expressions of energy.  The healthy emotional expression of metal is grief blossoming into reverence.  In balance, we feel our metal element open the door to our soul and the certainty of who we are, what we are doing, and what is most important fills our thoughts and actions.  We become unwavering and stand strong behind our values.  Our life becomes illuminated as we become mindful of our subtle humanity, and the great beauty that resonates within us.
 
If we are out of balance with this energy we may suppress our sorrow, and prefer to stay on the surface of our potential.  With an out of balance metal energy,  it is also common to feel as though we are just on the outside of a warm embrace, or like we can’t quite see through the clouds to the other side.  We feel disconnected from our own spirit. 

When we experience loss or disconnection we naturally experience sorrow or can even become stricken with grief.  Be it a loved one who dies, loss of our health, loss of connection to our own heart, parting ways with a lover, or lost sense of our purpose and passion; grief naturally clouds over our minds and weighs on our chest when we are disconnected from what is most precious to us. 
 
It is natural to experience sorrow.  It is through the wales of our grief we come to know the depth of joy.  As the strong energy of autumn embraces us it is helpful to reflect on the virtues of metal element, and to recognize when we become out of balance.

The Five Elements

We may joke that here in the great northwest, there are only 2 seasons – rainy and not rainy.  As the seasons roll around, however, the difference between fall midsts and winter rain,  and spring showers becomes obvious. Truthfully, there are 5 seasons.  The seasons are the most obvious sign of energy shifting.  When we look a little closer we can see the qualities that are dominate in each season are expressed through out all of nature, including us.

Below are a few words on the quality of each element:

Winter/Water– The energy of water is powerful and resilient.  It can be as vibrant as a bubbling brook, as still as a deep lake, or as persistent as the rolling sea.  It can move around any obstacleIn us, water energy is the movement of fear and wisdom.  It is our great stillness that allows us to hear our own intuitions and sense of security as we embark on our own life journey.  

Spring/Wood–  The energy of wood is that of growth, determination, and vision.  It is that of a little seedling that pushes up through the ground, immediately striving towards the sun.  It can be as gracious as an old cedar tree, or as flexible as a bamboo stem blowing in the wind.  In us, this energy can feel like frustration or courage.  It is with our wood energy that gives us a clear vision of what is right.  It is about integrity and standing rooted in what we believe and making decisions from our own clarity.

Summer/Fire–  Fire is the energy of connection and transformation. Just as the sun coaxes the flower to bloom, fire energy can transform the efforts of growth into maturation.  It is the energy of the deep joy that emerges when we realize everything is connected.  This energy can be as easy as a sunny day on the beach, or as scorching as a forest fire.  In us fire is expressed as love, joy, intimacy or disconnection.  

Late Summer/Earth–  Earth energy is that of nourishment and processing.  We can feel thisenergy in late summer when the tree branches hang low from the weight of the juicy fruits, the harvest is full and the air feels saturated with the over-ripping of foods and flowers.  It is a slower moving energy than that of early summer.  We experience earth energy as giving sympathy and care to one another.  It is about making sure everyone is nourished in their bodies, minds and hearts.

Fall/Metal–  The energy of metal is that of letting go, reverence, grief and purity.  This energy is expressed as many things in nature end their life cycle and return to the earth.  During this time a stillness begins to emerge as the temperature starts to cool and things slow down.  With metal energy we can reflect on the past and give appreciation for all that has come.  

From Elements to Medicine

Knowledge of the elements is the foundation for 5 element acupuncture.  As a practitioner I assess how each of the elements are working within my patient.  From there I can determine if there are any energetic blocks, and what elements need to be balanced to restore vitality.  As each element becomes more in balance within us, our bodies, minds and emotions adjust to the new direction of the energy and we experience healing.

Winter Water Element

In Chinese element theory winter is an expression of water energy.  This quality of life force is experienced as an internal dwelling, deep processing, incubation, stillness, as well as endurance, determination, fluid movement, ambition and inherited reserves and ancestral qi.  The two pathways that embody this quality of energy are the longest and cover a great portion of the body. 

The Pang Guang (Bladder) pathway starts at the inside corner of our eyes, streams over our crown, down our neck, encompasses our back, down our legs and wraps to the sides of our feet.  Shen (Kidney) pathway starts on the soles of our feet, connecting us to directly to the energy of the earth.  Like a fresh spring it makes its journey pushing up our legs and deep into our core and expands through our chest.  

The direction of flow of pathways is openly reflective of the different qualities of water energy.  Pan Guang is swift, it moves more like rapid water, it stores things, but not for too long.  It’s able to take from the depth and move into transition.  It distributes our vital qi throughout our body.  In the case of energetic depletion or blocks, access points along this meridian can be activated to restore and revitalize.

Shen is often the translation for the heart or spirit.  I love that it is also used to express kidney energy (see side note below).  While Pan Guang reflects the yang aspect of water, water Shen represents yin.  While Pan Guang has a streaming quality, Shen is more pulling and condensing; like pulling sap up from the root system to the top of the tree.  This energy is methodical and attentive.  It can hold things for a long time and has a deep memory.  It is the seat of our will and vital nourishment.  Points along this meridian can replenish our body, stimulating our deep organs, and lift up our spirit and reconnect us to the fire in our chest.

Side note [In elemental theory we look at the five unique expressions of energy, however, when observed in depth we find the five can be reduced to two- yin (water/kidney) and yang (fire/heart).  When we look at the two, we find they are really one, and as the Chinese realized, we see all energetic movements come from one.  From the one, we can pop back out into the realm of distinction and more of an understanding of what each quality of qi we experience and the root of any imbalances or stresses.  This allows us to work with the energy we are embodying rather than the energy we can intellectually understand.]

Winter is a time when water energy is abundant in nature.  It’s strong resonance activates our water energy within us.  If we are attentive we will naturally be in line with the season – we will eat things that nourish our body, our attention and activities will be more inward focused.  We will rest more and nourish our minds with contemplation.  If we distract ourselves we are likely to run our resources dry, fatiguing our minds and body.  As the ancient Chinese realized, man is but a vessel between heaven and earth, made from as much as heaven (yang qi) as earth (yin qi) we sustain by maintaining our balance, thus we need to be mindful of both our heavenly and earthly selves.

Integrate into the New Year. Start in Water.

With something new comes the anticipated release of something old.  Perhaps this is why so many of us look forward to New Year: We can put a giant period at the end of one phase and move whole heartedly into another.  This works well if we take time to integrate. 

Integration is a movement that when we’re in a state of harmony happens naturally.  Where we experience blocks (meaning bound up energy in our body or mind) the process of integrating is slowed.  Just like if we eat when we’re stressed out, our body isn’t able to do a proper break down, and we are not able to take in any nutrients.  When we eat in a moment of peace, our body has the full capacity to do its job and we can physically feel the benefit.

Integration happens on different levels and in unique ways throughout the seasons, our days and even our moments.  The intention of this article is share with you how integration can be supported through winter/water element.  It can be helpful to know a little bit about the nature of water, which you can read about here.

With the New Year comes a rush of energy from our newly set goals and intentions.  Gym memberships go up.  We clean out cupboards, replacing holiday candies with veggies, we tighten our budgets, set goals for career development, etc.  All good things and marked with the intention to better ourselves. It is also heavily influenced by our cultural conditioning, rather than a response to energy most present in nature. 

If we follow nature’s lead into the New Year, we start in water.  We start in silence, in self-reflection.  Water energy takes us to look at our own processing. 

What is binding you up? 
Is there an emotional habit or heartbreak preventing you from unfolding?  
Have you really looked at it? 

This is the first step of integration.  Integration is a movement that can be felt in the energy body and is reflected in the mind and/or body.   When our body suffers with chronic conditions, when our mind is tied up over certain thoughts, when we express ourselves in limiting patterns, we may benefit by taking time to go through the movement of integration.   This means first taking time to look at what life experiences you haven’t fully dealt with and then finding what you need to be able to pull those experiences deeper into your being so they are no longer something you become a reaction to, but are a part of you – you own them.  To own an experience we have to go through the process of extracting the gem of the learning and from it we do more than grow, we mature.

As the New Year fast approaches us, among all the goal setting, envisioning of your resolutions and the new you, perhaps first take even just a moment to reflect and make sure you know exactly where you’re moving from.  You may find that you have to move within before you any other changes can be successfully cultivated.