Are you getting the (health)Care that you deserve?

Do I have a story for you!  I think you will resonate with it.
 
This is about two medical doctor interactions that I recently had.
One demonstrates a “don’t do this”.
The other “do this”, for me and how I approach my health.
 
This story’s also about:
What it’s like to challenge the accepted norms.
What I look for (and most importantly: avoid!) in any kind of healthcare provider – from a massage therapist, to an acupuncturist, to a general practitioner, and so on.
 
This path, life, isn’t always the easiest.
But it is definitely made easier with community, sharing, and knowing that you are not alone.
And boy do I have some doozy stories from years gone by.
 
This is the first of what may be many “healing journey” stories. It’s time to share with you what my story has been so far. About what’s possible when you step on this path. Then, you can understand not just who I am, but why I work the way I do. How I started on this path, and the myriad twists and turns. Also, maybe, about that one time I did a liver cleanse and had a job interview moved up a week that I went to, reeking of garlic and who knows what else…
 
I’ll share what I’ve learned, and where I’m at now.
(Spoiler alert: BETTER THAN EVER! GETTING BETTER EVERY DAY! Yep, all caps for that one.)
 
Ready? Let’s dive in!

Last week I had a really, truly, crappy experience with my general practitioner (GP) at my annual physical.  I went so that I could keep an eye on certain blood markers, and so I could have an emergency-use (for migraines) prescription refilled.
 
This experience reached peak terrible around how to “treat” my thyroid condition.  I left the appointment feeling bullied.
Like worse than Mean Girls bullying bullied.
 
This GP berated me for not wanting to medicate thyroid medication. And…
 
For not needing thyroid medication to manage my Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in the first place.
 
And then she questioned my endocrinologist (the one doctor I see very regularly), and suggested that I was some sort of irresponsible person for, gasp, not wanting to take unnecessary medication.
 
I know I don’t need this medication because I see my endocrinologist several times a year, closely monitor my health between observation and lab work, and discuss the entirety of my health-life with my endocrinologist at my appointments.
 
Did the GP ask me these things?
 
No.
 
And here’s the thing that had me all worked up the entire weekend:
 
Patients should not be bullied or made to feel bad, or infused with fear, over how they are managing their chronic conditions. Especially when they are a success story.  And even moreso if they are struggling!!!
 
Being educated about one’s condition should be considered a GOOD thing. Not something seen as a liability, a form of defiance or combativeness.
 
Successfully managed chronic conditions should not be weaponized against the patient.
Heck, no doctor should be weaponizing a patient’s health and health-history in the first place!
 
How the GP acted and reacted is not how medicine (of any kind) should be practiced. Period.
 
Medicine is about doing no harm.
 
It’s about bringing people to more health through compassion, and care, not through bullying and shame.
 
Doctors should not be saying, “you are here so I can fix you” to a patient with long-term, complex, chronic conditions.  Especially not without engaging in more inquiry about the situation, person, and so on.
 
Or, I don’t know, asking if the patient wants to, or feels they need, “fixing” to begin with?
 
This is especially true when that person sees you once a year or less for a 15 minutes appointment.
 
This approach is not only downright arrogant. It’s harmful.
 
Everything I have experienced on my long health-journey tells me that true health and wellness is not rooted in arrogance.
 
Acting from such an arrogant place severs the bonds of trust between patient and practitioner, between the medicine and the potential benefactor (the patient)…
 
Arrogance is also a barrier between myself and my own wellness. Between me and the world. Between me and God/Source/Universe/Spirit. Between me and love. Me and others. (Gosh, any time I’ve gotten arrogant about anything in my life, it has done nothing but cause harm!)
 
Arrogance severs and prevents connections.
 

This interaction exemplifies why I said, “screw this” and began turning to “alternative” medicine 18 years ago.

It’s why I enrolled in a clinical herbal program when my health was in the toilet.

I knew there had to be another way. 

On the other end of this spectrum with a medical doctor…
 
I had a wonderful recent experience with my endocrinologist.
At our last appointment, I challenged a recommendation of hers and said I was more comfortable approaching this recommendation from a different angle. We discussed it, and she said, “sure, if that’s what you want to do. Just know, this delays any measures we can take until this testing is done.”
 
I was fine with that. My endocrinologist was too. She got it.
 
When I told my endocrinologist about my GP visit, she rolled her eyes. My endocrinologist assured me that what I said to the doctor was SPOT ON regarding thyroid health, treatment, labs, and so on, that I wished I could have hugged her.  I was so relieved.
My endocrinologist and I talked about my lab results, how I’m feeling, what’s going on with me outside of the labwork health-wise. Oh, and that recommendation that we shifted to testing first so I was more comfortable?  Yeaup: didn’t need to do anything.
At the end of the appointment, she said, “well, your labs look great! See you in six (6!) months! Keep up the good work!” Can’t argue with that. (This is the first time that she’s said see you in 6 months since we started working together. Usually it is one, two, or three…)
 
As you know, I spent the weekend in a tizzy over how my GP talked to me last week, and this appointment was just what I needed.
Speaking up pays off.
 
 
It’s really hard for me to “stand up for myself”, to stay rooted in myself, when there is a huge conflict such as my appointment last week.
I’m getting better at it, but this is a huge challenge for me.
Advocating for yourself is not easy. 
 
You have to educate yourself and then advocate for your health needs.  You have to remember that you are the expert of your health, that you know you best.  You have to observe how you feel, what works for you, what doesn’t, and act accordingly.
 
This is especially true if you have a complex chronic health condition, or multiple conditions. Or don’t want to be taking medication when a dietary change will do.  Or, if you want to be the gorgeous self-empowered human that you are!
 
Self-advocacy is the key to well-being.
Self-advocacy is what gets you eating those vegetables.
Telling your practitioner, “that’s not going to work for me because…”
Getting out and exercising because you know you feel better when you do.
Getting enough sleep every night.
Not eating that food that you know aggravates your health condition.
 
We all need and deserve a care team that honors our lived experience.
 
You deserve someone who understands that you are unique, that your experiences are your own, and that there is so much healing that can happen simply by working with the whole picture.
For me, having a care-team involves not just “alternative” practitioners and practices, but the standard allopathic ones as well.  I know what I get from each practitioner and how it fits together, but it took me 18 years (holy moly, I still can’t get over that) to get here. 
For you, and your team, the bigger picture will be different.
No matter what your picture looks like, in the end…
 
All that matters is that you are getting the care that you deserve.
 
Self-advocacy and being health-empowered help you winnow out the people who are not right for your care team.
 
The process can be exhausting. Enraging and frustrating.
It can leave you feeling unheard, invalidated, dismissed, bullied, “fired”… I’ve been there.   I’ve been fired by doctors on more than one occasion.  Yet, all this has been worth it.
 
It’s worth it because ME and MY HEALTH are worth it.
 
If all you have is one person who “gets it” – that can make a world of difference.
 

That’s whats taken me to the next step, on more than one occasion!

How are you taking your next step towards living a health-empowered life?

Making Inner Connections with Chinese Medicine

I had an amazing session with a client who I’ve been working with for a few months the other day.
She came to work with me because she wanted to dive deeper with herbs and Chinese Medicine. She wanted to learn more about the connections between her lived experience and what Chinese Medicine offers. And, of course, at the root of it all, was she needed help with nagging health issues.
Layer by layer, month after month, we’ve been able to work through one issue after the next. Many subtle, and not so subtle!, shifts have taken place.
Lately, we’ve been working on some pretty gnarly headaches…
In our last session, we re-examined her diet and lifestyle. I made some suggestions to reduce or avoid certain foods/beverages.
BUT, I also said, “let’s add… teas, delicious foods, and luxurious baths and oils to your routine.”
We talked about the herb formula that I sent them a couple of weeks prior, and how they were doing on the formula.
I was happy to hear that her headaches were gone.
And I was pleasantly surprised to hear that some new things were happening…
I asked her questions about the different parts that were coming up.
She allowed me to lead her through a bramble-filled trail to make the connections between what’s coming up. It’s just a matter of taking one step, one question, at a time. Slowly, almost without moving.
What did any of this have to do with her headaches, the herbs, and the formula’s actions???
Then it happened…
I could see the light-bulb of “aha” go off the moment that the connection happened.
She made connections between her physiological state and her inner world.
Connections between her creative and visionary life and energy levels.
Connections about forcing energy to be consistent. Like forcing an apple tree to bear fruit year round.
When you do this, what other effects get created in the body?
Wondering, what if these natural fluctuations are not a “bad” thing?
Or, a way to manage uninspiring work tasks with inspiring nourishing work, or something else?
Like the seasons, life has it’s time for outward movement.
And life has its time for inward stillness.
More “aha’s” happened:
Connections between how she feels in her body when she eats certain foods. And what she feels and thinks about her lived experience. How the different parts (old vs new) were in conflict with each other. Opposing the old-way of being: forcing themselves to be a certain way. Could she bring more awareness, curiosity, love and compassion to her inner and outer life?
Thanks to these “aha’s”, she experienced a visible shift in this session.
It was plain as day.
I could see it in my client’s face…
Less tension. Softer. Lighter. Empowered.
It was amazing and beautiful.
And now, I have the privilege of sharing what my client’s experience of our work together has been, with you right here…
“I feel strongly about our work together [… and] have some reflections … on the holistic or whole systems considerations/approach that we take.
[What] is huge [is how] we take TCM patterns, then relate them across the physical/emotional/psychological/energetic contours. [Then] bringing attention to all parts of self.
[There is an] integration of seemingly unrelated pieces.
Then, finding clarity and healing in seemingly unrelated areas of life.”
My client shared with me that she now sees, and lives with, awareness of the Wood element and Liver.
And how it affects many areas of her life:
The impact that her work has on her.
Her food choices.
Making more intentional choices around the role of alcohol in her life.
Creating space for, and buffering the impacts of, work stress.
The experience, awareness of and improvement with work/life balance. And the development of interests-outside-of-work.
Her exhaustion, energy levels, and sleep struggles (improvements with all).
(Special thanks to my client for being willing to share her experience with you and I!!!)
She’s not made these connections only because of the herbs. The herbs play a role, for sure.
It’s the stillness, the space where you listen, that is key.
The stillness is where you can see, feel, and hear the multitude of facets of yourself.
Where you allow whatever is happening to… happen.
It is this space that allows these opportunities for growth, integration, healing.
This stillness is the place where you, where each of us, can see and hear where we are…
To be quiet. To unfurl and let yourself be honest with where you are, in this moment in time.
This is the scary place for many of us (including me).
This is the place where we hear the song that our souls are singing to us.
Or maybe you hear the noise that your body is raging to.
Because when you can get honest with yourself, to be still and hear what is going on. The path forward becomes much clearer.
In this place, you are not trying to swim upstream exhausting yourself. You are swimming with the current.
You aren’t trying to turn yourself into a rose when you are an orchid. You embrace your uniqueness and give yourself exactly what you need to thrive.
This place is a place of power: the ability to hear and see what’s present, make choices, then take action.
When you listen, and act from the power that pours from and through you, much like the river…
Connections get made.
Knots untangle.
Freedom and awareness are accessible.
You honor what your body and soul are speaking to you.
By being present and aware, and curious.
That’s where the real healing and change starts: when you can get real with where you are.
Can you sit in the stillness of the present, and hear your Heart’s song or your body’s cries? What do you hear?
This work isn’t just about taking an herb to get rid of headaches.
It’s about honoring yourself.
It’s about making the deep connections that ripple throughout your world and beyond.
With Heart and Love,
Pamela

Safety Within

Well… here we are.  In NY, it is week 10 of shelter-in-place.

No matter your particular situation:  How are you doing?

How are you feeling: physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually?

Have you been learning new things about yourself, your life, your world?

Discovering challenging things, uncovering pearls of wisdom or inner gifts? 

Do you have things coming up from a long time ago, asking to be released, held, healed?  

Are you experiencing new feelings, or feelings that you would typically work to avoid, ignore or otherwise deny?

Are you working with this time?  Are you fighting this time?  Is this time a boon or a bane? Both a boon and a bane?


I’ve had my share of “ups” and “downs” throughout these past few months.  Today, as I post this, I’m longing for living life differently than I have been, in a place different from where I am because without the things that keep me “here”, I want to be “there”.

I’ve written and re-written this post for several weeks, because this liminal space is… uncharted. It’s, wild. There are no paths to follow. Only the experience of the moment. (And maybe even a cup of tea or two too…)

Here in this moment, I have felt a great sense of stability amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the world, and a sense of blossoming like I’ve not felt before.  It’s as if I’ve been on the open ocean for so long, that I see there’s something on the horizon, I just can’t quite make out what that something is yet. It is exciting, and scary. This is amidst the pain, suffering and grief throughout what is currently happening the world over.

I’ve been tapping into some core feelings that I’ve not been able to make space for – and that in and of itself is a great gift even if opening it seems to leave scratches, like walking through a rose or berry thicket.  

This time feels like a holding, an awareness, of both the blossom and the thorn.

Yet, just like wrapped gifts and roses and berries, there are treasures if we persevere through the uncertain parts; only if we stop, if we take a moment, a breath, and watch what’s happening. If you stop in a blackberry thicket, you cease to get pricked and scratched and seemingly grabbed and held ferociously by the thorns and canes. You can feel a sense of calm within this wildly thorny place. We can possibly safe in this, if we let ourselves.


As a survivor of domestic abuse, the survivor of workplace emotional and psychological abuse, and the spouse of a recovering alcoholic, I can without a doubt say that none of this, and I mean none of this, is fully accessible without a sense of environmental safety. If you are not safe in your home, are living with an abuser or in an otherwise abusive environment, getting yourself safe is your top priority. You deserve to be safe so that you can grow and thrive as who you are meant to be and who you truly are. If you are in an unsafe position, please refer to the resources below.

Here’s how I see it. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can grow or heal without feeling safe, without feeling held and nurtured.  Seeds don’t grow until they’ve found their home in the soil, on a tree limb, in the water, etc.  We all have seen plants growing in the scarcest of conditions, but there the seeds have landed, with conditions that are “good enough” for them to take their chance at thriving during their time on Earth. 


From my years of undergoing therapy for PTSD, the very first order of business was establishing a sense of inner safety where my body did not feel like it was spinning out of control, or on hyper vigilance mode all the time.

I didn’t know what it meant to feel relaxed and safe in my body for more than a short time until this past fall. Making safe havens within ourselves takes time. Much like the formation of earth, sand, trees, patience – or the willingness to keep returning to these practices with the tenacity of a tree growing in a sliver of a sidewalk crack- is required.

My vision of safety is not living in a utopian dreamworld, where everything is our idea of perfection or consistent certainty. This is obviously not the safety such as in greenhouse uber-controlled conditions where the soil, humidity, water, light, and nutrient conditions are closely monitored.


Safety is that which we know within ourselves, that we can look within and feel a sense of inner trust, compassion and a general feeling of “I’ve got this”. It’s courageous stuff, especially as a woman in this society who is told all sorts of things about who I am supposed to be, what I am supposed to want, how I’m supposed to behave, and what relationships I’m supposed to have.

It’s hard to feel “safe” when the world-at-large is telling you that you are not to be trusted: that who you are and what you want is somehow not acceptable or good enough. It is hard to feel safe when you don’t know what you are coming home to after work. It’s hard to feel safe when you work in an abusive work environment.


It starts small: making one promise to myself every day (this started with meditating daily), and has grown from there.***

From these small acts, we cultivate safety that becomes trusting oneself in the wildness that is living life.  This wilderness is the ground upon which we stand in the here and now.  This wilderness is filled with all sorts of interesting things to navigate along the individual’s path – and each path’s terrain is different. This can be the place where we explore in meditation (and other internal practices), in our creative work, in therapy/self-exploration, in our physical world, and in our relationships – but only if we dare to learn the terrain that is our inner world. 

We learn what is predictable, what is unpredictable, what season or cycle we may be in, and where we fit into it.  We can let go of our notion of control: control over our environment, thoughts, finances, relationships, and so on. We can return to ourselves, and learn to trust in who we are and our place in the world.

We learn that big, traumatic, things can happen and we can still feel safely held by ourself, the world, you name it and that we can be true to ourselves and navigate these waters. That even amidst great upheaval, there can be growth, healing, expansion into the deeper self because of this feeling of holding, of inherent safety within our beings. This feeling can be touched upon and returned to repeatedly.


This sensation of being safely held and returning to who we are is connection to the Dao, Universe, Heavens, God, Spirit, Gaia, Great Mystery, etc. I don’t really have a word for it, and I know of some people who call it magic. We feel held within this connection by our Yīn.

Yet, in our society today, we are very Yáng focused. Yáng is described below in detail, but it is outwardly moving, bright, heat, and loud. Yáng has taken over our world, and this is a big reason why we are seeing climate change: the balance between Yīn and Yáng is terribly off. Instead of an ice-age of Yīn, we will have a heat-age of Yáng. We are already in this transition, and if we do not cultivate the balance within ourselves and society (and our treatment of the natural world) through Yīn, our whole world will collapse.


Yīn (陰) is the female principle in the Yīn -Yáng dynamic.

Yīn is defined as the following: shade, shadow, cold-lit, dark(ness), dim(ly), north side of a mountain, south side of a river (especially regarding place names), cold(ness), inactivity, declining strength, seasons of autumn and winter, cool vapors and aura of autumn and winter, cold wind (especially north wind), feminine principle (opposite of a Yáng), associated with the moon, earth, darkness, cold, weakness, softness, hiddenness, latency, stillness, etc.; the broken lines in Yijing hexagrams, symbolic of the number 6 as the most fully Yīn of the nine fundamental numerals, below the surface, secretive, out of sight, retract(ed), suggest(ion), intimation, innuendo, pertaining to the reproductive organs.[1] 

Yīn Organs in Chinese Medicine are those that hold the vital energies and spirits: the Heart and Pericardium hold the Shen (our life spirit), the Liver holds the Hun (creative spirit), the Spleen holds the Yi (our integrity), the Lungs hold the Po (our instinctive-animal spirit), and the Kidneys hold the Zhi (our innate wise spirit).


Neat factoid:

There is also a variation in pinyin spelling (yìn) that utilizes the same character set that means: afford shelter, protect, benefit, cover over, conceal, hide.[2]


Yáng (陽) , on the other hand, embodies brilliance, light, the south side of a mountain, warmth, lively, full of life, the seasons of spring and summer, superficial, surface, the masculine principle that is comprised of the sun, heaven, light, warmth, strength, hardness, height, mastery, potency action.[3] 

Yáng Organs are the organs that move internally and externally: Small Intestine and Triple Warmer move food and the heating-cooling fluids of the body, the Gallbladder moves bile, the Stomach moves food, the Large Intestine moves waste material, and the Bladder moves water.


With our enforced yìn-Yīn time here in the United States (during the shift from the Yīn to the Yáng time of year at that!), we are afforded the opportunity that we no longer get during autumn and winter: a time for stillness, to peer into our inner stillness and shadows. 

This is, of course, terribly poor timing for all we want to do is be out in the world being active and we’re forced to remain within ourselves and our homes (however that may look for you).  It’s no wonder that as these weeks continue on we may be feeling stagnant. This is the time of year that we move all that’s been accumulated during the winter into action.

Yet, I see this yìn time in that we have the opportunity to shine the Yáng light into the Yīn darkness that all too often are unable to do. This is where this time can be a boon – but again, only if we already feel some sense of safety, some kind of holding. And, as I previously stated, for a lot of us, that’s just not the norm and that needs to come first.


This is only possible if we have that safety, that feeling of being held.

The Uncertainty guide offers practices which open you up to your inherent way of being. To help you learn to feel safe in yourself again.

Once you have that…

the Fire that’s in your Heart can shine like the sun into the depths of your being, allowing you to discover your unique treasures and gifts. You can transform through this uncovering what you’ve taken on that is no longer useful. You can courageously move through your fear and create what the Ancients call: wisdom, benevolence, integrity, rightousness, and propriety.

Stay tuned for more on these transformations!


References:

[1] A Student’s Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese by Paul W. Kroll

[2] In A Student’s Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese by Paul W. Kroll,

[3] In A Student’s Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese by Paul W. Kroll,

[4] Lonny Jarrett, Nourishing Destiny, pg 153

[5] Larre and Rochat de la Valle, The Seven Emotions, pg 95

_________

Resources:
***The Holistic Psychologist is a great resource on Instagram, YouTube and her Inner Circle group for clear instructions on how to help you return to yourself. I wish she was around when I started my journey years ago, because everything she discusses is what I’ve explored and her work is just phenomenal. Simple, clear, to the point.

Resources on Domestic Abuse, Alcohol Abuse, and other:

If you are a domestic abuse survivor, FreeFrom seeks to provide opportunities for income generation and independence: http://www.freefrom.org/

CapitalOne Bank offers online accounts without receiving paper mail. This is a great option for you to squirrel money into in case you need it. You can use ATM’s with your debit card to make cash deposits. Here’s the link to the free checking account: https://apply.capitalone.com/index.html#/getting-started?productId=4000&Product=360Bank

ProtonMail is free encrypted email: https://protonmail.com/signup

Domestic Violence Hotline: https://www.thehotline.org/help/

Futures without Violence: https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/get-updates-information-covid-19/

If someone in your household is abusing substances and you have no recourse to leave, Al Anon may be of help in helping you get through this time. https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/electronic-meetings/

If Alanon is not for you, there are other 12-step type options.

Speaking with a therapist (which should be free of copays at the moment) may help you during this time as well.

Nourish (or Deplete) Your Blood

I’ve been turning over the idea of living life with more Blood: passion, spirit, vivacity, courage and wisdom and how what we do creatively and in connection with others can be a source of nourishment and expression of what we feel.

From an emotional and spiritual perspective, we can nourish our Blood through the experiences that we have and in which we engage that bring us a sense of joy or fulfillment. Physically, we can nourish our Blood (or deplete it) based on the activities we choose to engage in, and the food we ingest on a regular basis.

Here, I touch upon a few points about the activities and lifestyle choices we make that can affect our Blood and I go into greater depth on my favorite topic of discussion (aside from Chinese Medicine): food.

 

We can deplete our Blood, physically, through several ways.  These include:
Overworking – using coffee, soda, sugar, caffeine, stimulants, etc. to push through tiredness, working despite exhaustion, trying to do it all without adequate rest
Over-exercising or too much physical work – some folks can exercise every day for an hour, for others a half hour of aerobic activity is plenty, and some others still need small regular bursts of activity.
Overthinking – this includes worry and anxiety, excessive mental work (including spending a lot of time futzing around on the computer, playing games, reading, etc.)
Staying up too late, not getting enough sleep – sets one up to be in a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of (see list of Blood depletion signs below)
Not eating according to your body’s unique needs – this includes eating processed/fast/junk food in lieu of healthier options, and being on a restricted diet that does not adequately provide key nutrients for you and your needs (for example: some folks do great eating a paleo diet, others thrive on vegetarianism)

As we know, Blood in Chinese Medicine is more than the blood in modern medicine.  In Chinese Medicine, Blood is an alchemical mixture of our body, mind and spirit which penetrates to all parts of our bodies (organs, vessels, down to the cells themselves).  With blood in modern medicine, it is the physical manifestation of oxygen, plasma, minerals, nutrients, and cells.

 

In modern medicine, you may be told that you have iron deficiency anemia, but the anemia and Blood Depletion are not necessarily interchangeable as iron deficiency anemia signs include:
Sore and/or swollen tongue
Shortness of breath
Headache
Irritability
Fatigue (lack of energy, or quick to fatigue)
Cravings for non-foods (ice, dirt, etc.)
Blood-test results

 

Blood Depletion (or Deficiency) signs in Chinese Medicine are:
Dry skin, hair and/or nails
Lusterless and/or pale face, nails and/or lips
Numbness and/or weak tremors in the limbs
Tiredness
Insomnia (when you are so tired you cannot sleep, you are tired-wired, or you have trouble falling asleep but then sleep well)
Poor memory
Thinness, or emaciation, of the body
Dizziness
If you menstruate: scanty menses, or lack of menstruation altogether
You may also experience: heart palpitations, anxiety, unusual dreams, restlessness (these indicate that your Heart doesn’t have enough Blood for your spirit/soul to be calm and settled); muscle spasms, spots in the visual field, or possibly other signs of impaired vision(your Liver is likely to be implicated here); mental fatigue, and/or the tendency to be easily startled

How do you know if you have a depletion of healthy Blood according to Chinese Medicine?
If you have at least three of the above Blood Depletion symptoms you are in the running for making some changes to your diet and lifestyle.

As you can see, even from a non-practitioner perspective the solution to the problem is likely to be vastly different.


What you can do about Blood Depletion (aka Deficiency)

Adjust your diet:
I’m sure that everyone is sick of me writing this, in fact I anticipated a groan whilst typing this (maybe that was me groaning to myself though…)

But, we are what we eat and if we are tired and run down, and dry and pale and lusterless, it’s a good idea to take a look at not only one’s water intake, but one’s diet.

What have you been eating lately?

Does your diet need a tune-up in the form of more nutrient-dense foods like:
Liver (chicken, beef, calf – from local, humane, grass-fed, organic sources only)
Beef, eggs
Bone broths – medicinal (see below for a recipe)
Mussels, oysters, sardines, tuna and octopus
Molasses
Aduki and kidney beans
Dates, figs, raisins
Goji Berries
Apples, apricots
Longan berries, mulberries (especially the dark ones)
Black sesame seeds
Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin
Artichokes, cabbage, celery, dandelion (greens), mushrooms (shiitake, button mushrooms)
Watercress, wheatgrass
Cooked spinach, dark leafy greens, and beets

Minimal consumption of these items is recommended:
Alcohol
Caffeine
Greasy, heavy or oily foods (fried foods included)*
Dairy products*
Refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar)*
Grains (yes, grains!  A couple of times a week is okay if they are whole grains like quinoa or brown rice.)
Tofu, soy milk*
Raw foods (green juice, smoothies, salads, etc.)*
Cold foods (iced drinks, beer, ice cream, etc.)*

*This is because these items are cold and “dampening” – meaning they slow your digestion down and thus make it much more difficult to extract the vital nutrients from your food.  For more  reasons why these items (including alcohol and grains) are recommended to be minimally consumed, if at all, please refer to my article on Elimination Diets and Spleen Qi Deficiency with Dampness (it’s free!).

 

Rest enough, but not too much:
Make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep per night if you are an adult, and that you exercise but not to the point of exhaustion.

Take time at night and on the weekends to relax, “do nothing” (meditate, yin yoga, take a bath, go for a quiet walk in the woods, sit outside and watch the neighborhood or birds, have lunch at the café and watch life go by, listen to relaxing music, etc.), in short: give yourself permission to take a breath and not be productive.

Set up a bedtime ritual such as: dimming the lights as the evening develops, changing into your pajamas, brushing your teeth to calming music, taking care of your skin, meditating, then getting into bed without your phone/iPad/laptop/other back-lit device.

 

I have a secret: if you are run down and you keep going anyway, your productivity levels will not be as high as when you give yourself that half hour to “do nothing” and you’ll eventually feel that wear and tear in the form of the list of signs above!

 

Put herbs in your food (see below for recipe ideas)

Goji berries are a popular Blood Tonic (tonics are herbs/foods that build something that is depleted), so are raisins!  I love the green Hunza ones, as they are often rated to have higher iron contents than a lot of the other dark raisins.  Let your taste-buds be your guide here.

Goji berries can be steeped with hot water (1TB berries per mug) with a slice of ginger, to provide a lovely herbal tea that is easy on the wallet, tasty, and particularly good for the Liver and eyes.  When you are done with your tea, you can eat the softened berries.  I often drink this when I am working at the computer a lot.  (Dragon Herbs’ goji berries are my favorite: they have the best taste and consistency out of all the other goji’s that I’ve tried.)

You can make chai with turmeric and raisins, leaving out the honey, which results in a strangely delicious drink too.

 

Speak with a practitioner if you would like to have more detailed information about how to handle your health situation.

Speaking with a practitioner is especially helpful if you have a pre-existing condition that requires medication, if you have been trying different approaches on your own for more than three months with little to no positive results, or if you feel overwhelmed with all of the (often conflicting) information out there.

((It goes without saying that I recommend you consult with a physician if you have health concerns.))

 



Recipes:

Nourishing Bone Broth, to be used as a base for soups or stews -or to drink on its own:

Bones – preferably beef or chicken, or even pork – organic, local, humane, all that jazz – two pounds of bones or the carcass of at least two chickens.  (If using beef or pork bones, roast in the oven at 425F for 15-20 minutes to brown – to help develop the flavor of the broth.)
Water – the amount depends on the size pot you have
Ginger – 1″ piece sliced into 1/8″ rounds
Rice vinegar – 1/3 cup

Carrots – 6 large, roughly chopped
Onion – 1, roughly chopped (or 3 leeks sliced up)
Celery – 3 ribs, roughly chopped
Goji berries – 1 handful (approximately 1/3 cup)
Mulberries – optional, 1 handful (approximately 1/3 cup)
Dang gui – 6 slices
White peony – 4 slices
Shiitake mushrooms – 8, fresh or dried
Ginger – 1″ sliced into 1/8″ rounds
Bay leaves – 3
Thyme – optional, 3 sprigs
Parsley – 1/2 bunch

  1. Place the bones, vinegar and ginger in a large stock pot, cover with water by at least 3″.
  2. Cover the pot, bring it to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for at least 24 hours.
  3. After the first 24 hours, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for another 24 hours.
  4. I like to let the bone broth (bones/water) simmer until the liquid turns white, then I’ll add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Let the broth cool to room temperature then strain and place into freezer-safe containers for later use.

It’s a bit of time/work, but when you make a giant pot of it it is worth having all of the broth in the freezer!

I’ll use this broth as a base for soups, stews, even miso soup and hot chocolate!

My favorite way to have it is as a sulung tang type of soup.


Bone Broth with Meatballs, Vermicelli and Greens

1 handful of cooked vermicelli (rice) noodles
Small beef meatballs (see recipe below)
2 scallions – chopped
1-2 handfuls of the greens of your choice – I like spinach, baby bok choy, and other greens available at the Asian markets
Bone broth to cover
Himalayan pink salt or grey salt, and pepper – to taste

Bring a small pot of water to a boil, season it with salt.
Wash and coarsely chop (if need be) your greens.
Heat the meatballs in the bone broth in a separate pot.
Place your greens in the boiling water, boil for 2-5 minutes (depending on the greens you use, they may take more time to cook through – I like them just tender for soup.  If you are using baby spinach, you can skip this step entirely.).  Once cooked, strain  the greens.
Place the noodles in the bottom of a soup bowl, sprinkle the scallions over the noodles, then add the greens, the meatballs and broth.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy!

 

Beef meatballs:
1lb beef (I use local, organic and humanely raised, pasture fed beef)
2 eggs
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 clove garlic – minced
1 1/2″ piece of ginger – chopped
2 fresh scallions -chopped- OR 1/2 onion sautéed until brown with the garlic and ginger added at the end to heat through*** (*** this way is my favorite)
2-4TB gluten-free tamari sauce – to taste

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F
  2. Place the brown rice and eggs in a food processor and whiz until smooth.
  3. Once smooth add the garlic, ginger, scallions (or onions), tamari sauce, and beef.
  4. Pulse until blended and sticky-smooth.
  5. Make walnut sized meatballs, and place on a parchment lined tray.
  6. Roast for approximately 10-15 minutes until just cooked through.
  7. Cool and store in the refrigerator up to five days or freeze.

 


Black Sesame Hot Chocolate:

You may know this by now, but my favorite “herb” for rebuilding Blood is black sesame seeds.  As mentioned in this recipe post, “black sesame is regarded as great food to keep hair healthy and dark, which is no wonder since this tiny seed is filled with a plethora of nutrients. It tonifies the Kidneys and Liver in Chinese Medicine (CM), helping to build Blood and Jing, and lubricates dryness in the intestines.”

I like to have black sesame seeds ground (in a spice grinder, mortar and pestle, or food processor) with cocoa powder and a pinch of cardamom as a base for hot chocolate.  It’s delicious with a splash of milk (dairy, non-dairy) first thing in the morning, and there is a nice body to the cocoa that is just satisfying enough for those who are not keen to eat soon after waking.  I notice my skin looks more vibrant and plump when I drink this on a regular basis, and the energy it provides it far more sustainable than a cup of coffee or tea.

Sometimes I’ll make this as a snack when I get home, and instead of using cocoa powder, I’ll add cinnamon, ginger and a pinch of nutmeg to make a mock-chai.

Ingredients:
2TB ground black sesame seeds (toast the seeds before grinding)
1TB cocoa powder (note to those who avoid caffeine, cocoa powder has anywhere from 8mg to 12mg of caffeine vs 163mg in a standard cup of brewed coffee)
1/4tsp cardamom – or more to taste
Honey – optional, to taste
Milk of your choice

  1. Bring a kettle of water to a boil
  2. Place sesame seeds, cocoa powder and cardamom in a mug, stir to combine
  3. Pour boiling water into your mug, stirring as you go
  4. Add milk and/or honey if you choose
  5. Enjoy!

Lastly, I adore calf’s liver and for a deeply satisfying meal (albeit one that may take some time to learn to appreciate):

Calves Liver with Sauteed Onions and Cranberries, with Cooked Greens
1 calf liver (organic, local, humanely sourced)
1 onion – sliced
1 cup frozen cranberries
1 sprig of thyme (fresh or dry)
Splash of vermouth

2-3TB bacon fat
1 package of fresh baby spinach – washed and set aside
Dijon salad dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part rice vinegar, 1/2 part dijon mustard, salt and pepper) – optional
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Clean the liver, rinsing it under cool water, and remove any vessels or membrane – pat dry with a paper towel
  2. Salt and pepper the liver on both sides
  3. Place 1TB of bacon fat in a large saute pan and heat on medium
  4. Add the onions to the hot pan, and saute until golden brown (adjusting the pan’s temperature as needed)
  5. Once the onions are golden brown/caramelized, add the cranberries, sprig of thyme
  6. Cook until the cranberries have burst and released their juices, then move contents of pan to a bowl then cover.
  7. Set the cooked onion and cranberry mixture aside, add the splash of vermouth the the pan to deglaze the pan.
  8. Once the pan is deglazed, pour the remaining liquid over the onions and cranberries in the bowl
  9. Add another lump of bacon fat to the pan, heat over medium high heat
  10. Place the liver into the hot pan, and cook on each side for 3 minutes.  (It should be nicely browned on each side, and just cooked through.)
  11. Move the liver to a plate, cover, then add the spinach to the pan with another splash of vermouth (or water) if the spinach is dry.  Let steam through for 1-2 minutes.
  12. Place the spinach onto the plate with the liver and onions/cranberries.  Dress the spinach with salad dressing.  (I like my greens with a bit of dressing, especially with a rich meal such as this one)
  13. Enjoy!

Sources:
itmonline.org/arts/iron.htm
Lotusrootacupuncture.com/nutrition.html

https://tughillholistics.com/blog/tcm-terminology-for-all-part-1/

Resistance: Cycles Created from Trauma and Shock

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Last week I mentioned that if we are unable to filter an experience in a way that is healthy for our individual needs and psyche, we get into a state of resistance and set forth a cycle of disruption that creates imbalances elsewhere in our bodies, minds and souls, thus preventing the potential for a state of quaternio, wholeness, totality, individuation, self-realization.  This cycle can repeat itself ad infinitum until something is able to intervene and break the pattern, allowing a new state of wholeness to come to fruition.

We resist and wall off because we don’t have the tools to address what we are given at the time, the support network has to be right, we have to feel safe. Thus, we get caught in a vicious cycle, unable to create a new scenario for ourselves from this material that is foreign to us yet now a part of us thanks to a lack of safety or temenos: that holy or sacred space that has a protected center, much like the Pericardium protects the Heart, serving as a spiritual-emotional sacred space within, we also need that in our outer lives in order to be freed of the resisted experience. Releasing the wall does not feel safe, yet remaining walled off in a state of resistance seems to be the only “safe” option until remaining in that state is no longer an option.

We resist, and continue to resist, not because we are weak or insufficient, but because we don’t know what else to do, there is no other option at the time, and we cannot reconcile or unite what has happened to us with who we were, who we now are.

Something strange happened to me after all these years, I finally found myself in a profound space of temenos. I felt the first chip in my hastily erected wall. At first, I blamed the cause of the wall’s chip for my problems, stating all the while that “no, this walled off part of me is not part of the problem, I am fine.” It started to feel like using my finger to block a hole in a dam, knowing full well that if I let that finger go I wouldn’t know what would emerge from the other side after so long and that there was no way I could keep my finger there forever. This had to be dealt with, yet, most likely, a flood that would wipe me out. I feared letting my finger go, letting the wall begin to crack and crumble around me. I swore that this wall was what held me up after so long.  Resistance was futile. I found myself forcibly, with no other option but to be, digging in to that which I had walled off many years ago.

Part of me knew that I had erected this wall because it was better to put this “thing”, my personal Jabberwocky, behind the wall than to have to deal with that which I had no ability at the time. I thought it was safely behind that wall, but now that it has been released from its confines, I see that it has been ravaging my existence, tearing me into pieces bit by bit.

I was bound to that wall, much like this thing was behind it, and bound to that thing, my Jabberwocky trying to take me on a journey I resisted with all my might. We were locked in a dance together: the Jabberwocky demanding a journey to the underworld of my being, a nekyia, and me fighting the flood that eventually brought me there. This is also what is known as the transcendent function wherein the conscious and unconscious are locked in a conflict, and the conflict is no longer tenable, thereby allowing the self to transcend its current state of stagnation and move into a new state of resolution and awareness.

I kept my finger there as long as I could, but as with all things big and small, holding onto something no matter the size gets exhausting given enough time. After I acknowledged that walling myself off was splitting me in two, I felt the first significant cracks giving way to the flood that enveloped me as I crossed the threshold.

As with any demolition project, it was messy, uncomfortable, painful at times, exhausting, and a relief to have some newfound space.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this is not a generally discussed topic, and it is a subject that I am still learning about; nevertheless here is my understanding of it: the Kidneys, Heart and Pericardium are all impacted.

What is first impacted is the Kidneys, as they are the seat of the emotion of fear. As we know, when we are scared we enter into fight-flight-freeze mode, this is dictated by our adrenal glands which the Kidneys preside over. When we receive a shock of any kind, the Heart and Pericardium are impacted, after all the Shen is our spark for life, and the Heart is the seat of joy in our body. The Pericardium protects our Heart – just like in the physical body, this also occurs with the spiritual/emotional self as well.

When we sustain an emotional-physical-spiritual shock or trauma, our Kidneys are jolted into action, and our Pericardium works to protect our Heart. If our Heart is impacted because the shock is so severe and strong, we can enter into a cycle where the Heart’s energy is literally blocked by the Pericardium being blocked, stagnant, deficient – frozen.

The Pericardium can build a metaphorical wall around the Heart, in an effort to protect it. This wall can remain long after the protection is needed.

If the Pericardium succeeds in building this wall, the Heart is unable to circulate the energy out of the body, and the Kidneys are unable to send soothing Yin energy (ie cortisol) to the Heart to help ease the shock and movement of energy out of the body.

We essentially wind up locked in a fight-flight-freeze cycle, reliving the shock in our bodies long after the conscious mental energy is extinguished.

This means that our bodies and emotions are still cycling the shock and trauma, while our Mind, our consciousness, believes or has convinced itself it has “moved on”. The fact that this is all still cycling brings our mental energy back to the shock-point again and again, even though we may not realize it – we are “acting out” or “reliving” the body’s experience via our unconscious being, and now we are forming new experiences based on unresolved shock. This cycle state is exhausting on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. It drains our Jing (our Essence), and dampens our inner flame, preventing us from reaching our potential in life: within ourselves, as well as in relationship with others.

No doubt about it – I am between worlds, between hearts, and moving into the unknown. Anything can happen, and there is something alternately exciting and scary about it as my whole body-mind-soul reorganizes and morphs into the unknown. My heart is growing into this new space, beyond the confines of my prison, weaving new threads and bringing all the pieces together. I pray I’ll be as beautiful and cherished as kinstugi/ kintsukuroi, transformed after passing through the liminal space into a newly incorporated self and being, allowing all parts of myself to heal and grow: scars and all Transformed, from myself I emerge as myself.

 

 

Resources and References:

http://www.psychceu.com/Jung/sharplexicon.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi

http://www.dragonrises.edu/wp-content/themes/dragon/downloads/articles/hammer-traumashock1.pdf

In An Unspoken Voice, Peter Levine

Waking the Tiger, Peter Levine

 

 

 

The TCM Five Elements (A Very Brief Overview)

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Ah, the TCM Five Elements.

Where would I be without them?  When I first started learning TCM and the Five Elements, a light bulb went off in my head.  It is time I give you a very brief review of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Five Elements and their paired Organs. This is by no means an exhaustive introduction or list, but it should help you pick up on some patterns within each of these Elements to see what might be going on with yourself, to give you some extra tools to dig deeper.  This is part of a series of posts where I’m exploring the interplay between what we take in from the outside world, and how we choose to assimilate these experiences.

Traditional Chinese Medicine details Five Elements as observed in nature (the macrocosm) and in our selves (the microcosm): Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, and now these Elements interact with each other.  Wood feeds Fire, Fire turns into Earth, Earth creates Metal, Metal melts into Water, and Water feeds Wood, this is known as the creation (or Shen) cycle.  The Ko cycle tells us which Element is controlled or regulated by another Element: Wood controls Earth, Fire controls Metal, Earth controls Water, Metal controls Wood, Water controls Fire.  These cycles are important in understanding how the Elements interact with each other.

Each Element has a Yin (or solid) Organ and a Yang (or hollow) Organ. The Yin Organs store, transform or produce substances (such as Qi or Blood).  The Yang Organs receive and transport substances, such as food, stool or urine, through the digestive and elimination tracks.

The Wood Element entails the smooth movement of the Blood and Qi within the body, and storage of the Blood, are ruled by the Liver and Gall-Bladder systems. Wood ensures the emotions, digestion, sleep, menstruation all run smoothly.  If the Liver is unable to keep the cycles running smoothly, anger, frustration, irritability, PMS, headaches, depression, digestive upset (i.e. having diarrhea one day, then being constipated the next), and even having the inability to make and keep plans all can occur.

The Fire Element has four Organs, encompassing the Heart, Pericardium (the oft-neglected and unsung hero of the Organs of TCM in my beginner’s mind), Small Intestine and Triple Burner Organ systems which are in charge of moving our Blood throughout our body, and of which houses what is known as our Shen or spirit, our life-spark.  When our Heart has been impacted, we can suffer from palpitations, mental restlessness, dream-disturbed sleep, too much talking, memory issues, repressed emotions, manic behavior, and pains in the chest area.  The Pericardium is the sac that surrounds the Heart.  It is the protector of the Heart, much like a moat that surrounds and protects a castle, the Pericardium bears the brunt of trauma and shock protecting the Heart from as much damage as possible. The Pericardium is also known as the circulation sex – hence it helps us relate to others. If the shock to the Pericardium is severe enough, both the Pericardium and Heart are impacted and impeded by various symptoms and patterns of imbalance. (I hope to explore more of this with you at a later date, as I’ve become quite fascinated with the Pericardium.)

The Earth Element holds the Spleen and Stomach systems, which are in charge of digesting and transforming our food and experiences, helping to create the Qi and Blood we need to live our lives to the fullest. When out of balance we can worry or chew on the same issues again and again and again, like an ill-digested meal; have feelings of heaviness, undigested food in the stools, loose stools, lack of sense of taste, appetite/hunger issues (either constant or lack thereof), the inability to fulfill goals, and being needy or having trust issues. Earth Element seems to have the most problem maintaining boundaries, as it nurtures and provides for the rest of the body, mind and soul.

The Metal Element’s Organ systems are the Lungs and Large Intestine. The Metal Element, and Lungs in particular, are that which circulate and distribute Qi (our energy), they are the filter by which we are cleansed of dirty air and help us to grieve and let go of what we no longer need.  If the Spleen helps us digest our experiences, the Lungs help us let them go. If we are unable to expel what we no longer need, we could have difficulty breathing, cough, asthma, sore throat, mucus, spontaneous sweating, elimination problems (constipation, dysentery), frequent colds/flus and/or immune issues, unresolved grief and the inability to give or grieve.

Lastly, at the root of us all for where would we be without it, our Water Element which are the Kidney and Urinary Bladder Organs. The Kidneys store our Essence (Ojas, Jing), they govern birth, growth, development and reproduction. Water circulation and fluid balance in the body are regulated by this Organ, and the Kidneys hold the Qi that is sent down from the Lungs in place. The Kidneys are not just our urination/water regulation system, but also our endocrine system and they house our Ming Men (or Life Gate Fire, where water and fire co-mingle between the two kidneys, much like one of my favorite childhood movies: Sea Prince and Fire Child). The emotion of the Water element is fear, and sudden frights or terror can harm this system (ever be scared and have to pee?)  Some signs that the Water Element is impacted encompass the following: fertility and sexual issues (lack of libido, impotence), urinary issues, low back pain, weak knees, edema/swelling in the lower parts of the body, fear/paranoia, thinning of head hair, premature graying or aging, ear and hearing problems, low pitched tinnitus, and some blood pressure and thyroid issues.

 

Do any of the Elements resonate with you and your typical reactions to things, or continued health problems?  Do you have constellations of symptoms spread between one, two or more of the TCM Five Elements?

 

Note:  To make things a bit clearer, I’ve capitalized the word Organ here to reflect the TCM view of the system of the Organ vs the Western view of an organ.  For example, the Liver in TCM is not just the liver the organ, but a whole system that interacts together that does not only entail what the liver (the organ in our body) does on a functional level.  As such, the Liver Organ is in charge of a greater number of functions and processes than the Western medical view of the liver.

Recommended Reading and References: The Web that Has No Weaver by Kaptchuk; Between Heaven and Earth by Beinfield and Korngold;  Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine Volume 1 by the Tierras

Filters, Resistance and Quaternity

Lately I’ve been thinking about how we filter our lives, what we take in and digest, what we let go, what we resist, and the images that define us.  My hope is to explore, without purpose, ambition or goal, what comes from our experiences and how they inform our health and well-being.

Quaternity is a square or four-sided symbol that represents wholeness; or, in the case of Jungian psychology, which has been a “hobby” of mine for over a decade, psychological totalitity.  In the Jungian stance it is the “marriage quaternio archetype of: ego, female, anima and Wise One.”(1)  Sounds fantastic right?  All the parts of use working in unison, as a whole.

For me, quaternity is the sacred space, the temenos, a mandala, representing the self and all the aspects therein.  It also serves as a symbol for what TCM means for me: the sides of the quaternity symbol are facets of Yin, Yang, Qi, and Spirit (Shen, Hun, Po, Zhi, Yi).  When united and working together, we are whole, healthy, and at peace in the flux that is life.  When not united and working together, we are imbalanced: in mind, body and spirit.  We will also become imbalanced in our relationship with others and life itself.

Previously, I had viewed the quaternity image as a square divided into four, now I have shifted to the circle representing the world and person moving in unison divided by a cross representing the different directions, sides and influences that make us whole.

QH logo

With the overlap of Jung and TCM (which I hope to explore further if my muse continues to inspire me), I see and have first-hand experience where filtering issues and resistance to experiences – positive or negative – can create massive disruption in the system.

  • If we are unable to properly filter an experience, resistance sets in disrupting the cycle creating patterns of imbalance psychologically, spiritually and physically because, we are after all, holistic beings where mind-body-soul are one and informed by each other.
  • We can absorb much more than we realize through a lack of filter (aka boundary), and unconsciously assimilate ideas and feelings that are not our own.

In the first example, we meet with someone who has suffered due to heartbreak, loss, or a hurt of some kind (physical, emotional, spiritual), who has also been unable to fully process, feel, and work through the experience, and has lingering effects from the experience for a time afterwards.

In the latter example, we meet someone who is not able to discern what is theirs, what is not, and knowing (or unknowingly) “plagiarizes” an idea or experience. Ever spend time with someone and end up “absorbing” their anger and becoming angry yourself?  Succumbing to propaganda is another example.  Those are two over-simplistic examples of a lack of filter or boundary.

Too often our imbalances arise from our inability to properly filter what has happened to us, thus disrupting the sacred wholeness of our selves.  When that happens, our integrity, wholeness, totality, are compromised and the trickle down effect can impact us for years to come before we are able to return or be on the path to wholeness and totality.

Being conscious of our self is not just a matter of what we eat, how often we exercise, how much we sleep, or if we meditate.  It is also about what our consciousness and unconsciousness are participating in, and how we respond: by filtering or resisting what we are given and react to and assimilating it all in a healthy way – for the self and those we are in relationship with.

We may “think” we have resolved an issue, moved on, no longer affected by what has happened to us (due to lack of filter, or resistance to an experience), however that issue has only been buried by our unconscious, waiting to be rediscovered and processed/worked-through later on when we are ready.  It is only when we are ready to truly see what it is that we are doing, knowingly or unknowingly by looking inward, digging in, and taking a close look at ourselves, that we are able to truly initiate a sense of wholeness of self.  Then can we be represented as the ultimate: quaternity.

(1) – http://www.terrpsych.com/jungdefs.html

Quitting, Taking the Leap, Moving On…

I’ve found myself quitting a lot this past year: coffee, a job, wheat, alcohol, toxic relationships, over-scheduling, over-doing.

Quitting can involve anything from coffee, to alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, junk food or even a job, using a credit card to buy things out of your budget, negative self-talk, or a toxic relationship.

 

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It seems that the more I quit, the more space is opened in my life for creativity.

I love making art, and truth be told, I’ve been creatively blocked for years artistically.  I now see my creative block was because I had not given myself the space, the time, the non-doing, to allow creativity to flow.  Quitting a variety of items, and people, has freed up so much room in my life.

We may know that we “should” quit for one reason or another, but it doesn’t mean that choose we do anything about it… tuntil we encounter the last straw. This tends to occur during or after a burnout phase – where we have reached the point of no return. The point where we cannot take on anything more than what we have – in our bodies, our minds, our souls, and our spirit.

When this happens, the clouds of “should” and “do” dissipate and a moment of clarity brings forth the action that must occur in order to keep health and sanity. There is no other option but to quit.

We live in a world where decisions and choices are made more difficult by the flood of choices and decisions to make on a daily basis.  Add to this the option to base our decision on others’ experiences (through sites such as Yelp, social media polling, etc.) and we can be left decision-paralyzed.  We can crowd-source almost anything we do in our lives.  It brings me comfort that the seemingly hard decisions aren’t always that hard to make thanks to the last straw.  Sometimes though, we are left between a rock and a hard place.  What then?

In TCM, having the resolve to make and follow through with plans is related to the Liver and Gallbladder. The Liver is the General or Architect of the body: planning, organizing and telling the other parts of the body how to assemble.  The Gallbladder is the decision-maker.

Have trouble making decisions? Perhaps you need some more help with your Gallbladder! Have trouble following through, or have your plans waffle and fall apart? Perhaps you need to support your Liver some more!

Sometimes these decisions and choices are made for us by way of allergic reactions or adverse reactions, sometimes these choices and decisions are easy to see and make by way of a person’s response or reaction.  I’ve consistently had adverse reactions to regular intake of wheat, dairy and/or alcohol at various times in my life. At a certain point, it is not worth exposing my body to these items and suffering the consequences.

At what point is it no longer worth making myself ill?  Spending a whole day in bed with stomach pains, running to and from the bathroom for hours, being foggy-headed from one beer with dinner the night before? What is the risk/benefit cutoff point? Unnerving stomach upset and dread upon waking to go to work? Headaches after spending time with someone? Exhaustion from living a “full life”?  For me it may be different than you, but only I can determine if something is working or not – by listening to my body without expectations or “shoulds” (I should be able to have pizza because I love it; I should be able to have a glass of wine with dinner because it helps me unwind; I should be friends with this person because I need a friend; I should keep my job because I need to pay the bills; I should, I should, I should…).

What if the decision or choice isn’t so clear-cut? My best advice is to listen deeply to your self. Weigh out your options in as much detail as possible: how does this current thing make you feel? Go as deep as you can – body, mind, soul. What will happen if you keep doing what you are doing? What would happen if you quit? Now, imagine your life without this, and fill it with something that you truly want to be doing instead: how does this new thing make you feel: body, mind and soul? The deeper you dig, the more likely you’ll find your gold: your decision.

What are you gaining from quitting?

Instead of coffee, I’ve resumed my old morning tea habit: brewing loose leaf Assam or green tea in the morning. I’ve gained the ability to have a calm, enjoyable morning and day without adverse physical reactions. Instead of wheat, I’m eating more starchy vegetables and rice and gained the loss of stomach pain and bloat.  Instead of alcohol, I’m having flavored seltzer, or seltzer mixed with various herbal tinctures/elixirs/syrups/etc; I’ve gained a clearer mind and more energized body. Instead of a terrible job, I found a great job working around and for great people. Instead of toxic friendships, I’m filling my life with only the people who I feel bring me to a place of more love, communication, support and sharing; I’ve gained the ability to relax and be myself without feeling beaten down over it. Instead of over-scheduling and over-doing it, I’m scheduling in “do nothing” time, so that I cannot “forget” to take time to rest, practice self-care, and provide myself time and space to do what my heart desires. I have ultimately gained a more healthier and happier me. What’s not to love about that?

How do you support your Liver and Gallbladder, and ultimately your inner-General or Architect? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Walk, move, dance, sing, go on a hike, spend time outside – what is your body, your soul, asking you to do?
  2. Eat plenty of lightly cooked greens, whole grains, lean protein
  3. Avoid dairy and Liver-stagnating foods like nuts, nut-butters, and avocados; alcohol, caffeine, chocolate.  Also avoid raw foods and juices, especially from the Fall through late Spring.
  4. Drink teas that are beneficial to the Liver: here is one of my favorites, you can also find many “detox” teas on the market.  Mint is a great Liver Qi mover too!
  5. If you suffer from “waffling” – with decisions, plans, etc – you might want to see if Wen Dan San is appropriate for you by speaking with an herbalist.  Wen Dan San’s English name is: Warm the Gallbladder formula. The Gallbladder likes to be warm, if you suffer from waffling or speaking up for what you want, you might have a cold Gallbladder.
  6. If you suffer from feelings of being stuck, speaking with an herbalist to determine if Bupleurum Liver Cleanse (Planetary Herbals version of Xia Yao Wan, aka Free and Easy Wanderer) may be appropriate for you.
  7. Take Triphala, twice a day, every day!  Take bitters before meals!  If you can’t digest what you are eating, how can you digest your life?
  8. Create! Start a painting, make a needlepoint, rearrange your furniture, paint your toenails, try some new makeup, dance to new music, cook something new, explore a different neighborhood, do your hair differently from what you normally do, try some new outfits, make a new playlist for a long walk.
  9. Massage your belly: start with both of your hands over your liver (under your ribs, on the right side of your body), and slowly massage in a clockwise circle around the belly button. My favorite is to do this with St. John’s Wort oil, or in the bath with some luxurious body wash. After you’ve circled your belly button several times, take your fingers and bend them into a rake-like pattern. Then, move your fingers up and down, from your pubic bone up to your suprasternal notch for about thirty seconds. Then, tap two inches below your belly button with your fingertips. When you do this daily, you will feel the heat move from one area of your belly to another.  This helps to move Heat to areas that are Cold, thus creating greater balance in the body.
  10. If you are still having troubles with decision-paralysis, or following through on your plans, create a step-by-step plan of what you need to do to accomplish this thing. Breaking tasks down to manageable portions allows us to see and make progress that much easier. You wouldn’t try to eat a whole plate of food in one bite, why would you try to accomplish a whole new thing (like quitting coffee) all at once? Start with something do-able, and keep at it.
  11. Sometimes, no matter what we do, all we can do is listen to our hearts and take the leap and go for it.

Taking the leap, moving on and quitting can be easy, or it can be hard.

What I can say, easy or hard, is that quitting has made me more present and aware of myself. It’s brought up habits, fears and anxieties, truths that I otherwise would have kept a blind eye to; and has allowed me to see what I need to thrive.

It’s been quite the ride – bumps, stumbles, breakdowns, and all.

Muscle Tear: An Herbalist’s Story

A few days ago, I tore my gastrocnemius muscle walking across the street.  Before you ask, no I was not running, no I did not twist my ankle or step on my foot funny.  I figured it would be worth it to share with my readers how an herbalist handles situations such as these.

Please note: I am not giving advice (herbal, medical, or otherwise) as to how to go about addressing injuries or trauma.  If you have suffered an injury or trauma, please seek medical assistance.  I am simply sharing what I am doing, so that you can get a sense for what the possibilities are when approaching a first-aid/trauma situation.  The advice that I do give to you is to seek medical help if you suffer any injury – you’ll see why this is important as you read through the story!

Here goes:

I was crossing a 4 lane major street to head home for the night, normal pace, sturdy shoes, nothing was different from any other day that I was heading home from work.  Halfway across the street, the muscle knotted up like the worst Charlie horse in the world, then popped in the calf then down by the ankle/heel (the doc said the pop’s best description is being shot with a BB gun).  The pain was so terribly excruciating I could not put any weight on it, in fact the whole city went silent and I saw a blindingly bright light.  I hopped across the busy intersection on one foot, and spent an hour trying to find a cab to bring me home.  It was… an experience.

Initially I thought this was a spasm, and began treating it as such: I took bai shao/licorice decoction for calf spasms (this is the specific indication for this two-herb combination), lobelia tincture (also for spasms), St John’s Wort/Goldenrod oil applied externally, and even went so far as to lightly gua sha the area (Ow! – bad idea), took extra magnesium that night, and other antispasmodics in tincture form (I have a sleep blend that is heavily centered on California Poppy, Skullcap, Passionflower, Chamomile, etc).  Nothing helped; well the sleep tincture did give me 8 hours of uninterrupted pain-free sleep so there’s that.

When I woke up no better than when I went to bed, I decided that I had to go to urgent care.

Lo and behold I tore a muscle.

I have to note here that I am so thankful for going to urgent care, because I would have kept treating the tear as a spasm and would have probably done a lot of damage to my healing and leg in general.  It was ruled out that I did not have tendon damage, but got a positive squeeze test for a torn gastrocnemius muscle (the large muscle in the calf).

With the torn muscle diagnosis, I shifted my approach after being told to not put any weight on my leg until I saw an orthopedist…  I had no swelling, no bruising, slight warmth in area and nothing else.
I did the following:
–   Epsom salt/modified great mender/comfrey soaks alternating with dit dat jow (Miles’, mine, and my Tai Chi instructor’s)
–   Oils of goldenrod/St John’s Wort and comfrey leaf
–   I hesitated putting 3 Yellows on because it was a tear not a bruise/impact, and am wondering if I should have at this point because of the bruise.  I also hesitated with a ginger fomentation because there was already a slight sensation of heat on the leg.
–   Internally I took: circuherb, extra turmeric, vitamin c, omega 3’s, my standard supplement regimen, and also small amounts of the modified great mender
–   I kept my leg elevated (above the heart), and applied cool fomentation/compresses here and there.
–   Yunnan Bai Yao and this other brand “Dacon” plaster patches at night, and when at work on the third day.  I’ve since stopped using the patches because of a latex sensitivity reaction to them.

I got to see the orthopedist on day 3 (yahoo to my awesome doctor’s office!), and he agreed with the initial diagnosis, gave me a calf compression sleeve, and told me absolute minimal activity for the next 2-3 weeks.  I still had a lack of swelling and bruising to date, and warned me about an imminent bruise from my calf to my foot!  I got a “negative squeeze test”, contrary to my positive one from not two days before, which perplexed the doctor because I should have been much worse off than I was.  I’m chalking it up to my great self-care!

I decided to add St John’s Wort and Yarrow internally as tinctures, and Yarrow externally while continuing with the soaks, liniments, oils, etc.  I added the Yarrow to help move blood where it needed moving, and the St John’s Wort to soothe the tissues.  I continued with the rest of the protocol as outlined above.

Sure enough, a bruise formed by the end of the third day, only after I had been on it far too much since going to work.

Day 5 (today): I have a bluish/yellowish/brownish/reddish (aka rainbow) bruise that’s the size of a golf ball on my leg, no swelling, and no pain unless step on leg incorrectly or overuse it.

I feel pretty positive about my progress, all things considered.

This is not to say that I still don’t have several more weeks to go: I was told that I’d feel 100% in 2 weeks, but would actually be 100% in 3 weeks.  If I re-injure, or overuse my leg, healing could take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks.  I’m being as diligent as possible, given that I have to go to work, so as to have the fastest recovery time possible.

I have started to lightly massage the bruised area with oil, yarrow tincture and/or liniment, in an attempt to eradicate it as quickly as possible (note: I do not massage to the point of pain).  The bruise appeared 2 days ago, and looks like it will be gone in two days.  We’ll see…

Now, back to elevating my leg, feeling grumpy about being couch and bed-bound, and drinking my version of Great Mender!

Injured leg, propped up on four pillows

Stuck in bed, unable to walk

Wrapping a fomentation with plastic wrap to speed absorption