Choose life... or a cup of tea
One thing I can't stand is intolerant people
Getting to the root of it
The Big C
The Big C - PT 2
Same same but different
Love it or leave it
Stay on the fence
What helps your medicine go down?
Stay on the fence
In Chinese Medicine, healthy humans move gracefully through a range of emotions - sadness, happiness, fear, joy.
Rather than one particular emotion being desirable above any other, for example happiness, it is the movement from emotion to emotion at an appropriate time that constitutes true emotional health.
All emotions are appropriate, just in different contexts. Sadness or grief, for example at the loss of a loved one, is appropriate; but grief is a process, at the end of which we move on, changed by that process. If we never stop grieving for that person we may be unable to engage full with living the rest of our lives to the fullest.
Likewise, anger can be an appropriate response for example to injustice or bullying and can empower us to move out of a harmful situation. However, holding on to anger once a positive new balance has been established may destroy our ability to interact with others and could lead us into new violent environments.
The movement from one emotional state or phase to the next is represented in Chinese Medicine by the 5 phases or Wu Xing. The Wu Xing also move energy around the body's physical Organs. Each physical organ is seen as housing or being stimulated by an associated emotion. There are emotions in disharmony as well as associated virtues when the Organ is in a healthy or harmonious state.
So, positive emotional states create and nurture physical health! This interaction happens not just inside us but also between us.
When we are confronted by positive emotions (if we ourselves are not in the midst of something painful or negative) we respond. Happy people are attractive; I don't mean attractive like good-looking but better able to 'attract' positive influences towards them, call it luck, mojo, or whatever you please. Likewise people stuck in a rut tend to attract repetitive patterns of 'bad luck', 'bad relationships' 'bad timing', etc.
So how do we stay positive? I don't mean maniacally happy all the time. 'Positive' here is means a freedom of movement between 'appropriate' emotions. 'Staying afloat' rather than being overwhelmed by one type of emotion or another.
Positivity in this way is also Equanimity. The Wu Xing can be laid out as follows, where the virtue of Earth can be called Equanimity:
In this picture the Earth element is in a central position. Likewise in a state of equanimity we are in the middle of it all but untouched by it. Equanimity is a state in which we accept others' feelings without attempting to alter them, regardless of how uncomfortable those feelings might make us.
In order to do this consciously it is important to stay in the present moment and not be transported mentally to times when we have felt a similar way before. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk explains a very simple and powerful meditation to help us do this in his book, Peace is Every Step. He explains that breath is the root to bringing our mind and bodies together. By focusing on the breath we calm both our mind and body. By staying focussed on our breathing we can watch emotions rise and fall in ourselves and others without being drawn in.
From this position of equanimity we are better able to remain positive regardless of our circumstances.
Become aware of your breathing. Once you are in touch with the rhythm of your breath without needing to consciously alter it, as you breather in say to yourself, "Breathing in I know I am breathing in". And, as you breathe out say to yourself, "Breathing out I know I am breathing out"
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What helps your medicine go down?
My studies in Acupuncture included a business module full of all the appropriate jargon one would expect. This included the idea that a 'successful' practitioner was one who accumulated the largest market share of customers. According to this model all practitioners are therefore in competition with each other for clients. Awkward!
However, in the same way that you can't add apples and oranges and come up with one number, practitioners (and clients) are too different to compare 'like for like'. There is a difference in the physical styles of medicine we practice: Japanese acupuncture, TCM, 5 elements, cupping, gua sha, electro, moxa.
There is an even bigger diversity in how we represent ourselves - in our appearance, our demeanor, and our 'banter' and this post is suggesting that the 'how' a therapist does their thing rather than what they do, is really where clients receive the medicine they are looking for. To illustrate the point, imagine that you walk into your doctor's surgery and found them playing on a guitar with their feet on the desk. Would you be more or less inclined to believe that they knew what they were doing? Probably less, unless you had an incredible fear of 'the man' and actually a hippy doctor is the only person you'd trust to come anywhere near you.
This is because our brains instantly recognise archetypes. A bearded elderly white male is supposed to be wise, a shoeless one a thriftless fool. A young woman modestly dressed is a maiden, but provocatively dressed, she must a sex worker. Tarot images such as the Hermit, the Emperor, the Priestess are hard-wired into our psyche and we shoe-horn people into these pre-set boxes of the brain at the slightest provocation.
Apparently it's not just how a person looks that effects us but the space in which we interact. An architect friend of mine explained to me the history of doctors' treatment rooms: if the doctor's room fits the formula of 'approaching an oracle' (something to do with the positioning of the desk and the door) the patients judge the doctors efficacy more positively whether their medicine is genuine or not!
So am I saying then that the medicine is irrelevant? That it's all placebo? Almost! Holism recognises that our psychology and physiology are intrinsically linked, and Psychoneuroimmunology now believes the same thing. In short, our continuing modern medical evolution is now coming to examine the idea that trust, or even love can have a profound effect on our bodies' ability to heal.
Although this is really talking about sustained periods of emotion, you can experience the physiological effect of happiness by trying the classic Taoist exercise of the inner smile:
- Sitting quietly and comfortably (full lotus NOT necessary!) become aware of the rise and fall of your breath.
- Observe your thoughts as they come and go. Keep returning to an awareness of your breath until you feel it coming and going, 'unhitched' and regular.
- When you feel like it, bring to mind a time when you were very happy: be it coming home, hugging a loved one, or reuniting with a lover
- As you feel your mouth widen into a smile allow the smile to spread inwards towards the heart
- When the smile reaches your heart, like a disco ball, you can imagine the warmth of the smile reflecting into the other organs of your body
- Feel free to place your hands over any organ in which you choose to enhance the connection and sense of relaxation
- Continue to breathe, feeling the smile deepen and the organs of the body relax further
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