Fifth Season-The Middle PathSeptember 1st, 2011 — 12:00pm
The Fifth "Season"
Late Summer & The Seasonal Interchanges
Did you know that there is actually a fifth season that occurs five times during the year? Late Summer, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, is a short season occurring approximately the last month of Summer which is the middle of the lunar year. This is truly a midpoint when the transition from yang to yin occurs. The active, expansive growth of Spring and Summer (Yang energy) is in the process of shifting to the cooler, more inward and mysterious Yin energies of Fall and Winter. This pleasant, tranquil and flourishing season brings a sense of time standing still, the moment at which the pendulum reverses its swing. The middle way is now occurring between two polar opposites. Unity and harmony seem effortless. You may notice that it is easier during this season to feel your own sense of quiet, balanced inner stillness.
When describing the Fifth Season, the Nei Jing/ Inner Classic medical text ~ 2,500 B.C. has this to say:
The Earth Element, represented by the Spleen/Pancreas, regulates the "center", that which is constant, from where it harmonizes the effects of the four seasons.
There are 4 more opportunities during the year to reap the benefits of nature’s power to harmonize! The fifth season’s Earth Element also has a strong influence over the 15 days surrounding each of the two solstices and equinoxes (7-1/2 days before and after). These are energetically neutral buffers between the seasons. During these days we experience a pivotal pause in the light patterns of the sun, the center of our solar system.
These periods offer us a valuable opportunity to discover how to make our lives more simple and harmonious. Now is the time to allow rigid or discordant mental/physical conditions to be transformed through centering practices that take one beyond external conditions. This can be as simple as sitting quietly while breathing into the abdomen, your physical center, and feeling that peaceful place inside of you that is always present, patiently awaiting your attention!
The healing of digestive disorders is accelerated under the Earth Element’s influence. Acupuncture, customized herbal remedies and of course dietary adjustments will go a long way to promote energy and well-being at any time of the year, but especially now!
Earthly Delights: Fifth Season Foods
To attune with the Earth element Season, it is wise to include some foods for each meal that are harmonizing and represent the center. These include mildly sweet foods, yellow or golden foods, round foods, and/or foods known in Traditional Chinese medicine to “harmonize the middle jiao” (digestive center). These include millet, corn, carrots, cabbage, garbanzo beans, soybeans, squash, potatoes, string beans, yams, tofu, sweet potatoes, sweet rice, amaranth, peas, chestnuts, filberts, apricots, and cantaloupe.
Foods should be prepared simply with a minimum of seasoning. Avoid extremes or complicated dishes with multiple ingredients. Allow moderation to guide you in all aspects of food preparation, including cooking time. Spring and Summer allow for quick, light cooking and Winter and Fall allow for long, slow cooking. But this is the season of the middle way, so adjust your cooking time accordingly. Use water and cooking oils moderately. These practices may be used at any time to help sustain and balance middle-path experiences to promote harmony and health.
Many cultures use seasonal interchanges as traditional times to purify and cleanse their internal and external environments. A three-day, single-grain fast during the Fall and Winter interchanges, and a vegetable or fruit fast on the cusps of Spring and Summer, help to bring one to the “center” during seasonal transitions. If you wish to fast, plan it during days when demands from the outside world are minimal.
The Earth element represents yin, the receptive, nurturing qualities of life. In our modern culture, rampant hypoglycemia, cancer, constipation, and many other afflictions directly relate to our lack of focus on nurturing and simply being. We are so often obsessed with always doing. These maladies will begin to be transformed into health with a general respect for the Earth, the food it offers, and for the human body’s own ecosystem by learning to cultivate the yin. Please be respectful of the bounties of the Earth. Consume only what is needed. In this way we minimize the toxins and soil depletion involved in industrial agriculture.
Please support your local organic growers! We are so fortunate to live in an area that provides us so generously. As we respect our own bodies, we are naturally prompted to stop the consumption of denatured, refined foods. Compassion, also a middle-path experience, limits the eating of meat only to that which is medicinally necessary. To effect a total and unified change, our own blood “streams” and internal landscapes must be properly cleaned and tended.
Healing the Earth and Healing Ourselves Are One and the Same!!!
Spring into Action!August 28th, 2011 — 12:00pm
HAVE YOU HAD YOUR SPRING ACUPUNCTURE TUNE-UP?
Powerful forces are at work during the Spring season. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) of which acupuncture is a part, has since antiquity aligned its healing strategies with nature’s rhythmic cycles.
Spring is the best time to lighten up, release negative habits, detoxify your liver, lose weight and increase physical activity.
Hopefully you took advantage of the “Yin” Winter months by resting more and aligning with your quiet inner being. Following Winter’s wisdom in this way prepares you to more fully enjoy the lively creative, “Yang” expression of Spring.
The Nei Jing, a classic Chinese medical text circa ~300 B.C., reminds us that now is the time to “rise up early with the sun” and “take brisk walks.”
With Spring comes an intense wave of energy awakening strong forces in Nature whose spirit seeks expression through form.
The magic of Spring is apparent all around us. Vibrant shades of green dominate the landscape. Fragrant blossoms open while primal urges spark wildlife into intense courtship rituals. Plants push upward seeking the warm sun – a classic expression of Yang energy.
The Nei Jing also tells us that the ubiquitous springtime color of green nourishes the soul through the eyes, naturally reducing the appetite for food. Spring is the perfect time to begin shedding unwanted pounds and unhealthy attitudes.
Certain emotional states associated with Liver imbalance may surface during Spring. Note: although they share some commonalities, “Liver” in TCM encompasses much more than the physical liver in Western medicine. Anger, irritability, impatience, frustration, resentment, violence, rudeness, arrogance, stubbornness, aggression, and impulsiveness and/or explosiveness are all examples of a stressed out Liver system.
The arising of such emotions are gifts with a purpose! They signal us to tend to our health before certain disease states take root and become chronic.
The good news is, these are the very symptoms, attitudes and habits that are most easily transformed during the months of Spring through acupuncture and TCM.
Acupuncture therapy along with specific foods, self-expression and plenty of outdoor activity helps balance the Liver energy that is associated with the season of Spring.
Other TCM Liver-related health issues that may arise for healing during Spring include eye disorders, strokes, tendinitis, herpes, migraine headaches and menstrual difficulties.
Treating Liver imbalances will also help heal the organ systems that are associated with the other seasons. It is well understood in TCM that the health of every organ effects the balance of all other organ systems.
Spring’s Healing Foods
This season provides the best opportunity to attend to the Liver and Gallbladder. The diet should be the lightest of the year. Ancient classics on Chinese herbal medicine recommend that we create a personal Spring within by enjoying the expansive, rising Yang qualities of sweet and pungent flavored foods.
Cooked foods should be prepared at higher temperatures for a shorter time than during cooler months. Quick stir-frying and light steaming are best during Spring.
Because Spring is the first season of the year, it represents youth. The more youthful stages of human development (before the use of fire) can be accessed through the consumption of raw foods. All stages of human development are genetically encoded within us. Going back through the layers of our evolution to more primal biological states is necessary for renewal to be complete.
Foods to Enjoy:Young plants, Fresh greens, onions, sprouts, immature wheat or other cereal grasses, young beets, carrots, and other sweet, starchy vegetables (anything which would be thinned from a spring garden). Pungent cooking herbs: Basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaf, turmeric, cardamom, cumin, lemon balm.
Complex carbohydrates: Grains, legumes, seeds (these all have a primarily sweet flavor that increases with sprouting).
Herbal teas: Mint, licorice root, dandelion, chamomile, lemongrass (try sweetening your tea with stevia, made from the leaves of a South American plant and found at natural food stores).
Foods to Avoid: Salty foods, soy, miso, and excessive meat. These all have the quality of “sinking the Qi” (life-force energy) and are best limited in Spring. Too many heavy foods clog the Liver and can result in symptoms mentioned previously.
Winter compelled us to rest and restore. Now Spring beckons us to eat lightly, get plenty of fresh air and outdoor exercise, and express ourselves creatively.
May you be nourished by the gifts that Spring has to offer!
Winter WisdomAugust 28th, 2011 — 12:00pm
One of the things we love most about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is its profound depth and wisdom. Four years of intensive study in Acupuncture college was just a primer for a life-long journey into the intricacies of this ancient, elegant system of healing and health maintenance. That’s right… health maintenance!
Cultivating simple habits that harmonize our inner and outer being with the energetic influences of each season is one of TCM’s simple and practical tools that will help your body in its constant and miraculous effort to self-heal.
If you think of Summer as daytime (Yang) and Winter as nighttime (Yin) and you know that humans are diurnal (daytime) creatures, one thing becomes quite clear. Winter must be prime time for rest. Besides, our instincts tell us this!
There is a special form of “high octane” fuel so to speak that is available only at this time of year. It is the deep, dark, quiet, calm essence of Yin. There’s nothing else quite like it to restore the reservoir of energy at the deepest core of our physical being. Don’t miss this grand opportunity. Make sleep a priority!
This is not to say that it’s OK to become a complete couch potato. Mild daily exercise is crucial to prevent Chi (energy) from stagnating, as it is prone to do at this time of year. Stagnant Chi often leads to depression and physical aches and pains especially in Winter. Study after study has shown that exercise is one of the best “medicines” for depression and movement is essential for alleviating pain.
TCM Winter care includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, special exercises, and specific food recommendations.
The most common conditions we treat in Winter are:
- Low Energy/Sluggishness
- Weight Gain
- Decreased Libido
- Urinary Tract and Kidney Disorders
- Edema or Swelling
- Back Pain
- Colds and Flu
According to traditional Chinese healing arts, food is a source of medicine. Specific recommendations are based on an evaluation of one’s personal constitution, but some general guidelines should be followed seasonally.
In winter it is wise to pay careful attention to the “thermal energies” of foods. Centuries of observation, documentation and common sense have given us insight into the nature of the kinds of foods that avail themselves to us during each season. What we may think of as warming foods – salsas, curries, cayenne, and other red peppers – are actually cooling because they “open the surface” allowing warmth to escape from the body… not a good idea in Winter!
Winter is the best time to bake foods or cook them into soups and stews. Think of heat as an ingredient that you add to foods by cooking them for longer periods. This extra heat warms the “middle burner” – the Chinese medical term for the digestive system. Many of us need this extra internal warming, especially during cold weather. Raw salads, cold drinks, and frozen desserts should be avoided or minimized in Winter, especially on cold, wet days.
Warming foods include oatmeal, roasted buckwheat, millet, shiitake mushrooms, most root vegetables, squashes, yams, and sweet potatoes.
Mushroom barley and root vegetable soup with lamb or beef and Dong Gui, a Chinese herb, builds blood and increases circulation. People with cold hands and feet, aching low backs aggravated by cold, wet weather, and women with menstrual pain will all benefit from this soup.
Please buy only organic and humanely raised meats!
Onion soup warms the “middle burner” (the Chinese medical term for digestive system).
Aduki and kidney beans warm and strengthen the “Kidney Chi”, the deep vital reserve energy associated with this season.
Miso soup with green onion, garlic, and fresh ginger root is a classic remedy to use when first catching a cold, so be sure to have these ingredients on hand!
During this brief time it is wise to sleep more and do less!!!
Happy, Healthy Holidays to all!
The Alchemy of AutumnAugust 28th, 2011 — 12:00pm
The Summer season’s long warm days and the outward (Yang) activities it inspires have left many of us feeling scattered and tired.
Each year, it seems that Autumn come just in time. Its energies are in harmony with pulling inward and gathering together on all levels. It is a time to begin storing fuel, food, warmer clothing and most of all our vital energies!
You may feel compelled to reorganize your surroundings and clear out what you no longer need. This is directly related to the influence of the Metal element associated with this season. Think of an axe chopping away the dead wood that would otherwise drain the vital living energy of a tree. This is one of the best times to accurately identify and let go of the old, lifeless energy-draining things that have accumulated around you.
Your precious time and energy can now be focused with razor-like sharpness (Metal element again!) on only that which is of real value in terms of nourishment. Make use of the Autumnal gift of enhanced focus by keenly observing and cultivating positive attitudes, focusing scattered thoughts through meditation practices, and organizing your life around healthy habits and loving relationships.
In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Autumn’s associated organ is the Lung. Its function of inspiration and expiration reminds us of our natural ability to take in what we need (oxygen) and release what no longer serves us (carbon dioxide).
The emotion associated with this season is grief, so it is common for sadness to surface at this time. Simply feel it, explore it, and allow the alchemy of Autumn to help you to release it. Cry if you feel the need. Remember, tears are one of nature’s toxic waste removal systems so why on earth should we stop their flow?
According to Chinese medicine, different foods carry their own unique character and quality of energy. Some offer a warming quality, some are cooling, others are astringent and are said to help “hold the chi” (life-force energy). Nature in its wisdom provides us with the foods that are most needed by our physiology during each season. During Autumn, these foods are abundant, yet contracting in nature. They are astringent as well as hearty. More focus is required in food preparation during Autumn to supply greater energy.
Remember, the energy, focus and love that one puts into food preparation has a direct effect on the quality of nourishment that food provides when consumed.
Baked and sautéed. foods release aromas that enter the nose (opening of the lungs), stimulating the appetite. Cook foods longer using less water and lower heat during this season.
Foods to help begin the contraction process: Sourdough bread, sauerkraut, rose hip tea, salt, apple cider vinegar, cheese, yogurt, olives, pickles, leeks, adzuki beans, lemon, lime, grapefruit, sour apples.
To counter conditions of lung dryness: (thirst, dry skin, nose, lips and throat, itchiness, persistent dry cough) Eat organic soy products (tofu, miso, soy sauce, soy beans, soy milk), spinach, barley, millet, pear, apple, persimmon, loquat, seaweed, black and white fungus, almonds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, barley malt, rice syrup, clam, crab, oyster, mussel, herring, and pork (please buy only organic and humanely raised meats).
To counter conditions of excess phlegm: Enjoy easily digested foods: veggies, fruits, sprouts, small amounts of grains and legumes, turnip, radish, garlic, onion, fennel, fenugreek, flax seed, cayenne, watercress, fresh ginger.
Minimize or Avoid: Dairy products, mammal meats, fried foods, peanuts, tofu, miso, soy sauce, soy milk, amazake, and all sweeteners except stevia.
Our herbal pharmacy contains a treasure trove of classic Chinese medicinals that boost the immune system, treat colds, flu, fevers, lingering coughs and assist in the recovery of gastroenteritis (intestinal flu).
Autumn is the perfect time to get acupuncture treatments for various TCM "Lung" related imbalances including the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory infections, as well as intestinal problems and depression.
Winter’s chill is just around the corner. Prepare yourself with a seasonal acupuncture session and herbal medicine consultation!
Summer ~ Joyful Expansion!August 28th, 2011 — 11:00am
Summer is the most Yang season according to ancient Chinese wisdom. It is a time of flourishing abundance–for expansion, growth, lightness, outward activity, brightness, and creativity. To harmonize with the energy of this season, rise early, greet the sun, and bring your awareness to the gratitude you feel for the life energy it provides. Be joyful in work and play. Find ways to be of service to others. Allow the bounty of the environment to enter and enliven you!
According to the Chinese Five-Element Tradition, each season is associated with an element of nature, an emotion, and an organ system. Summer’s element is fire; its emotion is joy; its organ system is the Heart. The Chinese word for Heart, pronounced “Shen”, translates as “Heart-Mind” and includes our mental/emotional center and capacity to experience joy. Chinese medical theory tells us that the Heart not only regulates blood circulation but also controls consciousness, sleep, and spirit, and “houses the mind.” (Capital letters are used to indicate expanded definitions.) The Heart, in combination with the Liver, is related to the nervous system and the brain. The Heart acupuncture meridian affects both the physical heart and the mind. It is well known in Western medicine that the emotions have a direct effect on the heart, causing changes in rate and strength of contractions.
Those with healthy Hearts, according to this expanded definition, are genuinely friendly. Their perception is keen, their minds and hearts open. They are truly humble because they are aware of their small place within the expansiveness of nature. Clarity indicates a healthy Heart-Mind. Problems seem effortlessly solved. Creative yet simple solutions come easily.
Summer it the best time to treat any of the following issues with acupuncture and herbal medicine: insomnia, restlessness, scattered thinking, poor memory, high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, hyperthyroidism, depression, poor circulation, weak spirit, aversion to heat.
Heart disease on the physical level is the largest problem in the United States. These statistics increase tremendously when we include the mental/emotional component of the Heart. Many chronic degenerative conditions (arthritis, cancer, and mental illness) are associated with this “organ” as well. This makes the treatment of Heart-Mind imbalances a priority in Chinese medicine.
The Healing Foods of Summer
Brightly colored fruits and vegetables abound in summer. Enjoy the process of creating beautiful meals with them. A table with fresh flowers and a dazzling display of in-season foods is a wonderful way to celebrate this season. Buy organic, local produce whenever possible. Cook lightly and add a little pungent, spicy, or even fiery flavor. Use high heat for a short period of time to saute or stir-fry. Steam or simmer foods as quickly as possible. Use less salt and more water.
Nature once again provides us with exactly what our physiology needs during the season. Because minerals and oils are sweated out of the body, a varied diet is required to replace lost nutrients. Summer offers us abundant variety. Summer heat combined with too much cold food weakens the digestion. Minimize ice cream and iced drinks as these will actually stop digestion!
On hot days, create a cool dining atmosphere; have picnics and patio meals. Include cooling, fresh foods: salads, sprouts (especially mung, soy, and alfalfa), fruits, tofu, cucumbers, and any flower or leaf teas including chamomile, mint, and chrysanthemum. The best fruits to cool summer heat are apples, watermelons, lemons, and limes. Mung bean soup or tea is a specific medicinal summer heat remedy. Heat-dispersing hot spices such as cayenne, red and green hot peppers, fresh (not dried) ginger, horseradish, and black pepper are ideal for inducing sweat to release heat to the surface of the body. The body then mirrors the climate and is less affected by it. However, if too many heat-dispersing foods are taken, weakness can occur due to excess loss of Yang (heat). The ability to stay vital and warm in the cooler seasons will be compromised.
Heavy foods in summer will cause sluggishness. Meats, eggs, and excesses of nuts, seeds and grains should be avoided. A natural, healthful practice is to eat lightly on the brightest, hottest days of summer. Our own internal rhythms tell us this.
Enjoy the bountiful, colorful, and varied foods of the summer season!
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