You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘five elements’ category.

It’s hot hot in the Bay Area.

I was up early (for me) to volunteer at an energizer station for Bike to Work Day.  We handed out goodie bags, fruit, coffee cake, and WATER!

It’s a reminder for me to STAY HYDRATED.  This is a frequent mantra of mine, in person and on this blog.  But I think it merits repeating, a lot.

  • Are your lips dry?
  • Do you have a headache?
  • Are you feeling spaced-out?

Could be that the heat or dry air is affecting you more than you think.

If it helps to use some visual reminders from the Five Elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine, imagine this.  In the Five Elements, the relationship between the Water Element (associated with Winter, flexibility, energy, kidney, bladder, etc.) and Wood Element (associated with the Spring seaon, growth, creativity, planning, gallbladder and live, etc.) is not surprisingly, that water helps wood grow.

So if you’re feeling wilted, give yourself some water.

Advertisements

As some of you know, I live in San Francisco, and there’s been lots of talk and angst about the Olympic torch running here.  I have mixed feelings about China and its human rights violations, Tibet, Darfur… within the context of the excitement of the Olympics.

olympic torch 1

Well, I just jumped on the excitement bandwagon by running down four blocks to see the Olympic torch go by!

Fortunately I was at the beginning of the new “decoy” route, so was standing right by it.  There were some protesters shouting their cause and holding up signs, but mostly bystanders who were excited and supportive.

A couple of photos here; the torch bearers are wearing red/white running suits.  I think the woman with her eyes closed is blind; she has her left hand on the arm of the man to her left.

UPDATE: Based on info on all the torchbearers, I believe this torchbearer is Jessica Lorenz of Berkeley, who is “a blind person and 2008 Paralympian who has worked continually to improve her game and spread the Paralympic message of inclusion to disabled and non-disabled people alike”.

olympic torch 2

You can see in the second photo one torch bearer waving, and her partner (all the torch bearers are running in pairs) holding the touch with flame.  You can see the police on foot, motorcycle.

The Fire Element in Traditional Chinese Medicine is related to passion and joy and enthusiasm.  (The color of fire is red, so the red running suits are appropriate, too.)  Certainly my experience of this Olympic event has been on the positive side of the Fire Element.

But there are thousands of people–supporters, protesters, curious–who have been waiting along the official route who have been and will be mightily disappointed.  Some will no doubt be experiencing the Fire when it is out of balance: feelings of aggression and impatience.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Springtime is associated with the Wood element and the gall bladder and liver meridians.  It’s a season of cleansing and renewal, as new movement and growth start.
 
I think of “cleansing” my body by making an effort to cut back on sweet and heavier comfort foods, like my beloved almond croissants, and increase greens and fruits.  Check out Staying Healthy with the Seasons, a book I’ve written about before, for more information on cleansing.
 
Also, cleansing my physical space with a de-cluttering, is a part of spring cleaning
 
As you move into this new season, consider these questions:

  • What new movement do I want to create in my life? 
  • What energizes me?
  • How can I clear out the blocks to growth?

The thing I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it’s based on nature and the world, so just about anything in the world can relate back to its principles.

Last week, I went to see (again) my favorite parts of an exhibition by the Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson, at the SFMOMA. (Exhibit info here.) I didn’t know of this artist before this exhibition. They are big pieces. Color. Angles. Curves. And all kinds of materials, including water.

In one installment, (called Beauty), you walk into a darkened room where you see light passing through a misty “curtain” of fine water droplets, cascading down from above, onto the absorbing floor. The water drops reflect the light, so it appears like a wall, but really, it’s an illusion. We can walk through that “curtain”.

In another room is Notion Motion.  When we walk on squeaky floor boards in front of a screen, the screen shimmers in different patterns. Depending on the location of the floor board; the amount of squeak. It turns out there’s a shallow water pool on the other side of the screen, and the shimmering is a reflection of the ripples on the water.

Another work which I only peeked into was an ice-sculpture. Actually an ice-covered car. Both times I passed by, my inner-cozy won out over my experience-adventurer.

Anyway, I’m writing about these water-related art objects, because they got me thinking about the Water Element. Since Winter is the season associated with the Water Element, how a propos, I thought, that I was drawn to water in different forms.

The cool thing about water, is its flexibility. It can take so many forms. From fluid liquid water to solid frozen blocks; from refreshing cooling mist to dangerously scalding vapors. In each form, it has a beauty and a power.

So, when our Water Element is in balance, or doing well, flowing, as it were, then our flexibility should be good. Physically, especially along the spine. Mentally and emotionally. Being able to flow with the ebbs and flows that are natural in our daily lives.

By the way, boundaries are also an important aspect of this. Think of it: A river that is healthy is full and flowing within its boundaries. But one that gets out of bounds can wreak all kinds of havoc, as has been experienced in many parts of the world.

To support the Water Element, here are a few wellness ideas:

  • Support your energy. We know how grouchy and inflexible we can be when we’re running on too little sleep. Get enough rest whenever you can.
  • Keep your spine supple. Do some simple stretches.
    • Sit on the edge of a chair, with feet flat on the ground. Stretch your arms up alongside your ears, high overhead, and take a deep breath in. As you exhale, stretch forward and down as low as you can go with a nice stretch along your back. (Only go as far as is comfortable. Don’t strain if you have lower-back pain.)
    • Do some simple twists. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, and swing your arms back and forth. Or, sit on the side of a straight-back chair (the back of the chair should be at our side), and raise your arms overhead, with a deep breath in. On the exhale, twist toward the back by placing one hand on either side of the chair back to help you get some leverage. Don’t yank into the twist!
  • Hydrate! Drink water. I hear/read so many conflicting reports/study findings about this. So I just tell people to pay attention. Most of us don’t drink enough. Are your lips dry? Do you get headaches? Is your mouth dry? Is your skin dry? Try increasing your water intake. Replace some other fluids, like coffee/tea/juice/cola, with water.

Earlier this week I wrote about Earth imbalance in my Cookie Monster post.

Lisa commented on that post about her own experience with Earth imbalance.  And she wrote up a longer even more delicious description of her cravings for all kinds of scrumptious delights on her blog, which you can read here!

I went to the doctor yesterday to get my ankle checked.  It turns out that I’ve been more gentle with my ankle than I need to be, since the bone will heal on its own.  Isn’t the human body wonderful?

This brought me to think about the Metal element in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and how ideas of structure and support are associated with it.  I have a lot of mental and structure now: aluminum crutches and an ankle walker brace.  But non-tangibles like ideas and attitudes can also provide structure and support.  For example, rules and laws often support a society and community; think about what would happen on the roads if people didn’t know and follow traffic rules.  Chaos!

But sometimes too much metal can be a problem, too.  So I thought about this in terms of my rigid ideas about my ankle.  Because I was so concerned about protected my poor ankle–which has suffered a lot of sprains and discomfort over the years–I was not moving it and using it in a healthy way.  It turns out that I can walk on the foot with the security and support of the ankle brace.  It supports me.

This is a good lesson for me, because I can get pretty rigid in my rules.  It makes me a law-abiding type, but sometimes uptight, too.

So, it’s a good idea to think about what’s enough support?  What’s enough structure?  And when does it impede growth and wellness?

I got through the weekend, and this afternoon’s comfort-cookie crisis with Trader Joe’s Druid oatmeal cookies. As I was savoring the lovely chewiness of my third lovely cookie with tea, I had an “aha!” moment about the sweet-tooth comfort-food connection.

In the Traditional Chinese Medicine system, sweetness is associated with the Earth element. So when Earth element (associated with the Stomach and Spleen meridians) is out of balance, sweet cravings often ensue.

When might Earth element be out of balance?

  • The Earth is associated with home, the place we feel “homey”, so a move to a new house, or traveling could cause a tip in balance.
  • Or maybe you have too many ideas flying around your head, and you don’t feel “grounded.” You might reach for a cookie or ice cream.
  • Think about a plant; only when it is strong and grounded in the earth can it grow up and out.
  • For women, the Earth element is also related to the menstrual cycle, which helps us understand PMS sweets-cravings.

In my case, since I broke my ankle last week, my connection to the Earth has diminished. I can’t put both feet on the ground. I’m hobbling around on my right foot and two crutches. And even though I’m mostly stuck at home, it’s difficulty to feel homey. My foot is up in the air. My energy is way above the floor; I think it’s in my shoulder area because my shoulders are tired from using the crutches. Oy!

So, a few thoughts on balancing Earth energy:

  • First of all, it’s OK, I say, to eat my cookies! As long as I’m enjoying them, and in moderation. (I’ll run out at any rate, and can’t exactly run down to the store to get some more. That’s the silver lining.)
  • Now that I’ve identified this Earth-imbalance, I can be mindful about other ways to address it:
    • Enjoy healthier sweetness. Fruit. Dried dates. I’ve been eating fruit puree (frozen mangoes and blueberries) with yogurt.
    • Squeeze my muscles; the Earth element loves this. My right leg is working really hard, as are my arms, so I’ll give myself a little massage later.
    • Create routine, especially since I’ve had to adjust and adapt so much of the way I normally do things. I wrote about this, plus other tips in a post related to the Earth element.
    • Energize the Three Mile Point (Stomach 36). Sit down with feet flat on the floor. Make a light fist and rub vigorously along the outside of your shins, a couple of inches below your knee.

OK. So I now have a plan to help address my un-earthiness, and tame my cookie monster!

I’ve seen signs for flu shots already. It’s that time of year again.

And according to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Autumn is the time of the runny nose, since the Nose and Mucous are associated with the season.

So, a couple of common sense ideas to stave off getting a runny nose (and catching cold):

  • Wash your hands: before you eat; after you get back from work or school; after you get off the bus or train (read this post)
  • Make sure you are hydrated. Especially in areas of the country where the heating is already drying out the air. Drink regular water. (read this post)

Your breath is your friend.

In Chinese Medicine, the lungs are associated with Autumn, so this is a great time to focus on breathing.

Acu Point: Letting Go

Is your breath shallow? Are you holding your breath? Discomfort in your upper chest? Hold this point on the lung meridian–it’s a few fingers under your collarbone near the top of your upper arm bone–and Let Go. Take long deep and slow breaths. Learn more about this.

Meditation

Meditation can be a powerful source of health and wellness, for both body and spirit. Even when we don’t have the time or inclination for a full meditation “practice,” a few moments of deep breath and holding acupressure points can be calming and relaxing. Try this mini-meditation.

Happy October!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we’re now in the season associated with the Metal Element. It’s a time of getting things in order.

Well, then, it must be the season of my mouth, or more accurately, my teeth, since I’ve been wearing braces that are working hard to get my teeth in order. I wonder if my braces will be more comfortable during the Autumn, since they are aligned with the season…? Well, I can only hope.

Here are a few posts related to the jaw and braces comfort, and also a blog where I’ve been chronicling the braces journey: What’s In A Smile?