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Spring Things

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This month, inspired by the strange weather of the past several weeks, as well as the hope for warmer weather, we will focus our attentions on the Spring and what it means for our wellbeing and happiness.

There is a rhythm to life.  Despite snowy April days, it is certain that the natural warming of the Earth will occur soon enough.  The basic rhythm of life is depicted in the yin-yang symbol.  The symbol and the ideas behind it are applicable to so many aspects of life, everything really if you think deeply enough about it.  The idea is that there are two complementary natural energies – yin, and yang – and they endlessly transform into one another, like day transforms into night, the turning of the seasons, etc.

Another fundamental concept of Chinese medicine is that of the “five elements”.  Spring is the time of “Wood” element (the other elements are water, metal, fire, and earth).  However, I think that “wood” is a poor translation.  When I think of wood, I think of something dead already, something cut into lumber or burning in a fire.  Tree more describes the living, expanding, powerful nature of this element.  Above, we have shown  the character for Tree/Wood in Chinese, pronounced “Mu”.

As Chinese characters are generally pictographic in nature, you can see how we have a number of key elements… the trunk, the roots, and the branches, shown in the character.

And trees are how this essay started.  Those in the Southtowns may remember in the past 2 weeks we had intense windstorms.  These storms knocked down 2 trees in our yard.  Here is an image of our fallen friend…  You can see how tall the tree is!

Using the yin-yang idea here, the yang energy of the tree is very built up, because it is tall. However, a tree is more than just trunk and branches… it is also the root, which is the deep, yin aspect of the tree.  Here is a picture of that.

As you can see, the root system is totally underdeveloped, and so while it had a great deal of yang expansive upward energy, it did not have the deep yin to ground it properly, and down it came.

And so it goes with our own wellness.  We must strive to maintain a relative balance of yin and yang energy in our own life.  The yang energy of our own life isn’t how tall we are (like the tree), but what we do in our lives, our activities or output.  We of course need an active life, but if we do not have the adequate time of rest, recovery, and nurturing yin energy, then we will be susceptible to the inevitable environmental stressors of our own life, like the tree was to the external wind.  For us, it might be work, stress, family, chronic illness, etc.

To counterbalance this we must cultivate yin within our own life.  Yin is the quiet, deep, nurturing aspect of life.  There are many examples and please find your own interpretation of this, but you could consider a practice of yoga, meditation, qi gong, tai chi, stretching, reading great books, walking slowly in nature, gardening, turning off the phone TV or Internet, eating wholesome food quietly, going to bed early, etc.   These things don’t just happen, we have to make a conscious effort to cultivate and value them in our life.

Spring is a yang time.  The earth is warming, the days are lengthening.  It is a naturally a time to stretch out like the tree and grow like the plants around us.  It is a wonderful time to try new activities, clean the house out and discard things that don’t make us happy. This Spring, cultivate deep yin and try some new activities!

Coming Soon – Facial Acupuncture.

After many years, Sarah is taking the plunge and will be offering cosmetic facial acupuncture soon.  Please let us know if you may be interested in this, and look for more information coming soon including pictures, pricing and packages.

Thank you for your support. 

The New Organ

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If you’ve been watching the news lately and managed not to be sucked into the vacuum of political news and commentary, you may have caught an interesting article several weeks ago about a “new organ” dubbed the “Interstitium”.

We’ll link the article at the end of this post, but it was on national media and I caught it for several weeks prominently on CNN.com.

Basically, this new organ is considered to be a collection of spaces… the fluid filled spaces that populate the body.  Normally, microscope-studied tissue samples are dehydrated tissues… so the fluidity of the samples weren’t really observed.  However, the scientists used a new microscope technique detailed in the article and they applied it to living, non-dehydrated tissues.  It was there they were able to see these fluid filled spaces in great detail.

My first notion was a quote I frequently think of…. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”  This is from Shakespeare, but that story really isn’t that important.  The gist of the quote, which resonates so very well with me as an acupuncturist, is that life itself is an adventure, and that it should be approached always with the most open of minds.  Here we go again with a paradigm-shifting discovery, yet one that has been discussed for thousands of years in Asia as the San Jiao or “triple burner”.

The San Jiao is perhaps the most unusual “organ” in Chinese Medicine.  We have the more obvious sounding organs, like heart, liver, lungs… but then there is the San Jiao.  What is it? It appears from the ancient literature that it has always been a most complex and debated idea of body physiology.

From the Nan Jing, Chapter 31… “How is the triple burner supplied and what does it generate?  Where does it began and end?  At which places in the body might one treat the triple burner?  Is it even possible to know these things?

It is said that the triple burner “holds the office of irrigation design; the water passages issue from it“.  (Su Wen, Ch 8).   It is also said that the triple burner “has a name but no form.” (Nan Jing, Ch 38).  All these quotes give us the idea that it is widespread, a combination of space and fluids that wrap and network throughout the body, behaving in a consistent manner (like an organ) but lacking what we typically have defined as the look and feel of an organ.

Generally, it is believed that the triple burner is fluid filled cavities throughout the body.  This system is critical to the transformative power of qi and contains a particular kind of “Source” Qi in it.  It is important to the movement of qi throughout the body, and is described as controlling it’s flow and movement, descent and entering into the organs of the body.  It also manages to control water and fluid passage through the body.

Is the Interstitium the Triple Burner?  Perhaps.  We will no doubt “learn” more and more about the Interstitium as months go by… I certainly hope so.  Science is especially excited that it may help us understand how cancer can spread throughout the body.  But like Horatio, it would be best to approach this also with a sense of wonder and delight.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has spoken eloquently of the San Jiao or triple burner for thousands of years.  For those that had the eyes to see, this has long been established, respected and understood.  This is good to remember in these coming days as old ideas fade away and new approaches are found.  Knowledge and wisdom are quite different.  What is the most important to you?

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/27/health/new-organ-interstitium-study/index.html