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Autumn, Alchemy, and the Element of Metal

mortar-pestle“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

In Chinese Medicine theory, every season has a corresponding element, whose qualities epitomize both the characteristics of that season and the aspect of our personality that allows us to thrive as we cycle through the earth’s energetic shifts. As Debra Kaatz so eloquently states in, Characters of Wisdom: Taoist Tales of the Acupuncture Points, “The element of autumn is metal, the richness that lies within the earth. This is created by what remains of the harvest composting down and enriching the soil with mineral wealth. It also represents the rich gold we have inside that is enriched with the great inspirations of the heavens. Here both taking in and letting go is transformed into earthly gold and inner golden wisdom.”

The metal element is aptly represented by the fall season, the time of year where things return to the earth to be repurposed or recreated. There is a shedding of old ideals, beliefs and baggage, and the powerful transformation that comes with the willingness to reduce something down to its purist form. Metal is often equated with alchemy, defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as 1. a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life; 2. a power or process of transforming something common into something special; 3. an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting. Some of the many powers of metal are its ability to create boundaries, cut away the irrelevant, change shape, and be re-cast into something more purposeful while still retaining its essence. Both the elegance and the magic of metal is its ability to become more valuable and refined through the process of reduction and simplification.

People with a metal constitution tend to be honorable, virtuous, disciplined, and hold themselves to (sometimes impossibly) high standards and values. They appreciate beauty, simplicity, cleanliness, and serenity. A metal person requires minimal sensory input and seeks to clarify truth in its most pure and upright form. They are serious, dignified, and decisive in their actions. While they can often appear as aloof or cold, in fact they are extremely sensitive to nuance and small energetic shifts, particularly to the grief or sorrow of others. Because of their intuitive or empathic nature, they learn to set strong boundaries, and require and enjoy spending time alone in order to rebalance their energy. While their perfectionist nature can sometimes manifest as self-judgment, at their best, metal people will use their idealism and leadership skills to defend virtue and inspire the pursuit of higher standards and truth.

In this powerful season of transformation, it is encouraged that we all take stock of where we are in our journey and separate out what we no longer need to hold, accept, or endure. As we learn from the element of metal, great evolution and mastery can be achieved through reduction. It reminds me of one of my favorite exercises – for which I can’t find the original source – where before we speak we should ask ourselves: “is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”. By revisiting our core values, we can reevaluate and repurpose our pursuits, realigning our actions with our heart’s own truth and living our lives to their fullest potential.

5 Tips for Transitioning Smoothly into Spring

shutterstock_182622356“Since this is the season in which the universal energy begins anew and rejuvenates, one should attempt to correspond to it directly by being open and unsuppressed, both physically and emotionally.” –Nei Jing

One of the most anticipated seasonal transitions is winter to spring. After a long period of hibernation and reflection, our bodies are primed and ready for movement and active expression. As the days get progressively longer and incrementally warmer, our spirit, much like the buds starting to form on the trees, is longing to burst forth and bloom. While these erratic transitional weeks can feel restraining, by employing these simple steps we can handle the fluctuations with grace and enter into the next phase of nature’s cycle with ease.

1. Get Up and Go! – Spring is the season of the Liver channel and it’s corresponding element of Wood. It is a time of rebirth, reawakening, growth and expansion – a metamorphosis best realized through action. To keep joints healthy and muscles and tendons supple, we are encouraged to create heat in the body and extend our limbs. So open up and stretch toward the sun, raise your heart rate, explore deep twists and side bends, tap into your creativity and give physical expression to your ambitions!

2. Get Ahead of your Allergies – While seasonal allergies can put a serious damper on our enjoyment of the warmer weather, don’t fear the impending pollen! Herbal medicine combined with regular acupuncture can get you through the season virtually symptom free. For best results, start treatments before your symptoms appear. If you do suffer from seasonal allergies some good foods to incorporate into your diet include ginger, onions, garlic, bamboo shoots, cabbage, beets, carrots, leafy greens and yams. Some foods to avoid are wheat, citrus, chocolate, shellfish, dairy and potatoes.

3. Eat for the Season – Anyone who’s had a treatment from me has had the discussion about why it’s important to eat locally and seasonally. Foods that are available in your region at any given point in time tend to contain the temperature properties that your body needs in that season. To stay balanced in the spring, it is good to start introducing sour foods back into your diet. This includes things like lemon, vinegar, berries, apricots, grapefruit, kiwi, tamarind and coriander. The liver also benefits from natural detoxifiers such as spinach, dandelion, green apple and kale. If you’re feeling tense, avoid alcohol and greasy or spicy foods.

4. Stabilize the Emotions – In TCM theory, the Liver channel is responsible for the unencumbered flow of emotion.  When liver qi stagnates it can cause emotional depression or a feeling of tension. If left unchecked, it can lead to anger, irritability, or rage and inhibit our judgment and ability to make sound decisions. In this period of expression, let no obstacle block you from the fulfillment of your desire. Relieve tension in the way your body responds best, avoid external stressors, and use the momentum of the season to execute the plans that most excite you.

5. Cover Your Neck – I always administer this piece of advice in the spring and fall. Spring is the season of wind and when the wind enters the body it can manifest as tremors, dizziness, muscle spasms, stiff neck and headaches. The easiest way to protect yourself is cover your neck. With drastic temperature swings from day to day, it’s hard to choose your outerwear, so keep your neck protected by wearing a scarf.

Have your own seasonal tips to share? Post them here! Embrace the change and have a happy healthy spring!

Three Great Reasons to Try Acupuncture Today!

“Life is not merely being alive, but being well.” – Marcus Valerius Martialis

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Curious about acupuncture but not sure how it might benefit you?  Here are three great reasons to give it a try:

1. Stress: When it comes to our health, we all have our own set of unique vulnerabilities to which we are predisposed. When extenuating circumstances, or even just the hectic pace of our lives become overwhelming, the stress we are absorbing will oftentrigger a series of undesirable symptoms or cause long-term disease to flare up. Acupuncture helps to remove unwanted tension and promote a smooth flow of energy, so that stress does not have the chance to build up in the body and cause our natural physiological processes to slow down or malfunction.  It also elicits a deep relaxation response, allowing us to repair while the body rests.

2. Sleep: Sleep is one of the most vital keys to good health and vitality and eight hours is the recommended length of sleep per night.  How much sleep are you getting?  And what is the quality?  Do you feel rested when you wake up? By getting to the root of what is disturbing your sleep, acupuncture and herbal medicine can be used to improve both the quantity, and more importantly the quality of your sleep, ultimately resulting in an overall improvement of energy, mental acuity, and health throughout the day.

3. Digestion: What’s happening with your digestion is indicative of your body’s overall ability to function smoothly. Constipation, diarrhea, reflux, gas, bloating, and cramping are all symptoms alerting us to a deeper imbalance occurring in the body.  By looking to the cause, rather than just the symptoms, acupuncture, dietary awareness, and herbal medicine are excellent natural tools to improve digestion, thereby supporting smooth bodily function and improving our overall health and wellbeing.

Bonus Reason #4: Mention this post when you schedule your next appointment and get $10 off.

A list of conditions currently accepted by the World Health Organization as treatable with acupuncture can be found at: http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js4926e/5.html