Summer Health: Part 1—Our Trip To The Black Sheep Gathering
Like some of us … he looks so important, … this snail … Issa
Winter is a faded memory … What was Spring’s chill is now Summer’s warmth … shorts and sandals are sartorial de rigeur, and because there’s so much Yang energy in the air it seems like anything is ok to eat—especially if it’s barbecued.
It’s that Grasshoppery mindset that can get us into trouble.
Even though it’s generally warm out, evenings can still turn unexpectedly cool, and eating all the backyard delicacies that turn up in Summer can unbalance the organs and upset the digestive system. So it’s important to be aware that getting too chilled and eating foods your body has trouble digesting can weaken the Immune System and make you vulnerable to the bacteria and viruses that weren’t a problem years ago, but that today are tending to remain active throughout the year.
Vigilance throughout the year—and throughout our lives—is important to maintain the SIMPLE JOY called HEALTH. How simple is Health? So simple we don’t notice it when we have it, and when we don’t have it, nothing else really matters.
Healthy Food Is The Best Prescription
In Summer, HEAT is the primary seasonal challenge the body has to contend with so it doesn’t get overheated. A major part of that process is to be mindful of what you eat because many Summer dishes tend to cause the body to heat-up.
Two notable dietary causes of Summer heat, to minimize or avoid eating, are spicy food and alcohol. Delicious, yes; but often detrimental to Summer health.
Just as important as what not to eat, is to be mindful of what should be a regular part of your Summer diet. This would include drinking enough water to replace fluid lost from sweating. The right amount of fluid helps keep you cool, and prevents dehydration. The bountiful fruits of Summer provide the nutrients you need, along with some of the fluid you want to be replenishing. Think watermelon, plums, peaches, apricots ...
Eating nutritious food, in balanced dishes, is the best medicine you can take to prevent getting ill. It’s what your Immune System needs to do its job, and you want to be mindful of strengthing your Immune System in Summer, so it can replenish the energy it expended in Winter and Spring, and be ready for the heavy lifting again as the colds and flus of Autumn reappear.
Oftentimes, the solution to an ‘internal heat’ problem is as simple as a change in what you’re eating at Summer potlucks and barbecues.
Heat will be even more of a concern as we move deeper into the Summer.
Heat can affect your body quite dramatically, causing heat surges or irritating heat discomfort in specific parts of your body—internally and externally.
It’s important to be conscious of the effects Summer heat has on your body. For example, overheating is often responsible for causing headaches and high blood pressure.
To the extent we’re aware—or mindful—of what causes us to feel poorly, to that extent we’re in a position to make choices that lead us to either avoid or minimize the ill effect.
Pay Attention To How You’re Feeling
So as Summer days heat up, and your body needs to cool off—from the inside out, not just the superficial cooling that comes from air conditioning, or a dip in the pool—what can you do?
Those of you who visit BIOM know that the process of becoming aware of how you’re feeling is always the starting point of the treatment. And it’s always surprising how, during the conversation about what’s going on, the seemingly insignificant things that cause stress get recalled.
This part of the diagnostic process can be thought of as Mindfulness.
To the extent we’re aware—or mindful—of what causes us to feel poorly, to that extent were in a position to make choices that lead us to either avoid or minimize the ill effect.
Oriental Medicine addresses discomfort while gently nudging the body back towards balance so it can take care of itself naturally.
Summer health problems are often heat-related and acupuncture, combined with a customized medicinal herbal formula for clearing heat, helps address the discomfort while gently nudging the body back toward balance so it can take care of itself.
Health Is The First Wealth: Heading To The Black Sheep Gathering
A wise friend of ours likes to point out that: a little bit of consciousness goes a long way. He generally makes mention of this to highlight how many simple, day-to-day, problems just would not happen if we made a different choice here and there, or thought a little bit more about the ones we do make. Or just paying a bit more attention to what’s going on around us—inside and out.
Doing just that paid off for us during our recent trip to Eugene, Oregon to attend the Black Sheep Gathering.
(We’ll be posting an upcoming article about why we went, and what happened there.)
We stayed at The Nest in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood, a couple of blocks away from the fairgrounds where the gathering was held.
Eugene is about 300 miles from BIOM, and on a beautiful Summer weekend it took about six hours of too-much-stress-interstate-highway-driving for us to arrive there; a significant portion of which was in carbon-monoxide-breathing-stop-n-go-traffic driving through the outskirts of Portland.
Stress is a major underminer of the Immune System, and this stress was compounded by the heat of the Summer sun beating down on the car—with and without the car’s air-conditioner on—and the Chi-stagnating-stress that comes from being in a relatively cramped position in a car for hours at a time. So we were pretty energy-drained when we got to The Nest and had to begin making away-from-home food choices, which are very important choices because healthy food is the main way to replenish the energy drained by the stresses of travel.
Applying a little bit of mindfulness in anticipation of travel stresses, and while they’re happening, plays a huge part regarding how much energy you’ll have while you’re away on your Summer adventures, and just as important, how much time it will take to recover when you get home.
Remembering our friend’s advice, that a little bit of consciousness goes a long way, combined with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s counsel to posterity that, “Health is the first wealth,” we were well aware that if we did not take care of ourselves we wouldn’t be able to do what we set out to do, which was to learn about fiber and enjoy ourselves; plus getting sick away from home is a compounding problem to be AVOIDED.
How We Dealt With The Stress of Summer Travel
Travel is travel, and as romantic and glamorous as it’s rumored to be, it has a cost, both in money and in the energy we need to stay healthy. Add the effects from the stresses of seasonal energy on top of that, and things don’t look as simple as the brochure or web page that got the whole thing rolling in the first place.
Given that we were traveling in the Summer, as many of us will continue to do this season, here are some of the things we did to be vigilant in our understanding that Health is the first wealth and to protect our investment:
• Drink Plenty of Water. We brought gallons of water with us and filled our water bottles along the way and drank plenty of water.
Your car needs water to keep from getting overheated. You can feel that when you’re driving in Summer traffic. Can you feel that in your body as you’re getting overheated? Simply drinking a little bit more often in hot weather can keep you from that dehydrated moment which too often becomes apparent only after a heat-related, chain reaction gets going in the body.
• Take Chinese Medicinal Herbs. We used some of the water we drank to wash down our Chinese medicinal herb formulas. Given our individual constitutions we each brought along our traveling kit of herb formulas, and were very happy to have them. We felt the stresses mentioned above as they were building, and enjoyed the relief the herbs provided when we took them.
• Do Chi Kung. Don’t think that Chi Kung is only something you do when you go to a class or during a special time of day. In fact, if you do Chi Kung regularly, it starts up spontaneously whenever you need it.
For example, while compressed in the car for some hours, what looks like a normal shifting-of-position becomes a Chi Kung release of stagnant energy; when getting out of the car at a rest stop, when the body has conditioned itself to Chi Kung, it naturally moves itself into the right position to get the ‘wrinkles’ out.
• Meridian Massage. In the West, more and more people enjoy the benefits of what’s commonly known as Swedish massage. Oriental Medicine also uses massage, but with a specific focus along the energy pathways leading to the organs. You may know of this system by its relatively popular Japanese name—Shiatsu; or by its relatively unknown Chinese name, Tui Na.
Wherever the body is most vulnerable, due to stress and energy imbalances, there tends to be discomfort or pain along the acupuncture meridian associated with that part of the body. For example, if you have a sore muscle, you instinctively know to massage it a bit to get the energy flowing again. After driving for 6 hours, we found out after about three hours, where our sore points were. Over the next days we massaged those acupuncture channels and points to make sure there were no crimps in our ‘energy hoses’.
• Healthy Eating. Getting nutritious food is always a challenge when away from home for several days. In dealing with this situation, we let the a little bit of consciousness goes a long way reminder be our guide.
We brought a healthy amount of healthy food with us in a cooler to eat while traveling, and for breakfast and lunch while attending the Black Sheep Gathering. This way if we found good food we were interested in, we could enjoy that, and if we didn’t, we had delicious, reliable food with us.
We went out for dinner each night, and enjoyed ourselves, but were reminded that if we ate all of our meals out, we wouldn’t have gotten the amount of energy we needed from the food we ate.
While eating out at restaurants is fun, and the food often tasty, to make the profit they need, restaurants can’t give you the quality food you can buy on your own and bring with you. Once again: a little bit of consciousness goes a long way.
If you want to know more about the BIOM approach to diet and nutrition, check out our online course: Healthy Eating the Five Element Way.
Hopefully our Summer travel experience will give you some tips for staying energized and healthy as you go about enjoying your Summer time.
And REMEMBER: A little bit of consciousness goes a long way.
Oriental Medicine • Retreats • Diet & Nutrition • Summer Health Tips • Permalink
Being Consistent—Being Healthy
When it comes to healthy living, consistency is an important habit to cultivate.
Your body requires consistency just to stay alive:
Consistent food and water.
And then there are illness-preventing habits you can develop through consistency that help you thrive—a few of them are:
Eating a healthy diet.
Exercising in a healthy way.
Keeping your body’s energy strong and flowing.
(Traditionally, in the West we have not had a specific way of keeping the body’s energy strong and flowing, but we do now that acupuncture, Five Element diet & nutrition, Chinese medicinal herbs and Chi Kung are readily available in many places.)
Consistency is the Way
Practicing consistency is what the Japanese call ‘Do’ and the Chinese call ‘Tao’; both meaning “The Way.” And from an Oriental Medicine point of view, practicing consistency is “The Way of Health.”
Healthy Consistency Prevents Illness
When you treat your body with healthy consistency you’re putting yourself in a position where you can better prevent illness. This is the opposite of the mindset that says—implicitly or explicitly—”I’ll just deal with whatever comes up when it happens.”—a health plan fraught with potential surprises.
Once we establish a consistent rhythm of healthy habits and attitudes we set a momentum in motion which carries us into a healthier, happier life.
Herbal Medicine: Everything Old Is New Again
“There is nothing new under the sun.” This Solomonic wisdom is resonating at Cleveland Clinic’s new Chinese herbal-therapy ward that “primarily sees patients with conditions that Western medicine has, for whatever reason, failed to remedy.”
At BIOM, it’s also our experience that quite often people try Oriental Medicine when they have not had success with conventional treatment. And helping with the hard stuff is a great way to show that what’s been growing under the sun for millennia is still useful today.
All the same, Chinese medicinal herbs being prescribed in the mainstream medical system is likely to raise many an eyebrow; especially when Cleveland Clinic’s medical director, Dr. Daniel Neides, MD said: “Western medicine may not have all the answers.”
The Yin-Yang of Treatment
It’s wonderful for the health of people that Oriental Medicine in its various modalities—herbs, acupuncture, diet & nutrition, chi kung—is gradually being absorbed into the wider society.
And just as the doctors running the Cleveland Clinic are prudent to provide MD-oversight of herbal prescriptions to prevent bad reactions that can result when some pharmaceutical drugs encounter certain herbs in the body (relative to each person’s unique health situation), it’s also important to note that the Cleveland Clinic’s herbal ward is run by a trained Oriental Medicine practitioner.
This is important for the same reason an Oriental Medicine herbalist is not certified to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs: lack of training; medical doctors are not trained to prescribe Chinese medicinal herbs.
To illustrate the point: consider that at Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine, the Masters of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree program consists of 3,150 academic and clinical hours over three years.
Contrast that with the fact that there is no accredited training in Chinese medicinal herbs for medical doctors. And where medical doctors have been licensed to perform acupuncture, a leading certification program of medical acupuncture for physicians “is organized into … home study and video course viewing, live lectures and demonstrations, and clinical training consisting of 300 hours of formal instruction in medical acupuncture.”
Clearly, acupuncture and Chinese medicinal herbs, are specialized areas of expertise and the Cleveland Clinic is wise to recognize that in its integrative approach to health care.
High Quality Chinese Medicinal Herbs
From an Oriental Medicine professional’s point of view, it’s very encouraging to see that Cleveland Clinic, like BIOM, is using the same high quality medical herb formulas from Kaiser Pharmaceutical.
What’s different though, while Cleveland Clinic uses compounding pharmacies in Massachusetts and California to create specialized custom herbal blends to address very specific health conditions, at BIOM, Kitty blends your customized herbal formulas while you rest on the table listening to music or quiet.
Cultural Exchange Is Healthy
So, it’s a wonderful thing that Chinese medicinal herbs are gradually being integrated into the American cultural mainstream. The way was paved back in the 1970s when Nixon went to China and James Reston, a New York times reporter, found himself undergoing an emergency appendectomy in a Chinese hospital where acupuncture was used to ease his pain after surgery.
Which gets us to appreciating the cultural bridge that has been built, enabling more and more Americans to enjoy the benefits of both western and eastern medicine here, in our own hospitals.
With the key underlying benefit being: if you practice preventative methods, like Oriental Medicine, you significantly reduce the likelihood of winding up in a hospital at all.