How Going on Retreat Benefits Your Health: A Five Element Perspective

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

From a Chinese medical point of view, the balance of Yin and Yang is the foundation for achieving health and harmony in your life.

Generally, Yin relates to quietude, receiving and being, whereas Yang relates to activity and doing.

If like most, you live in a primarily Yang society where you’re constantly stimulated through work, emailing, texting, listening to music, browsing the internet, and interacting with others, your need for more Yin, or quiet time, is essential.

And there’s no faster and easier way to bring balance back into your life than to unplug and reset by going on retreat.

Removed from your daily distractions, retreat allows you to rejuvenate so you can become more Yin, or receptive, to what you truly want and need in your life.

There’s a multitude of health benefits that come from retreat. Below is a Five Element perspective on the impact of retreat on your health and life.

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HOW RETREAT BENEFITS THE FIVE ELEMENTS IN YOUR LIFE

1. Wood Element & Liver/Gallbladder: Retreat Allows for Rebirth & Renewal

In the Five Element system of Chinese Medicine, Wood represents rebirth and growth, and is related to the ambition required to live out your highest purpose.

Wood energy gives you drive, focus and the fearlessness to accomplish your goals.

Wood is related to the Liver, which stores blood, and the Gallbladder, which utilizes this blood to make things happen in your life. In the Five Element cycle, Wood is nourished by Water, which represents the deepest part of yourself; the aspect that helps you go within to understand your purpose and develop greater self awareness.

As part of the Water element, your willpower, or Zhi, which is housed in the Kidneys, encourages the ambition of the Liver and Gallbladder to manifest your dreams.

Water energy is nurtured through contemplation and rest. Water is associated with the Kidneys, which also house your essence, or Jing, and provide an essential source of energy to live out your life curriculum. Weak Kidney Qi is related to adrenal fatigue - the feeling of being exhausted and wired simultaneously. When Kidney Qi is weak, you feel like you’re running on fumes.

When your Kidney Qi is replenished and strong, you’ll feel a natural energy that’ll drive you to get things done more effortlessly.

2. Water Element & the Kidneys: Retreat Deepens Your Self-Awareness

Life is formed and develops in the water that holds the essence of the body, called Jing. The Kidneys comprise the organ system that stores this Essence and are the primary organs that provide the Yang metabolic energy which drives the entire function of the body. In this way, your Kidney Jing is the foundation for all Yin and Yang energies of the body. 

Water fuels the introspective aspect of self and in balance gives you the ability to be an observer of life, letting go of judgement while at the same time providing you with your fundamental drive to live and the willpower, or Zhi, to fulfill your goals and dreams.

When your Water element is in balance, you’re able to spend time alone comfortably and look at life from a bird’s eye view, learning the lessons that are transmitted through your experiences.

Retreat provides space and time to create the opportunity for your body to draw energy back into the Kidneys to strengthen your Water energy and willpower so a newfound courage can sprout forth through Wood energy, which initiates growth and new beginnings. 

3. Earth Element & the Spleen/Stomach: Retreat Improves Your Relationship with Yourself and Others

Earth energy is about transformation; transformation of food into energy and raw material to rebuild the body, and transformation of your thoughts so you’re obsessing about negative things and can have clarity of mind. 

Earth energy is also associated with your relationship with yourself and others, which begins with your relationship to your family, especially the unconditional love of your mother. As the archetype for the Earth type personality, the Mother represents unconditional love and the nourishing qualities that exist within each of us.

Nourishment begins in the gut first with your mother through breastfeeding and evolves into self-care, or how you nourish yourself.

Thus the connection of the Earth element to your digestive function determines your ability to have healthy, harmonious relationships as well as strong immunity, or Spleen Qi.

Retreat may be the highest form of self-care. Eating a more simple diet and taking time to eat mindfully while on retreat further strengthens your Earth energy.

4. Metal Element & the Lungs/Large Intestine: Retreat Helps You Organize Your Thoughts and Cultivate a Greater Sense of Clarity

The Metal element relates to order, discipline, organization, and clarity both in your internal and external world.

The Metal element relates to the Lungs and Large Intestine organs. Weak Lung Qi can result from a weakened immune system, inadequate exercise or grief.

To strengthen the Lung Qi, it’s important to take deep breaths and also do practices that connect the body, mind and breath, including Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi.

Many retreats encompass these practices, along with Meditation, which cultivates the Kidney Qi and also helps develop your self awareness.

The quietude of retreat also creates space to process your grief, and any other emotions that are being neglected during the busyness of your daily life.

When you allow emotions such as grief to transport you to the depths of your heart, you can hear the lessons of your past, let go, and regain the strength and clarity to more fully experience your authentic self.

5. Fire Element & the Heart: Retreat Deepens Your Sense of Wonder, Creativity and Self-Love

In Chinese Medicine, the Heart not only circulates the blood, but it also houses the spirit, known as the Shen. A nourished, settled Heart manifests as a calm spirit and mind. A strong Heart-Kidney, or Water-Fire, connection helps you stay on purpose with your life (learn more here).

When there’s sufficient Kidney (Water) energy, it cools the Heart (Fire) making you feel calm and able to sleep more restfully.

Sufficient Kidney Qi, which is cultivated through proper rest, anchors the Heart Qi and helps you cultivate a feeling of self-love.

Practices such as Meditation and self-reflection amplify self-love and creativity, and therefore nourish the Heart.

Heart energy drives our passion and the pure, present sense of wonder that we can associate with a young child. As you get older, it’s just as important to create space so that this creativity and spontaneity can flourish in your life.

By creating space while on retreat, you’re able to cultivate creativity and self-love, which help you develop compassion and a deeper connection to the highest form of love from Source.

When you're connected in this way, there’s no limit to the love that you’ll return home with to share with others.

Interested to join us on retreat? Click here to learn more and sign up for one of the last spots on our Journey to Wellness in Bali January 13-20, 2019.

5 Tips to Stay Healthy through the Holiday Season

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

The holiday season is both beautiful and challenging.

Sure, it’s easy to cultivate yourself and maybe even reach enlightenment while you’re away from society, meditating in the Himalayan mountains. But can you achieve this same state of peace and presence when you get triggered by a family member during a discussion about the past?

Top that challenge off with the changes in your diet, the weather, the stress of buying gifts, and of course your immune system can suffer.

Luckily, if you gather your tools and apply them, the holiday season has great potential for healing. And if you don’t overdo it with the shopping and sugar, you may even strike enough of a balance to feel great.

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5 Tips to Help You Stay Healthy Through the Holidays:

  1. Sleep more - less sunlight during shorter days increases the secretion of melatonin in the body and naturally supports us to sleep longer hours. Try not to resist this need for more sleep (with more sugar and caffeine!) and be mindful to allow more time for rest overall.


  2. Practice Yoga or Qi Gong regularly - doing a daily practice that connects breath with movement helps you be more present in your daily life so you can attune yourself to your needs and the choices that will be most nurturing for your self-care. Plus, it’s essential to keep your Lung Qi strong for healthy immunity and resistance to colds, flus and other infections.


  3. Take colloidal silver - known to stimulate the immune system, regular intake of colloidal silver can help ward off infection and disease. Other benefits of colloidal silver include that it can kill pathogens, oxygenate the body and lower inflammation.

    This is why Dr. Stephen West, DL, PMD (son of Dr. C. Samuel West, DN, ND, renowned chemist and internationally recognized lymphologist), concludes, “Silver ions stimulate the lymphatic system by cleaning out the dead cells and bringing oxygen to the healthy cells.”

    I can say from personal experience that my immune system has never felt stronger since I was introduced colloidal silver, and I don’t even take it every day. You can find out more information at The Silver Edge.


  4. Create healthy boundaries - you don’t have to say yes to all the holiday parties and gatherings and even if you do, try to shift back to a healthy regimen that resonates with what you know will help you stay strong. Enjoy yourself but then remember to nurture yourself if you overdid it. Eat soups, reduce sugar, dairy and gluten, and properly hydrate to help cleanse the body of the unhealthy food and drink that can compromise your immune system.

    Try to keep boundaries not only with your relationships but also with the choices you make with your self-care.

    Eating warm, nourishing foods and lots of vegetables when you can ensures that you’re enjoying equally clean, healthy foods to balance out the indulgence of holiday gatherings.

    Like your Lung Qi, your Spleen Qi is essential to your immune function, so eating a lot of sugar or just eating too much too often will tax the Spleen Qi and leave you feeling groggy and exhausted.

  5. Be gentle with yourself - the pressure of the holiday season can only wear on you if you let it. Take time to do the things you love, even if that means spending some time alone, take time in nature and let go of perfection.

    Naturally, you won’t eat the way you normally do, be as active or keep a regular daily rhythm during the holidays, especially if you travel to see loved ones during this time.

    Just be present with the changes and savor the joy and challenges with your family and friends knowing that it’s all supporting your growth and helping you on your journey to greater wellness.

Why It's So Hard to Let Go, and What You Can Do to Make it Easier

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

Your spiritual practice teaches you that suffering comes from attachment. So to end your suffering, all you have to do is become more detached.

Sounds easy, right?

But then the day comes when you get fired from your job, lose a loved one, breakup with your partner, or get into a fight you regret with a friend.

You read your self-help books, your literature on walking the spiritual path and tell yourself not to worry and that it’s not a big deal, but the reality is that you feel worried, that it IS a big deal and that you’re NOT ok.

Logically you know that holding onto the emotions and grievances that come from life challenges don’t serve you. But these struggles are real and inevitable for us all. And sometimes, it doesn’t help to know that to avoid suffering, all you have to do is let go because that’s a lot harder to practice than it sounds.

But why is it that sometimes it’s so hard to let go?

According to Chinese medicine, there are three essential things that need to be supported for you to let go, and if these aspects are not working well you’re likely to have a hard time letting go.

First, you have to breathe through the process and accept it, and this requires Lung Qi. Next, you have to be able to digest or transform whatever’s bothering you, which is a function of the Spleen and Stomach.. And finally, you have to be emotionally settled, which requires that you have a calm mind and Heart.

Let’s explore how the Lungs, Spleen and Stomach, and Heart can challenge your ability to let go, and what you can do to support yourself in the process.

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You Have to Accept to Let Go

The first step in letting go of anything is to come into full acceptance of the challenge or emotion with which you’re dealing. In other words, if you’re angry or scared or sad about something that’s going on in the world or in your personal life, you first have to completely accept and embrace the feeling without judgment. Be fully present with the emotion. Only then do you have a place to move from to process it to release.

The Lungs comprise the organ system that most closely relates to your ability to accept and therefore let go of anything.

Your ability to let go is the virtue of the Lungs in their balanced state.

Your lungs are part of the respiratory system, providing a connection between your external and internal worlds through the breath. Inhalation draws in fresh oxygen and Qi, or energy, while exhalation helps you let go of toxins. 

The Lungs' natural movement is to disperse and descend Qi.

The Lungs disperse, or spread, the body fluids as well as the Wei Qi, the defensive Qi that runs on the surface of the skin to protect you during the day and travels into the body to help you sleep at night. This ensures that Wei Qi is equally distributed under the skin and to the muscles to warm and moisten the skin, allowing for a normal amount of sweating, and to protect the body from external pathogens that can cause colds, flus and skin problems (see more about this in a previous article).

As the uppermost organ, the Lungs also descend Qi to communicate with the Kidneys, which are said to 'grasp' the Lungs’ Qi, to allow for deep breathing. Dysfunction in the communication between the Lungs and Kidneys can result in wheezing and asthma from the failure of the Lungs to descend the Qi or weakness in the Kidneys, preventing the grasping of the Lung Qi.

The health of your Lungs therefore determines your capacity to let go.

Weakness in the Lungs perpetuates sadness and regrets about the past.

Strong Lung Qi provides us with greater endurance and stamina and supports us to take more full, conscious breaths. Conscious breathing allows you to be more present and helps you cultivate a sense of mindfulness to support the process of acceptance.

Only when you fully accept the feelings and circumstances you’re in can you begin the process of letting go, and your breath is the first tool to initiate this process.

One essential way to strengthen your Lungs is through regular exercise. This doesn't have to be running marathons or climbing steep mountains, but a simple daily walk is a great way to keep your Lungs strong and vital.

Key tips to strengthen the Lungs: take deep breaths and keep your body active.

You Have to Transform It to Let It Go

The Spleen and Stomach are the primary organs of digestion and transformation of food and thoughts into energy, or Qi.

The Spleen and Stomach transform and transport food and drink, extract their nutrients for absorption in the body, then send the remaining waste to the colon to release through the bowels.

When the Spleen and Stomach functions are weak or their energy is stagnated in the gut, this process is impeded.

In other words, if Spleen Qi is insufficient, your digestion will be weak and rather than gain energy from food and drink, you’ll feel lethargic, bloated and generally uncomfortable after you eat.

These symptoms indicate that the Spleen is unable to transform the nutrients from your food and drink into Gu Qi, or food energy, that then supports the production of Wei Qi to support your immune system.

In addition, the energy of the Spleen ascends to bring energy and fluids upward to support the Lungs to function optimally.

Furthermore, the energy of the Stomach descends and if this movement is stagnated, the function of the Large Intestine will also be stagnating resulting in constipation and accumulation of toxins in the body.

If energy is not able to ascend properly upward into the brain and if energy cannot descend properly to release toxic waste, your mental function will be impacted.

This is how brain fog, mental fatigue and lack of clarity and focus can relate to your Spleen and Stomach. In addition, if the health of these organs is compromised, the body will accumulate dampness causing you to feel stuck in your life. Dampness can also contribute to obsessive thinking, which can cause you to hold onto thoughts and get stuck in patterns of rumination.

To let go, you have to be able to release thoughts and feelings that no longer serve you. Since the Spleen and Stomach govern the transformation of food and thoughts, it’s therefore essential to strengthen the Spleen and Stomach to support your ability to think clearly and let go of things that no longer serve you.

The most essential way to support the organs of digestion is to pay attention to how and when you eat.

Take time to cook your meals and avoid eating under stress and eating on the run or while distracted. This will support healthy digestion and transformation since the health of your gut is intimately connected to the health of your brain, and therefore the mind.

To give your digestion even more support, take enzymes with meals to help break down food and prevent stagnation and heat accumulation in the Stomach. Along with a balanced probiotic supplement, enzymes are essential for your gut health, which is the core of your immune function and brain health. (If you’re not sure what to take you can call us at 408-244-8565 or stop in and pick up a bottle of our favorite probiotics and enzymes).

Key tips to strengthen the Spleen and Stomach: take time to cook and eat warm, nourishing foods without distractions.

You Have to Calm Your Mind to Let Go

According to Chinese Medicine, the Heart houses your Shen, or spiritual aspect of your body which is expressed through your mind. Since the Heart is the primary organ of the Fire element, it can easily become overheated with unsettled emotions and this will disrupt your mental state. Therefore, the type of symptoms that arise with an imbalanced Heart are usually related to some form of mental instability and can range from nervousness to insomnia and in more severe situations involve palpitations, shortness of breath, anxiety, and even mania.

Meditation and self-cultivation practices, maintaining healthy relationships, and literally listening to and following your heart’s desires, all help to quell Heart fire and therefore reduce anxiety while supporting the Shen, or spirit, to rest.

Since Fire energy can generally cause restlessness, it’s really important to do cultivation practices such as Yoga, Qi Gong and meditation regularly to tame the Heart Fire and calm the mind. One of the best ways to initiate and immerse in these practices is by going on retreat. The quiet time away from your distractions is a powerful way to reset the mind.

Fire energy needs to circulate freely so it’s also essential to find creative outlets such as painting, knitting, dancing and anything else that feels exciting and playful.

Key tips to balance the Heart energy: meditate/retreat, be creative and play more.

Supporting Your Ability to Let Go

One of the the most effective ways to support these organ systems is through Classical Acupuncture. By focusing on a meridian approach, Classical Acupuncture techniques work to help you not only to rebalance the systems that are impeding your ability to let go, but also to specifically free traumas that keep you stuck in the past so that you can be more fully present in your life.

Naturally, your lifestyle choices will always be important for the efficacy of any treatment. By cultivating a state of acceptance and calm, you can transform anything in your life. And by strengthening and balancing the energy of the Lungs, Spleen and Stomach and Heart, you’ll be able to let go of anything that no longer serves you so you can live a freer, healthier and more fulfilled life.

Staying on Purpose: Insights on the Heart/Kidney Relationship

by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

The relationship between the Heart and the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine is the basis for having a clear sense of purpose and the drive to live out that purpose.

Physiologically, the Heart plays a vital role in sustaining our lives, bringing oxygenated blood throughout the body to nourish its estimated 100 trillion cells. On the other hand, the Kidneys are vital organs that help eliminate waste products from the blood to prevent autointoxication.

In Chinese Medicine these two organ systems have other dynamic and critical functions that are important to understand if we are to cultivate healthy longevity in body, mind and spirit.

The Heart stores the Shen, or Spirit, and the Kidneys store the Zhi, or Willpower.

The Kidneys are also the storage center for the Jing, or Essence.

Jing is our most precious substance as it relates to the constitutional aspect of our physical body, i.e. our genetic material. The more well preserved our genes, the more well preserved our physical health.

The process of preserving this precious resource is essential because the Kidney Essence relates to our reproductive resources on a hormonal level as well.

Your body's hormonal status declines with age, so preventing the acceleration of this decline process is key to promoting graceful aging. Daoist cultivation practices for physical health are based upon slowing down this process.

Equally as important as the Kidney Essence is the Spirit and how it becomes embodied during the process of our physical creation. 

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The Spirit and Conception

At the time of conception, the Jing of both parents unites and captures the Cosmic Qi of the Spirit to be incarnated.

This Cosmic Qi contains an incarnating Spirit's Zhi, or Willpower, also referred to as the Will.  This Will is the driving force behind a Spirit's incarnation and gestational development. This spiritual energy called the Zhi, or Will, becomes stored in the Kidneys upon development.

Once conception happens, the three trimesters of the gestational period unfold during which not only the body forms but also the Spirit of the baby becomes more fully embodied. 

 

How the Body and Spirit Integrate During Gestation

According to Chinese Medicine, there are three main aspects to the Spirit, known as the Po, Shen and Hun.

During the first trimester of pregnancy, the first Spirit that gets embodied is called the Po. This is said to be the most physically dense of the other soul Spirits.

The Po is the soul that's stored in the Lungs. 

Earth energy keeps the Po connected to the developing fetus during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is why it's indicated to support the Spleen, which along with the Stomach is one of the primary Earth organs, during the first trimester in order to prevent miscarriage. During the first trimester, it's also common for pregnant women to suffer from morning sickness with nausea and vomiting, symptoms that can be attributed to a weak Spleen. When the Spleen's Qi energy is very weak during the first trimester, prolapse and leakages are likely to occur, and this can lead to a miscarriage.

During the second trimester, the programming of a person's new life begins. This is the trimester associated with the Fire Element, the Heart and the Shen/Spirit it contains.

During the second trimester, the Shen becomes programmed with the life curriculum that a person is going to experience. This life curriculum contains one's purpose in life. Once this embodied Spirit called the Shen begins to gather information about one's life curriculum, the experiences needed to fulfill this curriculum begin to get programmed into the blood. This leads us to the third trimester.

The third trimester relates to the Wood element and the Liver organ. The embodied Spirit that gets stored in the Liver is called the Hun.

The Hun is like our 'collective consciousness' that contains a record of all memories - past, present and future. So as the blood gets programmed with all of this information, it gets recorded and stored in the Hun of the Liver making this organ a very important system for the health of our memory retrieval.

Once a baby is born, these three spirits - the Po, Shen and Hun - become more and more integrated until around the age of five when the process is complete. 

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The organ systems are in general weak and delicate until we mature. With puberty, the Kidney's Yang Qi, called Ming Men, or Life Gate Fire, also becomes strong. 

The blossoming of the Kidney's Life Gate Fire is the impetus for the Zhi, or Will, to take life on as a young adult and to move the Kidney's Yin resources, the Jing, in a way that will allow one's life curriculum to unfold.

It is therefore imperative that both the Kidney Yin (Jing) and the Kidney Yang (Ming Men), both of which are related to the Water element, are abundant and flowing freely. This ensures that the Water energy will not become stagnant or accumulate toxicity so that our life curriculum, which ultimately gets stored into the level of Jing, can unfold naturally as we grow and mature as individuals.

Furthermore, when the Water energy is strong and pure it is able to properly manage the Fire energy.

If there is excessive Fire energy in the Heart, the mind will become overactive, manifesting as restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, and even mania. The excess Fire person will struggle with too many distractions and lack clarity of mind to live out his or her dharma or purpose in life.

Excessive Fire can cause a person to make choices in life that are counter to his or her dharma and thereby divert from experiencing a sense of completion in life. 

On the other hand, if Fire energy is too weak, a person can become emotionally cold and not feel joy or a sense of interest in life. The weak Fire person is essentially apathetic to having a purpose at all. In this state, the willpower and passion to live are lacking or, in Chinese Medicine terms, the energy of Water and Fire are deficient. 

 

Balance Between Fire and Water Allows Us to Stay On Purpose

A healthy balance between the Kidney's Water energy and the Heart's Fire energy ensures strong Heart/Kidney communication.

Through this interrelationship, we're able to establish healthy self-love and a clear sense of purpose in our lives.

Strong Kidney energy allows us the willpower to fulfill our Heart's desires and live out our destiny. Working together, the Heart and Kidney energies motivate us to have dreams and provide us with the drive to pursue those dreams.

Nevertheless, we have a freedom of choice as to whether to live out our path in this lifetime or choose instead to deviate and go a different way. The latter choice would be considered the result of weak communication between one's Heart and Kidneys.

Fortunately, Chinese Medicine which has created these theoretical models has also created tools with which to cultivate a strong Heart-Kidney relationship. This can be done through Qi Gong and meditation, Acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutrition to help rebalance Fire and Water energies so that we all have the opportunity to fulfill our life purpose.

Body, Mind & Spirit According to Chinese Medicine

by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

The integration of body, mind and spirit is essential to holistic healing practices and is gaining an increased level of importance in the conventional medical world as well. Having once been considered non-scientific, this trinitarian concept is becoming embraced by Western medicine and accepted as an integral basis for explaining the cause of certain health disorders, especially those considered to be idiopathic or psychosomatic. 

Chinese Medicine has established a theoretical model that's based on this trinity as well and forms a framework to help us understand these concepts systematically in order to gain greater clarity about the integration of our body, mind and spirit.

 

The Trinity of the Triple Heater System

Early Daoist philosophers who were fundamental in establishing Chinese medical theory were also intrigued with this trinitarian concept of body, mind and spirit. These philosophers articulated this trinity in terms of Heaven, Humanity and Earth to explain our connection to the universe. Superimposed on the body, the microcosmic system of this macrocosmic trinity is referred to as the Triple Heater.

The Triple Heater is a system comprised of three energy centers: the head, the chest and the abdominal/pelvic region.

The head is part of the Upper Heater and relates to Heaven; the chest comprises the Middle Heater, which relates to Humanity; the abdominal and pelvic regions comprise the Lower Heater and relate to Earth.

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The Upper Heater Relates to the Level of Heaven

The Spirit can be related to the Upper Heater of the Triple Heater system by virtue of the brain and the sensory organs of the eyes, ears and nose.

According to Daoist teachings, the sensory organs of sight, hearing and smell are considered gateways and when 'opened' allow an awakening of perception to higher dimensions of consciousness.

In Chinese Medicine, the head - because of its location on top of the body - is in closest proximity to Heaven's energy above. This gives the brain a close relationship to the energy of Fire. Since the brain as an organ is supported by the Kidney system, it also relates to the element of Water.

This creates an interesting association of the brain as Fire and Water - two energies in opposition based on the control cycle in Five Element theory.

Since the brain has aspects of both Fire and Water, a healthy balance of these two energies is required for optimal function.

Chinese Medicine has established diagnostic parameters for assessing the activity of these energies within the body which helps guide the treatment process to bring these energies into a state of greater balance. Through this process, a normalization of organ function can be achieved to impact one's mind, body and spirit.

 

The Middle Heater Relates to Level of Humanity

The Middle Heater of the Triple Heater system is comprised of the chest and relates to the Heart and Pericardium organs which are associated with the Fire element and the level of Humanity.

The Shen, or spirit, is stored in the Heart.  Fire energy is about "intelligence" and "awareness" so in this way we see the correlation of the Heart and the Middle Heater with the level of Humanity as an expression of higher intelligence.

Physically, the pericardium is a protective membrane around the heart and in Chinese Medicine the major function of the Pericardium organ is more metaphorical as it protects our spirit from emotional trauma.

It is said that the Pericardium holds the traumas that occur in one's lifetime and therefore protects one's spirit from being disrupted by past emotional stresses.

However, if there is an excessive amount of trapped energy in the Pericardium from past emotional stress, a person's heart and mind will be impacted physically and psychologically causing health disorders of the heart itself or mental illness.

 

The Lower Heater Relates to the Level of Earth

Corresponding to the Kidney system and the Water Element is the Lower Heater and this level energetically most closely relates to the health of the body itself. Water comes from the earth, so the energetics of the Lower Heater helps us gather energy from the earth to sustain our physical life.

Your Jing, or Essential Qi, is stored in the Kidney system and corresponds on a cellular level to your genetic material, the chromosomes and DNA.

Since Jing or Essential Qi is stored in the Kidneys, the health of your physical body intimately relates to the Water energy. Daoist practices are generally based on the idea of "Yang Shen", to nourish life. From this perspective, we see how nourishing our life is about sustaining cellular health and maintaining healthy gene expression.

Telomeres, a segment of DNA at the end of chromosomes, are indicators of cellular health. As the telomeres shorten, the lifespan of the genes shorten, so we can see how the integrity of the genes and the process of aging relates to the abundance of Water energy contained by the body.

In this regard, maintaining the health of the Kidneys, including the genitourinary and reproductive systems as a whole, is integral to maintaining the health of the physical body.

 

Balance Among the Triple Heaters is Essential to Balance in Body, Mind and Spirit

Historically, the belief in psychosomatic causes of disease was readily accepted in Chinese Medicine.

Chapter 8 of the ancient text the Ling Shu, or Spiritual Pivot, the canon of Acupuncture dating back to the 5th Century B.C., states that "all diseases are rooted in Spirit."  

From a Daoist Chinese medical perspective, it's clear that maintaining the health of the spirit supports the health of the mind and spirit. With these aspects being rooted in the Triple Heater system of the body, we can understand that maintaining balance of these heaters on a physical level is essential to having balance in body, mind and spirit. 

How World Events Can Impact Your Health: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

A few nights before the full moon, I woke up at 1:30 am and after tossing and turning for a while, I simply couldn’t get back to sleep. I finally got up and went to our guest room to do a meditation. At first this settled me quite a bit but within several minutes I felt stricken with a tightness in my chest, difficulty breathing and tension throughout my body.

The anxiety I felt was something I’d never experienced before, and it literally took every tool in my toolbox to get my heart to settle so I could finally go back to sleep.

I woke up exhausted early Monday morning and walked into the kitchen as Salvador read an article aloud about the massacre in Las Vegas. Like most people, I was initially just shocked. But as the reality set in and I read—and bawled over—story after story about the victims, the heroes and their families, a deep sense of grief took over.

Salvador pointed out later that day that there may be a connection between the way I’d been feeling the prior night and the incident. I felt the truth in this right away. 

Even though I didn't personally know anyone involved in the Las Vegas shootings, I felt a deep sense of compassion and empathy for all involved.

The human interconnection is something we all participate in and yet we seem to have lost sight of it lately trying to fit into a race, a gender, a religion, a political party, a certain way of thinking. 

These classifications create a broken nation, a divided world in which brothers and sisters turn against each other and we forget how deeply connected we all are.

But in moments like this, when fear strikes and lives are lost, we realize when other humans suffer, each of us suffer on some level.

Now more than ever, our greatest task is to preserve our health so that we can ultimately begin the healing that the world so desperately needs.

 

How Trauma Impacts Our Health from a Chinese Medical Point of View

All of us feel the same emotions. These emotions are one of our many common threads as human beings, though we may each process what we feel differently.

Li Dong-yuan, founder of the Earth School in Chinese Medicine, focused on what he referred to as the “five thieves,” or the emotions of joy, anger, sorrow, pensiveness, and fright, any of which in excess become pathological. 

All of the emotions that Li Dong-yuan mentioned are excessive emotions that can cause pathology to develop in the body. For example, the Earth attribute of yi, or the mind, which is associated with the Spleen and Stomach, has a tendency to worry or become pensive. Nei Jing Su Wen, an important classical Chinese medical text, stated: “Pensiveness harms the spleen” (Unschuld, 2011, 207). If pensiveness is not properly transformed, it leads to obsession. The attribute of the Heart is known as the spirit, or shen. Over-joy, which includes excessive desires and passions, can overwhelm the Heart and disrupt the shen, since the Heart is the organ that manages joy. Over-joy can transform into anxiety and eventually mania.

According to Chinese Medicine, emotions are merely the movement of qi, or energy, directed by a certain organ, but excessive or repressed emotions have pathological consequences. 

Trauma shocks the entire system, and eventually sets into the internal organ system.

Trauma initially strikes our Kidneys with fear and fright, affecting our adrenal glands, our willpower, and even our faith.

Our Hearts are also affected and since the spirit resides in the Heart from a Chinese Medicine perspective, the spirit suffers as well. We may lose sleep, becoming restless and anxious.

Grief impacts our Lungs and the resulting weakness can cause shortness of breath, coughing, depression and even infections such as pneumonia. Weak Lungs also affect our ability to let go, which is a virtue of the Lungs.

Anger fires up our Liver causing irritability and even affecting the body’s detoxification and digestive processes, which then impacts our ability to assimilate both our food and thoughts.

Trauma can also stir up Wind as a form of resistance to change. (See more about Wind as a challenge to healing in this article)

 

What You Can Do to Help Yourself

Stress impacts the body and mind on so many levels and tragic events activate our stress response - whether we watch the news, read the paper or hear about it from a friend or family member.

This does not mean you should tune out entirely to protect your health, but it's important not to lose yourself in world events. When it feels like too much, do something nourishing. Cook a warm meal, call up a good friend, or go out and spend time in nature. It's crucial that you learn to consistently take care of yourself.

Self-cultivation and self-care are the only things we can control and the most important way to make a difference in what seems like a wounded, frightening world. 

To do this, we have to take more time alone. Take time to sit quietly, to feel the anger, sadness, fear, hopelessness. As the feelings move through you, you can let them go.

Retreating also allows us to nourish the blood to help open the orifices and eventually make changes in our perception.

Solitude provides space and time to fully process our emotions so we can start to see things more clearly with a greater sense of compassion and less fear. Time alone is important to help the energy of the Heart move back down into the Kidneys so that we feel purposeful and clear. This then calms and pacifies the Wind that stirs us up internally with the changes so that we no longer have the nervousness that prevents us from facing the world and the issues. 

Wearing stones such as Amethyst, Moonstone and Amber help calm the Shen, or spirit, to calm the mind and Heart. Herbs such as biota seeds and jujube seeds help to nourish the Heart. Nourishing the heart means being good to yourself, being kind to yourself and also being kind to the world so that you can develop a greater sense of compassion. 

When we’re healthy and compassionate, we act from a place of love, which allows us to be more available to support others who aren’t as strong or who are going through a difficult time.

Once you calm your Shen and nourish your Heart, you begin to open the orifices to change your perception of the world. 

As we change inside our bodies, the Yang of the Kidneys will support us to move through the difficult changes in our lives. Pacifying Wind through calming practices helps settle the Yang to have the courage to make change.

Only when we’re healthy and empowered can we truly make a difference. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The more love we cultivate within ourselves, the more this love ripples into the world.

Our fundamental emotions, arguably the only emotions, are fear and love. The opposite of love is fear, not hate. The only way back to love is through a change in the perception of the world and the eradication of all other emotions that represent fear.

The first step to make this change is to recognize what we actually feel. Only then can we move through these feelings and channel their energy toward making positive changes in the world.

Our teacher, 88th generation Daoist Master Jeffrey Yuen has said many times: "The consciousness that brought on the disease cannot be the same consciousness that brings about healing." This goes for our individual healing and for the healing of the world as a whole.

 

A Meditation to Support You

Many years ago, I developed the BEME Meditation, which stands for Body, Emotions, Mind and Environment. Becoming aware of each of these aspects builds a deeper consciousness that connects us to how we truly feel. 

Mindfulness is a powerful tool to help us be more present, and can be profound to help settle the mind during difficult times. A calm mind becomes a clear mind and eventually provides the foundation for guiding the change that brings about healing.

You can practice this 10-minute meditation daily from the comfort of your home.

 

What You Can Do To Help Others

There are so many people who need our help right now. Here are a few ideas on what you can do for the victims and families affected by the recent tragedies:

Las Vegas

Puerto Rico

California


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Dr. Moafi offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

Blending Yoga and Chinese Medicine into a Business

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

 

I frequently get asked how and why I thought to integrate Yoga and Chinese Medicine, and how I turned this fusion into a thriving business.

Having lived in various countries as a political refugee during my childhood, the desire to learn about different cultures, traditions and people has always come naturally to me. So blending practices from different cultures, including that of my Iranian heritage, was an organic process in some ways. Turning my passions and interests into a business however was not something I planned, but it's led me to learn, grow and find greater fulfillment than I could have imagined.

A little while ago, my friend Tina Deane Coddington invited me to do an interview for her podcast, the Healing Business Podcast (which you can download through iTunes).

Our conversation led me to share what it took for me to develop a flourishing integrative healing business practice with my husband, Salvador.

In the interview, I share why Yoga and Chinese Medicine create a perfect synthesis, as well as personal insights and habits for success that I think will benefit you.

You can listen to the full interview by pressing play below. And please feel free to share it with anyone you think it may help or inspire.

I'd love to hear what insights you gained from listening to this interview in the comments below.

With love and gratitude,

Setareh
 

Special thanks to Tina Deane Coddington and the Healing Business Podcast. Listen to all the episodes on iTunes.

Passion & Creativity: Balancing the Fire in Your Life

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. & Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

fire ring.jpg

Fire is the most immediate, the most in-the-moment of the Five Elements. It represents our potential; the total expression and integration of our being.

Fire is the element that relates most closely to love, passion, creativity, and compassion.

Represented mainly by the Heart, Fire is the only element that encompasses four organs. The other three are the Pericardium, also know as the "Heart Protector," the Triple Burner, which energetically controls the upper, middle, and lower portions of the body, and the Small Intestine. 

Known as the Emperor, the Heart is the main organ within the Fire element. It is responsible for circulating blood throughout the body and thus nourishing all of the internal organs. As such, the Heart is the organ that allows oxygen to flow to the muscles and organs, and allows us to feel warmth, empathy, and compassion.

The Heart holds the Spirit, which in Chinese Medicine is called the Shen and represents the outward expression of the individual energy.  The Shen emanates our sense of compassion, which gives us a sense of our individual self as well as our union with others. Through the Heart we therefore connect to the external world with empathy.

Fire energy guides us with the powers of expression, compassion, intimacy, spontaneity and excitement. It is thus the energy that represents love, an experience that is purely felt. Unlike its opposing element, Water, which has to do with perspective on the past and future and is understood materially through thought, Fire is all about the present moment, and can only be understood in the here and now through feeling.

Since Fire is associated with the Summer, this is the season during which it is most prone to imbalance. Understanding the Fire type personalities guides us toward cultivating harmony with this element in our lives year round.

 

*Fire Type Personalities  

Fire type people live in the moment and use both personal magnetism and their gift of expression to draw people close to them. When in balance, Fire types are jovial, affectionate and optimistic. They are people-oriented, and their charm makes it easy for people to feel close to them and get involved in their exhilarating and often dramatic world. 

Fire types are passionate, creative, personable and sharply intuitive. They can be very spontaneous and make decisions quickly, though they may just as quickly change their minds. 

Like the element in nature, Fire type personalities are warm so it's no wonder why it's so easy for people to feel close and connected to them. And just like fire, these personalities can burn out and burn you in the process if you get too close when they're out of balance.

Once out of balance, Fire types can be overly emotional, anxious, and self-destructive. They are often volatile and restless by nature and tend to develop anxiety and heart problems. They also tend to develop addictions to alcohol and coffee. 

In general, the Fire type personality has a very sharp intellect, incredible memory and will work tirelessly until he is burned out. His restlessness makes it difficult for him to meditate and take time to be still. 

Water is the opposite element to Fire and is also what balances the Fire element. Water relates to wisdom and thus below the emotional flares of Fire lies an unparalleled wisdom; a knowing that comes from a finely tuned intuition.

The Fire element's correlation with the Heart means that Fire type personalities live from and through their hearts, allowing their feelings to guide their decisions and lives. 

Since the Heart system in Chinese Medicine is most closely related to the Shen or Spirit of a person, the Fire type tends to be a very animated individual. 

The Five Element personalities have Yin and Yang variations with the Yang type being more expressive and outward in its expression and the Yin type being more introverted.

If a person is a Yang Fire type, he or she tends to have an extremely unpredictable personality and be the most manic-depressive of all elemental types. One moment the life of the party filled with joy and excitement, and the next moment in deep despair, all the while dragging everyone around them up and down with their extreme nature. 

The Yang Fire person is artistic, passionate and has a magnetic, perhaps even hypnotic quality. Yang Fire types are enthusiastic individuals when pursuing their passions and often prefer to work for a cause they deeply feel they want to support. 

Yang Fire types tend to be easily addicted to coffee and alcohol, prone to heart issues such as palpitations, tachycardia and high blood pressure, as well as angina, heart attacks, insomnia, manic-depression and anxiety.

Yang Fire types are also prone to Intestinal problems such as Irritable Bowel and Crohn’s disease as they tend to have hyperactive nervous systems resulting in overactive and inflamed bowels. 

The Yin Fire type person is a much different individual than the Yang Fire type. The Yin Fire type person tends to be introverted unlike the expressive extrovert Yang Fire personality. The Yin Fire personality can develop as a result of childhood trauma that causes her to feel defeated and develop a negative and pessimistic outlook on life. However, even with that disposition, she can be very committed to striving toward life aspirations even if it requires years of patience. 

Physically, the Yin Fire type tends to have a weak heart and slow blood circulation. In Chinese Medicine, the Heart relates to mental and emotional vitality. As such, the Yin Fire person tends to have a restless mind and emotional fragility, and this unsettled state of mind tends for her to develop insomnia and anxiety. Yin Fire types can be prone to get endocarditis and mitral valve prolapse, reflecting the Fire in their blood. They may also develop aneurysms and arteriosclerosis as a result of their tendency to internalize emotions.

 

 Essential oils are an excellent tool with which to rebalance the Five Elements.

Essential oils are an excellent tool with which to rebalance the Five Elements.

Essential Oils to Balance Fire Types

The Yang Fire type person needs to cool her blood to calm her Heart in order to resolve the associated problems related to this element. Essential oils that are often used for this purpose are Lemon Verbena, Sweet Marjoram, Neroli, Valerian, and of course Lavender.

For Yin Fire types who tend to have poor circulation and weakness of heart function, essential oils that strengthen heart circulation and relax the diaphragm to improve deep breathing are Sandalwood and Frankincense. Both of these oils are cooling and also useful for anxiety, insomnia and invigorating blood circulation throughout the entire body. Warming oils are important for poor circulation leading to internal coldness and cold extremities. Essential oils such as Cinnamon, Ginger, Fennel, Basil, Black Pepper and Rosemary are some of the most useful oils for these purposes. It is best to dilute these warming oils in a carrier oil if applying to the body because their spicy nature can be irritating to the skin. 

Sage is a very nourishing essential oil for what is called Yin Deficiency with empty fire. This pattern translates as a hormonal weakness that creates the common symptoms of menopausal hot flashes, anxiety, insomnia and night sweating. Sage is an estrogenic oil and contains a chemical called thujone which can be toxic so it requires caution in its use and best with professional guidance. Sage is however a very important and unique oil with two contrasting actions as it is very nourishing to the hormonal system while supporting detoxification of phlegm stasis in the body. A safer alternative is Clary Sage which is also yin nourishing and cooling to treat menopausal symptoms of dryness and overheating.

Essential oils offer a very potent option to help with Fire imbalances that negatively impact the body, mind and emotions. In combination with your effort to practice "living in the moment" whether it's through meditation, Yoga, Qi Gong or just practicing mindfulness, the support of essential oils can truly help you live from your Heart to enjoy the passion, creativity and joy that the Fire element brings to all aspects of your life!

 

*We all encompass certain aspects of these 5 element personalities in each of our personalities. Thus, it's important to recognize what element is out of balance to harmonize your health. You can do this by learning about how to rebalance the 5 Elements on your own and with the care and guidance of a licensed practitioner who is familiar with this system.

Disclaimer: the suggestions provided here are not meant to cure any of the ailments listed. It is strongly recommended that essential oil blends be tailored to each individual's needs by a licensed practitioner who is well trained in the use of essential oils, and that long-term use be under the guidance of such a practitioner. You can schedule a consultation with one of our practitioners if you'd like to learn more. 


Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Dr. Moafi offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

Move Your Body, Transform Your Mood - and Life

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, I was an anxious young woman. Determined to perform my best in a highly competitive environment, I put constant and endless pressure on myself. 

The pressure sourced in my mind built up in my body. To relieve it, I pushed myself physically, through intense cardiovascular exercise, to release the stress.

But the stress and anxiety only seemed to worsen.

Little did I know that the harder I ran, the more heat I was accumulating, and this heat was obstructing my capacity to process my emotions (more on this later).

I continued to run myself physically and mentally from one accomplishment to the next, collapsing during my menstrual periods and spending the rest of the month trying to recover.

Then one day, my mom suggested: "why don't you try Yoga?"

She said it had helped one of her clients and was becoming really popular throughout the Bay Area. 

"Yoga?" I said as I looked over some information she'd sent me. "I can hardly sit still for a minute. How am I going to stretch for 90 minutes? Besides, I'm the stiffest person in the world."

"I think that's the point," my wise mother replied. "Yoga could probably help you get flexible and calm you down. You can't keep pushing yourself and be so anxious."

Yeah, anxious and depressed, I thought. Depends on the day.

Weeks passed and one night my roommate brought up a list of DeCal (student-organized) classes that would be available for the next semester. One of the classes jumped out at me immediately. 'Yoga for Relaxation,' it read. And then a short description of how it can help reduce your overall stress and anxiety. 

I turned to my roommate and told her that ironically, my mom had suggested I do Yoga.

"Wanna try it together?" she replied. I shrugged my shoulders and decided to say yes. Despite my initial resistance, my roommate's interest somehow sparked mine.

For the first two weeks of the twice weekly Yoga class, I spent the majority of the class asleep.

The beautiful Native American Yoga instructor (I remember this because she had a shamanic, angelic presence about her) started each class in Savasana and for at least the first couple of classes, I never got out of that posture. I laid there sleeping and the teacher didn't even bother to wake me up. Clearly, she knew something I didn't.

As weeks passed, I started to be more active in the class and I began to feel a shift in my life. I started to practice what I learned at home and soon I no longer felt my heart pounding in my chest throughout the day. Having had severe test anxiety my whole life, I found myself so calm during midterms that I hardly recognized myself. And the results were extraordinary.

Not only did I feel more calm and clear, but I also started performing better than I ever had, setting the curve in some of my most challenging classes.

The biggest shift occurred when I stepped out of Yoga class one evening. I could hear the birds singing, the wind blowing, the cool evening air on my face. Were there birds here before? Was the wind always so gentle? I'd never been aware like this before. And I noticed something remarkable within me...my mind was utterly quiet.

This was my first experience with stillness.

As my body became more flexible, I found an unprecedented sense of ease, presence and calm in my mind. Everything in my life started to change for the better, and Yoga became a regular daily practice. You might even say it became an obsession.

I practiced any time I could during the day and started taking all the on-campus Yoga classes I could fit into my schedule at Cal (at that time, Yoga studios were few and far between).

When I went to register for my last semester of classes, I was completely caught off guard - and I honestly credit my daily Yoga practice for this. My advisor reviewed my coursework, closed the book and took off her glasses. She looked up at me and said, "You're done." I couldn't believe it. Somehow I'd already completed all the classes I needed to graduate. She explained that I could either stay on another semester and work on a thesis or graduate early.

The most incredible part of this experience was that I had come this far in the absence of the anxiety and depression that had distracted me in my life for so long. I felt a sense of inner peace that grew stronger each and every day I breathed through a practice. 

I decided to graduate early and commit to Yoga fully. I registered for a one month Yoga teacher training in San Francisco and subsequently started teaching at local studios throughout the Peninsula. Within two years, I co-founded Yoga of Los Altos, the first Yoga studio in Los Altos, California. Soon thereafter I sold the business and began my studies in Chinese Medicine, which in time led me to meet my husband, Salvador, and to co-create the beautiful community at A Center for Natural Healing. To this day, the heart and soul of my work is in understanding the mind-body connection that I was introduced to through Yoga.

Now, I'm not saying that life becomes easy when you practice Yoga.

Challenges will arise whether or not you practice. But having a consistent practice provides you with tools to better deal with the natural ebbs and flows of life. And that makes life a lot more enjoyable.

I'm sharing this story to exhibit the power of a regular Yoga practice, and to empower you to make positive changes in your life.

Moving your body in the right way can transform your life.

What is the right way to move your body? In coordination with your breath. So whether it's Yoga, Qi Gong, Taiji, or any type of moving Meditation practice, activate the breath of life and your life will unfold in ways you never imagined possible. And these changes can be as simple as a more steady mental-emotional state.

The Mind-Body-Breath Connection According to Chinese Medicine

According to Chinese Medicine, the Lungs are in charge of respiration and are the organs responsible for processing grief. When the Lungs are weak, they hold grief and thus increase our experience of depression. 

The Liver governs the smooth flow of Qi and regulates the emotions, especially anger. The Liver channel runs through the diaphragm, which separates the thoracic cavity that contains the heart and lungs, from the abdominal cavity.

The diaphragm is crucial for respiration. As it contracts, the thoracic cavity expands and air is drawn into the lungs. If the diaphragm is tight or constricted, its proper contraction becomes inhibited and thus less air flows into the lungs. 

A tight diaphragm indicates Liver Qi (energy) stagnation and can cause Lung Qi (energy) deficiency. As a result, we may feel angry, anxious and depressed.

Conventional aerobic exercise pumps oxygen into the lungs temporarily but does not demand the mind-body connection of practices like Yoga, which focus on deep breathing to improve the overall health of the lungs.

Deep breathing also regulates the autonomic nervous system so it's not stuck in a hyper-sympathetic stress state. This allows for the Liver to relax so it can smooth the movement of Qi throughout the body. The result is a more calm and relaxed mental and emotional state as well as improved organ function for healthy digestion, elimination, and sleep.

Coordinating body movements with the breath cools the heat that may otherwise build up in the Liver due to excess strain during exercise. As a result, exercises such as Yoga, Taiji and Qi Gong that coordinate breath with movement can transform your mood and improve mental clarity. And since heat drives inflammation and stress, which are both major causes of disease, this transformation improves your health on all levels.

Deeper breaths. Calmer mind. Stable emotions. Better health.

That's the power of Yoga and movement practices done mindfully to coordinate the body with the breath.


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is co-owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California. The Silicon Valley-based health and wellness clinic specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture with a clinic and studio where Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

 

Cultivating Self-Love and Overcoming Addictions: A Five Element Perspective

by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

There are five basic elements categorized in Chinese Medicine: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each element has its own characteristic features and goes through a generation cycle through which it transforms into another element.

Five Elements

The Five Elements begin with Wood because Wood represents growth and new beginnings. The season of Wood is Spring as new growth begins to sprout forth.

The active energy provided by Wood creates Fire and Fire is about maturity and relates to the season of Summer, the hottest time of the year. 

Fire creates ash as it burns and this ash creates the next element, Earth. Earth is about harvest and corresponds to a period known as Late Summer. Earth also corresponds to a 16 day transitional period that occurs during each seasonal transition. 

The minerals found in the earth are metallic, so the Earth element creates the element of Metal. Metal is about decline, corresponding to the season of Autumn, a time when nature transitions toward a state of dormancy. 

As Fall enters full dormancy, we enter the Winter season, which relates to the element of Water. Water relates to going within, introversion and introspection. Winter is the gestational period that supports the consolidation of energy back into our Kidneys for physical rejuvenation and inner transformation. Through this process, we can blossom forth a resurgence of new growth energy that ensues in the springtime as the 5 Element cycle starts again.

The Summer's Fire Energy can set Addictions Blazing --

 Since we are in the season of Summer, the element of Fire is in its full effect potentially overheating our body, especially our blood.  Hot blood creates an over-stimulated emotional state. If we add hot natured food to our diet such as coffee, alcohol and hot spices such as garlic, rosemary, basil, ginger, peppers and onions, the internal fire can really get out of control during this season causing inflammation, high blood pressure, skin rashes and emotional disorders such as anxiety, irritability and outbursts of rage. 

If we don't make an effort to keep the body cool and calm, patterns of ADDICTION can become more of a problem during this time of year too as the Heart Fire starts to blaze and a person will crave substances such as sugar, medications, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs such as marijuana to numb out.  

One of the very interesting aspects about the Heart is that it is the organ related to us having emotional control in our lives. If we are stuck in patterns of addiction, then our Heart Fire is overwhelming the function of our Earth. The Earth relates to the Spleen and the Mind so one's mental control becomes overwhelmed by their emotions if the Heart Blood gets too hot. The Earth/Spleen energy also relates to the Pancreas so we can see as the emotions get over aroused with Heart Fire, a person will crave sweets and damp-inducing comfort foods to numb out and placate one's restless emotions. Even fruit, which is very high in sugar and prevalent during the Summer when eaten in excess will create a lot of dampness which further compromises a person's mental capacity to control their heart's emotional fire. In addition, as dampness accumulates in the body, it creates a sluggish circulation of Qi energy and a person will reach out for stimulants to get their energy moving which can perpetuate the state of internal heat that is driving  the emotional imbalance and the addictive behavior.  Internal dampness relates to the popular topic of CANDIDA which underlies many health problems from the head to the toes.

Managing the internal fire driven by addictions is a very important issue underlying all Chronic Degenerative Disorders --

Whether the addiction is substance related or other such as an addiction to work, exercise or masturbation, these habits induce a smoldering of internal heat that grows and grows deep in the body. This is a dangerous condition that we call "Latent Heat or Latent Fire"  that becomes suppressed so a person may not be aware of it because they are not symptomatic. However, over time as this suppressed heat that is trapped in the body slowly burns out the body's resources to stay repressed, various symptoms of disease will start to manifest. These diseases are all related to inflammation from this latent heat escaping anywhere in the body and is the underlying cause of chronic diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune disorders and cancer. 

Breaking the Addiction cycle is about CHOICE --

The more severe the addiction, the more involved a person's treatment may need to be. However, it's ultimately about choice. We've all seen people with longterm addictions to cigarettes who stopped smoking on a dime when they made up their mind to do so for whatever reason. Chinese Medicine is a powerful ally to support a person to clear the fire in the blood in order to reduce the restless emotions and the addictive cravings. Cultivating a daily routine of calming practices such as taking nature walks and doing Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga and Meditation are very important especially during the summer season to help calm the emotions so one can regain mental control of their lives and break the addiction cycle.

From a dietary perspective, eat more of a vegetarian diet during the hot summer months and follow a diet that is cooling and alkalizing for the body. And always remember, those morning protein smoothies that include everything but the kitchen sink, well, they induce a lot of dampness and heat in the body so try to simplify your morning smoothie and have a nice green vegetable based juice instead to alkalize your body.

Green juices have a bitter, cooling nature that effectively drain and clear out the heat in the blood, calm the heart and mind and help you to once again gain mental control over your emotions. 

Calming the Heart supports cultivating Self-Love --

As the blood becomes more alkaline, the Heart energy calms down and this allows the Kidney Jing, also called Essence, to be conserved. Conserving one's Kidney Essence relates to cultivating Self-Love because the Kidney energy relates to one's relationship with oneself.  

Essentially, through the process of calming the Heart, a person becomes more Spiritually oriented as one's desires of the heart begin to settle down and become less important in one's life. This process of detaching from one's desires allows one's sense of Self-Love to grow and expand.

If you find yourself this summer getting a bit overwhelmed, frazzled and feeling "out of control", remember, you have a choice to be calm, to cultivate detachment and embrace yourself with more love as you sit back and sip your tall glass of green vegetable juice. 

Start your day this way and you'll really enjoy your summer with a happy calm heart!


Salvador Cefalu, L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, CA, a wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine & Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare non-insertion form of Acupuncture. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

Overcoming Spiritual Arrogance

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

When we embark on a spiritual path, many of us think that our lives will suddenly become easier, but in reality the opposite is often true. (If you're wondering what I mean by being spiritual, check out my last article on this topic here). 

Since our newfound awareness equips us to face greater challenges in both our internal and external worlds, the challenges with which we’re faced often grow stronger.

As you learn to face these new challenges, you gain a sense of greater confidence. If you’re not aware of how to process this confidence, the ego kicks in and convinces you that your new way of living life is somehow superior.

The initial excitement that comes with a heightened awareness is unlike any other. There's a feeling of power, peace, and joy you want to share with the world.

What's often difficult during this transition is learning that not everyone is interested in your spiritual growth. In fact, as you grow, many of your best friends may not be able to identify with the new you. Those closest to you may not be ready to make the changes to adapt to the transformed life you're creating or your personal growth.

As you change and let go of old ways that no longer serve you and your highest good, you may find it frustrating that others are comfortable staying the same. 

Wanting to invite your community into a world filled with your new insights and beliefs because you feel they can benefit from this way of life is beautiful. But becoming frustrated by the way others live and believing that your way of life is somehow more significant is spiritually arrogant. 

We may feel that consciousness and spiritual practices help make us better people, but this does not mean that we should look down on others for not accepting or integrating these practices into their lives.

In fact, you’ll likely notice that as your spiritual practice deepens, more challenging people enter your life to force you to practice what you’ve been cultivating.

The more you cultivate yourself, the more you encounter people and situations that test your growth.

Being a spiritual person has nothing to do with how much Yoga you do, how often you go to church, or what scriptures you’ve memorized. 

Being truly spiritual means having the ability to embrace life unconditionally and accepting others for who they are - without judgement. Living spiritually is a lifelong journey, not a destination. And the ultimate spiritual practice is to embrace unconditional love for ourselves and others.

Truly spiritual living means aligning actions with beliefs, and therefore living as a person of integrity. 

A person of integrity isn’t hypocritical and has a sense of compassion for all beings, understanding that we’re all interconnected in the web of life. A person of integrity picks up after herself simply because she cares about the environment, and treats others with kindness and respect because she understands all people's connection to one another.

We all make mistakes, and we've all had moments where we're dishonest or are unstable with our sense of integrity. So, why then, even if we have truly changed, do we have the right to judge others who are still struggling with the shadows that we claim to have overcome?

Being spiritual is not about practicing a certain philosophy or religion. It's about being present, loving, and aware.

The awareness that comes from living spiritually creates space for universal compassion. 

This doesn’t mean you don’t get angry, hurt, or act out sometimes. But when these things happen, you’re able to hold yourself accountable and create healing with those you hurt.

Consciousness is a gift that's easy to take for granted. Rather than gloat about how conscious you are, begin to use this awareness to serve others and make greater contributions to your social and global communities. 

As Gandhi stated, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Live it out, model it and be an inspiration to others. 

Your external world is a reflection of your internal world, so when you see or experience something you don’t like, rather than judge or point fingers, turn your attention more deeply inward and see what in your mind and actions has created the picture that stands before you. Every person and experience that comes into your life is a teacher; the more challenging the person or experience, the greater the potential to enhance your spiritual growth.  

Awareness provides each of us the power to change what we can and wholeheartedly accept the rest.

Paired with humility, it also empowers us to unite with others, even those who are not walking the same path,  through a deeper sense of compassion.

Humility gives us a sense of presence and reminds us that we're all on this journey together.


Setareh Moafi, L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California where she runs a Classical Acupuncture and wellness coaching practice, and teaches transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com