Start Every Day on the Right Foot: 5 Steps to Creating a Healthy Morning Ritual

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

“Don’t prioritize your schedule. Schedule your priorities.” - Steven Covey

How you start your day is an expression of what you’re cultivating in your life. 

If you wake up to a loud alarm, rushing to get ready and make it to work on time, you’ll likely spend the rest of your day feeling rushed.

If you jump straight to email and social media, you’re choosing to allow your day to begin with the needs and lives of others instead of your own.

If, on the other hand, you begin the day slowly, mindfully and with a regard for your well-being, it’s the centered state you cultivate is more likely to follow you throughout the day.

Taking care of your own needs at the start of your day will allow you to be more available to the needs of others without becoming drained or feeling resentful.

When you fly, you're told to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others put on theirs. By starting your day with a focus on yourself, you’ll be better equipped to contribute at a greater capacity to others throughout the day…and still come home feeling charged.

The moment you open your eyes in the morning, you invite a new day of possibilities. 

early morning

In that moment each morning you have the opportunity to set the rhythm for the rest of your day. As the days cultivating self-care accumulate and that rhythm flows, your life is vitalized on the path of healing and wellness. 

When you first awake, your brain operates at around 10.5 waves per second. The range from 8 to 13 Hz, or cycles per second, is the alpha stage, which is often referred to as the gateway to the subconscious mind.

Since your subconscious mind is most active right when you wake up, mornings are the ideal time to train your brain to use this subconscious activity to think positively and accomplish more throughout your day.

When you’re positive, intentional and focused with your mornings, you create the foundation for greater dreams to blossom and come to fruition. 

To have time for a ritual in the morning will mean that you create that time by waking up earlier—even just 10 extra minutes in the morning can make a tremendous difference in the pace of your day.

Your morning ritual sets the tone for the rest of your day—and life. 

In Chinese Medicine, the Earth element, which is comprised of the Spleen and Stomach, must be harmonized in order for us to move through life's challenges with ease as well as to maintain a consistent level of energy throughout the day.

The Earth element thrives on regularity - with meals, exercise, sleep and activities. 

A regular morning ritual helps to strengthen the Earth element energy within us. This, in turn, will increase our ability to digest and assimilate the important nutrients we consume, as well as enhance our ability to process and assimilate our life experiences in a more healthy way. This is one way to support being more grounded in your daily life. 

Ritual provides order and order harmonizes and calms the nervous system.

Starting your morning early allows more time for you to set the foundation you want to create for your day and to be more intentional about what you want that foundation to look like.

When building a house, the foundation is the structure that ensures stability for the entire project development.

Think of your morning ritual as your foundation for the project development of your goals and dreams. 

5 Simple Steps for a Healthy Morning Ritual

  1. Hydrate

    After several hours of sleep and inactivity, the body needs hydration for optimal functioning. Drinking water on an empty stomach first thing in the morning supports cleansing the colon and flushing toxins out of the body.

    While in general hydration is important (try to drink 1/2 of your weight in ounces of water daily, i.e. 75 ounces for a 150 pound body), it’s best to drink more water earlier in the day.

    Some suggest that drinking 50% of your daily water intake by mid-morning will not only keep you hydrated throughout the day, but can also prevent headaches and fatigue.

  2. Center Your Mind

    This can be done through a quiet meditation or relaxation practice, and even journaling to help you release negative thoughts, worries and also to help plan out your day.

    I love waking up to the practice of Morning Pages, which I was first introduced to in 2005 by the wonderful Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way. Morning Pages are three longhand pages of pure, uncensored writing about anything and everything as a way to clear the clutter from your mind. This has been an integral part of my morning routine for over a decade now and I swear by it, but really any type of journaling can be helpful as long as you do it regularly.

  3. Move Your Body

    Particularly with exercises that connect the body and mind, like Yoga and Qi Gong. The early morning hours are also the optimal time for aerobic exercise to stimulate your metabolism and activate your brain.

  4. Practice Gratitude

    You may feel grateful, but expressing this gratitude itself could be a daily ritual.

    Remember, when you take time to acknowledge and give gratitude for all that is working, you create space for greater positivity and joy to flow into your life.

    Gratitude is most powerful when it’s written, so start by writing 5-10 things you’re grateful for every morning.

  5. Eat a Warm, Nourishing Breakfast

    Taking time to eat without rushing is equally important to eating something healthy and nourishing. I always recommend cooking non-gluten whole grains such as buckwheat, millet or amaranth for breakfast. Grains in general nourish the Spleen Qi to support healthy digestion.

    Allowing time for your meals also nourishes the Earth element and digestive system, which leads to a faster, healthier metabolism.

Most importantly, I recommend doing these practices before you check your phone or email and avoiding external distractions for as long as possible when you first wake up.

Over time, you’ll notice that taking just 15-30 minutes each morning to center yourself will fill the remaining hours of your day with greater awareness, productivity and ease.


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. 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

You Are Divine and Miracles Happen

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

You are divine because you have a potential we attribute to the Divine—the ability of miraculous transformation. 

You have an innate miraculous potential within your body-mind to spontaneously or slowly transmute your current state of health.  

An example of the miraculous potential within each of us can be seen in the phenomenon of disease transmutation in patients with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). A person who exhibits multiple personalities can present completely different disease states with each of his or her personalities.  

The variations in illness presentation among the various personalities can even be observed through blood analysis, indicating that the changes occur on a cellular and biochemical level. 

For example, a person who is diabetic when he exhibits the personality of Bob may not have diabetes or any of its symptoms when he’s living through the personality of John. 

How is this possible?

It’s truly a mystery in terms of science, but in terms of the power of the body and mind, it’s more in line with a miracle or more specifically a ‘miraculous transformation.’ 

How Classical Chinese Medicine Understands the Process of Miracles

According to Chinese Medicine, this phenomenon of disease transmutation (i.e. changing from one form to another) in a patient with MPD occurs through the transformation of his Jing, or Essence, that’s facilitated through a shift in his Shen, or consciousness, when he exhibits a different personality. 

Since the Jing corresponds to the Kidneys and the Shen to the Heart, this radical transmutation of disease states is achieved through the power of the Heart-Kidney communication, and this affirms why maintaining a strong Heart-Kidney connection is key to transforming your life.

Your Jing as it’s stored within the Kidneys relates to your body’s deepest constitutional energy, which relates to the level of cellular activity. Therefore, in scientific terms, Jing equates to your DNA and its genetic expression.

The Shen on the other hand is stored in the Heart. Shen is loosely translated as “Spirit” but it is better understood as one’s “conscious state of mind.”

So when there is a shift in your Shen, there will be a shift in your consciousness and through the power of the Heart bringing its Yang (warmth) down into the Kidneys, the Jing can transform into a different state. Not necessarily a healthier state, but a different state. So when a person who has multiple personalities shifts into a different personality, his health or disease status can shift as well.

Miracles occur when your Shen, or state of consciousness, shifts enough to allow for the restoration of health.

This miraculous process is described as the Heart “vaporizing phlegm” to cleanse and clear pathology from the body. This vaporization can happen suddenly or slowly over time as you shift your consciousness into a healthier state and essentially “let go” of the pathological state you were experiencing.

So what seems like a miracle is a natural transformation of Jing that allows a disease state at the cellular level to transmute into a healthy state. 

With this said, you are the conductor of your life, and the more clear you are about how you conduct your life and in particular your life-force—your Jing—the healthier you will become. 


The Metaphors of the Heart-Kidney Relationship

The Kidney is the domain within the body that relates to the Self, so as the Heart Qi moves down into the cold darkness of the Kidney Water, it brings warmth into you so you can feel a deeper sense of self-love.

As the Heart Qi travels down into the Kidneys, also helps shine a light onto your deepest subconscious fears that are held within the Kidneys.

This process of moving the Heart’s energy down into the Kidneys allows you to become conscious of what holds you back in life and to embrace these fears with unconditional love.

In addition, as the Kidney Qi moves up to embrace and activate the Heart, it supports you to open your Heart and express love in your life more freely and to manifest your Heart’s desires and passions.

Perhaps most importantly, the process of activating the Triple Energizer to move your Kidney Essence, or Jing, helps you become conscious of your destiny and supports you to follow the path you were destined to live (read more about this dynamic here).


Triple Energizer Qi Gong Supports Transformation in Your Life

Historically, in the search for the elixir of life, the practice of alchemy developed through the use of toxic herbs that when ingested properly were claimed to induce magical transformations within the body and mind.

Out of this tradition arose the practice of meditation and Qi Gong as a cultivation practice to achieve the same levels of physical and spiritual transformation without the potential of dying from ingesting poisonous substances.

Qi provides the power of transformation and transmutation within the body and mind and this is why Qi Gong is an alchemical exercise in Daoist practices.

Enlightened masters lead austere lives to support their internal transformations through mediation and Qi Gong practices. As you develop your Qi Gong practice it’s necessary to also improve your self-care through diet and lifestyle adjustments that support transforming your health and life.

Since the Heart-Kidney energetic connection is so important in the process of life-transformation, a primary way to maintain a healthy Heart-Kidney communication is through supporting the Triple Energizer system of your body.

The Triple Energizer is a Fire organ that relates to the Heart and facilitates the movement of your Kidney’s Water energy or Jing-Essence.

Triple Energizer Qi Gong is an exercise system designed to strengthen your Heart’s Qi and bring the warmth of the Heart’s Yang into your Kidneys to provide for the transmutation of Qi and Blood into Jing to support slowing the aging process.

In addition, exercise practices like Triple Energizer Qi Gong can help cleanse your Jing-Essence to purify your body, resolve illnesses and prevent disease from developing.


You Are the Master of Your Life

As you begin this self-exploration through practicing Qi Gong, see yourself as a scientist observing and discovering the phenomenon of natural healing through the cultivation of Qi within the laboratory of your own divine body.

Practicing Qi Gong is an evolutionary process with benefits that unfold over months of time and practice slowly restoring your body and expanding your mind. It is through this process of cultivation you can create the miracles in your life to achieve your heart’s desires.

Learn more about Triple Energizer Qi Gong and join Salvador for an upcoming live class at Dharma Studio at A Center for Natural Healing. 

How to Deal with an Energy (Qi) Sucker

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

When you drive down a road with a dead end, you get to a point where you have to stop and redirect your route. The signs that are often put at the end of a dead end serve as boundaries to protect you from driving further into an area that shouldn't be entered. 

Similarly, speed limits on the road create boundaries to limit how fast you can drive on a particular road or highway. These and other signs on the road provide boundaries to protect you and other drivers.

In the same way, you must set boundaries to protect yourself from situations and people that may be harmful to you on the road of life.

What’s a Qi Sucker?

Some people get energized by spending a lot of time around people while others prefer to spend more time alone. 

Personally, I love being around people and I get a lot of energy from socializing, but I also need time alone to recharge. I’m always looking for the balance between spending time with people I enjoy and allowing myself the time I need to nurture my inner world. 

Over the years, I’ve discovered that to come closer to this balance, I have to set boundaries on both my time with others and the people with whom I spend my time. This means saying no more often than I may like.

Once a chronic people pleaser, I used to be tormented by how people might react if I say no or do something to disappoint them. Though I still struggle with this at times, I've learned that the stronger and more clear my boundaries, the better I am at spending quality time with others and the more available I can be with my energy for my patients, students, friends, and family members.

Years ago, one of my early mentors taught me the concept of ‘Qi suckers,’ sometimes also referred to as ‘energy vampires.’ In Chinese Medicine, Qi is what’s referred to as energy or life force (like the Sanskrit word prana). We take Qi in through our breath and can feel its presence in everything around and within us when we tune in.  

People who are Qi suckers draw from the life force of others as a result of their own imbalances and neediness. 

You know you’ve encountered a Qi sucker if after spending time with one you walk away feeling depleted and often guilty, even though you really haven’t done anything wrong. 

Qi suckers are master manipulators who are often very charming and attractive. 

It’s easy to be drawn in by their warmth and charm, but once you get too close to a Qi sucker—the more you approach the warmth of their Fire—the more easily you get burned.

An interaction with a Qi sucker may look something like this:

Qi sucker: “Hey, what are you doing this afternoon? Wanna go shopping with me?”

You: “No, thanks, I have a lot to do this afternoon.”

Qi sucker: “Really? What do you have to do that’s so important?”

You: “Well, I have to finish a work project and clean the house.”

Qi sucker: “Ok, whatever. You never like to do anything with me. Sometimes I feel like we’re not even really friends anymore. I don’t care. Do what you want. It’s your life.”

Qi suckers can be great people and you can really have a great time with them in short interactions. However, conversations have the potential to escalate quickly into heated disagreements or arguments when they’re triggered, and they are very easy to trigger!

You know you’re with a Qi sucker if you feel like you’re walking on eggshells and have to constantly watch what you’re saying in order to not offend them or hurt their feelings in some way.

The only way to protect yourself from a Qi sucker is to set clear boundaries. 

You can read about clear boundary setting and its impact on your health in this article.

According to Chinese Medicine, boundaries are associated with the Earth element. Earth provides the fertile soil that allows plants to grow and flourish to provide nourishment and sustenance; it gives protection and shelter as well as stability and substance. 

Earth also contains water, creates boundaries to define continents and carries us through space with stability. Earth represents safety, protection and our home base. 

Being centered, calm, and balanced, feeling at home, and having a sense of harmony and peacefulness are the essence of a healthy Earth energy. Creating a comfortable home and cooking are essential factors to nourishing the Earth energy in your life. 

Cultivating a healthy Earth means understanding and prioritizing your needs. If you pour all of your energy into helping others or work excessively, we'll have nothing left for yourself.

If you don't discipline yourself around your diet and set boundaries around eating generally healthy foods, your health will fail. If you continuously go to bed late because you don't have the discipline to stop working or watching TV at night, you’ll slowly but surely deplete your blood, our Yin, and your essence, which accelerates the aging process.

In other words, strong boundaries around how and with whom you spend your time, what you eat and even when you sleep is fundamental to your health.

In the body, these boundaries are established by the Earth element organs that govern digestion, the Stomach and Spleen. Digestive health is therefore essential to creating healthy boundaries that prevent Qi suckers from draining your energy. 

Nourishment and the Earth element

Earth energy is about transformation—transformation of food into energy and raw material to rebuild the body, and transformation of our thoughts so we're not stuck 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 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.

The way someone affects you is based on how you respond to that person’s behavior rather than the behavior itself. When you set strong boundaries, you can protect your Qi and make sure that you’re not not giving away your energy or joy to others.

What You Can Learn from Qi Suckers

The gift of having a Qi sucker in your life is that they’re excellent boundary teachers. 

In fact, while you may feel guilty and cautious about hurting their feelings, what you’ll find most often about a Qi sucker is that you can clearly change your dynamic with him or her simply by setting a strong boundary.

Boundary setting either pushes the person entirely out of your life or forces him or her to grow in a way that allows for a healthy relationship.

Do you have a Qi sucker in your life? 

How do you deal with him or her? How could you change the way you interact or set boundaries so that he or she doesn’t steal your joy or energy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


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. 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

The Upside to Feeling Down: The Earth Element & Depression (Part 6)

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

This final survey of depression from the perspective of the Five Element Theory will address the Earth element. In Chinese Medicine, Earth energy is about transformation.

The Earth element organs are the Spleen and Stomach and the Spleen also correlates with the pancreas.

Therefore digestion and the conversion of food into energy are the fundamental functions of Earth energy.

This transformation of nutrients into Qi energy equates to the creation of cellular energy or ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule of energy created by every cell of your body for biochemical reactions.

This is why in Chinese Medicine, your Earth energy is considered the center of your being.

Earth element and depression

And since the centralized organs of digestion create the energy that drives your brain function, weakness of your Earth energy can cause a decline in mental acuity, and become a fundamental reason for the development of depression.

The Earth energy’s powerful influence over mental faculties is a primary reason why according to Chinese Medicine, the Spleen stores the Yi, or the Mind.

The Yi encompasses your mental intelligence, providing the ability to think analytically, have memory retrieval and clarity of focus. All of these functions are thus supported by your Earth energy, specifically, your Spleen’s Qi.

Keeping your digestive system healthy and managing a healthy diet are therefore critical in the support of healthy brain function and the resolution of depression.

The Gut-Brain Connection

When the Spleen and Stomach are not functioning optimally or the diet is creating toxicity, a condition called Dampness will likely develop.

Dampness is a form of gut toxicity rooted in an imbalance of the microbiome wherein bad bacteria, fungus/yeast and parasites or worms overrun the good bacteria.

Dampness is a Chinese Medicine term that describes an internal terrain that is too moist, and pathogens like fungus—most commonly in the form of a yeast known as Candida Albicans—love moist environments.

Having some fungus in the body’s gut microbiome is normal, however, the common occurrence of Candida infestations is likely due to today’s modern diet that’s high in sugar, grains and alcohol, as well as certain medications such as antibiotics and steroids like Prednisone that create a cold, damp terrain in the body.

If you’re suffering from chronic sinus congestion, postnasal drip or recurring ear infections (especially in children), we can surmise there is too much Dampness accumulation in these areas of your body.

As a Chinese Medicine practitioner, we can confirm this supposition by checking your tongue. If it is abnormally swollen or has too much coating, then there is fluid stagnation and dampness has developed.

In cases of chronic depression, there’s usually fatigue, apathy and a lack of motivation, so we generally expect to find some degree of weakness of Spleen Qi (low energy) as well as an internal environment of Dampness which is making the Qi circulation sluggish throughout the body and dampening the functioning of the brain.

Even many incidences of dementia and Alzheimer’s are rooted in conditions of Dampness. In fact, modern medical science often refers to Alzheimer’s as Type III Diabetes because of its association to elevated blood sugar which leads to the overgrowth of yeast and plaque in the brain.

Healing Your Depression

If you’re looking to heal naturally from depression, I suggest working with diet, herbal medicine and acupuncture to reduce your damp terrain and only after you’re feeling better, begin to work with your doctor to reduce the dosage of your depression/anxiety medication.

It’s imperative to reduce foods that increase sugar in the blood, primarily carbohydrates, including concentrated sugar in any form such as fruit and melons. You may need to eliminate all grains for a period of time or eliminate just the gluten grains. This is where a Paleo diet can be useful for a period of time.

Excess fats also create dampness, so fish, avocados, coconut oil, fried foods and nuts may all need to be reduced or eliminated for an extended period to clean up your system if it’s overrun with dampness and a fungal terrain.

As you clear the dampness out of your system, your mental faculties will sharpen, your moods will stabilize and your depression may begin to lighten up.

Be patient if you’ve suffered from depression for a long time.

It may take several months before you start noticing a difference in your brain function and emotional state. As I mentioned in previous articles, sometimes you need to also clear the Blood Stagnation that’s trapping the emotional trauma in your body, or strengthen the Lung and Kidneys or detoxify the Liver.

Considering these factors, you can see why it’s important to find a qualified Acupuncturist to work with to support you in gaining clarity on what specifically needs to be addressed for you to achieve the quality of life you seek on your path to wellness and your journey to fulfilling your every dream.


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.

The Upside to Feeling Down: The Fire Element & Depression (Part 5)

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

The Fire Element and its related Heart organ system is about maintaining control in your life. Since some level of control is essential, keeping this system in harmony is a key factor to living a life in balance.

The tendency to be over-controlling however can lead to internal disharmony by creating too much heat in your Heart. Excessive heat in the Heart system can lead to a range of physical symptoms, from shortness of breath to high blood pressure and heart disease. And since the Heart stores your Shen (Spirit) which influences your mind, this excessive heat can cause hyperactivity of the mind, which can lead to such conditions as ADHD, OCD, insomnia and anxiety.

The Heart’s Connection to Depression

It’s not uncommon that individuals suffering from anxiety also experience depression. In Chinese Medicine, this is a condition of the Heart and Kidney systems not communicating well or supporting each other properly.

The Heart’s Fire and the Kidneys’ Water energies make up the central axis of our energetic system.

When functioning normally, the energy of the Heart descends its Fire to help warm the Kidney’s Yang Qi and to reciprocate, the Kidney offers its Water energy to cool the Heart so it doesn’t overheat. These cooperative efforts counterbalance the body’s core energies to maintain homeostasis within these systems and the body as a whole.

So the challenge lies to keep a balance of function between the Heart and Kidneys. This balance begins with utilizing the power of the Heart’s control function to manage your excessive drives and desires.

A person with a lot of Heart heat generally can’t settle down very easily, so sitting down quietly or meditating can be difficult tasks.

Heart Fire type individuals like a lot of stimulation so they can easily get addicted to stimulants such as coffee which can further create internal heat. They also like to multitask and have many interests going at once, often overextending themselves to the point of exhaustion.

This is a pattern of how excessive Heart Fire leads to elevated cortisol levels which first create a hyper-adrenaline response and over time can lead to adrenal burnout (adrenal exhaustion = Kidney Qi energy depletion).

When your Heart is overstimulated, your Kidney’s Yang (adrenals) get overly activated and this consumes the Kidney’s Yin Water (resources to create your reproductive hormones) that supports your Heart and mind to be cool and calm.

This common condition leads to a Fire and Water imbalance wherein symptoms of anxiety (Fire Excess) and depression (Water Deficiency) can then begin to manifest.

Therefore, balancing your Heart and Kidney energies helps you settle anxiety and the need to be over-controlling in your life, which will help you cultivate a sense of inner peace and trust since trust is a virtue of strong Kidney Qi energy.


The Heart Controls the Lungs

When the Heart becomes overstimulated, it can also suppress the energy of the Lungs.

Since the emotions relating to a Lung imbalance relate to sadness and grief, if the Lung’s energy becomes overwhelmed by the Heart’s Fire energy, the Lung’s Qi will become weakened and depression can develop.

This pattern of excessive Heart Fire along with Lung Qi depletion therefore contributes to the complex dual pattern of anxiety occurring with depression.

My Daoist Classical Chinese Medicine teacher, Dr. Jeffrey Yuen, states that the Lungs “govern Qi” for the purpose of ‘self-rectification’. Self-rectification is about finding redemption in our lives so we can overcome the burdens of guilt and shame that depress our Qi and keep us in a state of depression.

Therefore, in order to move beyond a state of self-loathing and deep sadness, an inner cleansing is essential to cultivate a peaceful heart and mind and lessen the heaviness of a depressed state. This internal cleansing is about cleansing the blood from past emotional traumas.


Heart Blood Stores Your Emotional Traumas

In Chinese Medicine, the blood stores our past emotional traumas and if unresolved, these emotions will stagnate the blood circulation. With that said, a primary issue to work on when a person presents a lot of blood stagnation signs involves helping the person begin releasing the past emotional traumas that may have occurred in his or her life.

Classical Acupuncture has specific protocols designed to release the blood stagnation to support you to release these emotional holding patterns that may be underlying your physical symptoms.


Your Tongue Can Reveal Excess Heart Fire & Blood Stagnation

Symptoms of anxiety, depression and an overactive mind due to excessive Heart Fire can be assessed by looking at the tip of your tongue.

If your tongue tip is more red than the rest of your tongue, then there is too much heat in your Heart. If the entire body of your tongue is a deep red color, then there is too much heat throughout your entire body, including your Heart. In this case, you may tend to overheat easily and even experience night sweats, usually a sign of internal heat that is burning up the body’s Essence.

If you see dark blue veins under your tongue, this is an indication of blood stagnation.

If the dark veins occur in the lower portion of your tongue, the blood stagnation is pooling more in the lower pelvic region. If the dark veins show up all the way toward the tongue’s tip, then blood stagnation has moved into the heart region as well.

Liver Blood Stagnation will also show a purplish hue along the sides of the tongue and sometimes the whole body of the tongue will become bluish. I’ve seen in clinic a patient who had a turquoise blue colored tongue. This patient had severe blood stagnation which was created from being exposed to radiation as a child in Japan during the Hiroshima nuclear bombing. It took about 10 months of Acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment before her tongue color began to normalize and her chronic symptoms started to improve significantly.


Freeing Your Heart Allows For Miracles In Your Life

In summary, according to Five Element Theory, the Heart’s Fire element controls your Lung’s Metal energy and, in contrast, the Heart’s energy is controlled by your Kidney’s Water energy.

Through an imbalance of these two relationships, depression can develop along with anxiety which is a common pattern found clinically with depressed individuals.

As we’ve seen throughout this series on depression, there are multiple issues to be addressed to overcome a chronic pattern of depression. Once a condition has become chronic, we know there is likely a pattern of emotional stagnation that is being held within the blood.

Detoxifying the blood system is therefore essential to release the burden of old emotional wounds and traumas.

Chinese Medicine is designed to specifically address this process of cleansing the blood to free up your Heart which in terms of Chinese philosophy can allow a deeper level of self-love to blossom, a greater sense of unconditional love for others and for miracles to occur in your life through the opening of your powerful, magical Heart Qi.


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.

The Upside to Feeling Down: The Wood Element & Depression (Part 4)

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

When evaluating chronic depression, it’s important to assess the status of the Liver system which relates to the Wood element in Five Element Theory.

The Liver is considered “The General” in Chinese Medicine as it’s said to control the “coursing” of Qi throughout the body. I like to call it the “Great Conductor” because a smooth functioning Liver system conducts a smooth flow of Qi throughout the body.

Just as trees grow upward toward the sky, in the body, the Wood energy, or Qi, of the Liver ascends and protects us from feeling vulnerable in our lives.

The ascension of the Liver Qi moves blood into the face and head to support the sensory organs and maintain the health of the brain.

If the Liver does not properly circulate Qi, psychological symptoms including frustration, irritability, anger, anxiety, and depression can arise.

As the General, the Liver organ coordinates many functions within the body including detoxification as well as blood storage. The blood reserve within the Liver provides nourishment specifically to the eyes, brain, nails, hair and the tendons to allow for strength in the lower back and the four limbs.

The Liver’s many responsibilities can easily become disrupted by a multitude of stressors that can lead to stagnation within this organ. Liver toxicity is the main culprit for poor liver function. Toxins can come from chemicals used in the farming of food, as well as in the creation of processed foods and pharmaceutical medications, and simply through the air we breathe and water we drink.

Chinese Medicine also recognizes that endogenous chemicals released within the body during periods of mental-emotional stress can lead to toxicity in the Liver, and stagnate the Liver Qi.

Just as trees grow upward toward the sky, in the body the Wood energy, or Qi, of the Liver also ascends. (From our trip to Sequoia National Park, 2017)

Just as trees grow upward toward the sky, in the body the Wood energy, or Qi, of the Liver also ascends. (From our trip to Sequoia National Park, 2017)

Liver Qi Stagnation Generates Heat

As Qi flow becomes stagnant within the Liver due to any type of stress, conditions of pain and excessive heat begin to develop.

Since the nature of heat is to spread, heat can move anywhere throughout the body and contribute to systemic inflammation.

Through its infinite wisdom, the body will attempt to vent this heat out of the system by transferring it into the more external aspects of the body’s energetic systems—the Stomach, Gall Bladder and Urinary Bladder Meridians—making these systems especially vulnerable to inflammation due to Liver Qi stagnation.

Furthermore, the more inflamed our mental and emotional states become, the more internal heat is generated within the Liver and this heat over time will exhaust the body’s Qi and dry up the Blood.

The resulting exhaustion of Qi and Blood combined with excessive internal heat can impact brain function and become an underlying condition that leads to anxiety and chronic depression.

The Liver Can Insult the Lungs

Stagnant Liver function can burden the Lungs and cause shortness of breath. Since the Lungs relate to sadness, grief and depression, as the Lungs get suppressed with Liver stress, the propensity for depression increases.

Since Qi is an aspect of one’s vitality, if Qi is suppressed and weakened, this will be reflected in one’s emotional state as well.

A person who’s depressed will often reach for substances such as coffee and cigarettes for stimulation, or marijuana, CBD products and alcohol to numb out and avoid feeling so bad inside.

Craving these types of substances can also be a sign that the body is trying to relax the Liver Qi stagnation.

However, while the use of drugs to manage one’s depressed state can offer short-term relief, it contributes to toxic congestion of the liver, which further weakens the Lungs, inducing a greater state of depression in body and mind.

You can read more about how to use Essential Oils for dealing with symptoms of depression relating to the condition of the Liver insulting the function of your Lungs here.

Liver Qi Stagnation Can Lead to Liver Blood Stagnation

Just as warming up blood causes thickening and coagulation, long term Qi stagnation with the accumulation of heat may create blood stagnation within the Liver and make the condition of depression more intractable.

Additionally, as the heat consumes the body’s Qi, internal cold can develop.

Very chronic conditions of depression will commonly present with Liver Blood stagnation with an underlying internal cold pattern, often from the use of pharmaceutical medications.

Medications used to manage anxiety and depression can easily lead to Liver Blood stagnation due to Cold since the nature of these medications tends to be cooling and their side effects often result in stagnation of Liver Qi flow.

Generally, the longer you depend on these types of drugs to manage your depression, the more difficult it will be resolve.

It’s also common for the side effects of long-term substance use, including marijuana, alcohol and other types of prescription medications such as anti-inflammatory and statin drugs to create Liver Blood stagnation.

Statin drugs prescribed for lowering elevated cholesterol levels have a particularly profound impact on brain function.

As these drugs reduce cholesterol production in the liver, they also reduce cholesterol production in the brain, which is necessary for healthy neuron function. It is my suspicion that statin drugs may be a major reason why we see a trend of dementia developing at relatively young ages the past couple of decades.

Cholesterol makes up a large part of the myelin sheath that protects the brain’s nerve cells, called neurons, and it’s the myelin that conducts the electrical activity of the brain. Therefore, reduced levels of brain cholesterol from the use of statins can compromise brain function and contribute to conditions of depression.

What You Can Do to Balance Your Liver Energy

Keeping the Liver function healthy is imperative to prevent and resolve depression.

A major way to support your liver function is to find alternative ways to manage your inflammation, pain and cholesterol levels without the use of harsh pharmaceutical medications. Chinese Medicine offers solutions through the use of Acupuncture and herbal medicine.

From a psychological perspective, Wood energy needs to be balanced for healthy Liver function and since Wood energy ascends, you can support this energy by being more active and adventurous in your life.

Activities such as taking on leadership roles, exercising and especially playing competitive sports will help ascend and support your Wood energy.

For those of you who are overly active and competitive, it may instead be necessary to settle down your Wood energy by calming your nervous system to relax your Liver Qi. If you feel you’re taking on too much in life, try to step back, meditate and make time to go within yourself to quiet your mind and settle your elevated cortisol levels.

Also, create time to have fun and do more creative activities to counter the stress that may be overheating your Wood energy.

Fun is adaptogenic and bio-regulates your body and mind, so it’s good for all conditions.

The Liver also sets the rhythms in your life, so be on time and maintain a regular rhythm with your daily schedule. Getting more organized in general will use the energy of your Metal element to manage and control your Wood energy.

As you begin implementing these ideas you can, day by day, support a healthy flow of Qi through your Liver and throughout your life, thereby reducing patterns of frustration, irritability and depression.


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.

The Upside to Feeling Down: The Water Element and Depression (Part 3)

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

What Western medicine calls a state of depression, Chinese Medicine often describes as a lack of Willpower, called Zhi, which is a virtue of the Water Element and its primary organ system, the Kidneys.

In Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys are associated with the adrenal glands and the reproductive organs, and considered the fundamental source of energy for metabolic function of all other organ systems as well as the primary system for regeneration.

For these reasons, the Kidney’s energy is called the Life Gate Fire—the body’s core Yang Qi that protects your life. 

Your Kidney Yang Qi also gives you the Willpower to follow your dreams and take action in your life, so if you’re lacking drive and motivation, your Kidney Qi may need a kickstart.

Your essence, known as Jing, is stored in the Kidneys and functions like oil in your lamp of life-force. Since we’re all born with a finite amount of this fuel, Daoist longevity cultivation practices work to preserve Essence through meditation, lifestyle and Qi Gong practice.

As you live life, your Essence transforms into Kidney Yang Qi to fuel your every thought and action. So if you feel your lacking physical power or mental stamina, your Kidney Yang Qi needs to be warmed up and stimulated.

In Western medical terms, this is similar to restoring your adrenal and thyroid functions. Adequate rest for recuperation is also necessary to recover your energy. With states of depression, however, excessive resting due to lethargy is often the problem and not the solution. Overcoming depression needs a nice blend of rest and stimulation.

The Relationship Between the Lungs & the Kidneys

In Five Element theory, Lung Qi, or energy, is the spark that ignites the fire of the Kidney Yang Qi.

In Chinese Medicine, the Lungs are said to ‘govern Qi’, drawing this Qi energy into the body via the breath and descending it for the Kidneys to grasp. In this way, the Kidneys as the child receive energy from their mother, the Lungs.

In other words, oxygen received through inhalation (Lungs) helps provide an external energy source for the Kidney’s energy.

This is why deep, slow breathing is an important aspect of Qi Gong practices.

If Lung Qi becomes weakened from prolonged emotional states of sadness, grief, depression or from other factors such as a lack of exercise or a diet that is too damp or cold (e.g. daily smoothies), over time the Kidneys can become weakened as well.

Lack of internal core energy within the Kidneys leads to coldness within the body and the nature of cold is to slow things down, so circulation and metabolism slows down as well.

Kidney Yang Qi Energy & the Wei (Defensive) Qi

The Kidney energy center is located in the lower abdomen between the navel and pubic bone. This is why the elderly in many Asian cultures keep their bellies wrapped to keep this region of the body warm to help preserve their life energy.

Cold by nature settles downward, unlike heat which rises. Cold therefore inhibits circulation upward into the brain so symptoms of mental sluggishness tend to develop from a decline in brain function and one’s mental faculties.

Internal cold slows and depresses adrenal function, leading to fatigue and lethargy. And since the energy of the Kidneys resides in the lower aspect of the torso, lumbar stiffness and lower back pain are associated with coldness in the Kidneys as well.

Your Kidney Yang Qi supports your body’s defensive Qi, called Wei Qi, which relates to the thyroid functions. As cold impairs Yang Qi transformation into Wei Qi, a whole chain of metabolic disruption develops including lowered immunity, weight gain, and even possible food sensitivities and bowel irregularities such as diarrhea or constipation.

This may also lead to greater sensitivity to cold environments or feeling cold inside, especially in the feet and lower legs. This is also why Kidney Yang Qi weakness is associated with knee joint weakness, stiffness and pain.

The use of a warming treatment called moxibustion is an integral form of treatment in Chinese Medicine when cold has developed internally. Moxibustion is the performed by burning the dried herb of the Artemisia plant (Mugwort) over special points to stimulate warmth inside the body.

You can learn more about warming the Kidney’s Yang Qi in the section “The Yin Water Type Person” of this article.

Other Factors that Weaken Kidney Yang Qi

The Kidney system relates to your constitutional Jing, or Essence, and everyone is born with a different constitutional Kidney status. Also, the way you treat your body over time can weaken the Kidney Yang Qi.

Conditions including Down Syndrome involve severe Kidney weakness causing underdevelopment of the brain. Patients with Down Syndrome can benefit greatly from Chinese Medicine through warming the Kidney Yang Qi to arouse the energy to more efficiently move upward through the spinal cord and into the brain.

Overuse of stimulants including caffeine can cause exhaustion of the adrenal glands as it strongly disperses Yang Qi and leads to coldness within the body. This is why young people who consume a lot of caffeine are prone to cold signs and symptoms.

Women are particular susceptible to accumulating internal cold because the Lower Chamber of a woman is hollow and open to the environment so cold can enter directly into the uterus causing the Kidneys to weaken. This is why Chinese Medicine discourages swimming during the time of menstruation.

In clinic, I’ve seen young women in their 20s suffering from severe coldness because they work and go to college at the same time or college athletes who endure long days training and studying.

How Stimulating Yang Qi Can Bring You Back to Life

Some years ago I was providing care for a close relative who had surgery and radiation on his brain due to an aggressive cancerous tumor called Glioblastoma. At one point he slipped into a coma which was later found to be due to an insufficiency of sodium, likely from a very low sodium diet and weakness in maintaining electrolyte balance in his brain.

I visited him in ICU on the second day of his comatose state. Knowing there are acupuncture points on the tips of the fingers and toes which stimulate Yang Qi into the brain, I began to squeeze each finger and toe tip with my fingernails.

I squeezed relatively hard to agitate the area with pressure from my fingernails. As I began to make a second pass and was stimulating his right hand, he suddenly awoke out of the coma and was cussing a blue streak. He was agitated that I was hurting his fingers. Not too concerned about his discomfort, I was more astonished how he suddenly became conscious with this simple technique.

After coming out of the coma, we noticed his right arm was paralyzed. I went back to my clinic and made up a strong essential oil formula using very spicy and warming oils to stimulate the brain and therefore his Yang Qi. It was a formula created to ‘open the portals,’ which means to activate the brain’s sensory organs.

Upon returning to the hospital that morning I applied the oil blend to each of his fingers and toes. By that afternoon he was fully using his right arm to feed himself. I was once again amazed at the power of Chinese Medicine and will never forget how truly unbelievable this experience was to behold.

I share this story to illustrate that if stimulating Yang Qi can take a person out of coma so quickly, it can help you recover from your depression, too.

Cold is the internal pathogenic factor that can suppress the light of your Spirit and the warmth of your heart. It is therefore essential to support and stimulate your body’s Yang Qi by warming the internal energy in order to overcome depression.

If you’ve been depressed for a prolonged period, as the Kidney gets colder and colder, you can become frozen with helplessness and hopelessness. In these cases, it is essential to keep in mind that each individual is different and the longer a problem has been around, the longer it may take to return yourself back to a more normal state. So be patient and get professional support to begin this recovery of your Kidney Yang Qi.

Considering there is nothing more valuable than your health, stay confident that with perseverance you can regain that feeling of warmth in your life again and achieve the state of well-being that your heart longs for and desires.


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.

The Upside to Feeling Down: The Metal Element & Depression (Part 2 of 6)

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

As we begin the exploration into some of the many underlying factors of depression, it’s critical to understand that Chinese Medicine is based on treating the individual to resolve a state of dis-ease. It is not about treating the disease itself. 

In other words, for Chinese Medicine to be most effective, it’s essential to evaluate each individual to tailor a treatment plan that matches his or her specific needs rather than rely on generalized established protocols that have been created to treat a specific disease condition. Only when a treatment plan is tailored to a patient’s specific needs can you expect to achieve optimal results. 

A Five Element Perspective on Depression

Cycles of depression can last months to many years, especially if there is a hereditary disposition. This Five Element Model will provide a comprehensive perspective on the primary factors that need consideration to restore health from debilitating periods of depression.

The five primary organs associated with each of the Five Elements are the Lungs (Metal), the Kidneys (Water), the Liver (Wood), the Heart (Fire) and the Spleen (Earth).

Through the assessment of these systems we can gain important insight on how imbalances in these organs are involved in depression and create strategies to restore mind-body harmony to overcome the challenges of chronic depression and its many related symptoms. 

My Recent Challenge with Depression

Depression can be insidious, zapping your zest for life little by little until you finally realize you’re depressed. This experience culminated for me at the end of last year with a feeling of emptiness that simply seemed to take my spirit away.

For about four months I would wake up periodically in the morning feeling irritable, lacking inspiration or motivation, with tightness in my chest and shortness of breath. My symptoms worsened after the holidays and then I slipped into four days of fever with the flu in late January after returning from Bali. These four days in bed were more emotionally than physically challenging as my spirit delved into what some describe as the dark night of the soul with severe despondency.

As I rested and took herbs to recover my Lungs, day by day my energy increased and my spirit lifted. My inner drive and inspiration started to reveal themselves again and I began to feel better than I had in the previous six months.

In hindsight, a chronic virus had been latent in my system, taxing my immunity and weakening my Lung Qi. It wasn’t until I got low enough for this virus to surface and get burned out of my system through the fever that my health became revitalized and I felt a renewed enthusiasm for life.

I present my story to show how conditions like depression have many causative factors. Was it just the virus or was my immune system depressed from something I was going through emotionally that allowed this virus to take root and depress my immunity?

We don’t always need to know the exact causative factor, but if we follow the signs of the body to restore balance to its energy systems, we can be confident that we can improve our psycho-emotional state as well.

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The Metal Element: The Lungs and Depression 

Since the Lungs relate to the emotions of sadness and grief, it’s essential to assess the status of the Lung Qi, or energy to evaluate depression.

Lung energy is most vulnerable during the Fall season, therefore, the Lungs are more prone to be in a state of weakness during this time, which allows for conditions such as depression to more likely occur during the Autumn months. This is especially likely for those who are sensitive to reduced sunlight from Autumn through Winter in the far northern hemisphere where light becomes very limited during this time.

Lack of light exposure makes many Individuals susceptible to SAD syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and the greater a person has Lung weakness according to Chinese Medicine, the greater their sensitivity to this pattern will be. Because of SAD’s relationship to the seasons of Autumn and Winter, it is crucial to support the Lung Qi as well as the Kidney Qi which relates to Winter. Optimally, it’s best to start strengthening these systems a few months prior to the season when the problem begins to occur.

A simple food remedy is Cod Liver oil, a concentrated source of vitamin A and D essential for supporting the Lung Qi to boost immunity and strengthen lung function overall.

Cod Liver oil is also a concentrated source of the Omega fats DHA and EPA which support brain neurological function. The brain is an extension of the Kidney Essence in Chinese Medicine and these Omega fats in Cod Liver oil have been found to be beneficial for depression, making this a super food for reducing depression and its related symptoms, insomnia and anxiety, as well.

The energy of the Lungs can be suppressed or weakened through any life circumstance that creates prolonged sadness or grief. In this scenario, herbal tonics such as Cordyceps, Ginseng and Astragalus can be used to boost both the Qi energy of the Lungs and Kidneys to increase vitality and enhance overall mood and mental disposition.

These tonic herbs in particular are MAO inhibitors so they can help reduce depression by mitigating the action of monoamine oxidase, an enzyme in the brain that breaks down the mood enhancing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.

Caution however must be used with the use of these herbal tonics if you are using any medication that it is also an MAO inhibitor. Therefore, please inform your doctor before introducing any herbal substances into your nutritional regimen. Furthermore, Qi tonic herbs are generally warming in nature so you need to know if your body has too much internal heat to avoid exacerbating inflammation.

The Earth Element is the Mother of Metal

Earth energy is about digestion and therefore the health of the digestive system will have a substantial bearing on the function of the Lungs and any type of depression.

The Spleen (which also relates to the Pancreas) and Stomach are the Earth organs and control the transformation of food into energy and raw materials to rebuild the body.

If the function of the Earth organs is compromised or weakened in any way, then the body’s ability to transform is compromised and dampness will accumulate in the gastrointestinal system.

Dampness is a fungal terrain and fungus loves moist environments. As damp fungal terrain accumulates in the gut it can get pushed up into the lungs and into the sinus cavities leading to conditions such as chronic sinus congestion, snoring, allergies and ear conditions including excessive ear wax, pressure in the ears and ear infections. As the fungus migrates into the brain, it can lead to foggy thinking and more severe conditions such as dementia and even brain tumors.

The major factor that can weaken digestive function is consumption of food that is too damp. This can include excessive consumption of grains, especially refined/processed carbohydrates, sugar (including sweet tropical fruit), dairy, nuts, and fried/greasy foods.

Eating habits will also weaken the power of digestion such as eating while distracted such as when watching TV, reading, driving, or eating during a business meeting.

If the nervous system is activated to process information outside of eating, then the power to digest will be compromised and distracted from its role of transforming food into energy and raw material. 

Over time, these habits can weaken the Spleen energy and lead to a systemic deficiency of Qi throughout the body. 

Herbs to consider to support this relationship between the Spleen and the Lungs are substances that nurture digestion.

Cooking spices and digestive enzymes can be important to stimulate digestion. Hydrochloric acid may be necessary to support the digestion of protein, especially if the Stomach is weak.

Chinese Medicine uses sprouts and in some digestive enzyme blends you’ll find the use of Aspergillus oryzae, a type of probiotic fungus used to produce the enzyme amylase, to help the body break down the starches in carbohydrates.

Radish and radish seeds in herbal formulas (called Lai Fu Zi) help break down excessive dampness in the digestive tract and if this dampness has created a lot of mucous in the lungs then white mustard seed (called Bai Jie Zi) is used to break up phlegm and help reduce coughing and sputum. Both of these herbs aid in the digestion of fats.

Excessive dampness and fungus is usually present in the body when there is a very swollen tongue or thick coating on the surface of the tongue, making digestive support imperative for healing on any level in these cases.

As you can see, to support the health of the Lung’s energy, it is crucial to work with diet and eating habits so the digestive system can be a good mother for its child, the Lungs.

The Virtue of the Lungs - Forgiveness

Since the Lungs breathe in oxygen, which supports life, and release carbon dioxide through exhalation, the Lungs reflect our ability to receive life and let go of life through our breath.

If you find this basic respiratory function of the lungs is restricted, it may be necessary to release tightness in your body that may be inhibiting proper breathing. This can often be resolved through Acupuncture and Cupping as well as other forms of bodywork and physical therapy. The primary areas of the body that need to be released to support proper lung function are the Five Ancestral Sinews. (You can learn more in this article)

Freeing up the lungs on a physical level allows for the freeing up of the psycho-emotional aspect as well which involves the Lung’s ability to let go.

Letting go relates to your ability to release trauma, guilt, resentment, and anything that keeps your heart from opening. This metaphorical aspect of the Lungs’ function to let go is achieved through its virtue of forgiveness and forgiveness is experienced when we can let go of our judgements.

So ultimately forgiveness requires letting go of the very nature of what it means to be a Metal (Lung) type person which is to be very judgmental. (To learn more about a Metal type personality and Essential Oils for the lungs go here).

Just as we have control over our lungs to inhale and exhale, it is through our own choice and volition that we can allow ourselves to let go of our judgements to experience forgiveness. And through this process, as our Taoist and Classical Chinese Medicine teacher Dr. Jeffrey Yuen suggests, “we can achieve an inner cleansing and find redemption in our lives”.

Moreover, as you unburden your Lungs through forgiveness and less judgement of yourself and others, you will more easily breathe in life and experience the vitality that comes with being emotionally free.

It is then that one can move beyond depression and know what it means to have a peaceful heart.


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.

The Upside to Feeling Down: A Chinese Medicine Perspective on Depression (Part 1 of 6)

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

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your joyful, optimistic personality? Or perhaps you’ve been dealing with fatigue or insomnia, and just lacking motivation or feeling apathetic. If you can relate to any of these feelings, it’s likely you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing a state of depression.

Fortunately, Chinese Medicine can provide an understanding of the root causes of depression and empower you to bring motivation and joy back into your life.

What May Be Causing Your Depression

Depression has many causes. Some cases are purely from physical depletion as in postpartum depression. Other forms of depression can be from a longterm overwork and sustained stress that leads to physical and mental exhaustion.

Cyclical hormonal changes that come with aging, including menopause in women and andropause in men, can also lead to depression. This form of depression is related to exhaustion of the Kidney’s Essence, known as Jing.

Giving birth, working, raising a child, sustained stress of life, lack of proper sleep for recovery, and constitutional depletion as a result of the aging process, are some of the leading factors that can cause depression.

It’s no wonder that some statistics show that one in six individuals will suffer from depression at some point in their life and taking anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medications seem to be a standard part of the American diet. And many become dependent on these medications just trying to get through each day.

Chronic stress, depression and anxiety can lead to dependency on other substances as well. Some people become addicted to mood altering substances such as marijuana, CBD or cocaine to offset feeling down. Today there is a rise in the use of methamphetamines (known as Speed) to offset chronic depression. Alcohol, even though it is a depressant, is a popular drug of choice to numb difficult feelings. Caffeine is another common addictive substance, particularly among young adults looking to cope with the unhealthy stresses they face each day.

With educational demands on children and young adults so much greater than in years past, it’s easy to see why so many are suffering from depression and nervous disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Though the use of mood altering drugs may be suitable for short-term support when feeling acutely out of sorts, long term dependency on these substances can cause major problems. Both prescription or over-the-counter drugs can be useful to suppress symptoms but won’t lead to longterm resolution of the depression. Furthermore, on a physical level, drugs create toxic residues which stagnate the circulation of blood throughout the body—especially in the main organ of detoxification, the liver.

According to Chinese Medicine, the more stagnant your blood is, the more you’ll be stuck in your emotional traumas. A key indication of blood stagnation can be seen by observing the underside of the tongue. If the two bilateral veins are dark, there is blood stagnation in the body and we can assume there are stagnant emotional issues as well.

It’s therefore clear that using drugs to suppress the symptoms of anxiety and depression does not allow for the resolution of your emotional issues.

According to Chinese Medicine, to resolve the root of your emotional disturbances, you must cleanse your blood in order to release the deep withheld traumas in your body .

Furthermore, according to Chinese Medicine, suppressive substances such as marijuana, CBD or the prescription anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drugs, lead to the development of Cold inside the body. This Cold energy impairs the warming, vitalizing power of the internal Kidney Yang energy therefore keeping you feeling stuck.

Over time, because of this taxation on the inner power source of the Kidneys, it’s not uncommon that greater dependence on these suppressive substances eventually leads to the loss of willpower to overcome difficult circumstances and worst of all can lead to the loss of hope.


This Can Help

The good news is that Chinese Medicine offers solutions to offset the side effects of mood-altering substances and revitalize the core energy to restore your zest for life.

Chinese Medicine offers a comprehensive approach to address the multitude of factors underlying chronic depression and anxiety.

It can take months of treatment for recovery if a person is severely burned out or has a lot of internal toxicity and blood stagnation. However, everyone is different and I’ve seen older individuals reverse a downward emotional and physical spiral of deep exhaustion, depression and anxiety within a few short months.

Downtime to rest and recuperate is critical and deep restful sleep is fundamental to the process of recovery.

The more time you have to build and consolidate your energy without further burning yourself out with stress and work, the easier it will be to regain a feeling of well being.

The process to reverse this downward cycle of apathy, depression, anxiety and exhaustion can be understood clearly through the lens of Chinese Medicine, in particular the Five Element model.

In Part Two of this series, we’ll explore how the Metal Element and treatment of the Lungs is involved with resolving depression.

Please add your comments and questions in the comments below so we can continue to gain a greater understanding of the development and process of healing depression together.

In the meantime, you can get some extra support by checking out a previous article by Dr. Moafi called Why It’s OK to Not Always Feel OK.


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.

The Best Way to Celebrate Valentine's Day

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

While Valentine's Day represents all of the conventional definitions of love, for some the void of love is even more apparent at this time.

The focus of most Valentine's Day photos, posters and cards is a fantasy-like love.

We’re encouraged to buy gifts and express our love for those most important to us in our lives. And while all of that is important, Valentine’s Day, and love as we’re taught in general, is focused on everything and everyone outside of us.

We rarely see images of the most lasting and authentic form of love—love for oneself.

As best-selling author, professor and speaker Brené Brown points out: "Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each of them -- we can only love others as much as we love ourselves." 

If you’ve explored the world of personal development for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve discovered the importance of self-love. Self-love is undoubtedly THE most significant form of love. (You can learn more in this past article)

Self-love is the source through which all other forms of love grow. The seeds to nurture and grow love must therefore first be planted in the self. 

But what does it mean to love yourself?

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What if you’re going through a challenging time or you’re really struggling with something in your life, like shame, guilt or pain? It’s not that simple to just love yourself in moments like this.

Rather than focus on loving yourself or extending love to others, the way to cultivate self-love—however slowly—is to focus on being kind to yourself and accepting yourself however you are right now.

The best way to begin this practice is to be more present in each moment. The more present you are, the easier it is to be aware of your thoughts as they come and go, and you'll therefore be more able to release negative thoughts before your mind is overtaken by them.

Feel your body and listen to your thoughts by taking as many moments as you can during the day to take deep breaths.

One of my favorite yoga instructors, Erich Schiffmann, taught me to set a timer every hour as a reminder to take a moment to be fully present. In the busyness of modern society, it’s easy to live on autopilot, so it’s essential that we intentionally slow down and practice mindful awareness as often as possible throughout the day.

The simple practice of mindful awareness helps you be more kind and gentle with yourself.

As you practice being kind and accepting of yourself, you'll naturally impart this kindness and acceptance, and therefore love, onto others.

Only in this way—through the gentle cultivation of kindness, acceptance and self-love—can love can be harvested and shared with others.

And if you're fortunate enough to be surrounded by loving, supportive people, recognize this as a reflection of YOU.

As the last month of the Winter season, February is our final call to move inward, to self-cultivate and to plant the seeds from which we can enliven our dreams in the upcoming Spring season—a time of rebirth and renewal.

So this year for Valentine's Day and throughout the month of February, take time to nurture and be kind to yourself. Take time to be with and celebrate yourself. And if you feel like you want more love, again focus on what you need to cultivate within yourself.


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

New Year, New Intentions - How to (Re)set and Achieve Your Goals for the New Year

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

With the month of January already behind us it’s common to feel uneasy about staying on track with your new year's resolutions and goals.

And this is why it’s so important to reset and recalibrate right now.

Winter is the most Yin season of the year and is related to the Water element, which is associated with introspection and cultivation, and is the most important time for rest so that you can build back the energy of the Kidneys.

When the Kidney energy is strong, you’ll feel vital and have the Will, known as Zhi, to carry out your goals and dreams during the upcoming Spring season.

While wintertime is not the time to actualize your dreams, it’s an important time to clarify your intentions and through careful examination and meditation, glean wisdom from the experiences of your past.

Since the holiday season keeps our lives so full, January and February are wonderful months to recommit to our personal desires and clarify our intentions for the new year.

Right now is therefore the ideal time to let go of what’s past and move into the future with clarity and focus.

So grab your cup of tea, a notebook and pen, put on some calming music, and give yourself at least 20 minutes to read through and thoughtfully answer the following questions:

  1. What are 3 things you're most grateful for/proud of from 2018?

  2. What 3 things are you willing to let go of as you begin the new year (i.e. projects, people, feelings, etc.)?

  3. Write 3 specific desires you’d like to manifest in 2019.

20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
— Mark Twain

With best wishes for a magical year ahead!

Love,

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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

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.


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

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.


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

How to Let Go of Uncomfortable Emotions

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

Feeling angry, sad, depressed or disappointed sucks. Especially when you know life is great and don't want to muddle your path with negative emotions.

But every single feeling is part of the beautiful spectrum of human emotion we ALL experience.

The problem is that since the emotions we've been taught not to feel can be uncomfortable or difficult to tolerate, they trigger resistance.

And resisting or suppressing these emotions makes everything a lot harder.

In the two short videos below, you’ll learn about the two organ systems that need to be harmonized to be able to let go of uncomfortable feelings.

You'll learn:
*  that letting go begins with acceptance, and how the harmonious balance of the Liver and Lung Qi is essential for you to cultivate this state in your life
* how excessive stress and poor food choices may be hindering your ability to let go of difficult emotions
* a simple exercise that helps smooth Liver and Lung Qi so you can more easily let go of anything you’re struggling with.

Watch and practice the simple exercise then leave a comment letting me know how you feel. My hope is that you'll start to shift back to your natural state of ease.

You deserve to feel great. But it takes the occasional struggle to fully appreciate what that means.

With love and support on your journey to wellness.
XO,

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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

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.


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

How Your Gut Feeling Relates to Your Gut Health

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

We've all walked away from situations where we wish we'd listened to our 'gut feeling' - that still, small voice that seems to speak from the depths of our solar plexus to give us guidance that always directs us toward our heart's truest desires. At times, the direction we're being pointed may seem illogical, but looking back we realize there was always a reason for this guidance. 

When you struggle to listen to your gut feeling, it’s often because this feeling is being obstructed by excessive processing in the mind as well as the digestive system.

Understanding the connection between the gut that's related to your digestion and the gut feeling that guides you in the most favorable directions in your life is essential to your well being.

 

Digestion According to Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen and Stomach comprise the Earth element which is said to govern the late Summer and all seasonal transitions. This is why it’s important for us to pay attention to and strengthen these digestive organs during times of transition (seasonal or otherwise) in our lives.

According to Chinese Medicine, the Spleen is mostly responsible for the breakdown and transformation of food to produce Qi energy, blood and fluids. It is also the organ that is most likely to accumulate phlegm or dampness from improper food choices and weakness in its transformation function.

Digestion of food can be impeded by stress and too much consumption of damp or phlegm-producing foods such as dairy, sugar, and processed foods. 

The Spleen is also the organ that governs our thinking process and, because of this, it’s the first organ to be affected by overthinking and being obsessive compulsive.

For this reason, it's common for students who are mentally overstimulated for extended periods of time to develop weak Spleen Qi, or energy. Weakness of the Spleen energy will cause a reduction in mental focus and concentration and create a lower level of energy production in general. This can manifest as fatigue.

Fatigue leads students to grab fast foods and sugar for quick energy, but this energy burns fast. In addition, these types of foods can be toxic and create dampness in the Spleen, thereby weakening the digestive system and creating a vicious loop of low energy and poor decision making with food choices. 

Since students tend to be young adults their tolerance is in general higher than older individuals. However, even these young adults will crash over time with physical symptoms ranging from allergies and asthma, to digestive problems and even fibromyalgia that can manifest as a result of severe Spleen weakness causing muscle pain throughout the body.

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 The Spleen and Stomach Digest Thoughts, Ideas, Emotions, and Food

Your digestive system is not just digesting the coffee and scone you ate for breakfast, but also what the woman at the coffee shop said to you this morning or the argument you had with your spouse, or the earful of stressful news you heard at work. 

The busier the mind, the greater the burden on the Spleen to break down the plethora of thoughts and information you are processing throughout the day.

Metaphorically, the Spleen has to transform this information similarly to the way it does food because the Spleen controls your Yi, your Mind. So what you digest either physically or psychologically will impact your state of mind.

Furthermore, your physical state is impacted by your mental state. For example, excessive stress causes the body to produce cortisol, the primary stress hormone, much of which is actually produced in the gut. Increased cortisol levels lead to the proliferation of an unhealthy microbiome in the gut, which can lead to indigestion, fatigue, insomnia, as well as problems relating to your brain and mental function. 

When you eat while you’re in a meeting you’re putting twice the impact on the Spleen as it not only has to process the food that you’re eating but also all the information from the meeting.

Having your energy diverted to your mental processing inhibits sufficient energy to support your digest. Over time this pattern will cause a serious dysfunction in the digestive system and weaken the Spleen energy. This then leads to common complaints such as fatigue, poor digestion, muscle weakness, and generalized body pain since the Spleen also governs the muscles.

The fact that your mental and digestive processes are so connected makes it clear that your gut health will impact your ability to listen to and follow your gut feeling.

The Gut-Brain Axis Helps Us Understand How Emotions Affect Digestion

Modern research on the gut-brain axis (GBA), which refers to the biochemical signaling that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system (CNS), affirms the connection between the mind, emotions and the digestive system.

Both clinical and experimental evidence suggest that enteric microbiota has an important impact on GBA, interacting not only locally with intestinal cells and the enteric nervous system (ENS), but also directly with the central nervous system (CNS).

The vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the body, passes through the neck to the abdomen and interfaces with parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs and digestive tract. Evidence indicates that microbiota communication with the brain involves the vagus nerve, which transmits information from the luminal environment to the central nervous system (CNS). The enteric microbiota is distributed in the human gastrointestinal tract and relative abundance and distribution along the intestine is similar among healthy individuals. This microbial community has important metabolic and physiological functions and contributes to homeostasis.

The constant communication and interplay between the gut and the brain has the potential to influence and intersect with sleep both directly and indirectly. Breus (2016) summarizes some of the ways that might occur:

  • Mood. Disruptions and imbalance of gut microbes have been strongly connected to anxiety and depression. This has potentially significant implications for sleep, as both anxiety and depression can trigger or exacerbate sleep disruptions.

  • Stress. Research is also revealing a complicated, two-way relationship between stress and gut health. Stress is an extremely common obstacle to healthy, sufficient sleep.

  • Hormones. The intestinal microbiome produces and releases many of the same neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, melatonin and GABA, which help to regulate mood, and also help to promote sleep.

In sum, the health of the gut impacts the health of the brain and therefore our ability to process information, manage stress, balance our emotions, and digest and assimilate food.

 

Tuning in to Your Gut Feeling

Since so much of your mental, emotional and food processing occurs in the gut, gut health is essential to your overall health.

A healthy microbiome in the gut supports ease in the digestive process, which supports healthy elimination, and results in clarity of mind.

In the same way, the combination of a well-balanced diet, a clear, calm mind and harmonious emotions support the production of healthy microbiome in the gut to support digestive and overall health.

When your body is healthy and your mind is calm, you have the clarity to hear and listen to the still small voice that always provides you with the least resistant path to achieve your goals and dreams.

Healthy digestion thus allows attunement to your instincts and a closer connection to the guidance that's offered by your gut feeling.


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

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. 

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.


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.

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.

 

You can learn fundamental practices to balance this system in my twice monthly Triple Heater Qi Gong classes. Learn more and register now. I’ll also be sharing elements of this practice in the Yin Yoga Integration Teacher Training.


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.

Is Fire Accelerating Your Aging? A Look at How Heat is Impacting Your Body and Mind

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

With Summer upon us, the energy of the Fire element is quickly heating up.

Fire energy relates to the Heart and cardiovascular system so it's important to know how to protect these systems from excessive Fire. Excessive Fire energy causes inflammation and when chronic or lingering for a long time, can particularly damage areas in which it occurs.

Fire is created not only from the sun's radiation but also via electromagnetic radiation from electronic equipment which most of us are exposed to daily in the form of Wifi signals, electrical power lines throughout our homes, cell phones and a host of other sources. The Fire energy of radiation in any form leads to oxidative stress which creates degeneration on the cellular level.

To be clear, oxidation is a natural part of physiological function. Problems occur when oxidative stress is too great for the body to manage leading to the accelerated breakdown of cellular structures on all levels and thus premature aging.

 

Fire Energy and Pathology

In Chinese Medicine, the primary organ of Fire energy is the Heart which relates to the mind and our desires. 

In today's modern society, mental and visual overstimulation tend to create excess Fire energy in the Heart, which can be at the root of many cases of nervousness and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). With today's common problem of screen addiction, it's not surprising to see more and more children or young adults on medication to manage their ADHD or anxiety.

In addition, since the element of Fire relates to one's desires and passions in life and the emotion of joy, if we are overly driven by these attributes, we may find ourselves with a Heart Fire based emotional problem.

Essentially, any situation that overstimulates the mind or emotions - be it a trauma or too many responsibilities in one's life - may create too much Fire in the Heart and potentially lead to the emotional problems of nervousness, anxiety and in extreme cases mania. These are all indications of Fire out of balance in the body.

Sometimes the Fire energy gets burned out or it can be smothered by an excess of dampness in the body leading to a state called Phlegm Misting the Heart.

In these cases, the person will exhibit a state of indifference and apathy towards life. The weaker the Fire energy in one's life, the more one will tend to be cold, withdrawn and introverted.

On the flip side, the strong Fire type personality is very outgoing and if the Fire energy becomes excessive, it can lead to hyperactivity and even overbearing or obnoxious behavior. This is why some people who have too much Heart Fire can become intense and obnoxious upon drinking too much alcohol or spicy stimulants like coffee.

Stress in general produces Fire in the body and comes in many forms be it physical, emotional or mental. Thus, Fire energy is ubiquitous and a natural part of life. 

What's important for graceful aging is to learn how to manage this powerful energy in your life in order to support a healthy body and mind, and to cultivate feelings of contentment and peace.

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Living Excessively Causes Fire to Flare Up

The body's structure is Yin, which represents substance in the form of skin, flesh, fluids and blood. Yang on the other hand represents function and movement.

Youthfulness is a state of abundant Yin which provides insulation to protect the body from Fire, which is very Yang.

However, as we age, Yin declines and the body becomes more vulnerable to the Fire energy. This appears as drying up of tissues causing wrinkles and other symptoms of dryness.

Any form of inflammation indicates that Yin needs to be supported and Yang Fire needs to be cooled.  

Since function and movement are Yang, one way to prevent excess Fire from building up is to avoid excessive activity, especially during the warmer Summer months.

Young people can better handle activity during the hot weather but as we get older it's important not to overheat ourselves, especially during the warmer parts of the day. It is especially important as we age to not dehydrate ourselves with excessive sweating as well.

Keep in mind, if you are drinking what seems to be sufficient amounts of water but still feel overheated or experiencing signs of dehydration such as a headache or dizziness, try adding some sea salt to your water as the minerals in the sea salt will help you rehydrate quickly.

Another common excess that creates too much Fire is overeating.

Overeating creates oxidative stress on the body especially the overconsumption of 'hot natured' foods like lamb and beef or beverages such as coffee and alcohol.  With this said, Chinese Medicine recommends the decrease consumption of these types of foods during the summer months. Furthermore, sugar creates acid in the body which generates heat. The summer is replete with fresh fruit as it's a way nature provides for hydration during hot weather. Keep in mind, however, that when over consumed, these concentrated sweet foods create damp heat in the body which essentially is a toxic fungal terrain.

Excess Fire burns out your Qi, leading to fatigue.

Oxidative stress damages the mitochondria within the cells. Mitochondria are the cell's powerhouse structures that create energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). As free radicals break down these cellular components, the body's energy production declines.

In Chinese Medicine, we say "heat destroys the Qi" and when we are not producing adequate Qi the body doesn't have sufficient energy to function optimally. Some common signs of Qi Deficiency are lethargy, low immunity, hyper-sensitivity to Wind and Cold, low libido and a weakened digestive system.

 

*Nutritional Supplements Can Help Manage Excessive Fire and Increase Your Energy

Modern nutritional science is making rapid breakthroughs in understanding how to protect and rebuild mitochondria to enhance cellular energy. A number of amino acids have been found for this purpose. 

As suggested previously, when there's too much Yang Fire, we need to support the body with cooling Yin substances. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are considered Yin substances because they build structure. Many amino acids have also been found to have profound effects in reducing the damage of excessive free-radical activity (Yang Fire).

Considered the mother of all antioxidants, glutathione (GSH) is a peptide made of three amino acids. It is so important that cellular levels of GSH are considered a biomarker of longevity. The problem is that glutathione is not effectively absorbed directly through the digestive tract.  However, since it is manufactured in the body, it can be supported with certain food substances, especially those in the cruciferous vegetable family due to their sulfur amino acid content.

N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to GSH and has interestingly been found to help reduce neurocognitive problems such as bio-polar disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), addictions and even schizophrenia.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid is one of the important antioxidants that's been found to increase GSH levels and to be neuroprotective. Alpha-Lipoic Acid has been used successfully to help prevent neurotoxicity induced by chemotherapy which can lead to symptoms such as peripheral neuropathy, possibly by preventing mitochondrial destruction. 

CoQ10, or in its reduced form Ubiquinol, is especially useful in protecting the cardiovascular system from the Fire of oxidative stress, as well as enhancing mitochondrial function to boost Qi (energy) throughout the body, specifically for the heart muscle. 

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a compound formed from the amino acid L-Carnitine. Acetyl-L-Carnitine has been found to cross the blood-brain barrier and protect the brain's neurons against oxidative stress. It also supports mitochondrial function systemically and specifically beneficial for strengthening brain function in terms of memory recall. For this reason, Acetyl-L-Carnitine is one of the important supplements being used to support individuals with Alzheimer's.

Astaxanthin is another wonder antioxidant in terms of supporting healthy aging as it has been found to reduce oxidation of the cardiovascular system including the prevention of LDL from oxidizing which leads to atherosclerosis. Astaxanthin also protects mitochondria from free-radical damage which is likely the reason it is known to increase energy and stamina.

Astaxanthin provides important cosmetic benefits as well. Known for its carotenoid content that create the pink pigmentation in flamingos and salmon, Astaxanthin has been found to support skin health through multiple mechanisms. Astaxanthin has potent anti-inflammatory effects through its suppression of inflammatory cytokines which are created in response to the sun's UV radiation. It also directly benefits skin health by supporting the skin's moisture barrier to reduce skin dehydration and by increasing collagen production.

In fact, Astaxanthin has been found to reduce wrinkles, improve skin elasticity and skin texture as well.

PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone). PQQ is one of my favorite new daily supplements as it can activate genes that promote the formation of new mitochondria for increased cellular energy production. Recent studies have shown that 20 mg per day of PQQ has demonstrated the beneficial effects of increased blood flow in the brain and enhanced cognitive function. Trials showed increased mental function after 3 months of daily supplementation with PQQ with increased blood flow to the right prefrontal cortex of the brain involved in higher level cognitive functions.

PQQ also helps reduce neurotoxicity likely through enhancing blood flow, and protects neurons from damage due to excess sugar in the blood which has been attributed to the creation of the tau proteins and amyloid brain plaques associated with dementia and Alzheimer's.

Vinpocetine is the last antioxidant I want to discuss because of its neurological and vascular protection for the brain and heart. This powerful supplement is popular in Europe and has been found to improve cognitive function as well as short and long term memory by supporting the production of ATP, improving cerebral blood flow and glucose uptake in the brain. Vinpocetine also enhances the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline to stabilize mood, decrease depression and increase the sense of pleasure in ones life.

With these benefits we can ascertain that Vinpocetine is best for cases of depression and mental lethargy when Heart Fire needs to be sparked.

 

Taming Your Fire to Support Graceful Longevity

The last point I want to discuss is about how modern society is based on cultivating too much Fire in our life.

As I mentioned earlier, screen addiction is a big problem for most individuals young and old. The more staring we do at our devices, be it the phone, TV or computer screen, the more the Heart gets over-stimulated.

Furthermore, the more active we live, the more Fire energy builds up in the body. Waking up some days it certainly seems we are part of the human race and this race just never seems to end. That's Fire energy and it is very damaging to our health on all levels.

It's true as it's been said that we should try to return to being a human being rather than a human doing.

I like to look at the idea of longevity in terms of quality over quantity. With that said, ask yourself, "Do I feel a sense of contentment with my life?" This is an important question to ponder. You may have a bucket list that seems endless with things you want to do and experience. However, it may be time in your life to try and cultivate less Fire by moving toward calmness and peacefulness to cool down your inner Fire. Perhaps rather than focusing on checking off all those things you want to experience in life, take time each day to be in gratitude for your life as it is.

A simple exercise you can practice is to write down a list of all things in your life for which you're grateful. Doing this will help you be more present in the moment and thus nourish your Yin, helping you cultivate both inner peace and graceful longevity.

*The information in this article is presented for educational purposes only so please ask your healthcare practitioner for guidance in what supplementation may be best for your specific needs.


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.

How to Allow Yourself to Receive

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

I used to think that to get what I want, I have to strive and work tirelessly. Not until I started to practice Yoga regularly in college did I learn that the opposite is true. The more I practiced, the more I relaxed and the more relaxed I felt the more opportunities came to me. The more I focused on self-cultivation and being still, the less effort I had to make in my pursuits.

In order to receive what we want, we have to let go and be fully present. This means that both the body and mind have to be relaxed, clear and calm. I learned this through both my personal practice and through my training with a number of master Yoga instructors, in particular Erich Schiffmann.

Erich emphasized the power of entering the silence and listening for guidance. The one word I heard repeatedly from Erich was “pause.” He encouraged us to listen inward and taught me that the answer to everything comes in the empty spaces between your thoughts, when your mind is quiet.

Mindfulness-based movement practices such as Yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi release physical tension to prepare the body to sit quietly so you can experience a quiet, empty mind that allows you to be fully present.

Only when you’re fully present can you tune in to receive guidance that will allow into your life anything and everything you’ve ever wanted.

To get to the place where you can receive, you first have to create space by letting go.

As a society of achievers, the challenge for many of us is accepting that only through stillness can we align ourselves with anything and everything we want.

As a society of achievers, the challenge for many of us is accepting that only through stillness can we align ourselves with anything and everything we want.

Receiving by Letting Go  

According to Chinese Medicine, the Lungs govern the circulation of oxygen and Qi, or energy. The more deeply we breathe, the more freely this Qi can circulate throughout the body.

Deep breathing practices including Pranayama strengthen the Lungs. In addition, practices such as Yoga asana and Qi Gong, which coordinate breath with movement, unbind tension in the body thereby allowing the Lung Qi to circulate more freely.

As I've mentioned in previous articles, the Lungs are the primary organs that help us to let go. (You can read more about this here and here). As we inhale, we draw in fresh energy and oxygen. With our exhale we release toxins, as well as thoughts that no longer serve us.

By allowing us to take a deep breath, the Lungs anchor us into the present moment.

The Lungs have an important relationship with the Kidneys. As the Lungs draw in Qi through the breath, the Kidneys grasp this Qi and use it to consolidate the fundamental energy of the body. 

The Lungs also play an important role in harmonizing our emotions through their relationship with the Liver. Whereas the Lungs govern the circulation of Qi, it’s the Liver that ensures the smooth flow of this Qi throughout the body. (Learn more about the Liver/Lung relationship here). Stress of any kind can impede this smooth flow and cause mental agitation and even anger. The simple act of taking a few deep breaths helps open the diaphragm to release stagnation in the Liver meridian and the Liver system as a whole, and thus smoothes the flow of Qi to regulate the emotions.

So, feeling better starts with taking deep breaths. 

When you take a deep breath, you become more present. When you're more present, you feel more in alignment. When you're more in alignment, you're able to receive the messages that guide you to what you truly want. 

 

Tools to Fine Tune Your Ability to Receive

Years ago, Erich Schiffmann taught me to wear a stopwatch and set it so that I’d receive a notification on the hour, every hour as a reminder to pause, to breathe and be more present in that moment. I encourage you to try this powerful practice.

As the days go by and you pause every hour—simply by stopping what you’re doing for a moment to take a deep breath—you’ll start to feel a deep sense of calm seep from those moments into nearly every part of your day.

I've attached the video below as a guide for you to practice ujjayi breathing, a simple technique that profoundly calms the mind. You can practice this form of breathing as you pause throughout the day, before bedtime to help you fall asleep, and even integrate it into your exercise regimen.

Ultimately, your mind more than anything blocks your ability to receive what you truly want.

Have you noticed that oftentimes when you grapple with an issue it just seems to get harder? Then the moment you let it go everything seems to fall into place. That’s because once your mind tunes its frequency away from that issue, away from the struggle and negative thinking, it can receive the guidance to handle that situation.

Only when we turn our focus away from the problem can we allow in the solution.

It’s crucial not just to shift the thoughts you think but also to empty the mind, to fully let go, so you can receive messages or inspiration from a higher source.

Inspiration arises only from a receptive, quiet and undistracted mind. It’s not a coincidence that the word inspiration is related to breathing, as it's rooted in the Latin word inspirare, which means 'to breathe upon' and is also related to the word inspire, which means 'to breathe in.' 

Sometimes inspiration, or what we may call ‘gut feelings,’ aren’t logical. You may be guided to do something even when your mind may be telling you otherwise. 

For example, you go to the grocery store and something tells you to buy extra vegetables. You may ignore this because it logically doesn’t make sense—you’ve picked out enough vegetables for dinner. But this gut feeling always makes sense later. You may go home to find that your daughter has brought her friend over for dinner, and this friend happens to be vegetarian.

As you practice quieting your mind so that you can receive guidance in these small situations, you’ll be more tuned in to receive this guidance for more significant situations, like when to quit the job you hate to pursue your dreams.

The process of quieting your mind to become receptive all begins by taking deeper, fuller breaths. Allow yourself to relax more, do less and just be. Only by being present can you allow in all that you’re meant to receive.

Dr. Setareh Moafi shares the importance of deep breathing for your yoga practice and daily life.


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. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga.