From somewhere in the I Qing comes the advice, “In times of war and strife, the wise sage goes to the mountain.” We retreat to feel our connection with Heaven and Earth. Qi comes from Heaven. Flesh and blood are Earth. Place your hands on your navel to warm your digestive center, swallow saliva, an inner stream, to reach the navel. Inhale, stretch up to Heaven with hands facing each other. Breathe, look up. Enjoy the sunshine and blue sky. Exhale lowering your hands palms down passing in front of your face, lungs, heart, and stomach with the hissing sound “zzzzz.” Exhale downward through the legs into the Earth.
At Academy of Healing Nutrition we experience the benefits of a balanced, broad diet that builds a strong digestion, an adaptable and intelligent immune system and the path to happiness and health. Roger Green lays the foundation of our understanding how foods affect vitality and longevity. His approach offers courage even in harsh times. Inga Bylinkina shares her beautiful self and beautifying tonic elixirs. Nam Singh brings a deep understanding of Daoist values—respect for Nature, the rhythm of the seasons and delicious Chinese recipes. I link together the energetic connections between Chinese medical arts and Ayurveda. Our body, a sacred temple, is informed by Nature: yin nourishes yang and yang protects yin. That is our happy home.
And how do we treat our home? We are drawn to certain colors, shapes in room décor and fragrances. Our home is an extension of our spirit. I once met a nervous lady psychotherapist living on the upper East side of New York a rich neighborhood. Her large apartment’s walls were painted dark red. It warmed the space and she had a ruddy complexion, dry hair and spoke with a tight jaw. She told me that she held family therapy sessions in the room where we sat, including a famous couple and their eleven adopted children. They screamed, cried, and blamed each other during sessions. The red color (Fire Element) brought out passion instead of a calming sky blue (Water) peace of mind. She needed office feng shui.
In times of stress we may mistakenly increase heat in Wood and Fire such as stay up late looking at news, drink alcohol to excess, or eat spicy foods. Stress impacts us like the seasons. That is the basis of addictions linked to Five Element imbalances. We are made up of the Five Elements but one or two predominate in body and mind. We may be more sensitive to weather during that season or more often have symptoms related to that season. We often crave a diet that aggravates those symptoms. The body loves homeostasis even to the point of illness. When we crave our imbalance that is our energy/addiction type. See which of the Five Elements predominates for you by observing your hands in Karma Herbs. How to curb addictions? Here are two examples.
With Fire in excess, we crave bitter (caffeine tea, coffee, cigarettes, strong alcohol, hot spices) which “hardens the pulse.” That means when stress, anxiety, or a tiring work assignment makes us reach for a hot/bitter stimulant, it can derange our heart rhythm. How do you overcome an over-reactive Fire Element? Remember the Control Cycle. Increasing Earth reduces Fire. Soothe nerves with a healthy, moistening sweet. For example, a number of blood tonic Chinese herbs are semi-sweet yin building (moistening herbs) like rehmannia, he shou wu, and fragrant rhodiola (hong jing tian) which is a heart tonic adaptogen.
Earth, in imbalance, troubles digestion, reduces absorption, endangers immunity by reducing white blood cells, can lead to ulcers or bloating, depression, obesity, and sweet cravings. What do depressed people crave? An addiction is a food, whether healthy or not, that we can’t stop eating no matter what the consequences. Milk and cheese are healthy but if rich foods lead to phlegm symptoms, they are harmful because with an addiction enough is never enough. You have to break the cycle with the opposite taste. Sarah, who phoned me while crying in her bed, complained that her mother hated her husband. Sarah was eating ice cream. She craved “mother’s milk.” I advised her to get out of bed, add a pinch of hot, pungent (Metal Element) clove to warm water as a tea. That improved her breathing, courage and outlook.
For help on addictions according to energy type, I wrote Feed Your Tiger based on The Five Elements and an animal form of qigong. Animals are more fun to use and teach than addictions or diets according to blood types.
- Dragons (Water/Fire) are waterlogged and have low immunity. They crave comfort foods which keeps them weak and overweight
- Bears (Earth Element) crave sweets, may develop blood sugar troubles. Their mood swings are honey bear or grizzly bear
- Tigers (Wood) love travel, movement, adventure and spicy foods. They can develop dryness, arthritis, allergies, headaches
- Cranes (Metal) need to nourish lungs and remove poisons and bad memories from the gut. Too often they smoke or work instead of eating properly.
When and How to Eat
Would you talk to your friend if she were asleep? Would you feed your friend if she were asleep? No. There is an vibrational rhythm in the world and in us. The ancient Chinese doctors observed that organs and meridians were more full of Qi during certain hours and they could predict the cause and outcome of illness by observing the time of day or night the discomfort regularly occurred. We have called it the Chinese organ clock or meridian clock. Knowing when a problem occurs is an important aspect of health like choosing curative seasonal foods.
There will be some variation depending on your location on earth and time zones, according to classical feng shui. I have seen organ clocks from Europe that are one hour ahead of New York. Acupuncturists learn the organ clock as below and adapt it to their location and patients’ needs. Chinese medicine evolved as a folk remedies as well as the highly elaborate treatments for Emperors. The Emperor’s physician slept in the palace and came to the royal bed when the Emperor had a cramp at 3AM. We can’t do that but may note that a client who regularly awakens at that time has other heat symptoms such as a red tongue, fast thin pulse, liver pain, agitation, thinning hair, bad breath, and who loves to eat spicy hot foods and drink late at night. The Longevity Diet, which is neither very spicy nor drying, could correct the discomforts.
Here is a short hand schedule based on Daoist/TCM principles. Ayurveda will generally agree with this sort of routine. I will go into more detail on that in my Ayurveda class.
Breakfast: 7 – 9 AM stomach/spleen are awake and ready to digest food. Don’t skip eating if you want consistent energy throughout the day. Complex carbs are healthful slow burning foods: whole grain toast, a cooked cereal adding a healthy oil or fat like coconut oil, butter (ghee of you are lactose intolerant.) A protein like egg, yogurt, or protein substitute or seaweed. A delicious Japanese recipe is made with an egg poacher which is a cup sealed on top to be air-tight. Add 1 tsp. oil to the bottom of the poacher, the raw egg, soy sauce, dried tiny shrimps, a little seaweed and poach the egg in boiling water. Breakfast is an apt time to take water soluble supplements such as B vitamins, vitamin C and other.
Around 10AM the heart is sensitive and open for stimulation, a good time for a tea, deep breathing, a walk in open air and qigong. Chest pains (angina) occur when oxygen is lacking in the heart. Tea is uplifting as a stimulant and because it contains l-theanine to lift mood. PuErh, a red tea, is digestive and helps reduce harmful cholesterol.
Lunch 11 – 1PM: I like pickled vegetables with nearly every meal to support the gut. Miso soup is also great. I found a pale yellow chickpea miso that is outstanding delicious. Have a protein, animal protein or quinoa, tofu, or protein substitute such as lentils, chickpeas, mushrooms. A light grain like rice or bread is Ok. A mixed salad is usually very good unless the person has weak spleen chills, diarrhea, pallor and lacks vitality.
Dinner: 5 – 7PM: a light clear soup, fruits and vegetables. An acupuncture expert Dr. Rong insists, “No heavy eating or drinking after 3PM because the organs of digestion are asleep. No carbs at night and alcohol in the evening damages the yin. Avoid spicy or fried foods, and cold raw foods in the morning.” You will have to play by ear for your clients. If you feel deprived of alcohol, you might enjoy making a digestive herbal tincture using bitter/pungent herbs such as ginger, gentian, dandelion, clove, orange peel etc. steeped for at least 2 weeks in vodka or gin.
Some Chinese doctors recommend a 15 minute nap at 1PM after lunch to support small intestine. According to TCM, the small intestine separates nourishing food from waste. You’d think it might affect our thoughts that way too, but I have known scattered people who nap without good effects. According to Ayurveda, people with slow metabolism (Kapha) gain weight by sleeping during the day. It’s cultural. I had a delightful lunch in Aix en Provence with an acupuncture doctor and his extended family, including ex-spouses, outside under the trees with wine and afterwards everyone went in separate directions for their nap.
The best time to sleep at night, according to the organ clock, is 11PM – 5AM. The organs most active at that time need to be refreshed with blood: They are gallbladder, liver and lungs. We can add the brain which makes memory connections during sleep. Kidney Qi is active or deficient around 5 or 5:30AM. Kidney/adrenals is the foundation of Qi vitality. Weakness when kidneys are supposed to be full of Qi can lead to 5:30AM heart weakness and heart attack or Qi weakness known as “cock’s crow diarrhea.”
It is tough to be calm these days. I had to return to my Ayurveda teachings and ground my Vata with warm cooked foods and spices. To help improve sleep, a suggestion from Dr. Vasant Lad: I rubbed a drop of sesame oil on the top of the head and bottom of the feet. It lengthened the spine. The fragrant oil itself is relaxing. Chinese medicine also helped me. My New York City habits were all wrong for this challenging time–late nights on the internet, a cocktail with a pasta dinner, or (drying) popcorn while watching movies trying to fall asleep, fasting till noon–the opposite of Dr. Rong’s advice. I changed my habits and now rest better.
Lately I have been cooking the Jade Screen herbs in my crockpot. It makes a light, pleasant tea that cools lung inflammation, a major cause of anxiety, while it supports digestion and immunity: astragalus, atractylodes and siler roots. I wrote about them in a previous blog “Longevity in the time of Plague.” I have been learning various forms of fortifying qigong that bring us into our healthy positive center. This blog opened with a qigong movement to clear and strengthen the lungs. I hope you enjoy this time inside as an opportunity for growth during your happy studies at home. They will guide, comfort and protect you.