Tag Archives: growth

Go to the empty places

January is empty for reservoirs. They hold the void. There is no water, wake, or waves. Hardly anyone is there. You’d see them if they were; there’s nowhere to hide.

I tromped around wondering about the emptiness. Which reminded me of the importance of being empty.

My friend recommends going into a room empty. Especially when offering support. Hold the space, but don’t fill it.
Here in this expanse void of water, I fill up on empty. I also feel it. It’s sort of nice to jump into. It radiates something, even if it looks barren and not promising at first glance.

January is not the same as July. No fishing, paddling, skiing, or swimming is happening. It’s a forced stop of action, or yang. The reservoir is taking a break, restoring its yin. And by being here now, I follow. I move in step with January. This is what’s happening.

What is there to do? Visit it. See it in its current state.  Without. This leads to about one thing- walking around and observing what is contained in the emptiness.

Things seen were old shoes,  wood, grasses, rocks, tires, beer bottles, plastic bags. Mud.

What to do when something doesn’t float our boat? Out of water? It does not fill any expectations.

When the water is low, or mostly gone, we can see the bottom. It’s a good reference point.  What I like about this connection is it feels closer to the Dao. The ancient advice went something like, “be low, like water. Be close to the lowest points.” Walking a more humble and quiet route was encouraged, nothing much about running up mountains, pumping your fists. Instead flow like water, adapt to whatever shape you encounter.  Just my loose interpretation.

The bits of wood gathered around the edges are connected to the earth this time of year. They lie there exposed. They are not covered by the muffle of water. There is no light and liquid creating beautiful illusions to mesh with. Most will float up again in a few months and ride the water and watch the sky.

What I like about the seasons is it’s not about me. It’s about everything. The status and state of everything, of which I am just passing through. I can appreciate it or I can complain about it. It’s a choice.

 

Be the tree, strong and flexible: spring is in the air.

Wood is the element of spring. What are the conditions of spring and how do we notice, align, and incorporate with this season? This blog churns up a few notions about Chinese medicine from an elemental/seasonal perspective.

This is the time!

We are all of this earth, so we have earthy elements. Studying the elements is a way to integrate with nature. It’s a way to channel the current element, thus align and sync with the season.

Spring sun warms the shell to bring forth movement

Each season gives us a chance to notice where we are, how we are moving, where we are going, and generally what is going on. What is our place?

A long time ago, in China, they talked of wood and fierce growth. It quickly got a little more detailed.
To see the elements of spring through the lens of this theory, look at the list below.

The featured organ of spring is the liver.
season: spring
direction: up
planet: jupiter
weather: windy
direction: east
sense: vision
flavor: sour
secretion: tears
orifice: eyes
tissues: ligaments and tissues
color: green
wild animal: tiger
instrument: compass (direction)

Buttercups! A free spring flower!

pathology of this time of year:
pain in chest or sides of chest
redness, swelling of eyes
depression, anger
muscle/tendon inflexibility
irregular menses
vertigo

Personality of wood:
We have the wood element in us all year long, some more than others. Strong wood personalities are often leaders, people who get things done.

Fallen limbs from winter ice storm transform into feeding structure for hungry spring birds

Like all the elements, it helps when wood is in balance. If out of balance, it can lead to extremes on either end. Too much wood: argumentative, short tempered, overbearing, inflexible. Too little wood: lack of drive, direction, vision, and hope.

Time to look at new flight patterns

People who lack woodiness are looking for a plan, structure and vision for them to feel the strength and flexibility inwardly, to then manifest outwardly. They need to harness direction and movement forward.

Those with too much woodiness, can be overly controlling and pushy; therefore, could use softening, flexibility, and a willingness to not demand so much control.

Imagine we are all trees. Different trees, tall, short, bushy, bare, smooth, rough. Our human bodies and tree bodies are blended in this season, and one message is: be strong, yet flexible. Allow your branches to bend. Bending is favored over breaking. Try not to snap.

Trees and humans are both seen as connecting heaven and earth, dirt to sky. Branches and limbs are like tendons and sinews. We want to have a good supply and flow of sap, like healthy trees. This goes for emotions too. We can see and touch rigid sore muscles, but what about rigid attitudes? Short tempers? This makes for a dry and brittle personality that turns to fiery anger quickly (extreme anger is called “liver fire”).

In school, we were taught that it is best to be moveable, changeable, bendable. How do you balance growth, or try new things, while also maintaining a way of creative adaptability- to thrive more readily with what is. For us trees and people, we need unobstructed fluid/sap circulation, bendy limbs, flexible attitudes, and branches that let the air and light flow through.

Try to encourage supple muscles/ supple mind.

This is an active season. Growth! It is not a passive or reflective time of year.

Questions and tips of this season

  1. what makes me feel alive?
  2. what can I do to be a more fully alive person?
  3. Am I moving my body enough? It’s time to move and disperse stagnation.
  4. If you feel you are off-track somehow, it’s time to get back on. Don’t worry too much about mistakes, just try things and move on.
  5. Stretch your tendons and sinews. Move stagnation, yet remain stable.
  6. Organize and restructure routes or habits that are inefficient, or no longer effective.
  7. Grow toward the light. Follow light like plants do. Be aware of your direction.
    * List from Thea Elijah, LAc., from her wood integration series.

Spring is the season of birth and growth…. it also has its share of death and decay. Yet, in spring, grief and fear are overtaken by the sheer force of optimism and vitality.

It’s a great time to make massage oil with spring elements to soothe tendons and sinews. Soften the limbs, relax the attitude.

Mood boost massage oil:
Base: sunflower oil
Add: bergamot, lemon, and orange essential oils. Amount added depends on amount of oil. If it’s 8 0z., I’d recommend 10-20 drops of each. Experiment. Start small if you don’t like a strong smell.

Balance massage oil
Base: sunflower oil
Add: orange, patchouli, and ginger essential oils.

I chose sunflower oil as the base, but you can choose something else. I love sunflowers, their booming vitality, color, and sunniness. They provide beauty, pollination for bees, and fuel for birds. Sunflower oil is also rich in vitamins A, D, and E.

In conclusion, I’m told that horses do these three things the most in the spring: buck, fart, and roll, sometimes as a sequence. Go for it!

References:
J.R. Worsley, Classical Five-Element Acupuncture
Thea Elijah, LAc.

Tend your life

The fuzzy gray blooms are called catkins.

It’s pussy willow season, did you know that? I’ve been out the last two evenings collecting gorgeous bundles along a nearby creek. I like harvesting them because you have to notice them, time it, pay attention. It feels old and sweet and real. While slogging around in my rubber boots tonight, I noticed two hawks, several ducks, very crisp air, and two guys smoking pot, also next to the creek.

I’ve been thinking about the importance of tending one’s life. The last post was about living with inspiration, living with passion.
Where does it come from?

I think it comes from tending. Tending what? What you love or like; what calls to you.

Fermentation brings forth the goods

I tend a garden. I didn’t start out a gardener. The head gardener was my mom. It took years before I actually felt compelled to create my own garden. Now it is my grounding, my tether to the earth and seasons. It is my balm when pleased or not pleased with events around me. It is not necessarily a passion, but more of an inspiration, a reason to be present. For me, gardening helps me simplify my intent, and clear the path for other thoughts or feelings to come up.

Poet Mary Oliver says: attention is the beginning of devotion.

I once dug in the dirt every day for weeks and it was neither passionate or inspiring, but it settled me down, put me in a more pliable mood. It caused me to be more open to input, and more willing to dispose of unnecessary burden.

Tending just takes interest, focus, and care. You have to notice what you are tending. Does it need water? Food? Protection? Care? Love?  This is beyond plants, now we are talking mammals. I think we learn to care, and even to love by tending.

Tending flat-out leads to more tenderness.

To get to passion and inspiration you have to start somewhere, with something or someone. Maybe it’s a lover or a loved one. Or it could be painting, singing, swimming, cooking, animals, hiking, reading, writing, paddling ….. O.k., those are my things. Find your own things. And then, here’s the big thing: MAKE TIME FOR IT. Whether a hobby or a person, make the time. Ultimately you’re investing in yourself, your own heart.

Tending to what calls to you makes you more alive and more aware. Rumi put it best, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”

Tend, as a verb, means to stretch, extend. It became a word around 1300-50. It means to attend by action and care. Another example used it in a different way, as in, “the particles tend to unite.” I’ve got it: I wish to unite my particles to attend to my life and those in it with action and care. It is one way to find purpose and direction to recognize and awaken the passion within.

Recently, at a Quaker garden work party, we shape shifted dirt into new raised beds. We wanted them to be level and true. Have you stood in wood chips and mud and known for a fact if your surroundings were plumb and level? What is true? Brian brought out two glasses of water, which were set on opposite sides of the frames. This was illuminating! We were all wrong as to what actually lined up with the laws of nature.

The water levels in the glasses led us to what was true. I think tending helps us to find our own truth, our own nature. Finding threads to personal truth is exciting. It makes a heart beat with more aliveness.

 

 

DIY autumn body wash: Inspire; Release!

Grape leaves turning
Grape leaves turning

The following is a fall aromatherapy body wash based on Chinese elemental theory.

The season is: autumn. Time to let go of the old, and take in the new. The direction of this time of year is downward- a quiet movement back into the earth to push nutrients into the soil for next spring.

The physical aspects include: lungs, colon, body hair, and skin. The lungs inspire, the colon purges.

The emotions include: grief, loss. To stay in balance regarding grief, we need to allow for the recognition of it, and the care of how it passes through us. If not, we may not actually grieve, which can cause it to get stuck, unprocessed, and eventually become a heavy burden following us everywhere.

Apples paying it forward
Apples paying it forward

If we unburden ourselves, we can find and connect with new inspiration.

Shed the old, make room for the new

During this season, nature leads us into the cycle of creating and letting go. Trees don’t cling to their leaves because they might need them next year. They let them all drop. If held onto, the decayed leaves can pollute and effectively block the entry of anything new.

When the lungs are healthy, we not only breathe better, we can absorb new experiences, ideas, and be more open to inspiration.

Positive aspects of this season: generosity, integrity, self-respect, and personal value. Focus on and bring about these positive traits during this season. Self-care creates awareness and discernment in what you breathe, both physically and mentally.

It was a good summer!
It was a good summer!

A few essential oils for this season:

Eucalyptus
Rosemary
Geranium
Sage
Mint

These all perk up the lungs.

Lungs inspire literally and figuratively. They bring in air and ideas. In Chinese medical theory, the lung is paired with the large intestine, or colon. The colon purges what is no longer needed.

Together, they have a team approach toward balance. Disperse with the old, welcome the new.

DIY autumn body wash

1 cup Dr. Bronners unscented liquid soap
1 cup water
3 T. coconut oil, fractionated
10-15 drops essential oil

During this season, ask yourself:

What inspires you?

What do you want to let go?

Aging. How to grow.

Suddenly it hits you, you’ve aged. Today’s blog is about aging beautifully.
I spoke with Ilene Cummings, 85, who leads workshops about aging with grace: aging beautifully. This is part of her work as a human development counselor and retreat leader.
“You have to learn to love yourself in spite of what is happening to your face,” Ilene said. There needs to be a place to talk about it. “We don’t say, omigod, what’s happening to my face?! But, we think about it.” She wants to facilitate the conversation.
Ilene thinks it’s best to get a jump on aging well, before you actually get old. She said that “aging beautifully is a function of how you have lived. It is very dependent on doing personal work. You have to decide if you want to age beautifully. It’s not going to happen automatically. Not in our youth culture.”
You have to put in the daily effort, like most things that are worthwhile.
Here are Ilene’s three guidelines to help people age beautifully:
1. Give up your attachment to being young. It’s a lot of work to keep a lie going. Be authentic. Be real. It takes a lot of balls to be yourself as an older person. You have to be honest to grow. Practice forgiveness. If you are beating yourself up all the time, how can you accept yourself?
2. Be willing to change. Be active in self examination. You have to constantly adapt to a current or new situation.
3. Find meaning. Go deep. Find those that you truly connect with. For example, Ilene has a friend who she has great conversations with.
“All this extraordinary stuff comes out and I can meet her. It’s worth a million dollars to both of us,” Ilene enthused. “We talk about God, animals, art, death. Nothing has really changed; however, I feel amazing after our visits.”
One thing that starts to happen when you get older- you began paring down. For example, you stop driving at night. This greatly limits integration. A lot of networking and social events happen in the evening. Make efforts to socialize in ways that you can. Ilene believes socializing is essential.
“Somebody might love knitting- they need to find a knitting group. Socializing is a must do. You absolutely have to get out. People need such events so that they have to present themselves; they have to wash their face. It is easier to stay home but it’s not in your best interest.  There is a tendency for older people to crumble up within and sort of wait to die.”
Ilene emphasizes, “Take care of yourself. Respect yourself. Start young and keep respecting yourself.” When Ilene was very young she felt well cared for by her mother. She thinks this taught her the value of good self care. She never forgets that her well-being and health matter.
Ilene said, “I ask people about how their parents aged. Regardless of what you’ve been exposed to, aging beautifully is up to you. This is your job. You have to make friends with your aging self. Or else you are doomed; you are fighting it. I am getting older and everyone else knows I am getting older. When we don’t accept that we are looking older, we become a caricature.”
I asked Ilene, what is the reward?
“I think it’s why I am living longer, feeling good about myself, being willing to honestly state my age. If you hate your age, it will show on your your face. Most people hate growing old. I don’t buy into the idea that you are losing it, or that you aren’t sexy anymore. At the same time, I am very aware of the losses that come with aging. It is hard to start this work when you are already aging. The earlier you start with your own process, the better it will go.”
Ilene Cummings
Ilene Cummings