(6/2015) We seem to be living accelerated and on-demand lives. We and our lives appear to be moving faster and faster, at the frenetic speed of machines. Yet, we are not machines. We are humans, and I would say that we are "getting out of breath." We are on-demand 24/7 with our bosses, parents, children, etc. We are constantly looking to do
or reach higher levels of excitement. How can we keep up with this? Is it even healthy to keep up with this? The ancient wisdom cultures would say no. Why should we say no? Because from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective (TCM), your Heart and your Heart Qi (chee) will thank you!
Remember that TCM deals with balancing the flow of the natural vital energy, or Qi which flows through all living things. Each organ of the body has Qi, and this Qi flows through the body on specific pathways called Meridians and is essential for health. When the Qi is balanced, moving smoothly, and in sufficient quality and quantity,
health and wellness are promoted. When the Qi is unbalanced or blocked in any way, disease or disease, will occur. This disease may show up as symptoms on a physical, mental/emotional, or spiritual level.
Also, in TCM, the Heart is associated with the naturally occurring element of Fire, and has many functions on a body, mind, and spirit level. The Heart is considered to be the "Supreme Controller." In China 3000 years ago, there was an Emperor who governed his kingdom. The Heart is your Emperor/Empress who controls and co-ordinates all of
the Officials within the body (your other organs) and at the same time relies on them for guidance in "running the kingdom." If the Heart radiates virtue, then all will be in harmony, balance, and peace.
On a physical level, the Heart is responsible for circulating blood to all parts of the body. When this is done well, then we feel nourished and strong. When the Heart is in balance, one can fall asleep easily and stay asleep, complexion is clear and radiant, there is a sparkle in one’s eyes, and there is appropriate sweating.
On an emotional and mental level, the Heart is responsible for clear thinking, insight, cognition, perception, consciousness, and self-awareness that gives life meaning. When the Heart is in balance, one has the ability to maintain a sense of inner order enabling you to have appropriate behavior in any situation, thus giving you the ability
to have meaningful relationships.
On a spirit level, the Heart is responsible for your capacity to feel compassion and demonstrate warmth, joy, and love. When in balance, the Heart allows you to feel calm, serene, and to "just be."
In ancient TCM texts, it says that too much excitement or mania damages the Heart. What is meant by too much excitement -- Living off of your adrenaline. It is the emotion that is much too commonly sought out by us living in the Western world. How many of you can relate to striving for bigger and better thrills? It doesn’t matter whether
you find this within the world of sports (the hard hits of football), video games, movies, or in adventures of your own life. You probably identify with this somehow. Peaceful, calm living is often seen as dull and boring! Even look at how some sportscasters are currently speaking about Major League Baseball – it is too boring when compared to the rougher sports
of football, basketball, and ice hockey!
How many of you have ever experienced intense excitement, and then had a huge "letdown" afterward? Maybe you felt sad, or exhausted, or both? This is analogous to a blazing Fire burning itself out. And, in nature, Fire can burn itself out! Remember that the Heart is an important part of the Fire element in TCM. When you feel sad or
exhausted after intense excitement, your Heart is "tired." This rebound effect often leads one to seek out more excitement instead of peace. Who in this world wants to feel sad, tired or bored? So, a vicious cycle continues.
How many of the following questions do you answer "YES" to?
- Do you often work through your lunch hour or eat meals on the run?
- Do you over-ride feelings of tiredness and continue to work?
- Do you often feel obliged to work late?
- If you are ill do you go back to work before you have fully recovered?
- Do you find yourself continually juggling so many things that you never stop to rest?
- Do you exercise even when you have not been sleeping well because your body couldn’t slow down?
- Do you stay up late doing things, and then wake early for work?
- Do you frequently use "energy" drinks or caffeine to help you keep going?
If you answered Yes to three or more of these questions then consider being STILL! To keep your "Fire" stoked appropriately and your Heart healthy, you need more balance! Do things to create a more peaceful life! Oh, how boring you may say!
In reality, a peaceful, calm life is far from boring! Stillness leads to better health and emotional intelligence. Only by resting, can you come up with fresh and creative ideas. One must give your imagination room to breathe. Do you love music? I once heard someone say, "It is the pause in music that often gives the piece its beauty."
If you went to the doctor and she said that for your cardiovascular health, you needed to start exercising 20 minutes each day; or to treat an injured shoulder, you had to go to physical therapy for several weeks, you would go. Correct? Why then, if it is recommended for mental and spiritual health that you spend 20 minutes each day being
quiet, wouldn’t you do this? Does this sound too lavish? You may say that you don’t have time to do this. When in actuality, this could be much more fundamental to your overall wellbeing.
How could you begin to build some stillness into your life? Think about the following things:
- Check that you are getting enough breaks at work; you are resting during the day; and you are incorporating some stillness in your day to nourish yourself.
- Schedule a small amount of rest time into your day if you have not in the past.
- Do some restorative activity, such as yoga, qigong, tai chi, meditation, or anything that reconnects you to the natural world around you.
- Scheduling some space for pleasurable activities (like getting a massage, taking a relaxing bath, or listening to music); even if it is only for a short time period, can rejuvenate you.
- Just sit where you are, and take some deep breaths.
I say that your HEART will thank you!
"In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow.
And in an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention.
And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still."
- Pico Iyer (author of the book: The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere)
"It is not wise to dash about. Shortening the breath causes much stress.
Use too much energy, and You will soon be exhausted.
That is not the natural way.
Whatever works against this way will not last long."
Tao Te Ching
Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist and physical therapist with over 25 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg. She can be reached at 717-752-5728.