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Times of Intense Changes

Something Wonderful (c) Elen Lauper

Something Wonderful (c) Elen Lauper

Over the last week or so I have been looking at the intense changes that are occurring around me, both environmentally and in the world.  It can be overwhelming and frightening.

So during my meditation this morning two ideas emerged. One thought was the need for me to continue to bank my energy/reserves through some kind of daily meditation and breath-work. The other thought was that this is an important time to de-clutter.

What does clutter have to do with anything?

If you look at nature and notice the circular and meandering ways plants grow, you might realize that this is the way energy moves. And in order for that movement to flow properly, it needs space. Where there isn’t that space, stagnation occurs. Where there is no free flow of water, a pool of water becomes sludge, accompanied by bugs and germs that cause illness around it. The same is true of our homes, our offices, our lives.

Times of intense change may be nature’s way of decluttering, so perhaps it is wise to participate in the process, rather than resist it. And since we live in a society of collecting/buying things, this can affect all aspects of our lives.

For some this has meant moving their house or apartment. For others, it may involve having their desk or office location moved. And for some, the change is more severe: the destruction of their homes through mudslides, winter storms, or the threat of war.  In any case, it is a time for re-evaluating what is important for us. What has value and meaning and what have we kept around for the sake of nostalgia, security, or what we think belongs to us, perhaps even what preserves our self-image.

In Traditional East Asian Medicine the sorting process takes place in the small intestine;  the de-cluttering or emptying process takes place in the large intestine. Where those processes work smoothly, we are able to assimilate the proper nutrients to supply our needs and achieve health. When we practice de-cluttering on a regular basis, our bodies, our health, and our lives can be less chaotic. When we tend to accumulate, stagnation occurs. In the body that can manifest as bloating, nasal congestion, problems with lymphatic drainage, or bowel inflammation or disease.

To find remedies click on large intestine, and small intestine . For lymphatic drainage of the ears click here; with permission Heather.  In the meantime, try practicing deep breathing with meditation or some kind of quiet time, or even taking a meandering walk.  And of course, make time for decluttering, even a little at a time.

You might find more space in your life for … “something wonderful”…

“It’s still too hot!”

“I look at food and feel nauseous”
“All I do is sweat and all I want to do is sleep all day.”

I feel your pain. It’s late summer again in September and it’s hard to know what to eat or how to get and stay cool without spending the day in the pool, if you have one.

Many of us are eating raw or cold foods, to stay cool or because it’s too hot to cook.  Unfortunately that is putting the stomach fire out; aka: shutting down the gastric cells in the stomach, and adding even more mucus to the stomach. Hence the slightly nauseous feeling or just not wanting to eat at all.

So what to do? It’s about balance. In this East Asian Medicine model too much of one extreme turns into it’s opposite. We try to balance the heat by eating or drinking cold. Yet no matter how much we drink we are still hot. The problem? We are creating cold stagnation in the stomach trying to cool ourselves down and that is making more heat. Stagnation creates heat.

Here are some alternative suggestions, try them and see what works for you:
Add to your salads: arugula, or grated radish [red or Dikon], or cut up basil leaves [digestive aids]
Drink hot tea with meals that are heavy or greasy to help you digest your food, or the grease congeals like butter in the fridge.
Use higher protein carbs like beans or Quinoa rather than wheat or corn pasta.
Eat light soups with lots of vegetables and beans; cabbage, beets, green beans, etc.
Eat more fish.

Most people don’t realize you actually get cooler if you drink something hot rather than cold.  I learned that living in Phoenix. Your body temperature goes down and your digestion improves.

Here’s a salad:
Spinach, red onion, sliced almonds, strawberries, feta cheese, light balsamic dressing

Here is a balanced tea remedy:
Peppermint is a great cooling tea to drink, just add a little basil to keep the digestion strong. FYI: peppermint is not so good for people with reflux because it inhibits the gastric juice cells. The basil will balance that.

Use peppermint tea in a tepid water foot bath to cool down.

You can also check out the “Insomnia & Addictions” page under the menu heading “Coping with Changes” for more heat clearing ideas.

September is also a time for cleansing, our homes, our bodies, our minds. Look at some of the religious holidays around this time of year. It’s a time to evaluate where we are in our lives and choose our habits wisely.
I love to collect, but resist the emptying process. This has been a good time for me to practice cleaning stuff out. Hey it’s a new moon, new beginnings!

Here is a video that will help clear your mind and heart.

Summer Heat

It is the beginning of Summer and we in LA have had our first really hot weather. It is the time of excess and heat, of overeating, and sweating unmercifully. A time of not wanting to eat because it’s too hot, or just not wanting to cook. Of peaches and watermelon, of picnics, BBQs, and salads.
Herbal teas can help.

Now for balancing the energy:
The movement of fire is between awareness and distraction; it is the dance of passion, and finding one’s pace.

Am I overextended? Is my heart in my daily activities? Or is my chest tight, full, and heavy? Do I feel alive and creative? Or am I feeling cut off or shut down.  We all do this dance, at different or difficult times, to different degrees.

In acupuncture, we access the true movement of fire by balancing the energies that feed it or those that regulate it. We seat the mind (awareness) in it’s house (the heart),
and find compassion; first for ourselves, then for others.

Sometimes after a long or hard week, where I have been asked to stretch as much as possible, where my ability to communicate is sorely tested either at home, at work, or on a project, where I am trying too hard at something, trying to push the river – all I want to do is play an online game or escape into the newest sci fi book or Dr Who marathon. My heart is full and I need a distraction.

Drumming helps. It reminds me of my own rhthym. If I can’t find a drum, I’ll use an old water bottle or table. Swimming is excellent because not only does it cool you down in the summer heat, but it helps set a rhythmic pace for breathing, opening and stretching the chest muscles. If I am feeling overwhelmed and can’t find my center, I hold my pinky and breathe. Or put my hands over my heart (right over left) and listen to my breath and my heartbeat. And oddly enough, eating bitter foods or drink.  (See Insomnia and Addictions)

My journey through this dance has included the practice of staying present – the art of being vulnerable – staying open-hearted. Here is a TED talk I found recently. It moved me, perhaps it will do the same for you.

The art of breathing

Buddha_croppedLately I have been practicing exhaling, in several different ways.

Yesterday I learned how to put my face in water and blow bubbles out my nose. As a child it was a challenge to calm my breath while playing in water. Yet I loved water and my mom couldn’t get me out of it once I was in it. But I never learned the art of how to breathe while swimming. Having grown up in New York City, most of us kids learned to swim at CYO camp or just jumping in and out of the surf after a long train ride to the beach.

Now many years later I finally learned what so many who have been swimming since childhood already know. You can’t swallow water if you are blowing bubbles out your nose.  And I learned this from my granddaughter, an avid swimmer, who was teaching my grandson how to swim.

So with goggles on and my focus on the exhale, I got my first live glimpse of how the light travels underwater. And this new experience was both soothing and exhilarating. It has cleared some cobwebs from my mind.

As we sit between seasons, the LA version of spring trying to be summer, and so much in our society trying to decide whether and how to move forward, it is easy to get caught up in the stress of changes.  It’s moving too fast, it’s not moving fast enough, two steps forward one step back, the pace of change for many of us has been a little unnerving.

Yet my small lesson in focusing on the exhale has opened my mind to creating safe havens in this turbulent river. The art of breath is not so much about what you take in, as it is about what you let go of.

Focusing on the exhale, the inhale happens by itself, more naturally, and with new insights.  The rhythm of that movement of the diaphragm has a soothing influence on the brain, which then sends calming chemical messages throughout the body.

So when things get tough, and your mind is on overwhelm, be aware of your breath. How often do you stop breathing? Is your breathing fairly shallow? Are you struggling to take it all in?  If you place your awareness on exhaling, you get to take in what you need, without the struggle.

Living with the Seasons

(c) Elen Lauper 2013

Welcome to my site and blog. The  purpose of this site is to give people a few ways to find relief, find balance, and cultivate health. It is a reflection of my practice, using sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch to develop habits that support wellness.  Finding that balance is my ultimate goal – for myself and for others.

First, a little orientation

The Coping with Change pages give brief descriptions of the demands and challenges of each season as well as recommendations for relief. This blog page will be used for timely observations as well as additional suggestions, and periodically video links to interesting topics.

In addition, the sidebar has a link to my YouTube channel which has videos I have made and others I watch regularly; a link to the Five Flavors Alchemy website of an herbalist who cooks, balances the flavors energetically, and shares recipes; and a link to an astrologer who uses the language of the stars to explain the cyclic patterns we find ourselves in.

And now for the in-between season we find ourselves in

It’s the end of  May. We seem to be between seasons.  The temperature has fluctuated often and quickly. Yet we haven’t had a lot of rain over the spring.  And we have already had big fires. Seasons in Southern California are different than the rest of the country.  Our biggest challenges at this time of year are dryness, pollen from the non-native blooms, smoke and fire retardants in the smoke, and air pollution that sits in the valley too long. We are grateful for some rain to wash it all away, yet complain about the traffic when it comes.

So what to do?

While the weather is changeable soups are great. During all of the changes, hydration is key. Keeping up with all the changes requires some flexibility so stretching can help.

If you have been hydrating and stretching over the spring, then this in-between stage will be easier. Hydrating means drinking more water than you are used to, but also hydrating the nose with saline and a Neti Pot, or some other nasal rinse technique.

Look at  the No Time/Space for Self tab under the Coping with Change menu page.  There you will find more symptoms and relief suggestions for the season between seasons.

For now… Imagine Peace