Glow’s own Sabeeha T. Kurji, R. TCM.P practices a rare form of Acupuncture called Classical Five Element Acupunture. Below is an article written by her teach Professor Neil R. Gumenick where he offers suggestions on tending our own inner fires, and living in harmony.
TENDING OUR FIREWe experience Fire, one of the elemental powers, most fully in the season of summer, the time when young energy that arose in the spring expands to its maximum potential. We, who are part of Nature just as surely as all that surrounds us, can enhance our own health by understanding the special functions of the hottest of all the seasons. Through this awareness we can help balance our own Fire energy.
When Nature’s energy flourishes and blossoms in the summer, it is time to enjoy the fruit from the seeds we have planted and the visions and plans we have made. If a tree doesn’t flower and bear fruit, there can be no harvest; for us, similarly, if we do not allow ourselves to flower during this season, we will deprive ourselves of a late summer harvest to carry us through the year. Autumn, the season of letting go, will be all the more difficult for us if we haven’t experienced the fruition of our hopes and plans.
CYCLES: LATE SUMMER
THE SEASON OF EARTHOnce summer has reached its height, the year’s cycle begins its inevitable decline into the season of late summer – the season of Earth.
To us, late summer seems a welcome relief from the intense heat and brightness of summer. From the Chinese perspective, it is a season unto itself with a unique energy and function in the cycle of the year. The Chinese associated the power of “decrease” with late summer and, at the same time, referred to it as the period of abundance. With the coming of late summer, nature returns the fruits it has made, which are ripe and ready to be picked. A good harvest fills the larder. It means autumn and winter can be survived without scarcity, and that energy can be conserved during the cold period when outer growth ceases.
As it is for the seasons of the year, so it is for life’s seasons. The work done on ourselves during the earlier part of our lives – the growth and strengthening of the body, cultivating meaningful relationships, challenging and developing the intellect, spiritual practice – all determine the quality of the harvest we reap – and what we have to share with others. Whether at the breast of the physical mother or the breast of Mother Nature, the earth and the archetype of Mother have always been connected – survival would be impossible without the nourishment both freely give. Though most of us today may not grow our own food, we ought to keep sight of the fact that prior to being put in packets and stacked in supermarkets, the food we consume is nonetheless a gift from the earth. Despite the abuse it has to endure, the earth is forgiving and continues to feed and provide for us.
The Chinese associated the power of “decrease” with late summer and, at the same time, referred to it as the period of abundance. Physically and spiritually, this period of late summer is a time for slowing down and gathering in. It is a time when we recognize and hold the fruits of our labor.
In our spiritual lives, the Earth element grants us the ability to internalize the mother by learning to nourish and care for ourselves. Imagine a child who hasn’t experienced the security derived from being properly loved and cared for; an imbalance in the Earth element may well be a result of this lack of mothering. The infant nursing at the breast, receiving the milk and (as importantly) the love of its mother, is the very perfection of Earth.
But mothering does not stop in infancy. The patience and compassion that come from the mother are needed for years, as we grow and learn how to care for ourselves. What if this essential teaching and nourishment are missing? A preoccupation and search develops for the mother that we lacked. If we have had no nurturing, there is a feeling of being deprived and misunderstood. We are in continual need, seeking from the external that which is lacked internally. Unless the imbalance caused by this trauma to the Earth element is resolved, a search for mothering may continue right through life.
The emotion associated with the Earth element is sympathy, an important emotion when expressed in appropriate circumstances. Compassion and empathy arise spontaneously when the moment is right. I marvel at how my six-year-old knows in an instant just how to comfort a friend who is hurt or crying.
As well as the ability to express sympathy toward others, however, we must be able to receive it, too. It is necessary that others understand how and when we hurt, that others know what we are going through. When a child is in pain, it calls immediately for its mother, the source for sympathy and understanding. But with an Earth imbalance, the need for sympathy can become excessive and insatiable; or, in its opposite manifestation, sympathy may be completely absent. We all know people from whom we can expect no compassion, regardless of circumstance. And there are also those who cannot receive sympathy or help at all – the sort who say, “No, I can do it myself.”
An identical imbalance can be created by over-mothering, which can stunt a child’s capacity to care for itself and to learn from its own experience. In either extreme, rather than expressing real needs, a person develops manipulative ways of relating to others – exaggerating, over-complaining, whining to attract sympathy, or keeping silent and denying real needs, distrusting other people’s motives, and feeling that no one understands.
In our bodies, the earth is represented by the stomach and spleen, the organs that receive food and enable us to be nourished by its essence. As the process of digestion begins in the mouth, food should be chewed thoroughly and mixed with saliva, the bodily secretion of the Earth element. Icy cold foods and drink should generally be avoided, as extreme cold strains our Fire element (whose job it is to maintain a normal body temperature). The period between 7 and 9 a.m. is the time in which nature gives the stomach a measure of extra energy, so that this is the optimum time to take in nourishment. Yes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day – we should instinctively begin the day as we did when we were infants, with fuel in the tank.
The Chinese did not view the vital organs as physical entities only, but also as officials, with functions that manifest on a non-physical level. Parallel to body functions, how information and feelings are taken in and “digested” is largely a function of the Stomach official, seen as the agent who receives and processes emotional and mental “food.” A failure of this function means that thoughts and feelings churn endlessly, ultimately developing into obsessions that can’t be processed and rendered useful.
There are forty-five acupuncture points on the stomach meridian (energy pathway). Each point has a unique and specific purpose in restoring balance and harmony to the stomach function as Nature ordained it, healing in ways that are often suggested by the name of a point. The following is an example:
Stomach 20: “Receiving Fullness”
The experience of an inner harvest may be unknown and unavailable to someone whose Earth element has been traumatized. Feeling barren, such a person seems to bring nothing to fruition. Even in the presence of caring friends with helpful ideas, or in any other nourishing environment, nothing can be received or made one’s own. For a person in such a state of depletion, Stomach 20 can open the empty storehouse so the person can begin to receive the abundance that Nature offers to us all.
The other Earth official, the Spleen, according to Chinese medicine is the official of transport. As such, it takes what the stomach has prepared and moves it on to nourish the cells in the body. A healthy Spleen not only nourishes us at the physical level, but also makes sure the nourishment reaches our minds and spirits. In the following example, we see how an acupuncturist may use one of the twenty-one points on the Spleen meridian to assist in restoring health to body, mind, and spirit.
Spleen 8: “Earth Motivator”
This point gets the official of transport moving. Even if the granaries and storehouses are full, we will starve if the means of transportation fail. “Earth Motivator” invigorates and prepares the earth within us for planting. Imagine scattering seeds on hard, unyielding soil – few, if any, will take root. Like a bulldozer, this point breaks up, moves and turns the soil within us. Then new growth can occur, promising a richer harvest. A new vitality begins to be felt. Hardness and stubbornness, which manifest as selfishness and lack of sympathy, are transformed into greater thoughtfulness and care in relations with others.
We can see that if the Earth element is out of balance, we may be prone to digestive disorders – as well as illness in any other organ or function of the body, for all are dependent on the stomach and spleen for nourishment.
Consider these everyday expressions, heard but often unnoticed, from someone whose Earth element could be in distress: “I just can’t stomach it… I can’t digest it… Let’s get down to earth… The ground was pulled out from under me… Stand on your own two feet… I have to care for everyone else but nobody takes care of me… I’m always hungry… Nothing fills me up.”
In summary, every process must invariably pass through its period of harvest, grand or small as it may be. Physically and spiritually, the period of late summer is a time for slowing down and gathering in. It is a time when we recognize and hold the fruits of labor. Imagine the farmer filling the silo after the harvest: Now that the heavy work is over, he can reflect contentedly on all that has brought him to this moment and this season.
It is appropriate for us, too, to acknowledge this stage of our own life cycle. From the harvest of our experience, we develop a natural inclination to share and serve others. Well nourished ourselves, we can recognize where needs exist and how best to fill them. Exercising our compassion, we can become caretakers of the earth.
Suggestions for living in harmony with the late summer season
- Enjoy the abundance of fruits and fresh vegetables
Be aware of their special qualities, each succulence different from the next. Carrots are crisp, cucumbers cool, tomatoes luscious, peaches sweet. Look at the seeds, and reflect on the fact that within each harvest lie the seeds of the next.
- Be thoughtful of how you can nourish others.
In this season when nature gives her bounty, we also rejoice in giving, with attention to the special needs of others. You need not wait until you can give a “great gift.” A word, a courtesy, a thoughtfulness – given today – is a great gift.
- Be conscious of the harvest of your life.
Think about yourself, your relationships, and your work. What parts of your life are bearing fruit? Where is the harvest rich? Where do you find it stunted?
- Consider what you need to do to make ready for the letting go of autumn.
Holding your harvest in mind, ask what is overgrown or unneeded. What distracts you from your dearest concerns? What might you wish to simplify in yourself or in your life?
Copyright 1997 by Neil Gumenick
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of healing known to mankind. It originated in China nearly five thousand years ago. The fact that it is still being practiced today speaks much for the efficacy of this treatment and for the laws and principles on which it is based. These are nature’s laws and principles that underlie all of creation and apply to every human being.
How does it work?
Chinese medicine recognizes that there is a vital force (called Chi energy) in the body which controls the working of every organ and system. This energy must flow freely and in the correct strength and quality if the body is to function correctly. In all illness, the flow of vital energy is impaired. Acupuncture directly affects this energy at special points located on the energy pathways (meridians). When gently inserted into these acupuncture points, the needles produce various effects. According to the manipulation of the needles, energy can be drawn to a deficient organ, an excess dispersed, blockages removed, and so on, according to the individual need of the patient. As the balance and harmony of the vital energy is restored, symptoms of illness disappear. If all of the functions and organs of the body are working properly and harmoniously, there can not be sickness within the body or mind.
Sometimes, points are heated with a special herb, Artemesia Vulgaris Latiflora (called moxa), which resembles a brown colored wool. Usually, a tiny cone of moxa is placed on the skin over an acupuncture point, ignited, and removed when the heat is felt. Like needles, moxa revitalizes, reinforces, invigorates, and restores balance and harmony to the vital energy.
Does it hurt?
Because the needles are about the thinness of a hair, insertion is often hardly felt at all. There may be an occasional sharpness or a dull ache, but these sensations are only momentary and far less unpleasant than a western injection.
What happens during the initial examination?
The initial examination takes up to two hours and includes a thorough medical and personal history, description of complaints, a review of the functioning of the systems of the body, and a physical examination. This includes the taking of the Chinese pulses [usually felt at the wrist] from which your acupuncturist can determine the state of the energy in each of the major organs and functions. Using the diagnostic tools of classical Chinese medicine, which include analyzing a patients predominant facial color, vocal sound, emotion, and odor, your acupuncturist can assess the condition of the Chi energy and determine the underlying cause of the condition. From all of this information, a treatment plan is developed, unique to the individual patient.
How many treatments are necessary and how often?
This varies from person to person and one cannot be guided by the experience of other patients. Much depends on the severity of the disease, how long the patient has suffered from it, as well as the lifestyle and other factors contributing to it. Typically, treatments are given once per week for the first six to eight weeks. As the patient improves, visits are reduced to once every ten days, two weeks, once a month, and so on. As classical acupuncture is a preventative system of medicine, as well as curative, it is advisable for healthy patients to come in periodically for checkups and maintenance, as the pulses can reveal if anything is going wrong in the body long before it manifests itself as a visible symptom. Most of us don’t wait for our cars to break down before taking them in to be checked. We should not pay less attention to our bodies!
How long does a treatment take and what actually happens?
Appointments are generally scheduled for one hour. Prior to each treatment, patients have ample time to talk about how they’ve been, how they feel, and what’s happening in their lives, which is essential information for me to determine exactly the treatment that is called for at that time. The pulses are read and moxa and/or needles are applied. The response to the treatment will be assessed by reading the pulses. Often, after treatment, the patient will spend a few minutes simply relaxing, lying on the treatment table, to allow the energetic changes to settle in. Dietary and other lifestyle recommendations will be discussed at appropriate times throughout treatment.
Can acupuncture treatment help with non-physical problems?
Yes, indeed. It must be emphasized that classical acupuncture views the body, mind, and spirit as a whole. All physical disorders will cause an imbalance in the mental outlook and spirit of a person. This may manifest as depression, anxiety, anger, sadness, and the like. Mental disturbances, stress, and emotional conflict will cause effect in the physical body such as insomnia, lack of appetite, fatigue, menstrual disorders, migraines, susceptibility to disease, aches, pains, and any labeled disease one can imagine. Any imbalance must manifest on all levels, all part of the whole. All classical acupuncture treatments aim to restore the harmony of body, mind, and spirit. Thus, the physical and non-physical sides of a patient are treated together.
What about medication and other medical care?
Classical acupuncture may certainly be used in cooperation with other medical care. It is important to your practitioner to know what medication a patient is taking as this is taken into account in the planning and assessing of treatment. As acupuncture treatment progresses, the need for certain drugs may well decrease and it may be appropriate to reduce or discontinue medication, but this should be done with the cooperation and approval of the prescribing doctor. For medical emergencies, ones personal physician or an emergency service facility should be contacted.
Is acupuncture effective on children?
There is no age limit. Often, young children respond quite well to moxa alone or with a very minimal use of needles. There are also special pediatric acupuncture devices which merely tap the skin surface and are quite painless.
To find out more about Professor Neil R. Gumenick please visit 5elements.com
Visit Glow Acupuncture & Wellness Centre to book your appointment with Sabeeha T. Kurji today!