Every year the Autumn brings with it change, endings and loss, of all kinds – from small ones like the leaves falling off the trees (though I’m sure it’s not a small loss for the trees themselves!), the loss of the warm summer days and light evenings, all the way through to the big losses like losing a loved one.
I remember graduating from CICM in the autumn after nearly 4 years of study and my paternal grandmother passed at exactly the same time, the same week.
I had to deal with the loss of my classmates, loss of the college, loss of the addictive and enlightening learning, loss of the warm supportive community and deal with the change of no longer being a student and basically being out there as an acupuncturist in the big bad world… all whilst trying to grieve for my dear grandmother. It was tough to say the least.
It can seem like all the endings come at the same time when we experience loss in the Autumn, they are somehow accentuated by the time of year as the Metal Element is all about loss and grief and respect, and is associated with the Lung & Large Intestine organs. Though the emotions are difficult, there is some ironic beauty in the poetry of these losses occurring in Autumn – and we shall see why…
Chinese Medicine theory can be wonderfully literal, and it helps you to understand the dynamic of the Element, and how it may impact on your life. Metal can literally cut your skin – knives, swords and daggers are made of sharpened blades of metal… it can create a real wound that is deep and open and hurting and hideous – it can feel like this when we lose someone or something we love – the pain is palpable in the chest, the lungs struggle to breathe properly, they can’t take in any goodness from the heavens as everything feels just too raw and difficult, we can feel cut off from everything around us, as though we will never feel ok again.
But Metal is also shiny, beautiful and reflective – light can bounce off it, illuminating even the darkest of hurts. The most delicate and intricate of trinkets and charms can be made from it, sparkling gems that dazzle and amaze. The lungs can breathe in goodness from the heavens (as the Chinese describe it), allowing space for meditation, contemplation and inspiration – we can become touched, our eyes can well up… When we breathe in this air from the heavens, it can help us to let go – Metal’s link to the Large Intestine allows us to do this.
At a very basic body level, the Large Intestine releases all the rubbish (waste) we no longer need, but it also does it on an emotional level too… or not as the case may be – it never surprises me when patients who are experiencing grief and loss, suffer with constipation – it is hard to let go of someone dear to us, sometimes we don’t want to let go, or we are not ready to, so our bodies stop letting go physically. Or our cognitive brains are convinced we have done our grieving and we are totally fine, yet our energy and our bodies know otherwise, desperately holding on until we really have done some adjusting on an energetic and emotional level – the movements of Qi (energy) in our bodies know if our brains are in denial! This is where acupuncture can help these movement of energies within the grieving process, it can be an amazing support emotionally, but also physically, restoring bowel function.
Metal has the amazing ability to turn something literally shitty (Large Intestine) or something cutting (Metal), painful and suffocating (Lungs), into something poignant, touching, beautiful and shiny… this is something you will often find at funerals – it is all about the pain and the loss, the saying goodbye, letting go and getting ‘closure’, but the words spoken, the gestures made from loved ones, more often than not, turn it into something full of beauty and respect, which are the best gifts the Metal Element can give us.
© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011
On my travels last week, on holiday away from the clinic, I spent quite a lot of time in various train stations – Southampton Airport, Southampton Central, Marylebone, Victoria, Charing Cross to name but a few… And I may be biased as it is my “home station” but Oxford always comes out on top with the choice of good nourishment available to hop on the train with…
at Oxford Railway Station always makes me smile – a place so healthy and in sync with the way I try to live my life, that I sometimes pop there even if I’m just shopping in town and not travelling on the train!
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good almond croissant or pain au raisin once in a while as a treat – just not every day, and I certainly don’t want to be forced into having to choose something of that ilk purely because I’m held to ransom by the train station highwayman, en route to somewhere else. The fact that I can choose a juice or smoothie that I would make myself at home (no additives or refined sugar etc), or pick up something else delicious and healthy like a Nakd bar (cold-pressed raw food with no dairy, wheat, gluten or added/refined sugar) makes me feel REALLY good… I can arrive at my destination feeling full of energy, totally guilt free, with no crazy peaks or troughs in sugar levels to contend with later in the day – I can just get on and enjoy gorgeous time with wonderful friends! Plus, everything is super scrummy – no “yucky” health foods here, all yum!
My favourite drink to pick up from this fabulous Oxfordshire couple, is a beetroot, celery, carrot, apple & ginger juice – full of anti-oxidants, vitamins & goodness for cells in the body… beetroot is neutral and sweet in Chinese Food Energetics, it nourishes blood by entering the Heart & Liver, encourages Qi (energy) circulation and counteracts cold – which makes it perfect for this chilly time of year, and additionally balances out the other energetically cooler ingredients in the juice – celery and apple… the ginger also helps this, as it is energetically hot and counteracts cold and phlegm, making it a must-add for juices in the winter.
Though a word of caution for people who are energetically hot in themselves, or have a relative deficiency of Yin (the cooling, moisturising, nourishing energy in the body), as too much ginger (or any other energetically hot foods such as chilli or garlic) will cause you to become too hot – creating more hot flushes, migraines, disturbed sleep or difficulty falling asleep…
I also opt to add an extra shot of spirulina (blue-green algae) to the juice for extra blood nourishment – in terms of Chinese Food Energetics, it is cool in temperature, has a slightly salty flavour and goes to the Liver. It boosts Blood, Yin and Jing (the innate essence and energy reserves we are born with), and regulates removal of toxins from the body.
In conventional medicine spirulina is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids, antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage. It contains nutrients, including B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and essential fatty acids. Everyone can benefit from adding more blue-green algaes to their diet (chlorella is another good example), but particularly women with heavy periods, vegetarians, vegans or those who don’t eat much meat, and people with a high amount of stress could also benefit – see the download section of the website for the relevant info sheets.
And next time you’re travelling somewhere, look out for ways you can get more goodness on the go – if you’re going via Oxford railway station, lucky you – visit vitaburst and tell them Rhiannon sent you!
If you want more information about Chinese Food Energetics, or how Chinese Medicine theory could improve your health and lifestyle, email me at email@example.com or visit http://www.rhiannongriffiths.com
© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011
Autumn is finally here after a hot start to October. The conkers and acorns are scattered on the ground, between amber leaves that crunch loudly underfoot. The last few weeks have had harvest festivals aplenty, with huge tables groaning under the weight of fresh fruit and vegetables in a vibrant multitude of colour and shape, the apples, pumpkins, squash and marrows all taking centre-stage.
This season is associated with the Metal element in Chinese Medicine, and the organs connected with the element and season are the Lungs and Large Intestine – hence all the colds, coughs and upset stomachs we can suffer in Autumn, as we head towards Winter. It is the season of harvest, when all the growth and energy of Spring & Summer comes to fruition. The goodness of the past seasons gets stored in the fruits before the trees discard the leaves, husks and stalks; they let go of everything they don’t need, and this is something we should also do at this time of the year, physically and emotionally. It is no surprise we can feel a little sad (a Metal emotion) as we go into Autumn, we grieve the loss of the Summer light, love, warmth and joy – acupuncture can help us move more fluidly through this process, creating a healthy platform for Winter ahead.
Be mindful of your breathing in Autumn – meditation or yoga can allow you to “connect” and this is important to nourish the Metal Element; get outdoors on bright days and breathe deeply, on your outbreath “let go” of emotions and issues you no longer need to hold on to… don’t be surprised if your bowels follow suit afterwards! It is a perfect time for this kind of psyche-soma detox!
We can benefit greatly from the Qi stored in fruits and seeds in Autumn, nourishing our bodies through Chinese nutrition. Watch the video blog below showing what I made with the beautiful fresh bounty I picked up at the Waddesdon Manor Apple and Autumn Fruits Fair on a sunny autumn Saturday morning this month – a Pumpkin & Apple Breakfast Loaf – and learn the energetic properties of pumpkin and apple (walnuts too!), and how this Chinese Food Energetics theory can help us take care of ourselves this season.
The Belle De Boskoop apples from the Eythrope Orchard at Waddesdon Manor were chosen as they are both cooking and eating apples – less sweet than most eating apples, and they would also keep their form when used in baking. Similarly, the pumpkin from Claydon House Kitchen Garden was grown to be naturally sweet and perfect for baking. All food nourishes our digestive system (Stomach and Spleen – Earth Element organs), but both apples and pumpkin take their route into the body via these Earth organs, AND the Lungs and Large Intestine (Metal Element) – doubly nourishing Qi in Metal’s seasonal time of Autumn.
If you would like the recipe so that you can make it yourself and nourish your own qi on these chilly autumn mornings, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the title “pumpkin recipe”. And if you would like more information about how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can support you and your immune system in this Autumnal transition and for the Winter months ahead, please visit the website.
© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011
So did anyone catch last Tuesday’s CSI: Miami on Channel 5 (Season 9, Ep 13)? I love this programme, but it was almost a bit too scary for me last week to be honest – though it had just the right amount of analytical working out who-did-what for me to keep with the episode.
Horatio Caine once again attempted to track down a dangerous fugitive called Memmo Fierro, who in earlier episodes, had escaped from prison, coldly killed countless innocent people and threatened to take over control of Miami from the police. Half way through, a legal representative who threatened to expose the gang and their plans had her throat cut by an “old man” in broad daylight, which was almost enough for me to turn over to something more lighthearted, but the energy change I felt in my own body made me curious. I had felt this before when I had indeed switched off the television completely. I knew this energy, and I knew the person who had made this energy move like this in my body… I said out loud to the others in my living room, “that old man is Memmo!”. They, like the characters in CSI: Miami, insisted the killer was an old man… but the story unfolded to reveal that the hideous Memmo was indeed wearing an “old man” prosthetic mask when he killed the lady.
There were comments of “how did you know that?” and “you should be a detective!”, and I replied with “I am already a detective”… and I am, a detective in Chinese Medicine. I have to figure out what is going on in a patient’s body and emotions, track down what could have contributed to certain symptoms starting, when they might have started, who else in their lives might be impacting upon their health – a body and energetics whodunnit, or a CSI of energy! And this is all before I even pick up a needle, or decide on appropriate points!
So how did I know it was Memmo in a mask, purely from the way he made me feel? Well, we all have emotions and they create a certain movement of energy within our bodies. For example, anger (Wood Element emotion) can make our energies rise upwards – it can come out as a shout, or get stuck in the chest causing stagnation of Qi and a lot of sighing. Fear (Water Element emotion) makes Qi (or energy) descend, we can become frozen, pulling our lower backs in and down.
Worry or overthinking (Earth Element emotion) can cause our stomachs to feel strange and our appetites to disappear. Sadness or grief (Metal Element emotion) dissipates energy, causing our shoulders to hunch inwards and our breathing to become stifled. Even Joy (Fire Element emotion) can become pathogenic if experienced too much, our hearts become too overwhelmed with the upward energy and it can turn to mania… more common is the opposite, a “lack of joy”, which is a flatness of energy, which barely moves at all – a kind of depression… we all know how we feel when we have watched something particularly depressing, it is hard to even move off the couch afterwards.
I knew it was Memmo from the shock felt in my body – my energy went down, his matter-of-fact coldness made my body freeze, I stopped breathing a little, then only shallow breaths… my fight or flight mechanism had been activated and I wanted to stop watching – this was exactly the reaction my body and emotions had had in the episode that tracked his escape from jail.
At the end of the episode on Tuesday night, I realised I had been holding myself rigid, my diaphragm felt tight, and I needed to loudly “breathe out” the worry, fear and anxiety that had been building to a crescendo through the programme. A member of my household remarked, “but it is only pretend, its not real”, to which I said, “but the emotions evoked, and movements of energy in the body are real, whether the programme is or not…” So keep that in mind next time you watch an emotional rollercoaster of a film – the energies in your body are moving and changing as if the situation you’re watching was real, and this can have an impact on your health!
If you would like more information on how your emotions might be affecting your health, visit the website, or call to talk through how acupuncture could positively help you.
So, the title of this blog is “The Secret Diary of a Water CF”, and the explanation behind the name has been a little while coming… as many of my patients know, I practise a style of acupuncture that integrates both the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) style of acupuncture, and the Five Element style.
The latter is derived from the ancient way the Chinese looked at the seasons and the wider environment or macrocosm around them. They realised that the movements of energy in nature mirrored the movements of energy within our bodies, emotions and between people. And so, they applied these principles to the microcosm (inside the body), and Five Element Acupuncture was born.
There are Five Elements – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood – and we all have the five of them within us at all times. Ideally, they all work in harmony to ensure we automatically maintain a good level of health, just as day turns into night, and Summer turns into Autumn… but if we become unbalanced or out of sync, to any degree (no matter how big or small), one of the five elements will be highlighted more than the others, it will start to shout louder. It is like our default setting, and whatever happens in life, we return to a set of patterns, emotions, behaviours and movements of energy linked to that particular element. So, as I am treated on Water, and considered to be a Water CF (Constitutional Factor, or Element) this blog entry will expand a little more on this element.
The energy of Water is Yin – a cooling, moisturising, nourishing energy that has depth; its season is Winter, and its taste is salty. The main emotions related to Water are fear and drive, which may seem to be a complete oxymoron, but the best entrepreneurs build their empires by having an exceptional drive to succeed, combined with considered risk analysis – looking at all aspects of fear and lack of fear, before coming to the best decision.
It therefore should come as no surprise that many paratroopers, marines or RAF personnel are also Water CFs – I would never throw myself out of a plane or climb up a bare rock face, but I am at entirely the opposite end of the Water CF spectrum i.e. the fearful (yet still very driven) as opposed to the lack-of-fear end…
So what does being a Water CF mean for me? It means I don’t like theme parks or fairground rides, I can’t watch scary movies, and I hate fireworks or loud noises… I am sometimes fearful of the future, I am generally cautious and considered, can suffer knee and lower back ache (Water area of the body), and need more rest than people of other elements – which sometimes means I cancel my social plans in favour of hermitting for a few days… I speak with a “groaning” voice tone (the sound of Water), and have a blue-black hue next to my mouth and eyes – though you’ll be lucky to see that in the treatment room, I’ve spent many years finding the right concealer for a Water CF! I have always had the sense of needing to work towards my true self and fulfil the destiny inherent in the Water Element… and this is what has led me to where you find me now, as your acupuncturist!
If you think you might also be a Water CF, would like more information on how acupuncture could help you to balance the see-saw between fear and drive, contact me or visit the website for more details. To learn more about Water (and the other Elements if you’re impatient to find out about your CF!) read “Healing Your Emotions” by Angela & John Hicks, available through the college or Amazon.