The heavy, languid days of August have a character that differs from the blazing, energy-filled days of July and the sharp poignancy of September. The ancient Chinese recognized this unique quality in their own natural world, realizing that there is a time of pause and reflection between the upward and expanding energy of Spring and Summer, and the descending, inward-turning quality of Autumn and Winter. Thus, acupuncture recognizes five seasons of the year, not four. This fifth season is referred to as Late Summer and reflects the qualities that we associate with the element of Earth. These qualities include nourishing others and ourselves; digesting our food, thoughts, and emotions; and cultivating a feeling of gratitude for all that life has given us.
Feng Shu in the Kitchen
Because the season is associated with the virtues of nourishment and healthy digestion, it is a perfect time to evaluate the kitchen and dining area of your home or apartment. Have you created an atmosphere conducive to the appreciation and assimilation of good food?
Feng Shui philosophy advises us to avoid mirrors and mirrored surfaces in the kitchen. Mirrors reflect the sharpness of the knives and the extremes of hot (ovens and stoves) and cold (refrigerators and freezers) found in the kitchen. These excesses can negatively impact the energy of a home. Mirrors are great in the dining room, however, as they amplify the positive energy of community and bounty shared at the table.
Books, newspapers and magazines should be forbidden from kitchen and dining room tables, and it goes without saying that you should never read or engage in mental work while eating. Chinese medicine understands that the energy required for mental assimilation is the same as that needed for the digestion of food. It is extremely taxing on the body to try to digest both thoughts and food simultaneously.
Meridian Energy of Stomach and Spleen
Meridians are channels of energy in the body that are used in the practice of acupuncture. During this time of year, we pay particular attention to the meridians that pass through the Stomach and the Spleen, the organs of digestion and assimilation.
One way to encourage the healthy flow of the spleen meridian is to practice the Yoga posture known as the Locust Pose. If you are unfamiliar with this pose, it is fairly simple:
- Lie flat on your stomach, placing your arms underneath your body.
- Curl your hands into fists and place them under your groin.
- Place your head or chin on the floor (do whichever is more comfortable)
- Bring your feet together, and raise your feet up, moving your thighs off the ground. Inhale as you make this movement.
- Take several long, deep breaths, and then stretch the top half of your body off of the floor. Take several more deep breaths with both your chest and your feet raised off the floor.
- Exhale and lower your chest and feet back to the floor.
You can also apply pressure with your fingers to specific acupuncture points to help with the energy flow of a meridian. There are two great acupressure points on the Stomach meridian. “Head Tied” is located at the corner of the forehead,
Place your middle finger on this point and rub in a counter-clockwise motion when you feel obsessed with a specific situation or worry. A great over-all point for health and well being is located on the outer edge of the knee, where the bone from the lower leg flares outward slightly. Rub this point in a clockwise motion.
We know that our physical digestion is good when we are able to eat and enjoy our food, our body processes and absorbs its qualities, and we easily eliminate what we don’t need. Similarly, in good mental health we can think about past or future events, easily process our reactions to them, and then let these reactions go. Worry, preoccupation and anxiety with either past or future events, is an indication that our mental digestive energy needs some support.
Chinese medicine tells us that worry “knots the qi,” creating all sorts of disruptions in the natural flow of our life. Chronic worry can result in physical ailments such as abdominal issues or extreme fatigue, in addition to preventing us from enjoying what is happening in the here and now.
Chronic worry is a difficult habit to break, but the good news is that it is just a habit. After all, worrying about something never prevented it from happening. The key to breaking the cycle of worry is to develop ways in which to bring yourself into the current moment – not reliving past grievances or anticipating future calamities.
Meditation is an excellent way to train the mind to stay in the present moment. When we are focused on the here and now our mind cannot leap backward or forward in time and engage in anxiety or rumination. If meditation seems too abstract, train yourself, when you sense the worry cycle beginning, to stop and reflect on something you are grateful for that is in the present, right here, right now. Creating this “attitude of gratitude” teaches the mind to appreciate life as you are living it. It is a habit no more difficult to create, really, than the habit of worry.
So enjoy these lazy days of August! Make sure to take the time to nourish yourself and your loved ones, reflect on the gifts that life has given to you, and prepare for the changes that Autumn is sure to bring.