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Energy has its fluctuations and rhythms in the natural world. To cultivate life and maintain the greatest health, Traditional Chinese medicine teaches us to live in harmony with the cycles of the seasons. A teaching in the Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Medicine), reads “..sages cultivate their life by following the climatic changes in the four seasons and that is why they can avoid attack by pathogenic factors and live a long life.”

In nature, winter is a time of hibernation and dormancy as much of plant life goes underground. All of that vitality isn’t lost — it is storing up for new growth in Spring. Similarly, if we slow down and take time for extra rest and contemplation, we can nourish our Qi in preparation of new growth. This is why the New Year is such a good time for reflection and planning intentions or resolutions. Thinking is the first step in doing. We can plant seeds in stillness for our growth all year.

There are many ways you can approach this time of reflection. You can set goals, create affirmations or follow other practices you know work for you. If you want to follow a guide, the following are some options.

One simple technique is to think of a word that embodies your intention for the year. It could be service, whimsy, success, focus, vitality, freedom, dance, etc. Just pick a word that resonates with you. Write down some ideas of actions you can take to make this word a presence in your life. Write the word down and put it somewhere you can see it, or use this word in your meditation throughout the year.

If you want to do some deeper thinking about the past year and what you want to keep, get rid of, and bring about, writer Susannah Conway (http://www.susannahconway.com) has an excellent free workbook to do just that!

Click here to get Susannah Conway’s workbook. Image:  Susannah Conway

 

Print it out, sit down with a cup of tea, and in about an hour you may feel grounded, fortified and ready to bring all your intentions to life.

To have an especially nourishing experience, get a pot of soup cooking before you start your workbook. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is important to eat warming foods. Try this gently detoxing winter soup, Healing Quinoa Cabbage Soup to continue to ease out of holiday excesses, back to optimal health.

Click here to get the recipe from Whole Life Nutrition.

We like to spend the first part of the year writing posts about every day things you can do to improve your health and life in the coming year, so stay tuned as we move from the imaginative to the practical.

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A Year’s Plan Starts With Spring
-Chinese Proverb

It’s easy to feel a boost of energy in the Spring with the fresh, sunny days and blossoming trees signaling new life and regeneration.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Spring relates to the liver and gallbladder organs, our body’s detoxification system.

 

The Liver system is known as the “farmer who cultivates”. It governs and regulates the blood and the flow of Qi (life force) energy to promote circulation. It processes our emotions and nourishment, eliminating what is not needed.

The Gallbladder system governs decision making and gives us the courage and ability to make decisions. The gallbladder also plays an essential role in the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body.
How Can We Help These Hard Working Organs to Boost Our Vitality in Spring?
Choose Light, Clean Foods
To be in harmony with the qualities of Spring, the foods we eat should provide a gentle cleansing from the heavier foods we ate during the winter months.

Try eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits such as; grapefruit, apples, radishes, daikon, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, leeks, and shiitake mushrooms. Eat lean poultry and meats, preferably grass fed, that are grilled or steamed, not fried. Enjoy complex grains like brown rice and millet. Additionally, food and drink that taste sour are thought to stimulate Qi, so enjoy lemon slices in your water and oil and vinegar dressing or olives.

Fresh Air and Movement
According to TCM, the liver stores blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Find a daily stretching routine that works for you like yoga or tai chi. Fresh air helps liver qi flow so try to take a walk on your lunch break or try an outdoor sport like soccer with your friends or family.

Acupuncture
Seasonal acupuncture treatments can tone your organ systems, aid in your detoxification efforts, and correct small imbalances before they lead to greater disturbances.

Giving our bodies extra support now will not only give us an immediate boost, it will strengthen our systems for the rest of the year. Likewise, investing in time to contemplate our lives and realign our focus, if needed, can help keep us on the path to reach our goals for the future.

Renew Your Mind and Spirit
Spring is a time of birth and change. Reflect on your priorities or goals in life and give them merit. Take opportunities that come your way, give yourself time to explore your creativity, or learn something new.

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We’ve been blogging recently about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and its theories about Blood and its relation to our health. We’ve discussed how blood is produced, how it affects our body, and what organs work in concert with different aspects of blood and Qi. An aspect of TCM that is always relevant no matter what the subject is nutrition. What we eat directly affects our bodies — how they produce blood, build up immunity, and feel over all.

What we put in our bodies is very important. Some guidelines to a good diet are fairly simple. Avoid sugar. Stay away from fast food and overly processed foods. The more natural the food, the better it is for you. Another way to help you decide what food choices are best is to eat with the seasons. What this means is eating foods that are in season; things that grow naturally during that time of the year in the part of the region/country that you are currently living in. Different parts of the world and even in different parts of the United States these options will vary, but there are some general guidelines to this way of eating and living.

  • Spring brings new growth and greens. You can represent this with tender, leafy vegetables including Asparagus, Swiss chard, spinach, Romaine lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil.
  • The heat of summer can be balanced with with light, cooling foods. These foods include fruits like strawberries, apple, pear, and plum; vegetables like summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and corn; and spices and seasonings like peppermint and cilantro.
  • As autumn cools down, warm things up with the harvest. Foods that fit into this category are carrot, sweet potato, butter nut and acorn squash, pumpkin, onions, and garlic. Also emphasize the more warming spices and seasonings including ginger, peppercorns, and mustard seeds.
  • With winter’s cold, it’s time to turn even more exclusively toward warming foods. Foods that take longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly. All of the animal foods fall into the warming category (e.g., fish, chicken, beef, lamb, and venison). So do most of the root vegetables, including carrot, potato, onions and garlic. Eggs also fit in here, as do corn, and nuts.

-Adapted from Worlds Healthiest Foods

Another good resource for seasonal eating is the book by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  She chronicles a year where she and her family grow and eat all their food in season. An interesting read.  Follow the seasons and you will be naturally led down the right path to right nutrition — a cornerstone in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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