Category Archives: Gift

Let Me Sleep On It

When I was a lad, my mother used to tell me that an hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two hours sleep after midnight. No doubt she was trying to curb my teenage tendency to stay up late. Of course I didn’t believe it at the time.

Now I see that this notion echoes the Chinese medicine prescription of going to bed by 11 pm. This is so that we are resting during the time that the high tide of Qi is moving through the Gall Bladder meridian (11 pm to 1 am) and the Liver meridian (1 am to 3 am). It is said that the these organs and channels of the Wood Element like to be horizontal during this time of peak Qi.

Another concept that relates to these meridians is the idea of “sleeping on it”, meaning “I won’t make a decision right now but I’ll sleep on the question or problem and decide tomorrow”. This is excellent advice, for it is the Gall Bladder official that is in charge of decision making. By allowing the passage of time for the high tide of Qi to pass through this functionary of decision making, the answer or solution usually looks clearer the following morning.

A particularly thorny problem or decision may take more than one sleep, but don’t put the decision off too long. Procrastination is the other side of rashness, and both states can be pointing to an imbalance in the Wood Element. A balanced Wood provides us with the capacity for wise judgement followed by considered, appropriate action.

The season of spring, when the high tide of the year’s energy is passing through the Wood phase, can provide us with more than usually significant challenges in the areas of planning, decision making and taking action. If this describes you at the moment, then consider it a call to support your Wood. Go early to bed, eat green and sour foods, take herbs and supplements to gently cleanse the organs of liver and gall bladder. Avoid alcohol and rich, fatty food. Look at the emotion of anger (over-expressed or suppressed) and how that may be injuring these organs. Most of all, Wood likes to move, so get plenty of exercise.

At the level of spirit, the spirit of Wood is the hun, the ethereal soul. During the daytime the hun resides in the eyes, helping us to see how we can best act in alignment with our soul’s direction. But at night the hun descends to the Liver where it organises dreams that are beneficial to our soul. Sleeping soundly during Liver time (1 am to 3 am) is essential to that purpose, while sleep disturbances during that time are pointing to issues that relate to Liver.

All this talk of Liver reminds me of another saying, this time a Russian proverb: “The morning is wiser than the evening.” While I suspect this advice may have something to do with the nocturnal consumption of vodka, it is nevertheless another reminder of the clarity that can arise from just “sleeping on it”.

Trump and the Earth Imbalance

NarcissusOnce again Earth’s short season of Late Summer rolls around to the southern hemisphere. Meanwhile in the northern hemisphere an unprecedented political Earthquake has occurred, throwing up a world leader who seems to offer a masterclass in an Earth Element imbalance.

Most people who have an Earth imbalance at the psycho-emotional level are those who give to others at the expense of themselves, draining their own resources to their own detriment. This behaviour can become a kind of compulsive giving, out of a need to feel liked, loved, needed or valued.

Less often we see the imbalance at the other end of the spectrum, the person who cares only for themselves, is untouched by the needs of others, and lacks empathy for the suffering of anyone but themselves. This is narcissism which, when it becomes extreme, is known as narcissistic personality disorder. As has been noted widely elsewhere, the new president of the United States, Donald Trump, amply demonstrates these characteristics.

In my book The Way of the Five Seasons, I referred to this pattern as the yin response in Earth:

Lack of Sympathy, Demanding Attention

A famous phrase that sums up the pattern of the yin response is, ‘Enough about me, what did you think of my performance?’

This imbalance in Earth is characterised by a focus on our own needs at the expense of others. We are all familiar with the person who dominates a conversation with talk about himself. He steers the conversation in such a way that the focus remains on him. He may ask questions of others but only so that it shifts the topic to something he wants to talk about. In short, it’s all about him.

If a person has this orientation to the world, when sympathy is offered, the response is a pulling for more sympathy. To the sympathetic listener this can feel like being ensnared in a sticky web of attention-seeking need. Eventually the behaviour of the attention seeker causes his listener to withdraw, reinforcing the feelings of abandonment.

Taken to the extreme, this becomes narcissism. Here, the person is grandiosely self-important, exaggerates his abilities, has a belief that he is special and has a sense of entitlement, but most importantly, he lacks sympathy for others and is unwilling or unable to identify with their feelings.

This behaviour is almost always unconscious. The person is frantically trying to meet his own needs, which effectively blinds him to the needs of others. He is actually incapable of seeing their needs and responding to them. Like Narcissus of the Greek myth, he looks at the world and sees only a reflection of himself.

I wrote this long before Donald Trump began his run for the White House, but on rereading it, I am struck by how accurately this pattern describes him.

So here we are bemoaning and bewailing, gnashing and railing at the accession of Trump, all to little avail. For three months now I’ve been pondering the question, ‘How is this the perfect unfolding of True Nature? How is President Trump perfect for the world?’ If we see all the world as a mirror for our own self-work, what is Trump teaching us?

As long as our enlightenment is not complete, as long as we have any aspect of our ego structure unresolved, there will be narcissism. The ego is by its nature narcissistic. It wants what it wants in order to feel safe and secure because it believes it is separate. Narcissism arises from loss of contact with the truth that we are not separate, but arise out of an indivisible, indestructible oneness.

When all shreds of our narcissism have dissolved, our Earth Element is in perfect balance. We live from the place of total altruism, because all others are actually who we are.

Almost all of us find ourselves on a continuum which includes various proportions of altruism and narcissism. What Trump offers us is the opportunity to examine the ways in which narcissism is an obstacle to altruism.

Next time you find yourself tearing your hair out at the latest impossible thing to come out of his mouth, I invite you to take a look in this mirror.

We’ll have fun fun fun

(till her daddy takes the T-bird away)



In the final blogpost for 2016, we look at one of the gifts of the Fire Element. Fun!


Years ago I made a new friend and early on in our friendship she asked me, ‘What do you do for fun?’ I had never been asked that question before and it actually took some thought to answer it. Lately, as I’ve been thinking and writing about the Fire Element, I have been asking others the same question and they, too, have to think about it for a while. First of all we have to think about what fun means. Something amusing, pleasurable and enjoyable. Something that is entertaining, diverting or comical. But above all something that is light-hearted and brings happiness. Then we think of the ways we seek to bring this sense of fun into our life.

In our fast-paced modern world, we can sometimes get very serious about taking care of the many strands of life and forget to have fun. The Heart needs to be tended and one of the ways to do that is to engage in activities that bring pleasure, amusement, laughter and light-heartedness.

Five Element acupuncturist Neil Gumenick offers this advice:

Have fun on a regular basis, even if you have to work at it at first. Make it a priority – schedule your fun, if that’s what it takes. Don’t compromise. Consider fun as important to your well-being as work or anything else you do.

Summer is a great time to work on your fun. For one thing there is just so much fun stuff happening in the summer, from parties and barbecues to fairs and festivals everywhere you look. Haven’t you noticed how many events there are on the same weekend in summer? The energy of the Fire Element simply suffuses summer. It calls forth and supports anything that sustains and heals the heart.

Here’s a suggestion: find one thing that you’ve always wanted to do for fun but never got around to and find time to do that this summer. Your heart will thank you.