Tag 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”.

We’ll have fun fun fun

(till her daddy takes the T-bird away)

t-bird-girl

 

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.

skydiving

Where there is Will

When intent becomes permanent, we speak of Will. (Neijing)

As we traverse the last weeks of winter, let’s examine again the spirit of Water, Zhi, which is often translated as Will.

Weight lifterSeveral years ago I became quite ill and began working with a naturopath. She prescribed an apothecary of supplements for physical purification and strongly recommended a Vipassana retreat for spiritual purification.

For those who don’t know about Vipassana retreats, they are the black belt, hard-core, take-no-prisoners style of meditation retreats. For 10 days you don’t speak, don’t look anyone in the eye, eat only two meals a day, get up at 4 am and go to bed after 9, meditate for 10 hours a day, often without moving a muscle for an hour at a time. What is more, I did my retreat at the winter solstice in Melbourne where the temperature fell below freezing at night.

I thought at the time that this was the hardest thing I’d ever done. It required tremendous willpower and effort to stay the course and not leave after even the first day. Every day, every hour, required me to continually rededicate myself to the practice.

When I was released from prison on the tenth day, I felt a tremendous sense of freedom and great satisfaction at having stayed the course. Unexpectedly, I found that I had much more will. I found I could sit at my desk and write for hours without the usual restlessness. I was able to complete tasks that I would normally put off or do in stages. Somatically, I felt a weighty presence in my belly centre, a bowling ball of will that kept me centred and stable.

These qualities of determination, steadfastness, resilience and power were developed by the initial application of effort, but after a time, the effort was transformed into will. Willpower became true will. Like bending your back to crank the engine until it sparks into life and runs on its own.

These are all resonances of the Water Element, the gifts of Zhi. Here are some suggestions for cultivating Zhi:

  • Do something you’ve never done before
  • Do something for five minutes longer when you’d rather stop
  • Do something very slowly
  • Do something no one would expect you to do
  • Postpone an action you want to do
  • Do something now that you’d prefer to postpone
  • Do a practice every day for a month

For some support in your cultivation of will, hold the acupoint Bladder 52- Zhishi– Residence of the Will which we’ve looked at previously. This point promotes endurance, helps to resolve fear (the emotion of Water), strengthens will, and restores essence (jing). For those who are driven, it softens hard willpower and supports true will.

Ultimately, true will is the will of true nature. As we align our personal will with the will of the universe, all efforting drops away and doing simply happens.

Location of Bladder 52

2.20

 

On the back at the level of the junction of the 2nd and 3rd lumbar vertebrae and 3 cun (four fingers width) lateral to the spine. It is approximately at the same level as the navel.