Category Archives: Seasons

Change

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus is famous for his declaration: Life is Flux. In other words, all things change. At the same time that Heraclitus was contemplating his navel, on the other side of the world, ancient Chinese philosophers were articulating a similar view from their observation of nature. In times ancient and modern, people see changes occurring on a daily, seasonal and annual basis. We notice changes in our bodies and minds as we age over a lifetime. Cultural shifts occur over generations. Nowadays we are constantly being called to adapt to the changes brought by the pandemic and by climate change.

Today, February 4th, marks a pivotal change in the course of the year. It is a cross-quarter day, the half-way point between equinox and solstice. Here in the southern hemisphere it marks the beginning of autumn, while in the northern half of the globe, spring is springing.

The ancient Chinese classic of medicine the Nei Jing states that the last 18 days of a season are the province of the Earth Element which provides a period of transition between four seasons with very different qualities. We have just spent the last two and a half weeks making the transition between summer and autumn, or winter and spring. This is a time when we are more likely to wobble in our health, especially if we are moving into a season whose Element is a challenge to us.

It is helpful to support the Earth Element at these times. A function of Earth is to facilitate transitions and to mediate. In this capacity it can help us to manage change by providing a grounded centre of orientation.

One of the buzz words to arise from 2020 is pivot. Governments, businesses, families and individuals have all been challenged to adapt to the constraints that the pandemic has wrought. Pivoting suggest a change of direction or orientation, a swivelling around to point in another direction. This same word of pivot can be applied to the Earth phase: it is the axis or fulcrum to which the other Elements orient.

In times of change when we are pulled away from our centre, wobbling like a spinning top, dizzy or giddy with the sudden reconfigurations of life, then supporting the Earth Element helps us to maintain a centre when all around is changing. We can use acupressure to support the Earth’s organs of Stomach and Spleen and to help reconnect us to centre. Some helpful acupoints that have been discussed previously include

Stomach 36, Earth point

Stomach 40, Connecting point

Stomach 25 Heavenly Pivot

Spleen 4 Connecting point

At a deeper level

 We come into this world as pure droplets of the Tao, dropping from the infinite into a world of time and space and limits. In our first years of life, we develop an ego structure in order to give coherence to living in this world. This egoic self becomes a fixed conglomeration of memories, ideas, beliefs and identities. It is a structure that is challenged by change, both external and internal. Change is challenging to the ego structure which regards itself as the centre of everything. Its very existence is threatened by change. For who are we if we are not who we thought?

The more we grow spiritually, and the more we can unhook from the delusion of ego, the easier it becomes to roll with the change, to swim with the stream. Practices that help us to de-couple from ego and support our Earth at the same time include meditation, movement meditation, belly breathing, microcosmic orbit circulation breathing, taiqi, qigong and mindfulness practices. Also we can enquire into our resistance to change. What is it that prevents us from flowing with the river of our life, a river that is constantly changing?

As Heraclitus put it, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”.

September Equinox

Today is the September Equinox. Here in the southern hemisphere it is the Spring Equinox, the middle of our journey through the Wood Element; while in the northern hemisphere it is the Autumn Equinox within the Metal Element. For everyone all over the world, the nights and days are of equal length. The difference is that in the southern part of the globe, our days are getting longer and temperatures warmer, while for those of you in the top bit, your days are growing shorter and colder. But for one brief day, we meet in the middle. It makes me think of children on a see saw where one goes up as the other goes down, but they meet in the middle as the positions change. Today is literally a pivotal day in our passage between the Great Yin and Great Yang of the winter and summer solstices.

Lord of the Rings fans will be well aware that this is the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, though they never grow older than their 111 and 33 when they first entered the mind of JRR Tolkein. Happy Birthday Bagginses!

In something of a departure from the usual, in this blog I am republishing my review of Lorie Dechar’s new book Kigo which had it’s publication date of September 21st. It’s a wonderful addition to the library of Five Elements books and I’m delighted to recommend it. This review was first published in Pointers, Journal of the Shiatsu Therapists Association of Australia, Spring 2020 edition.

KIGO
Exploring the Spiritual Essence of Acupuncture Points Through the Changing Seasons
LORIE DECHAR ILLUSTRATED BY LORELEI CHANG

In Kigo, Lorie Dechar gifts us her poetic vision of the spirit of Chinese medicine. Nature and spirit are ravelled through this beautiful work and Lorie is our perceptive guide through the seasons. She unfolds the Chinese characters to pluck wisdom from their embedded symbols, inspiring practitioners to draw on their own inner resources to match the majesty of the points.

The Japanese word kigo means “season word”, very appropriate to the spirit of Five Element Acupuncture. Japanese haiku poets use such words to evoke the “Ah!-ness” of things. Dechar calls on the power of the kigo to remind us of the Ah!-ness of the healing encounter and to re-enliven our spiritual connection to the points.

As Dechar points out, “This book is not meant to be a how-to manual but something more like a letter of introduction to some of my most beloved friends, a series of meditations on time and place and the mysterious healing of the soul.” This perspective sets her book apart from many others which are oriented towards the treatment of conditions. Hers is first and foremost a work of the spirit of the points.

While the book is slanted towards acupuncture, an appendix details other ways of treating the points including flower essences and essential oils. Dechar also weaves Taoist, Western Classical and Jungian archetypes into the work, and incorporates the mythology of the Taoist spirit animals.

The names of her 52 beloved friends are paramount: “In order to grasp the spirit-level meaning of the point names, I find that it is important to meditate not only their poetry but also on the wisdom contained in the graphic design and energetics of the original Chinese characters.” To this end the characters are displayed as clear graphics within the text, a riddle to be deciphered, a message in a bottle that has been waiting thousands of years to be opened.

Dechar unpacks the subtle meanings of the characters, not only of the points, but also those of the elements, organs, colours, spirits, directions and other resonances, making for an easy way into Classical Chinese for the newcomer. Standing firmly in the Five Element Acupuncture tradition, Dechar chooses points that are particular to spirit. The selections often surprise, as she includes points that might be overlooked in a more mechanical approach to treatment.

Her personal relationship to the points is evidenced by prefacing them with her own haiku, each an homage to the spirit of the point.  In fact, prose poetry is woven through the text which makes the book such a delight to read.

Dechar’s  52 “friends” are divided among the five elements. While it is impossible to find just one to reflect the richness of her tapestry, I’ve chosen an example that is appropriate to our southern spring.

Gall Bladder 24 – Sun and Moon – Ri Yue

日月

Spring equinox. Twilight.
The sun dips down behind my back
as I greet the rising moon.

The haiku provides a prologue to an exploration of the balance of yin and yang, inner and outer as they manifest both at the equinox and within ourselves. Then follows an unpicking of the characters of Ri Yue which illuminates the philosophical and spiritual implications of the Gall Bladder’s capacity for wise judgement, standing one’s ground, and the balance between extroversion and introversion, action and receptivity, speech and silence. Dechar then explores a clinical case of a woman whose hip surgery (which cut through Gall Bladder 30) leads to insights about her anxiety at the uncertainty of her plans. She takes us through the conversation of honouring both inner and outer, as if placing her hand on the door before inserting the needle that will open it.

The treatment of the points, however, is not formulaic and the structure of each varies. She offers needle techniques, treatment strategies, the use of words, touch, oils and flower essences to “open others and ourselves to these transcendent realms.”

Acupuncturists will find much to engage with in terms of needle technique and the incorporation of the whole practitioner into clinical practice. But equally practitioners of other modalities as well as patients and the interested layperson will find Kigo a fascinating tour of the seasons, the elements, and the points that are the vehicles for transforming body, psyche and spirit.

Kigo publication date 21 September 2020, Singing Dragon Press