Author: Daciana

The “Yellow Emperor” meditation

Not long ago I posted my two pence piece regarding the novel Coronavirus. In that article I was posting a visualisation exercise prescribed in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, the most fundamental book for the traditional Chinese medicine, which contains a series of recommendations for practitioners in order to maintain good health, especially in times of epidemics. One of them is a visualisation technique for physical strength and protection, before the health workers enter the hospital to assist the diseased.

This is the text that inspired my meditation:

“This worker should practice visualising a strong Liver with green energy emanating from it to the East and producing vibrant vegetation; a white energy emanating from robust Lungs to the West turning into metal armour and weapons; a red energy emanating from an active Heart to the South creating radiant light; a deep blue energy emanating from solid Kidneys to the North forming a formidable sea; and a yellow energy emanating from a sturdy Spleen in the Middle manifesting the substantial Earth. […]”

Please note that this is my own interpretation of the text. If you plan on doing this meditation standing, you can turn to face those specific cardinal points. If you sit or lie down, just imagine yourself facing the cardinal points.

Here is the transcript of the meditation

I want you to find a comfortable position. Whether you choose to stand, sit or lie down, please make sure your spine is straight and you can relax.

Begin by focusing on your breathing. Do not try to change anything about how you breathe, just acknowledge the fact that you are breathing and become aware of the act of breathing. Just breathe normally, in and out.  Let your thoughts come and go, just acknowledge their presence and let them be, do not try to push them away, just let them float around in your mind, like clouds in the sky.

During this meditation, if thoughts try to disturb your focus, just go back to the breathing and allow your thoughts to come and go, just breathe and listen to my voice.

You will now begin your journey inside your body. Your body is strong and healthy, and this meditation will help it stay strong and healthy.

Now I want you to focus your attention on your Liver, on the right hand side of your body, just below the ribs. With your Liver in mind, imagine the sun rising and shining the light over a beautiful, green forest, in spring. This forest is full of vibrant, green vegetation: majestic trees with thick, strong branches and beautiful leaves, graceful young trees with slender, flexible bodies, and beautiful, green blades of grass. All this lush forest grows patiently from the green light of your Liver.

Return to your breathing for a few moments, taking in all that green, fresh beauty of the forest at dawn.

Now I want you to shift your attention to your lungs, in your chest. As you focus your attention to your Lungs, visualise the most beautiful sunset ever, with red and yellow clouds and blue sky. As you are admiring this gorgeous view, picture yourself protected by the shiniest, silver armour you have ever seen. You can design this armour as you wish, as a thin silver layer covering your skin, or as a big, medieval-like armour, with a shield and a sword to match. This armour can protect and shield you against anything.

Mind your breathing for a few moments, feeling that silver armour covering and protecting your body.

Next I want you to focus your attention on your Heart. Place your fingers in the middle of your breastbone and let it rest there gently. Now picture yourself in the middle of the summer, the Sun is shining right up in the sky from the South. There’s red fruits and berries everywhere. Your Heart radiates the purest red light, filled with love. There’s laughter and joy everywhere. Your Heart is content.

Return to your breathing for a few moments, allowing that feeling of pure, red love fill your Heart.

Now I want you to move your awareness to your Kidneys, in your lower back. It is the middle of the night, the sky above is full of stars, you are by the sea, and you are dipping your feet in this blue, clear sea. Feel the water touching your feet. Know that this formidable sea is coming from the North. It is You in Essence form. Everything that you are, your DNA, the wisdom from your parents passed on to your children is in this sea of yours.

Return to your breathing for a few moment, breathing in the salty sea air and feeling the blue sea water gently touching your feet.

Now I want you to move your awareness to your spleen, in the stomach area. Imagine the strongest, most majestic mountain, covered in gold. This mountain is your centre, you are grounded and firm. Feel the grounding and the strength of this mountain in your own body. Feel the golden light radiating from the centre of your body.

Return to your breathing and take in the majesty and the strength of this golden mountain.

As you keep breathing in and out, I want you to visualise the whole picture, your entire universe, with the strong, beautiful golden mountain in the centre, covered by luxurious green vegetation, with the deep blue sea washing yellow shores of sand at the base of the mountain, with you standing tall and protected in your silvery shiny armour, feeling the love of the universe filling your heart. You are loved, you are safe, you are nurtured, you are healthy.

Before you conclude this meditation, give thanks to yourself for taking time to do this, and know that this meditation is an act of love and healing.

And here is the recording

Coronavirus, my two pence piece

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have already made acquaintance with this intriguing little coronavirus which seems to be causing a lot of havoc around the world.

Apart from an unusual appetite for toilet paper, from what information is out there, it seems to behave like a proper coronavirus, that is a respiratory viral infection, much like the seasonal colds and flus. What seems to be different is the speed with which it seems to be infecting a large number of people. This is why the doctors in China had so little time to isolate it and at the same time warn everyone.

This one turned out to be out of the norms and with too many cases all at once.

I am not going to bury myself into conspiracy theories, political discussions, fake news and other false food for thought about this virus.

What I am going to do instead is offer my two pence piece on the matter based on my training in the healing arts of the Chinese medicine and maybe offer some useful advice based on it.

If you read my other two pence piece about the season of spring (you can read it here), you already know that one of the natural elements that can become out of balance easily in spring is Wind. And Wind means a lot of things in connection to our inner universe, including respiratory and viral infections. Go figure! Viral infections are to be expected during the spring season [yes, I’m being a bit sarcastic]

According to the principles of Chinese medicine and the Five Elements, an imbalance in one of the Elements will affect the next but one in line. That is because the controlling cycle of the Elements over one another. So, this means that any viral infections or allergies in Spring actually stem from Autumn. This is why I keep telling my clients with allergies to start consuming local honey in autumn and boost their immune system if they want to keep their allergies in check in Spring. If you start taking care of your problem when you already got the sniffles, it’s like forging weapons when the war is already at your door. It’s too late.

So this battle with the new coronavirus actually started, as we know by now, in November, when the first cases started to appear. So far nothing out of the ordinary.

At this point, a few words are in order about the main “culprit”, namely Autumn.  

Autumn is the season of Metal, the Element that governs over our defensive mechanisms: Lungs, Large Intestine (gut), skin. In the classical texts of traditional Chinese medicine, the Metal presents all the traits of a Prime Minister, as the intermediary between our inner universe governed by the supreme ruler, the Heart, and the outer universe.  

We use the Lungs to breathe, to provide oxygen for the production of Blood, the main domain of the Heart, to circulate the Qi around the body and to produce some of our antibodies. This means that the quality of our breathing has a direct impact on our entire body and, of course, on our immunity.

We use the Large Intestine to separate the good and valuable metals (metals = Metal) that are needed in the body from the toxic waste from the food processing. The gut also collects water from the same sources. I bet many of us breathe easier and have a much lighter day after a nice and smooth bowel movement and opening early in the morning.

Our skin is the first and foremost line of defence against all the threats out there that would like nothing best but to penetrate our body and have a field day with our internal organs and body parts. The Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) of the Metal is on patrol permanently within our skin and inside our body, performing 25 complete cycles during the day and 25 complete cycles during the night. That is why the quality of our sleep and rest is vital for our immunity, not to mention the quality of our skin, and here I’m not talking about cosmetics, but its ability to filter out the toxins through sweat, its ability to regulate our temperature and protect us from lots of other pathogens such as chemicals, or radiation.

The sensory organ of the system is the nose and the sense related to it, the smell. Most of the aromatic herbs used in herbal remedies as well as in cooking have affinity for the Lung – Large Intestine system. And that is why aromatherapy should be used wisely and not for a long time so that we don’t burn out our ability to respond to various aromas when we need it the most.  

At an emotional and spiritual level, the Metal is in charge of our personal relationships with the outer universe, pretty much like at the physical level. Which means that this is the level of interaction with the others. Our skin is the interface between the inside and the outside. The skin is not sensitive only to environmental stimuli, such as temperature, humidity, and radiation, but also to touch. We are designed to respond to touch, and various types of touching generate various responses within ourselves. Some of the touches will make us raise our defences, put on our armour and raise our shield, while others will have the opposite effect, leaving us naked and vulnerable. This is why massage therapy and cupping are one of the best therapies to boost our immunity and also meet our need for touch, and a hug is one of the best pick-me-ups.

The emotions associated with Metal are related to the balance between gain and loss: bereavement, grief, sadness, and they relate to our ability to gather, collect, open up, accept, invite, allow, let go and release. The very act of breathing represents these actions: we open up our Lungs to the exterior, we accept the air inside our body, and we allow it to offer us the gift of life. Then, we must allow the same Lungs to release all the waste components from the used air back to the exterior. A very similar process takes place in the bowels, as we release the waste elements from feeding back to the exterior. The only two voluntary processes related to our physiology are breathing and opening the bowels and they both belong to the Metal Element.

So if this is a somewhat natural process, what went wrong this year?

At this point I must mention that I am not attempting to find a cure for the novel coronavirus, I am just trying to find an answer to my own questions about it and make sense of what is happening and why.

The fundamental book of the Chinese medicine, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, is the best source for answers when confronted with a complex problem. My professors at the TCM College taught me many valuable lessons, but one is more valuable than the rest: “When in doubt, always turn to the fundamental book of Chinese medicine, that’s where you’ll find your answer”

The theory of the Five Elements applies to everything in the universe, to the outer universe, the nature, and the inner universe, the human body. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that we get a new respiratory virus with such dramatic signs in a new Chinese year under the Element of the Metal, which emerged in the season of the Metal.

The Metal has the ability to control Wood, the Element of Spring. A wise and balanced Metal will know exactly how much to prune and control the Wood so that Wood grows harmoniously. However, an excessive Metal will cut too much of the Wood. In the absence of trees, the Wind becomes unleashed. Hence the epidemic.

The fundamental book contains enough indications on what such events should be dealt with and how the practitioners should treat the cases, based on the specific signs and symptoms. Research articles are already emerging in journals on herbal remedies and acupuncture points the Chinese doctors have used to make their patients better. I was more interested in something I could do to protect myself and also share with my community.

As always, the book didn’t let me down. And this is what I found:

Huang Di asked: “The epidemic infections are often deadly and contagious. Are there any ways that health workers can prevent being infected?”

Qi Bo replied: “People with strong antipathogenic Qi do not succumb to epidemic infections. Let me share with you some of the ways. Before entering a medical facility, a health worker must focus the mond and summon the indefeatable antipathogenic forces to protect the body against any possible invasion.

This worker should practice visualising a strong Liver with green energy emanating from it to the East and producing vibrant vegetation; a white energy emanating from robust Lungs to the West turning into metal armour and weapons; a red energy emanating from an active Heart to the South creating radiant light; a deep blue energy emanating from solid Kidneys to the North forming a formidable sea; and a yellow energy emanating from a sturdy Spleen in the Middle manifesting the substantial Earth. […]”

Health means balance. If we focus on boosting only our immune system, we only feed more Metal. I strongly believe that the answer lies in balancing the Elements, not going after one in particular. And the book confirmed this to me.

The Liver – Wood governs over intuition and patience, the Metal – Lungs give us courage and cooperation, the Heart – Fire governs over love and laughter and melts excessive Metal, the Kidneys govern over trust and wisdom, and the Spleen governs over empathy. One of the articles I read about how the doctors in China dealt with the virus mentioned how much trust the patients had in their doctors and the treatments they received.

I am not saying we should stop following the recommendations of the doctors and authorities. Please continue to wash your hands and keep yourselves clean, minimise physical contact and isolate yourselves if you are ill, even if it’s just a cold.

I do believe the virus must run its course and we must reach “herd immunity”. In the absence of a vaccine, we must do it the old way, the natural way. A second wave in Autumn is to be expected and the best prevention is to be prepared, with as many people as possible armed with the best armour ever: natural immunity. By then we will know our enemy and our possible allies.

This is the blessing hidden in this epidemic: we will finally learn to take proper rest when we’re ill, we will appreciate every breath we take, and we will appreciate more the value of a hug and human contact and companionship. And we will learn to open up and work together, like the links of one strong chain.

If you want to strengthen yourself and your defences, this is what I use. Please note that this should be done regularly, not when the enemy is already at the gates. Chinese medicine is preventative medicine first and foremost. Make this part of your lifestyle.

  • The visualising above from the fundamental book. If you don’t know where the cardinal points are, just visualise an image of:  sunrise for East, full summer sun for South, sunset for West and starry night sky for North. Spend a few minutes with each organ and what it represents, as mentioned in the book. Feel free to add more, and give thanks to each of them for making you healthy.  
  • Breathing exercises and Five Elements QiGong (WuXing QiGong). I recommend the ones in Heavenly Streams. Meridian Theory in Nei Gong by Damo Mitchell. YouTube materials also available.
  • Tai Chi exercises (I am a Tai Chi instructor), nature walks and lots of enjoyable activities to nourish my spirit. Some people call them hobbies.
  • Stop following the crowds. Embrace an individualised and personalised lifestyle, adapted to your personal needs: nutrition, exercise, sleep, rest, emotional hygiene.
  • Learn to listen to your body and learn to work with yourself and not against yourself
  • I am not against supplements. However, if you learn to nurture yourself properly, for your own needs, you should not need them. The only ones I rely on, when needed, not all the time, are royal jelly, probiotics, CBD oil, and vitamin D (I live in England, after all)
  • There’s always opportunity with every challenge. Look at everything with new eyes and learn to find the hidden treasures in the muddy waters.

The trials and tribulations of Spring

Spring is the season of awakening. All things in nature are reborn, revitalised, awoken. The seeds break open their shells and the plants begin their journey towards the light. Birds and animals are more vocal and they start shouting and fighting to prove themselves worthy of the favours of a potential mate.

In Chinese Medicine, spring is associated with the element of Wood: green and vibrant, with the roots firmly grounded in the Earth, drawing its life-force from Water and with the branches soaring towards the Heavens and the Sun.  

Anything green growing in nature plans ahead when to start germinating and growing from a seed. It usually needs at least one cold spell before starting sprouting. A tree will first develop roots, then a trunk and only then it will grow a full canopy. The plan is very precise, the root system matches that of the canopy, so the tree will keep growing below the ground as much as it will grow above it. Every stage is carefully planned and the tree will make sure it has got enough resources to complete each stage and the resources reach all the branches and leaves without any obstacles.

The organ system most affected by Spring in Chinese Medicine is the Liver-Gallbladder. Let’s take a closer look at what Wood is about in TCM

In traditional Chinese medicine, Wood is considered the General. Just like its military counterpart, Wood in the human body is responsible for planning and regulating all the body’s activities. Wood is the one that stores the Blood, the source of all the nourishment around the body. When the body is resting, Wood stores the Blood in the Liver, its major internal organ. When the body is active, both physically and mentally, Wood uses the Liver and its functions to distribute the Blood where it is needed. Just like a General ensures all the operations run smoothly and without obstacles, Wood in the body is responsible for the smooth and free flow of the Qi, because the Qi is the moving force and the energy behind all the functions of the body, both physically and mentally.

At a physical level, the internal organs that belong to the Wood phase are the Liver and the Gallbladder. Wood governs over the joints, tendons and ligaments, the parts of our body that ensure our mobility. Just like a General, Wood is a visionary, therefore it governs over the sense of sight and the eyes.

At an emotional level, Wood relates to anger, frustration, and jealousy. At a cognitive level, Wood controls creativity, initiative, decision making and planning. The spirit of the Wood is Hun, the ethereal soul, our intuition, the part of us that outlives our body.  The virtue that keeps Wood in check is patience. 

Wood imbalances

Now let’s take a look at some of the things that could go wrong in the Liver system by looking at the Wood element in Spring.

Much like the Sun at rising point, Spring causes nature to wake up from slumber and raise. This upward movement of the energy can be seen in all aspects of nature: we enjoy more daylight, the Sun shines its light at a higher angle, the plants start to grow, the trees produce buds, the bees get busy, the birds and the animals come out of hibernation and become more vocal and more active.

Humans feel the rising energies of Mother Nature as well: we feel more energetic, more active. A healthy and balanced person will enjoy and will harness the rising energies of Spring by starting eating more green foods, drinking more water, spend more time in nature, meditate and do light exercise like stretching and practice patience and equanimity.

Failing to control this rising energy or trying to supress it will lead to symptoms and diseases that will affect the body in the long run.

When a person fails to temper this eruption of exuberant energy, the energy in their body will rise abnormally upwards, towards the head. This is called Liver Yang rising or Liver Fire.  

This can translate into:

  • hypertension
  • headaches
  • migraine
  • vision problems
  • insomnia
  • outbursts of anger, jealousy, frustration
  • dream disturbed sleep
  • OCD
  • PMDD

When a person tries to block this eruption of exuberant energy instead of managing it, the energy in their body will stagnate. When the Qi in the body stagnates, everything else stagnates: Blood, Bodily Fluids, hormones and emotions. The main symptom of stagnation in the body is pain. The main symptom of stagnation at a mental level is translated in mood, emotional and mental disorders.

When the Liver fails to ensure the free flow in the body we have Liver Qi Stagnation and various symptoms and complaints such as:

  • dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
  • PMS
  • irregular periods
  • fibromyalgia
  • muscle cramps
  • TMJ
  • IBS
  • constipation
  • emotional and mental disorders
  • improper time and money management

Wind disorders

While there is no Air element in TCM, Wood is strongly related to Wind. In Chinese Medicine, Wind is regarded as one of the “evils” that can cause disease in the body.

As an external pathogen, External Wind is most likely to attack the Lung system, our first line of defence, causing colds, flus, sinusitis, sore throat, coughs, itchy skin, hay fever, etc. All of them very specific for the spring season.

As an internal pathogen, Internal Wind is mainly related to the Liver system because the Liver is responsible for the free flow. There are many diseases caused by Wind, and they are not all related to the spring season, but they might be triggered in spring or by emotional imbalances and most acupoints used to manage them belong to the Liver and Gallbladder meridians. They usually appear suddenly and most of the times have a seasonal or migratory nature:

  • passive-aggressive and bi-polar disorders
  • arthritis pain that moves from joint to joint
  • moving pain of any kind
  • headaches or migraines accompanied by dizziness and nausea
  • vertigo, BPPV
  • tremors and shaking, essential tremors, Parkinson’s
  • muscle spasms, epilepsy
  • stroke, paralysis
  • rashes, itchy skin or genitalia

A few words about Anger

Many people say that Anger weakens the Liver. Truth is Anger is just a response, a symptom, a message that something is not right and the Liver system is not balanced. Many people may not even have very clear cut physical symptom that can be linked to the Liver. I’ve had patients complaining about not being happy about how they manage their tasks and time at the office or about how aimless their lives feel, about not being able to make decisions or not being able to go with the flow. I’ve had people complaining about feeling trapped or stuck, having nightmares or they simply complained about waking up every night between 1 and 3 am. All these are red flags for me that there is lack of free flow somewhere.

Anger is the most powerful driving force in the Universe. Anger is neither good nor bad. Anger becomes a problem when it is untamed, suppressed or repressed.   Without a bit of frustration, the seed will always remain in the form of a seed, failing to fulfil its intended purpose. Without a bit of anger, the little tiny plant that emerges from the seed will never find the power to penetrate the hard shell of the seed and push itself upward through the hard soil towards the light. Without anger and a bit of jealousy, birds and animals will never engage in the loud and sometimes violent act of finding a mate and they will never have the power to defend their chicks and younglings. Without anger and frustration we will always be confined to the same unfulfilling environment, relationship or workplace, we will never find our voice and our battle cry.

Self-care advice

At a physical level, eat appropriate foods in spring. All year round, eat foods that support the free flow of the Qi and nourish the Blood. Also, increase the time spent in nature and introduce slow exercising, such as Tai Chi, QiGong and Yoga. Walking in nature benefits both the joints and the mind.

At a mental and emotional level, spending time in nature and contemplating the vegetation coming back to life is very beneficial. Mindfulness is a must and you should try to integrate it into your daily routine, even if it’s just a few minutes a day, especially in the morning, to help with the flow of the Qi.

You should embrace activities and hobbies that support creativity, intuition and patience, such as growing and nurturing plants from seeds, painting flowers, and the practice of self-compassion.

Wuxing Nutrition Therapy Workshop

Join me on a wonderful journey of self discovery with the Five Elements Nutrition Therapy Workshop

What is Wuxing nutrition therapy?

The Wuxing nutrition therapy is Five Elements nutrition therapy, created on the principles of the ancient art of Chinese nutrition. Please read the article for more information.

Wuxing nutrition therapy, is about self-discovery, self-transformation and self-healing. It puts YOU back in control of your food intake.

What is in the workshop?

We will look at foods, beverages and cooking methods according to the laws of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements and classify them into categories based on thermal energy, taste, flavour, area of influence in the body and the way cooking methods can influence them.

We will learn about seasons, constitutional factors, how food can influence our health and well-being, and how to create recipes for better health and vitality.

Who can benefit from this nutrition therapy workshop?

Anybody who is interested in learning about the ancient Tao healing art of nurturing themselves in accordance to the principles of the Five Elements is most welcome.

Will I have to cook and eat Chinese?

Absolutely not! One of the important rules of Wuxing nutrition therapy is that it encourages the consumption of local foods. You will learn how to combine them based on the Wuxing principles so that you can start cooking for your own personalised needs and preferences.

What if I am vegan or vegetarian?

Wuxing nutrition therapy works with who you are, physically, emotionally and spiritually, to help you transform in the best version of yourself. If you are vegan, you are free to stay vegan, but it will help you be the best version of you as a vegan.

However, please note that the workshop will make mention of all food groups, including meat and dairy products.

Please read the disclaimer before enlisting for the workshop.

DISCLAIMER

The Wuxing Nutrition Therapy workshop has been designed to familiarise you with the principles of the Five Elements nutrition, as they have been written down in the Chinese medicine literature, so that you can become more aware of your daily food intake, enhance well-being, and enrich your relationship with food and food preparation.

One must consider the fact that Wuxing nutrition therapy must be accompanied by other therapies and lifestyle changes in order to become most effective.

The workshop does not enable you to complete a Chinese medicine diagnostic on yourself or others.

The workshop does not present any specific food cures related to any illnesses or medical conditions and it is not a substitute for professional consultation and treatment from a qualified Chinese medicine practitioner, other nutritionist practitioners or your doctor.  

If you have concerns about your health or if you have to follow a special diet due to various illnesses or diagnosed medical conditions, it is recommended that you consult your healthcare team before you make any changes in your diet.

The information contained in the workshop are by no means a substitute, replacement or alternative to any form of medication you may be taking for your medical conditions.

This workshop is designed for personal use.

If you are a professional, you will be able to receive a CPD certificate of attendance, but it will not qualify you a Chinese medicine nutritionist, nor will you be able to use it to get insured as such a nutritionist, unless you are already qualified as a TCM practitioner and/or TCM acupuncturist.

All participants to the workshop will sign a copy of this disclaimer at the moment of their training.

Wuxing Nutrition Therapy

One of my favourite teachers at the Chinese medicine college used to say:

“This person needs nourishment, not punishment!”

Food, glorious food!

As human beings, we have a special relationship with food. Food is not just fuel for the body, food is much more than that.

Our first relationship is with our mothers, through feeding, both in the womb and after we are born. 

We break bread only with friends and family, and many of our first dates include food.  An old proverb says that love passes through the stomach, and they are not far from the truth, considering that the Heart meridian is paired up with the Small Intestine in Chinese medicine.

We use food and eating metaphors to describe how we feel, “full of zest for life”, “with no appetite for anything”, we take in “the sweetness of life”, or “life can be bitter sometimes”.

Food is one of our greatest pleasures in life. Some take pleasure from eating it, some take pleasure from cooking it. For some, food is a hindrance, for others, a sin.

What is nutrition therapy?

Nutrition therapy is one of the Tao Healing Arts also known as the arts of the Mountain or the Alchemy arts. It does not belong to the arts of Medicine. In fact, it is the precursor of herbalism, as physicians developed the herbal remedies from the foods and herbs they were eating.   

According to the principles of Tao Healing Arts, nutrition plays a very important part in preserving and restoring our health. Food is not just a means to nurture our bodies, but it represents a vital part into maintaining a healthy balance of the spirit.

As all the other healing and metaphysical arts of the Tao, nutrition is first and foremost an instrument for preserving health. It was considered one of the most powerful forms of self-transformation and self-healing arts.

Food as an instrument of health preservation

As part of the ancient Tao healing arts, nutrition therapy uses the same fundamental principles to analyse foods and their effects on the human being.

Foods, drinks, spices and cooking methods are differentiated according to the following principles:

  1. Energy/thermal energy. This is related to the Yin or Yang nature of the nutrition. Thus, we have hot, warm, neutral, cooling and cold energy. Hot and warm influence Yang, cooling and cold influence Yin and neutral can be either.
  2. Taste or flavour. Here we have five aromatic categories, corresponding to the Five Elements (Wuxing) and also to the five pairs of Zang-/Fu organs. The five flavours or tastes are: sweet, pungent, salty, acrid/sour, and bitter.
  3. Qi affecting properties. This represents the way in which a certain food or drink affects the movement of the Qi. We have foods that move the Qi upwards, foods that move the Qi downwards, foods that keep the Qi at the surface and foods that sink the Qi deep in the body.
  4. Area of influence. In this category we find foods that support the Qi, foods that nourish Blood or nourish the Bodily Fluids and foods that supplement the Essence (pre-natal Qi)
  5. Cooking methods. The way we process the foods can enhance their properties or destroy them

We are not what we eat, we eat who we are

Since no two people are exactly identical, what we eat and how we eat should be as individual as ourselves and should help us preserve our health and cure us when needed.

Choosing to follow the principles of Wuxing nutrition therapy means to learn about our unique constitutional profile, our strengths and weaknesses, what our symptoms mean, and eat our way back to balance. It is a journey of a lifetime. As we change, so should our nutrition change to support the new us. It is a very personal path and nobody can walk it for us. 

Many people think that they will have to start cooking and eating Chinese or they have to change their dietary regime. Far from the truth. Wuxing nutrition therapy works with who you are, physically, emotionally and spiritually, to help you transform in the best version of yourself. If you are vegan, you are free to stay vegan, but it will help you be the best version of you as a vegan.

Wuxing nutrition therapy, aka Five Elements nutrition therapy, is about self-discovery, self-transformation and self-healing. It puts YOU back in control.

If you want to learn this ancient art, join me for the Wuxing Nutrition Therapy workshop. Private consultations also available.

The Ancients Arts of the Tao

The ancient Tao was designed as a path for self-transformation. Modern “traditional” Chinese medicine was developed on the foundation of the ancient healing art that stemmed as one of the branches of the Tao healing and metaphysical arts.

The purpose of these arts were the self-transformation and development of the human being and the preservation of the Three Treasures: Essence, Qi and Spirit.

Each of the branches was created to serve this purpose in a different and unique way. The branches operate with the same fundamental concepts about the Universe and the Human Being, they complement each other but cannot be substituted or replaced in their purpose.

The branches of the Tao healing arts are:

The arts of the Mountain, also called the Alchemy arts, are the most powerful arts developed in the Tao paradigm and they represent internal processes of self-transformation and self-healing.

More than 70% of the healing process takes place by learning, practising and mastering the arts of the Mountain. These are:

  • Nutrition therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Body work: self-massage, Qi Gong (cultivation and gathering of Qi), Tai Chi (harmonising Qi)

Medicine is the branch that was created from the arts of the Mountain to complement and assist the transformation and healing processes. Nutrition therapy created herbalism, moxibustion and aromatherapy, mindfulness contributed to the development of the science of the meridians and acupoints, while the bodywork arts created Tui Na and other forms of massage, bone-setting, cupping and gua sha.  They represent 30% of the healing arts.

In the old days, the primary mission of the physicians was to educate the people into mastering the arts of the Mountain so that people led healthy, fulfilling lives. Their secondary mission was Medicine, which was used only when people needed extra support to regain their health. 

As a teacher of future physicians, the physician would teach their students the arts of the Mountain first, before teaching them the medical arts, as the primary goal remained the same as for any other human being, that of preserving and cultivating the Three Treasures.  

To this day, a superior physician will teach people how to cultivate their own health while they are still in good health and will not wait until they get ill to treat them.

The Tao metaphysical arts were created as a link between the inner universe of the human being and the outer universe.

The art of divination created several branches, the most two important ones are: I-Ching and Qi Men Dun Jia. These arts help people find answers to their questions with the help of the deities and the universe.

The art of destiny analysis, Ba Zi, is the art that analyses people’s destiny and path from the moment of birth, and helps them discover their strong and weak points so that they can take better informed decisions in their lives.

The study of forms gave birth to face reading, palm reading, Feng Shui and the fine arts, such as painting and calligraphy. By looking for and creating harmony in the land, in the home and in ourselves, the arts of the forms teach people to operate with beauty to create balance.

All these arts are based on the same fundamental principles and concepts of Qi, Yin-Yang and the Five Elements. Practitioners of the Tao arts of healing and metaphysics will have a deep understanding of these concepts and principles related to their area of expertise.

While they find their common ground in these concepts, each branch operates differently with these concepts, and it is virtually impossible for someone to become fully versed in all the branches. That is why they work together and complement each other in their aim to guide humanity towards health, wealth and prosperity.

10 Years

10 years

Another life, literally.
Got my PhD, got promoted to Lecturer, became the LCCI Centre coordinator at the uni.
Wrote several books and a handful of research papers (28 in total)

Thought I had everything figured out. I thought I was happy and loved and safe.
Then burnout and PMDD arrived, bringing “happy” thoughts of a world that would be better off without me in it.

All I knew about UK was that the weather was horrible and the food not much better.
But this a wonderful man opened his heart and his house to me
And he told me I can be anything I want to be.
So I took a giant leap of faith and I jumped and never looked back.
I patched my cracked pot of a heart with gold from his love. And he stood by me through thick and thin and he taught me the real meaning of love

I am proud of my Transylvanian heritage and my battle scars. And my quirky accent.

I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and I’m happy with that. I tried that once and nearly killed me.

I’ve learnt that:
1. Not getting what I wanted was indeed a wonderful struck of luck
2. A kick in the butt is a step forward
3. What doesn’t kill you does make you stronger but it also gives you a sick sense of humour
4. Acupuncture is proof that getting stabbed in the back can be a very beneficial thing
5. English food is actually not that bad

Happy New Year everyone! Keep the ball rolling!

Samhain Blessings and Happy Halloween!

A few words about my friends, the bats, taken from www.fengshuimall.com

“Bats are a symbol of prosperity in Feng Shui. Considered an enhancer for wealth, the sound of the word for bat in Chinese, “fook” is very similar to the word for prosperity “fuk.” Contrary to the bat’s association in Western culture with monsters and darkness, bats in Chinese culture are considered very auspicious good luck charms with the ability to scare off evil or negative energies.

Bat’s highly developed sensory skills are believed to be useful in picking-up on and drawing good chi. They are known for their abilities to navigate confidently through the dark to discover the resources they need to survive and build and prosper in great colonies. It is very common to see bats decorating objects in Chinese cultures, their presence though to invite abundance and offer security.

Ancient emperors and rulers in China had bat symbols embroidered onto their silk robes and sometimes even their thrones to serve as status symbols of great wealth and income. The image of the bat would be combined with other symbols of wealth and prosperity like the dragon or crane, to offer a coveted and joyful lucky garment or object to their owners. 

From legends it is passed down that deep in the cave of the mountains of China are bats who lived for a thousand years off of their own breath and eating stalactites. From living off of their own strong energy and eating this powerful earth element they turned silvery in colour. Bats are believed to be able to share this long life and skill in harnessing resources with those they encounter.

Here are some Feng Shui cures commonly used with the bat:

  • Place the bat behind where you sit at your workplace desk. This will draw the energy of good fortune and prosperity toward you, while deterring any negative energy.
  • Bats can be displayed on the walls of many rooms of your home such as the bedroom, kitchen or library or even in your vehicle for added protection and prosperity luck.
  • Displaying the bat symbol prominently in your central hallway or next to the front door is said to boost both your prosperity luck and your success in career pursuits.
  • Hang them on the outside of your door or window as this is believed to help ward off disease and help those suffering from illness.
  • In feng shui bagua formula, place the bat in the Northwest sector of your home, the zone of mentor luck. It will help to attract a benefactor or mentor to guide you on your way to your next stage of success in life or help from powerful people in times of crisis. This is called the energy of Gui Ren or nobleman luck.

Bats are often depicted in one of several ways. Very common is the visual placement of 5 bats together or near one another to summon wu fu, the auspicious energy of the Five Blessings. These blessings are wellness, prosperity, satisfying relationships, good character and a natural death from old age. These blessings are said to be the beginning of eternal joy and enlightenment.” (www.fengshuimall.com

Moxibustion: The Magical Art of Burning Mugwort

As a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, the most frequent question I get from the people I treat for the first time is 

What is this this moxa/moxibustion?

The term moxa comes from a Japanese word that translates as burning herb.  Basically, moxibustion is heat therapy by burning herbs and it is an intrinsic part of traditional Chinese medicine.

Why heat?

Across the ages, application of heat has proven to be one of the most effective forms of treatment devised by humans. Some cultures enjoyed the blessings of thermal waters, others applied hot stones to painful areas, yet others used the power of herbs to alleviate pain and would burn them to heal wounds.

Even to this day we make use of warm patches and warm cushions to alleviate pain and discomfort, not to mention the wonderful benefits of a nice warm bath after a long day.

Contemporary Western medicine uses cauterisation procedures, which imply burning tissues in order to remove unwanted elements and sterilise a certain area.

Cauterisation triggers a very efficient and fast emergency response from the immune system. No other pathogen will create such intense and quick reaction in the body than burning fire. By creating a very small, controlled crisis, cauterisation will awaken a sluggish and dormant immune system to respond to the “emergency” call. And, once awakened, it will also deal with any other intruder found in its way.

When talking about traditional Chinese medicine, we need to mention the fact that TCM will never use ice as therapy. Cold is regarded as one of the External Devils or Pathogens. 

One will find plenty of TCM texts mentioning therapies and techniques that can be used to expel Cold, but never one therapy or technique to put Cold back as means of health preservation or health restoration.

Moxibustion as part of traditional Chinese medicine

The Chinese character for Acupuncture is a symbol which can be translated as acupuncture-moxibustion, which means that the two techniques, acupuncture and moxibustion complement each other or stem from the same medical branch.  Some written TCM texts claim that acupuncture needles have the ability to transfer and disperse energy when placed in the acupoints, while acu-moxa has the ability to awaken the energy in the acupoints.

One image that pops into my mind when I try to explain to somebody the difference between acupuncture, acupressure and acumoxa involves a sleeping dragon – the acupoint. Acupuncture awakens this dragon by poking a spear into her back, acupressure shakes her awake, while acumoxa not only awakens the dragon, but puts the fire back into the dragon’s breath.

To Mugwort or Not To Mugwort

Nowadays, there are several means to perform moxibustion, acumoxa and heat therapy.

Traditionally, acumoxa and moxibustion have been performed by burning Ai Ye, aka Artemisia argyi, aka Mugwort, a herb known for its special properties in numerous cultures.

The Artemisia family contains more than 200 different plants, all of them used in ancient traditional and herbal medicines for their properties.

In TCM, Mugwort is the main herb to be processed for acumoxa and moxibustion. However, TCM also uses Artemisia absinthium, aka Wormwood to make a vast array of herbal remedies: teas, infusions, herbal formulas, cooking herbs, essential oils, poultices, ointments, skin patches and incense. Additionally, since the two herbs have the property of repelling insects and pests, they are also placed above or around the front door, to protect the homes from insects, but also from unwanted guests.

In the ideal situation, the TCM practitioner is able to use mugwort moxa in their treatment premises. However, modern practices have limited the use of mugwort as a means of performing acumoxa and moxibustion. The main “complaints” come from the fire-fighter brigade (burnt mugwort produces smoke), but also from the clients (some are sensitive to smoke and also the smell), sometimes also from the other tenants in the building.

Smokeless moxa (charcoal) & indirect moxa device

Smokeless versions of acumoxa and moxibustion make use of specially treated charcoal, which produces about the same amount and intensity of heat but less smell and virtually zero smoke,

Another variant are the TDP infrared lamps with mineral plates. These have been designed by the Chinese as a more modern alternative to mugwort and they have become quite popular among the practitioners and clients alike. In fact, it is very seldom one will walk into a TCM treatment room and not find one lamp waiting there to be used.

However, no matter how modern or safe the more modern approaches might be, they cannot replicate the original murwort plant. Apart from the unique burning temperature and burning time, mugwort contains specific essential oils and other herbal components that the more modern instruments have yet failed to replicate. The fact that the ancient practitioners chose mugwort as herb of choice for this therapy means that there is actually no real substitute for it.

Ways to do moxa therapy

There are several ways in which moxa therapy can be included in TCM treatment sessions. Depending on the client’s complaint, the practitioner will choose the best form of moxibustion therapy.

Acumoxa focuses on applying moxa on acupoints. In this case, the moxa cones are either attached to the acupuncture needle that is being inserted in the acupoint, or the moxa is used on its own. Acumoxa uses the same acupoints as acupuncture and acupressure, only the means to manipulate the Qi at the point is the moxa cone. The heat of the moxa will penetrate the acupoint and will activate the desired response for the specific treatment.

Acumoxa can be direct or indirect.  In the case of direct moxibustion performed on an acupoint, a small amount of mugwort is rolled in a small cone or thread and it is placed directly in contact with the skin. The practitioner then sets the mugwort cone on fire and lets it burn all the way down. This type of moxibustion will leave a burn mark and a small scar. The practitioner will not go back to that specific acupoint until the scar has completely healed. This type of practice,  called scarring or marking direct moxibustion,  is very popular in the countries that created this type of traditional medicine (China, Japan, Korea, etc), but very rare in the Western countries.

The most performed direct acumoxa practice in the West is called non-scarring or non-marking direct moxibution. In this case, the small burning moxa cone or thread is left in place just until the client alerts the practitioner that they can feel the discomfort caused by the heat of the burning moxa cone. The burning ashes are then quickly removed from the skin before they can cause any scars or marks.

Indirect acumoxa will use a form of medium between the skin and the burning moxa cone or thread. Traditional mediums are ginger or garlic slices or paste and salt in the case of the navel. More modern approaches will place readymade moxa cones on a cardboard base. Depending on the make, the base will enable the mugwort smoke to reach the skin or not.

Moxibustion can also be used for large areas of the body. In this case, the practitioner focuses more on the overall painful area and less on the acupoints. Because direct moxa will cause a large scar tissue, this procedure is only performed indirectly. The practitioner will light up a mugwort or charcoal roll and just place it in the close vicinity of the skin, until the client can feel the area turning hot. This kind of indirect moxibustion is also ideal for the TDP infrared heat lamp with a mineral plate, or more traditional instruments such as copper rollers.

The effect of the moxa treatments can be enhanced by means of mugwort ointments and skin patches, as well as other warming pads. However, they should be used with caution and only if the practitioner recommends them, as they can scald the skin.

What are the benefits of moxibustion therapy?

So now, after we’ve seen what moxa therapy is and how it can be performed, the remaining question is why. Why do so many people from so many countries, like China, Japan and Korea, willingly submit themselves to such procedures that will burn their skin and leave scars?

Mugwort is said to have the following pharmaceutical properties:

  • antiasthmatic
  • antibacterial
  • antidiarrheal
  • antitussive
  • cholagogic
  • expectorant
  • haemostatic
  • sedative and hypnotic

Traditional Chinese medicine uses mugwort to:

  • warm the channels (acupoint meridians and collaterals)
  • stop bleeding
  • disperse Cold
  • calm pain
  • dispel Dampness

Cultivation of Health

A special moxa protocol for cultivation of health. Indirect smoking mugwort moxa was used. Hollow base so that the mugwort smoke will travel to the skin
Red marks due to heat, brown marks are volatile oils from mugwort, they will remain on the skin for several days, enhancing the treatment results

If you start digging a well when you’re already thirsty, you are too late.

As any other form of therapy in the traditional Chinese medicine, moxa therapy is first and foremost used for cultivation of health. Many of the moxa treatment protocols have been originally designed to help the body stay healthy when it was still healthy.

People in China, Korea and Japan will still perform moxa treatments regularly as part of cultivation of health, especially during the seasons most affected by Cold and Dampness: Spring and Autumn.

Regular moxa sessions will improve overall health and vitality and moxa is highly recommended especially for people over 40. In fact, certain moxibustionists will make their students perform moxa on themselves regularly as a regimen for good health and vitality. In the older days, young men were encouraged to marry young ladies with moxa scar marks, as a sign that these ladies were taking good care of their health and well-being.

Health Restoration

Indirect acumoxa using smoking mugwort as part of a treatment for health restoration. Will not leave volatile oil marks on skin as the base is solid and will not allow the smoke to travel to the skin. Only red marks from the heat will be visible

The moxa properties make it the ideal choice when treating many complaints caused by Cold, Dampness and Stagnation:Aches and pains

Aches and pains

  • Rheumatism
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Knee pain
  • Lumbago
  • Back pain
  • TMJ
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Bunions

Lung and respiratory conditions with Phlegm or mucus

  • COPD
  • Sinusitis
  • Common cold
Abdominal moxibustion on salt (navel) as part of a treatment for IBS and diarrhoea

Digestive disorders

  • IBS
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

Sexual and reproductive conditions

  • Infertility (in TCM it is related to a Cold Uterus or Testes)
  • Painful menstruation
  • Erectile dysfunctions

Pregnancy complications

  • Breech presentation

How long a session and how many sessions?

Depending on the nature of the session – cultivation of health or health restoration, moxa treatment protocols start from a minimum of five sessions, from once a week for the cultivation of health to every fortnight or every month and they last very little in time (max 30 min).

Depending on the nature of the complaint, the treatments can be combined with acupuncture, acupressure, medical massage or cupping. In this case, the sessions may last up to one hour.

!!! Caveat !!!

Like any other form of TCM treatment, moxibustion has its precautions and contraindications and only a qualified TCM practitioner will be able to determine whether you would benefit from this therapy or not.

All forms of moxibustion will leave your skin red and sometimes blistered, much like after spending a whole day in the summer at the beach. Your practitioner will advise on the specific after-care.

Please do not perform heat therapy or moxa on yourself or other people! Moxibustion is not a universal solution to all your aches and pains and it can cause a lot of damage to your health if practiced incorrectly.

Late summer, the season of the Earth

According to the Chinese metaphysical arts, each of the Five Elements – Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth – have a corresponding season. “How can that be?” you’re probably wondering.

The months of August and September are considered a separate season, called late summer. If you look at many of the ancient and pagan traditions, many harvest festivals begin in August. August and September are the months when many celebrated Earth festivals, a time of gathering of the crops, giving thanks to Mother Earth for the plentiful gifts and enjoying the fruits of the Earth.

In my Transylvanian homeland, 6th of August is celebrated as a Christian Orthodox religious day, however, the church actually “borrowed” the day from the pagan traditions of the land. It is called “the day when the face changes”. In the religious context it is related to Jesus Christ, in the pagan one, the face is the face of nature. The Sun still shines over the land, yet its rays do not scorch the land as it did in July. The pagan tradition says that nothing grows anymore in August, but everything that has grown already ripens and matures.

In the Chinese arts, late summer is the season of the Earth element.

In Chinese medicine, Earth governs our digestive system and all its components. Its code name is The Granary.

The main two organs of the system are the Spleen (Yin) and the Stomach (Yang)

The main responsibilities of the Spleen system:

  • Transformation: digestion makes nutrients for the Blood by transforming the food intake
  • Transformation: by combining nutritive Qi with the Qi from the Lungs (air), it produces the nutrients for all the internal organs and the Blood
  • Transportation: Spleen moves Qi upwards so that the nutrients reach the Lung Qi and the organs
  • Keeps everything in its place: just like Earth holds everything in place, Spleen holds the internal organs in their proper place inside the chest cavity, including the Blood in the vessels

Given its responsibilities, the Spleen system governs over the following areas:

  • Production and quality of Blood
  • Muscle mass and limbs
  • The mouth, the tongue and the sense of taste
  • Intellectual activities, reasoning processes, memorising, logic and critical thinking

At a mental and emotional level, the Spleen is affected by:

  • Worry. “Worry knots the Qi”
  • Overthinking
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Excessive intellectual activities, reasoning, problem solving and memorising

The Stomach, the Yang partner of the Spleen, gives the Spleen its ability to discern between what is important and what is not, both in the case of digestion and in case of mental processes.

Regulating cures. The system can be kept in balance by:

  • Taste: sweet. Sweet foods can support the digestive system and can also damage it, if they are consumed excessively. Please note that the taste is given by the Chinese medicine nutrition theories and does not necessarily imply the taste felt by the tongue. For example, most grains are sweet in taste according to TCM
  • Smell: fragrant, sweet
  • Colour: yellow, gold. All yellow and brown crystals and stones support the Spleen
  • Movements: turning the waist
  • Sounds: singing, talking
  • Virtues: trust, sincerity, empathy

Spleen disorders

At a physical level:

  • gastritis (the digestive system chewing on its own parts),
  • nutrient excesses and accumulations: obesity, fatty liver, gallstones, kidney stones
  • nutrient deficiencies: lack of vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium
  • lack of appetite and energy, ME, CFS
  • overeating
  • organ prolapses, heavy bleeding: haemorrhages, heavy menstruation
  • lack of menstruation, scanty menstruation
  • metabolic diseases, such as diabetes
  • muscular dystrophy
  • any lumps, cysts and phlegm accumulations

At a mental and emotional level:

  • eating disorders, addictions
  • mental fatigue, lack of focus, inability to memorise
  • brain fog
  • no desire to speak

People with a Spleen blocked by worry fail to nurture themselves, by neglecting their needs and putting everyone else first. By trying to do everything themselves, they will try to control the odds of the outcome: “If I do this instead of waiting for my partner to do it, I don’t have to worry that it won’t be done properly or on time”, “I cannot take a day off from work because they won’t manage without me”.

Sadly, a lot of our modern life has made us believe we have to be present and in control of everything at all times and many of us we feel guilty about taking “me” time to nurture ourselves. This leads to what the TCM calls Yin deficiency or the burnout syndrome.

Singing is the sound related to this system. Because the Spleen is responsible with holding everything in place, the diaphragm was linked to the Spleen and singing was the human activity that seemed to influence the system the most. At a physical level, the diaphragm keeps together the organs situated in the abdomen, and it’s a muscle. At an emotional level, singing makes the worry disappear and it helps us memorise things easier.

The virtue of this system is trust. We trust that the world will still be out there when we take “me” time to nourish ourselves. We trust our partners to do their best, we trust our children they will be fine, even when we are no longer around, we trust we will still have our jobs by the time we come back from our vacation, we trust the Universe will provide for us no matter what.

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