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.