Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

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Tips for a healthy liver

Spring seems to have snuck in between the recent raindrops here.  There are new blossoms on the trees, fragrance in the air, and young plants are bursting forth in my newly inherited vegetable garden.

In Chinese medicine, each of the seasons are symbolized by an element.  Spring is associated with the element ‘wood,’ which represents the forceful power that impels plants to be born and spring out from the ground.

Each season is also connected with an organ pair and several other vital aspects as listed below for the wood element.

The element wood and its associations

  • Season: Spring
  • Organs: Liver and Gall Bladder
  • Emotion: Anger
  • Color: Green
  • Sound: Shouting
  • Taste: Sour
  • Smell: Rancid
  • Opening: Eyes
  • Tissue: Tendons
  • Climate: Wind
  • Process: Birth
  • Direction: East

Spring then is the ideal time to tune into the liver and gall bladder organs and meridian systems.

The liver and our emotions

The status of our liver has a tremendous effect on our emotional states for the better and for the worse. Those with a balanced liver are generally without stress and are not easily frazzled.  They have a sense of confidence, power, decisiveness, and assertiveness as symbolized by the energy of wood.

On the other hand, tumultuous emotions can be the first sign of a liver in excess or stagnation.  The emotions associated with the liver are those laying along the spectrum of anger: impatience, frustration, aggression, resentment, violence, arrogance, stubbornness, an explosive personality, hostility, or, conversely, feeling  indecisive, overwhelmed, uptight, and tired.   When repressed, these emotions can lead to depression.

Physical conditions associated with the liver

In Chinese medicine the body is seen as finely interconnected.  Therefore, the health of the liver, or any organ for that matter, is seen as impacting particular tissues, sense organs, and so on that lie beyond the organ itself.  Therefore, the effect of an imbalance can be far more widespread than is understood in Western medicine.

According to Beinfield and Korngold, authors of Between Heaven and Earth, A Guide to Chinese Medicine, some conditions associated with an imbalanced wood element, in addition to liver and gall bladder disorders, include vascular headaches, muscle spasms, high blood pressure, nerve inflammations, and migratory pain.

Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods says:  “Our mental and physical flexibility, signs of stress, high blood pressure, allergies, spasms, cramps, pains and headaches (including migraines) that come and go, cancers, diabetes and large blood sugar fluctuations, arthritic disorders, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and a number of forms of heart disease are adversely influenced by liver/gallbladder imbalance.”

Since the liver’s primary role is that of detoxification, it is also of crucial importance to those coping with environmentally triggered illnesses.

Do any of these emotional or physical issues resonate for you?

Tips for supporting the liver this spring season

Now that I’ve caught up with the presence of spring, I myself have been reflecting on what steps I might take to support the health and rejuvenation of my liver.  Here are a few possibilities.

1. Reduce or entirely avoid alcohol and other intoxicants.

2. Reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet.

3. Reduce exposures to the toxic chemicals found in everyday products, food, air and water. You might purchase green household products, consider organic foods, or look into water filters as a start.

4. Eat less, eat lighter foods, and don’t eat less than 3 hours before bedtime.  Our bodies are ready to let go of the richer foods we needed for the warmth during winter!

There are many different foods that benefit the liver.  One group in particular are the brassica vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, turnips, and others.  Due to its association with birth, eating young plants like baby bok choy, baby carrots, and others can also benefit the liver.  Greens, which boast the color of the season, are also a great liver food.  Bitter and sour foods, if tolerated, are beneficial for liver excess, and mildly pungent foods like members of the onion family, mustard greens, and watercress improve stagnation.  Raw foods can also stimulate the liver, but they are counter-indicated in people with weak digestion.  You can read more about diet and the liver at the Liver Doctor or in Paul Pitchford’s book listed above.

At springtime, many people enjoy a simple fast of fruits and vegetables for a few days  to cleanse their bodies naturally. Learn about cleaning your body with real foods at Simple Bites.  Just remember that fasting is not always beneficial for people who are weak and deficient.

5. Consider a trial of liver-enhancing herbs like milk thistle, dandelion root, or chamomile flowers.  These, however, would be counter-indicated for a frail, deficient person.

6. Spend time evolving an effective strategy when feelings—like impatience, frustration, irritation, and anger—pop or begin to mount. Meditation can help calm and soothe our emotional flare-ups.

7. Tune into the wood element.  Take a walk in the forest.  Create a visualization centered around wood, which is rooted and strong, but also flexible.  Buy a wooden bowl or other item crafted from wood.

8. Decorate with the color green or wear clothes of this color.

9. Reflect upon what brings you a sense of rebirth and renewal and then implement one or two of your ideas.

And if this feels like too much, just start with one.

Most importantly, enjoy this new spring season with all its potentiality.

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Acupuncture for chronic pain and chemical sensitivity

Acupuncture can help reduce chronic pain and symptoms of fibromyalgia, chemical sensitivity, and various other maladies.  Nancy  Moore, L.Ac. provides an excellent overview of multiple chemical sensitivity on the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity page of her acupuncture clinic website. Nancy tells us that chemical sensitivity affects more than 16% of the population—10 million have severe symptoms, while 25-45 million have mild to moderate sensitivity.

How acupuncture helps

Nancy goes on to explain how acupuncture can help chemical sensitivity:

Those with MCS are, basically, unable to process the toxins in their environment because of damage to their livers and kidneys. Stress is a major factor in their lives because of constant exposure to unavoidable “ordinary” toxins and because of lack of understanding from their co-workers, friends, families, and health care practitioners. The world seems a tricky, dangerous place to people with MCS.

Acupuncture can offer help and hope for people with MCS by providing slow and deliberate detoxification, alleviation of symptoms, and restoration of emotional health and optimism. Acupuncture’s ability to bring the whole system back into a place of balance is more important in cases of MCS than in most other conditions. Treatments are by necessity highly individualized to each person’s specific symptoms and life situations; there is no set protocol for everyone with MCS. The body’s systems are already so compromised that a gentle, deliberate approach is always appropriate. The relaxing, restorative effects of acupuncture provide a calm center from which to begin the process of healing.

If you would like to know more about acupuncture you might also like to read the Acupuncture FAQs on Nancy’s pages or how acupuncture can help fibromyalgia and other pain conditions.

Acupuncture has been my mainstay during many periods of my life.  My access to acupuncture was limited in recent years when I was hard hit by ill-health and chemical sensitivity. I began acupuncture once again about three months ago.  There is no quick fix for the level of depletion and sensitivity I have developed, but I can heartily say that I am growing gradually stronger as each week goes by.  I personally find acupuncture extremely beneficial.

Finding a safe setting for acupuncture

Finding a safe place to receive acupuncture can be a challenge for those with chemical sensitivity.  However, there are acupuncturists like Nancy Moore and my acupuncturist who have a fragrance free policy at their office and who do not use the loose Chinese herbs that impart their unique odors to any space.  A very well ventilated treatment room is also important. Even with a fragrance free policy, other patients can make mistakes or not realize their freshly laundered clothes are off-gassing.  Because of this, I’ve set myself up for the very first morning appointment to avoid close encounters of the perfumed kind.

My suggestion is to call ahead and ask the acupuncturist the kinds of questions I list below or other questions relevant to your needs.

Have you treated people with chemical sensitivity?
Do you use fragrance?   Is fragrance used in your office?  Do you stock loose Chinese herbs?
Do you launder your sheets, etc. in fragrance free detergent without the use of fabric softener and dryer sheets? Do you have a fragrance free policy at your office?
Is the treatment room well ventilated?  Would you be willing to ventilate it well before my appointment?
Is there a first morning appointment regularly available.
What style of acupuncture do you use?  Is it gentle?

Acupuncture is the keystone of my wellness plan.  However, we are all different and respond to different healing modalities.  By exploring, we can each find the approaches that are optimal to our own well being.

To your health! Sandra

Image:  aarinfreephoto

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What meditation really is

In this video extract, Sogyal Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhist meditation master and author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying shows us what meditation really is.

Bringing our mind home

Rinpoche tells us that meditation is a skillful means to bring our mind home and recognize our true nature.  Our minds are usually busy and lost in distraction.  In fact, distraction is the root cause of all our problems.  Through mindfulness and awareness, we can bring our mind home and peel away all the barriers and obstructions to our true nature.  Slowly, all the stories, concerns, busyness, and ordinary mind dissolve and melt away and our true nature, our true heart, is revealed.  Meditation, in the highest sense, is abiding in the recognition of our true nature.

Begin with sky-like spaciousness

Through meditation, we can disarm our negativity, aggression, and speed, and become real, authentic, and genuine. We can begin simply by just being spacious.  Just to sit, just to be.  Just allow the ordinary concerns and mind to dissolve and melt away.  Just to rest.  Even if we don’t feel spacious, we can aspire to be spacious and open like the sky.  The great master Dudjom Rinpoche,  used to say, “Have a sky inside you.” Sky-like spaciousness.   When we visualize or imagine this or aspire to this, it brings a certain atmosphere and sense peace.  It has a way of quietening,  lightening up, freeing. Begin simply by just being spacious.

This video snip has a special atmosphere.  See if you can catch the feeling imparted through this teaching and simply sit spaciously for a short while.

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The Power of One

Lists seem to be popular these days on personal development blogs like this list at Advanced Life Skills67 Personal Development Pitfalls to Avoid.  It’s understandable that people like lists in this busy, fast-paced society.  A list gives information a shape—a sense of being organized, manageable, and accessible.

The problem for me is that I often resonate with so many points on a list like this that I don’t know where to start.  Or, actually, where to stop.

This stirred me to consider the power of one.

What would be the one change, the one action, the one commitment, or the one pitfall to avoid that would be the keystone for me?  The one that would leverage others as well. What’s core for me?  What’s just one focus I could carry with me for this entire week or even this entire month or year?

I had quite an ‘ah-ha’ moment with this contemplation as it went right to the heart of what I need.

If you are busier at work than all get out, managing an active household, easily overwhelmed, or have the limited energy of chronic illness maybe just one is exactly what you too need, especially if it’s the touchstone.

What would be the “one” you would choose?

I’m grateful for your time and attention.  If you have a moment, please help me reach others by sharing this post.  If you’re new, please consider subscribing for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra

Does wishing make it so?

I was reading the story of the bedouin and his three wishes in the Magic Fairy Exercise at Dragos Roua the other day.  It struck me how so many of our problems come from this constant wanting for our self and wanting our wishes to happen right now.

May I be so bold as to counter the whole notion that wishing always makes it so ‘here and now?’ The power of intention and one’s motivation is indeed of vast importance.  I take  issue though with the rapid timeframe that is sometimes touted.  It is so like our fast paced, fast food culture to want results right now.

In Buddhism, it is said that the effect of your current intentions and actions are likely to occur in your next life or lives thereafter. You can wish to be rich till the cows come home, but if your past actions have been motivated primarily by greed, it’s simply not going to happen until you change.  When you do change both your mental attitude and your actions, creating a different trend of generosity, the results are more likely to occur in your next life. There are caveats to this, but this is the basic principle.

It might be a stretch to believe in multiple lifetimes, however this is also a fundamental principle in Christianity:  what you reap is what you sow and your reward generally comes in the afterlife.  You can also easily observe for yourself how bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  Why is this?  Is life so arbitrary?  Didn’t they wish right?  The answer in Buddhism is that all that occurs is the fruition of our previous positive or negative actions encountering current conditions and producing a result.

Is always wanting for oneself the wisest choice?

The mind is the sole originator of good and bad and the producer of our consequent actions.  The advice to “be careful what you wish for” is indeed judicious.  This brings me to the question of whether always wanting for ourself is really the wisest choice.  Having strong expectations can bring about all sorts of disappointment, untoward emotions, and suffering when life dishes us up a different plate.  In addition, people are often put off by those who are overly self-centered whereas they are naturally drawn to those who show kindness and concern for others.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the emphasis is always on wishing well for others and having less focus on all the needs and wants of self.  This is what ultimately leads to genuine and lasting happiness.  Of course, you take care of yourself, but you are not obsessively self-centered.  Your sense of caring comes from a state of balance not from a neurotic state of perpetual martyrdom.  It’s fine to make wishes for yourself, but when you do at least also make a wish for others to be well, happy, and safe too.

On a personal level, I’ve been observing how my own wish to be well perhaps does more harm than good, keeping me away from simply being present in this moment and leaving a stain of discontent. “Surrender” is the word that came strongly to my mind—surrender to what is instead of always wishing for something different.

The story of the bedouin and his three wishes introduces Dragos’ article on goal setting.  Goal setting is a useful tool and this is a helpful article.  Dragos knows that “life is not pink.”  He says,  “Life is not pink. It’s rough and challenging and filled with tests and temptations. And this is what makes it beautiful, after all.”  So please don’t let me dissuade you from goal setting!  I just surrendered to a different track. I couldn’t agree with Dragos more—intention is powerful.  It’s clearly wise to reflect deeply when we set intentions and to always remember to wish positively for others too.


Healthy Child, Healthy World

Healthy Child, Healthy World is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is:  “igniting a movement that inspires parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals.”   They say:

“Healthy Child, Healthy World exists because more than 125 million Americans, especially children, now face an historically unprecedented rise in chronic disease and illness such as cancer, autism, asthma, birth defects, ADD / ADHD, and learning and developmental disabilities. Credible scientific evidence increasingly points to environmental hazards and household chemicals as causing and contributing to many of these diseases.”

Follow this link at Healthy Child, Healthy World to learn more about each of the following chronic conditions, their potential link to environmental exposures, and ways to reduce your child’s risk.

•    Allergies
•    Asthma
•    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
•    Autism Spectrum Disorders
•    Birth Defects
•    Cancer
•    Developmental Disabilities
•    Diabetes
•    Obesity
•    Reproductive Disorders

Among many other resources at Healthy Child, Healthy World, including information about creating awareness in schools, you can follow this link to a glossary of toxic chemicals, which provides information on each one.

It’s too late to turn back the clock for those already impacted by multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic illness, cancer and other diseases as a result of environmental triggers, but we can join together a take a positive stand for our children and for our future.


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