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Winter's Renewal: The Gift of Slowing Down

by Sharon Gordon

 

"Turn down the noise.  Reduce the speed.  Be like the somnolent bears, or those other animals that slow down and almost die in the cold season. Let it be the way it is.  The magic is there in its power." -  Henry Mitchel

If you feel tired and drained, you are not alone. "Lack of energy" is one of the top five complaints that doctors hear in their offices. According to Oriental medicine, the cold months of winter are the perfect time to recharge your battery and generate vital energy known as “Qi”- in order to live, look, and feel your best.

The ancient Chinese believed that human beings should live in harmony with the natural cycles of their environment. The cold and darkness of winter urges us to slow down. This is the time of year to reflect on health, replenish energy and conserve strength.

Winter is ruled by the Water element, which is associated with the Kidneys, Bladder and Adrenal Glands. The Kidneys are considered the source of all energy or “Qi” within the body. They store all of the reserve Qi in the body so that it can be used in times of stress and change, or to heal, prevent illness, and age gracefully.

During the winter months, it is important to nurture and nourish our Kidney Qi; it is the time where this energy can be most easily depleted. Our bodies are instinctively expressing the fundamental principles of winter – rest, reflection, conservation and storage.

"Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour." -  John Boswell

The Nei Ching, an ancient Chinese classic, advises people to go to sleep early and rise late, after the sun's rays have warmed the atmosphere a bit. This preserves your own Yang Qi for the task of warming your body in the face of cold.

To help warm the body’s core and keeps us nourished eat warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts .  Sleep early, rest well, stay warm, and expend a minimum quantity of energy.

Below is a warming, black bean soup recipe:

From an Eastern perspective, black beans are warming in nature. They are thought to tonify the Kidney Qi and nourish Yin and Blood.
 
 From a Western perspective, black beans are rich in antioxidants and an excellent source of protein, folate, iron and fiber. Kidney Qi Boosting Black Bean Soup:                                                        Ingredients *1 pound black beans

 *1 bay leaf *Salt to taste *A few cloves of chopped garlic *1 teaspoon dry mustard powder *1 cup dry sherry (not cooking sherry)



Instructions

                                                                                                          1. Pick over beans to remove any dirt, stones or foreign objects. Wash well, then soak for 8 hours in ample cold water.



2. Drain beans and cover with a generous amount of fresh water.

3. Bring to a boil over high heat in a large saucepan with the bay leaf.

4. Skim off foam, lower heat, and simmer, partially covered, until beans are just tender, about 1 hour.

 Add onion and continue to cook until onion becomes extremely soft, about 1 more hour.



5. Add salt to taste and garlic. Continue to cook, adding a little boiling water if necessary, until beans are very soft, about 1-2 hours more.



6. Remove bay leaf and turn off heat. Ladle beans in batches into a blender or food processor and puree, or use an immersion blender and puree soup directly in the saucepan.


7. Add dry mustard powder and dry sherry. Correct seasoning. Reheat and serve, adding any garnishes you wish, such as slices of lemon or freshly chopped herbs.
 


The Flu and Chinese Medicine - It seems that the flu gets more and more virulent each year, gaining strength through additional strains. More and more people "catch" it and the symptoms go on and on. In a way, this syndrome is an indication of our stress level, the diminishing effectiveness of our immune systems, and the decline of our vitality.
 


Here's a few nutritional tips to help you restore and renew.

Water - The Kidneys are associated with the Water element. Drink ample water, at room temperature, throughout the day.

Kidney Shaped Foods - Black beans and kidney beans are excellent examples of kidney shaped foods that nourish and benefit Kidney Qi.

Blue and Black Foods - The colors blue and black correspond to the Water element of the Kidneys and are thought to strengthen the Water element. Include blueberries, blackberries, mulberry and black beans in your diet.

Seeds - Flax, pumpkin, sunflower and black sesame seeds relate to fertility and growth which is governed by Kidney Qi.

Nuts - Walnuts and chestnuts have been found to be especially effective for increasing Kidney Qi.

Vegetables - Dark, leafy green vegetables are the best choice for Kidney Qi. Other Kidney Qi boosting veggies include asparagus, cucumbers and celery.


Seasonal acupuncture treatments in winter serve to nurture and nourish kidney Qi which can greatly enhance the body's ability to thrive in times of stress, aid in healing, prevent illness and increase vitality.

To schedule your resorative acupuncture session call: 207-482-0725.

It's Summer & Time to Fire Your Passion

by Sharon Gordon

Your Fire Element Prescription: Summer Is the Time to Pursue Your Passion

Fire is reflected in the Summer season. Summer's special gift - the energy of fire - allows us to give and receive warmth, supporting the functioning of our hearts. We enhance our health by understanding the correlations between the Fire Element and Summer.

Summer is a time of activity and interaction with the outside world; a time to re-charge our batteries during the high point of the year's own peak.

Summer is the season of the Heart and its partner organ, the Small Intestine. Although the Heart's main function is to pump oxygen-rich blood through the arteries into all parts of the body, it also determines the state and strength of our constitution.  The Heart is also connected with the "Shen" or spirit while also being associated with the mind. 

In Chinese Medicine mental activity resides in the Heart, which affects our emotional health, memory, thinking and sleeping.  A strong healthy Heart results in a mind that can balance our emotions is peaceful and happy, and is able to sleep undisturbed.

Summer is about becoming more expansive and connecting with others through hiking, trips to the ocean and mountains, gardening, and summer gatherings. Recharging our Fire Element during the active, summer season will carry us through out the year. 

Here are some tips to stoke your Fire Element:

Plan to have fun regularly.  Schedule your fun and PLAY!!! Adult playgrounds include retreat centers such as www.kripalu.org & www.omega-inst.org

Volunteer...give of yourself and the love will be returned three-fold. You'll feel apperciated and yes....LOVED and that does your heart good. There is no shortage of non-profits that could use your particular talents.

Live your passion

It can be as simple as whisteling or taking a walk through the woods.  If you sing in the shower and always wanted to sing with others, join a choir.   Take up painting, throwing pots (as in pottery), calligraphy, dancing, drumming....you get the idea.

 

 

Move, Move, Move....

There's nothing like physical activity to get into your body and out of your head.  Leave your computers and blackberries behind and walk, dance, swim, bicycle, hike, kayack....or make up an activity.  Get your circulation going in any way that suits you.

There's nothing like physical activity to get into your body and out of your head.  Leave your computers and blackberries behind and walk, dance, swim, bicycle, hike, kayack....or make up an activity.  Get your circulation going in any way that suits you.

Connection with the Fire Element can be a source of great joy that fills us with renewed energy and enthusiasm and lightens our tasks.  

When we have the strength of the Fire Element within us there is fun to be had in all that we do.

When love and joy are alive in us we naturally reach out to others to share our warmth and friendship.  

Spring Has Sprung: Live It Fully!

by Sharon Gordon

Spring is unpredictable. One day we're walking around in flip-flops & shorts - the very next day, there's 6 inches of new sleet on the ground. Spring's constant change is its' hallmark. Lately, I see patients with symptoms that range from allergies and exhaustion to laryngitis and symptoms that move from place to place with no definite pattern.

In Chinese medicine these symptoms mimic wind in the body. From the perspective of the Chinese system of medicine wind is associated and spring is the manifestation of the wood element. Wood is represented by the Yin/Yang Officials of the Liver/Gall Bladder.  These officials have the job of creating a master plan (Liver) and make carrying them out (Gal Bladder) at the level of the body, mind and spirit. 

The strength of the wood within each of us is to create our own vision. On a mental and spirit level we are able to have insight, hindsight, and foresight. Your creative spark may manifest between 11pm – 3 am since the wood element peaks as this time. This burst in energy may leave us exhausted if we don't temper it with rest. 

Transitioning through spring can be tricky because we are leaving the stillness (yin) of winter behind and surging forth with lots of upward moving energy. The Liver meridian opens to the eyes and on a physical level we can experience blurry vision or dizziness (also wind) if there is an imbalance in the wood element. If you find yourself having a difficult time planning ahead or making decisions or your anger shows itself at inappropriate times – think “liver tonic”.

Perhaps a Thai massage or an acupuncture treatment to balance the Liver/Gallbladder energies. There is even an acupuncture point on the liver channel called “Gate of hope” that helps with depression. Spring is the perfect time to set goals and make plans.  Begin a log and jot down your creative ideas. Start a list of things you want to accomplish this week, this month, this year.  You may not get to everything, but that's ok.   Putting your ideas down on paper leads to taking action. Take in a live music performance, volunteer, call an old friend, and seek out new friends and adventures. Spring’s motto should be Carpe diem! Seize the day!

Spring is the ideal time for cleansing and rejuvenation for overall health and well-being. As spring is represented by the wood element and includes the liver and its complementary organ, the gallbladder, these two organs are usually the primary targets for springtime cleansing and health regimens.

Element: Wood

Color: Green

Nature: Yang

Organs: Liver, Gallbladder

Emotion: Anger

Spring is ruled by the wood element, which is associated with the liver. According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the liver an organ with an incredible capacity for regeneration, is responsible for the smooth flowing of Qi (energy) throughout the body. When the liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. The liver filters over a liter of blood every minute. It is responsible for detoxifying, nourishing, replenishing, and storing blood. It also acts to energize the blood by releasing stored sugar, and it recombines amino acids to create the protein our bodies need to grow and repair tissue. Anger, irritability, and frustration are all signs that our Qi is NOT flowing smoothly. This is referred to as Liver Qi Stagnation, one of the most common imbalances treated by Eastern medicine practitioners in the United States. When searching for the underlying cause of disease, practitioners of Chinese medicine often look first to the liver.

These foods help Liver Qi stagnation -Milk Thistle, Tea, Garlic, Turmeric, Cherries, Chicken, Tofu, Mustard seed, Squash, Sweet potato, Red and black dates, Caraway seed, Spearmint, Oregano, Red bean, Sweet basil, & Saffron

Stretch - The liver controls the tendons. According to Chinese medicine, the liver stores blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Incorporate a morning stretch into your routine. Try yoga or tai qi. Do more outdoor activities - Outside air helps liver qi flow. If you have been feeling irritable, find an outdoor activity to smooth out that liver qi stagnation. Try hiking or take up golf. For optimum health this spring, move your Qi!

Eye Exercises - The liver opens into the eyes. Although all the organs have some connection to the health of the eyes, the liver is connected to proper eye function. Remember to take breaks when looking at a computer monitor for extended periods of time and do eye exercises.

Eat Green - Green is the color of the liver and of springtime. Eating young plants - fresh, leafy greens, sprouts, and immature cereal grasses - can improve the liver’s overall functions and aid in the movement of qi.

Taste Sour - Foods and drinks with sour tastes are thought to stimulate the liver's qi. Put lemon slices in your drinking water, use vinegar and olive oil for your salad dressing. Garnish your sandwich with a slice of dill pickle.

Milk thistle & Dandelion helps protect liver cells from incoming toxins and encourages the liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, such as alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins, and even heavy metals such as mercury.

Receive Acupuncture treatments- Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help improve the overall health of your liver as well as treat stress, anger and frustration which are often associated with liver qi disharmony. Seasonal acupuncture treatments just four times a year can serve to tonify the inner organ systems and can correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems.

Call Sharon Gordon, L.Ac., M.Ac. to schedule your “Rite of Spring” tune-up.   (207) 482-0725

 

Tips to Lift Your Fear of Acupuncture Needles

 

Most people, when they hear about the benefits of acupuncture, find themselves thinking, “That would be so good for me!” Less stress, more energy, better sleep and digestion… Who doesn’t want that? But for many people, there’s one thing that holds them back from enjoying the benefits of acupuncture: Fear of needles.

There’s a spectrum of needle fears, ranging from downright needle phobic to being moderately concerned about the whole voluntarily-being-stuck-with-needles thing. Regardless, fear of needles is the number-one reason people choose to forego acupuncture.

5 things to remember if you’re scared of getting acupuncture. Here’s what I tell people who say they’d love to try acupuncture but haven’t because they’re scared of needles.

1) They’re nothing like the needles you know. Needle apprehension is very common and natural, considering that we have been conditioned to associate needles with pain—think dentists, blood draws, and IVs. But an acupuncture needle is hair-thin, more like a filament then a needle and nothing like the needles in a medical setting. 

2) Acupuncture is the most gentle form of needling possible.  If acupuncture was anything like getting an injection, acupuncturists would be out of business. Most people who have never had acupuncture do not realize how thin acupuncture needles are. They bend when you touch them. The needling sensation from acupuncture is so gentle that even kids are cool with it. When adults tell me they are afraid of needles, I share anecdotes about a child I recently saw who was really brave, or I tell them, "This morning, I did acupuncture on a two-month old."

3) Sometimes just changing terminology can help assuage needle fears. I don't call them needles and prefer to call them "filaments" or "healing sticks"? This tiny shift in perception, away from the western-medical ‘needle,’ can help to release fears and phobias around acupuncture.

4) Remember too, that you’re in control. People commonly assume that they cannot move once the acupuncture needles are in place. That they need to lie there stiff as a board lest they endure excruciating pain or damage their insides. Understandably, this leads to a lot of anxiety and out-of-control feelings. But it’s not true. A good acupuncturist will go at whatever pace you’re comfortable with. If you want to start with only a few needles and not keep them in very long, tell your acupuncturist that. If you want to pull out a needle that’s bothering you, go for it.

I tell my patients that we can go as slow as they want so that they feel like they are part of the experience. Acupuncture is not about something happening to you. You have a voice.   I, myself, was needle phobic so I asked that I not be shown the needles during treatment. One thing you can ask for is that your acupuncturist avoid acupuncture points in your arms. With your arms free, you can be more in control.  

5) There are other modalities that acupuncturists can use. Acupuncturists are trained in several healing techniques, besides these filaments. There’s acupressure, cupping, gua sha, moxibustion, ear seeds, qigong, inter-dermals, magnets among others. I employ tuning forks and aromatherapy on the acu-points and during one of my sessions you will receive a gentle form of body alignment using zero balancing to put fulcrums into your muscle and skeletal structure to effect ease of movement.

So you see, there is really nothing to fear. If you would like more information or a free 15 minute consult to assess whether you can be helped with your particular health concern, call or text me at (207) 482-0725.   - Sharon Gordon, M.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

 

Acupuncture Treats the Whole Person

When I meet a new patient, I wonder, "Who is this person? How is he/she feeling? What does this person need to become whole on the physical, emotional and spirit level?" My training is steeped in the Classical Five Element model of Acupuncture that treats the underlying cause of disease rather than just it’s symptoms. Treating the root cause allows for a deeper form of healing at the physical, mental, and emotional levels. I’m dedicated to revealing and treating your particular elemental imbalance, thereby restoring your health and vitality the way nature intended.

Are you struggling to sleep? Do you have digestive issues or any other symptoms of dis-ease? Symptoms are distress signals or clues coming from the body mind or spirit saying, “help me”. When symptoms are suppressed by prescription drugs, the body is being told to “shut up!” But centuries of Chinese medicine have demonstrated the wisdom of listening.