The importance of magic and mystery in our lives is something that we need to honour more.
I attended a retreat last August with founder of Tigress Yoga Dévashi Shakti.
In this post about ritual I shared my experience of the water temple ceremony.
At the end of the retreat she encouraged us to not speak about our retreat experience, not from a hush hush ‘what happens on retreat’ point of view, but to encourage the acknowledgment that what we had experienced was sacred and personal and we needed time to integrate our experiences.
Talking and sharing about our experience with people outside of the retreat diluted that experience some how.
It also encouraged me to refocus on my own experience. In a world where almost everything now can be on display .. hello bloggers life! This mysterious experience was just for us.
It kept my focus on how I was feeling not how I would explain it to someone else.
This is extremely beautiful feeling.
This rich magical nourishing experience was just for me.
Over the last year I have been diving deep within my own psyche and subconscious beliefs.
I believe that this retreat was a real catalyst for some truly divine unravelling.
Necessary on a lot of levels.
Not always pleasant or comfortable let me be real here!
In Chinese Medicine we talk about Yin being the ‘mother of all things’.
In Taoist philosophy she is the divine darkness in the caves of the Kunlun mountains where all things originate. In these mountains Xi Wang Mu the Queen Mother and Goddess of Immortality resides.
In my sessions with Dévashi I had what I can only describe as an initial fleeting visit to my very own personal Kunlun Mountain.
The deepest yin recesses of my bodily awareness which I saw in my minds eye as caves filled with mercurial water, a place of great magnetic beauty and stillness, a place that felt potent and ripe.
It is this magnetic feeling that I have kept in my consciousness this last year, to remind my self that this magnetic place is the seat of my divine feminine power, and that all the striving and stretching and reaching and working and over doing that had lead to my burn out and physical dis-ease is the absolute opposite of that.
This yin power centre is infinite and as a women in a uniquely women’s body this power source has been here all along yet untapped and unrecognised as who has there been to explain this to me?
I will be forever grateful to Dévashi and the Tigress practice for showing me that all women have within us this unique power centre and way of operating and being in the world. This is just as powerful and effective as mens’ but so very different due simply to our feminine biology and wiring.
For so many women it takes an experience of burn out, illness and fatigue to look for an alternative way of being or more simply put, to stop the endless doing and seeking externally and look within for answers.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
It is possible to seek out the magnetic and the beautiful pathway for us to reach our goals and attain our dreams. This doesn’t mean sitting passive, on the contrary.
It means showing up as all of ourselves.
For women this means feeling safe, and healing that huntress warrior in ourselves that has been on the lookout for danger (often quite necessarily) our whole lives.
It means aligning ourselves with likeminded nurturing circles of sisterhood who by virtue of our mutual intention and numbers, together provide safety and nourishment.
It means choosing when to be vulnerable with our men, men who its appropriate to be vulnerable with and knowing the difference.
Most importantly its about knowing when we need to walk away from our relationships and commitments even briefly and reconnect to the infinite magnetic resource that is our inner world and the natural world around us.
I am committed to continuing this journey of personal discovery, and in my work sharing this magical magnetic process with every women I have the honour of working with.
My wish is for each and every women on the planet to know this resource within them.
So mote it be.
Ah Yes! The good ol’ a picture tells a 1000 words!
The 5 elements that I have been banging on about for practically ever work together in this 5 pointed star type arrangement. If you follow around the circle in a clockwise direction you get the nourishing cycle. This is how things work in harmony. You can simplify it if you put it into terms of what would happen in nature. For example we need water to nourish new plants (wood) so there can be growth and then in turn those trees feed fires… and on it goes around.
The star cycle that criss crosses shows us how things are kept in check. Keeping it simple as I can metal ‘controls’ wood….(metal chops down trees) makes a bit of sense right? It does get a little bit trickier when we bring the organs in, especially knowing how complex their functioning is from a western point of view, let alone Chinese Philosophy!
But keeping it simple… you know how I love to keep things simple, an example would be when we eat lots of cold forming foods, e.g. dairy and our digestion doesn’t process this effectively the Earth function of transforming our foods into fuel we can use diminishes. This affects his friend the Metal element (next in line) resulting in a build up of phlegm in the lungs, skin issues or constipation…….. kinda making sense Yes? Think children with allergies resulting in rashes.
So here we have a super fun chart of all the stuff that can go wrong when the energy is going in the opposite direction! In this picture we are looking at what happens when our negative thoughts and emotions start to get away with us!
Earlier on in this blog I talked about how our Qi (energy/ fuel) follows our Yi (thoughts/ concentration). This theory works in regards to all our mental / emotional experiences as wherever we are placing our focus and attention our energy will go. So when we experience an excess of any emotion this begins to tax the correlating organ and can set up, in long term situations, real physical pathology.
Now, I’m not one to want to bum out my readers so I’m going to turn this little chart into a silver lining. When we understand the very real interactions of these emotions and the physiological effects they are having on us we can begin to see and slowly master what we need to do in order to regulate these feelings that are not always super helpful.
I’m not saying here for a second the emotions are not an essential and necessary part of our biological vocabulary, but sometimes for a whole range of reasons real and imaginary we can get stuck in one or two of them, long after the correlating situation is long gone. Challenging situations in life can also be ongoing and without some way of managing our emotional responses these situations can and do often get on top of us.
My favourite example to explain this is by looking at the liver and the lungs.
The Liver is damaged by anger and frustration, or conversely an unhealthy liver ( one fed with chips, refined sugar and alcohol for e.g.) creates the emotional state of anger and frustration. Either way over a prolonged period of time this unhappy liver consumes more energy than can be created by its pal the kidneys and the water element and this sets up the right conditions for fear to become the predominate emotional state.
As a side note this also very simply explains how some recreational drugs damage the liver and set up the conditions required for paranoia and other fear based behaviours.
Anyway I digress…. Where do we look to balance and mediate this grumpy liver syndrome? Across the way to the lungs of course! The lungs positioned where they are above the diaphragm and above the liver on the right hand side are in the perfect spot to massage the Liver into a much better frame of mind. Slow deep breathing, gentle exercise or yoga is the ideal way to nourish this controlling cycle and re create balance in the five elements. Now I have to admit a grumpy person is not as likely to respond so well to …. darling do some downward dog…… but maybe a house rule of “walk off the grump” is a good idea?
The elements all work in their own way to regulate their counterpart;
The liver with its decisiveness and ability to create strong boundaries steps in when the the earth elements tendency to worry and obsess gets out of hand. The water element cools the fire of impatience with humility, this might be in the form of increased hydration or extra sleep, I mean, how hot headed are we when we’re over tired?
The stillness and meditative qualities of the spleen are helpful when managing an over worked water element. Remember this relates to will power and our adrenals. Each has its place and role in maintaing our overall emotional health, which in turn helps create our physical health and visa versa.
Keep this in mind next time you find yourself stuck in the rut of the same old emotional story running around our minds. Let the emotion move thorough you, and do what you can to support yourself.
(And feel free to let me know if any of this makes sense or if I need to do a little more explaining! )
Well tonight elemental travellers I am talking a little about the Earth element, and in keeping with this elements nature I am likely to wax a little lyrical!
The organs involved in the Earth element are the Stomach and Spleen. Now in the west, we know a fair bit about the stomach, practically, what it does and where it is and the fact that basically ‘its where all the food goes’ !
The Spleen on the other hand is a bit more of a mystery. Its usually the organ that in all those movies with a car crash people end up having taken out! “Ruptured Spleen! Get them to OR Stat”…… I may be getting a bit carried away here, but you get my drift.
The Spleen is on the left side of the body, just under the ribs beside the stomach and in Eastern Philosophy has just as important role in the function of digestion as the stomach, but is also involved in regulating the mind and a healthy sense of self.
The Spleen houses the Yi (pronounced eeee) and it can roughly be described as our sense of self, the self that exists in our mind, and is expressed in our thoughts. Clarity of intention and thoughtful reflection are products of a healthy Yi.
And this is where healthy thoughts and digestion meet.
Our Earth element, the Yi and the Stomach and Spleen, are not only digesting the food we eat, but they are also digesting the thoughts and experiences we are having.
Quite literally our Qi (energy/fuel) goes where our thoughts are and those thoughts need to be ‘digested’ Now if we’re eating a meal, and we are watching TV, checking face book and listening to our spouse/ housemate/ children how much fuel is focused on the food that is going in and how much fuel is going on actually breaking down that meal to the best possible end result? Not a lot!
Now lets take it up a notch, we have had a really bad day at work and are feeling a whole range of emotions (that need digesting) we have scoffed a chocolate bar on the drive home to suppress those feelings (that needs digesting ) we are met at the door with a well meaning glass of wine (that needs digesting) followed by the above scenario involving some greasy take away pizza. Does anyone else feel tired? Your Spleen does!
The result of this is congested digestion but also congested thinking and depending on your build and constitution a whole range of symptoms might be experienced after a meal like this. Bloating, wind, and a heavy sluggish feeling along with a foggy mind and probably a desire to fall straight to sleep!
Life happens and sometimes rightly or wrongly we find ourselves multitasking. Sometimes this involves doing things while we’re eating.
In an ideal world we will get the best out of our food if we are mindful of it.
And we will have clarity of thought and a peaceful mind if we are able to observe what else we are digesting in that process.
What can we practically do to assist this process?
1. Limit the things we are doing at meal times. Its proven that multitasking doesn’t actually result in higher productivity. Set aside even a small amount of time just to eat your food. This doesn’t have to be a silent zen affair as anyone with children will attest, just limit as much as possible the distractions!
2. Choose your food based on your mood, now this isn’t me saying to binge when your sad, rather just be aware of what else is happening for you. If your tired already, don’t sit down to a big heavy meal, quite simply it won’t get digested. If your emotional by all means eat comforting food, but these should be nourishing soups, roast veges, rice puddings. Food that supports you and won’t suppress the feelings we are often trying to escape from.
3. Eat according to season and source food thats as natural as possible. Food that is warm and lightly cooked is ideal to support the Earth element. Cold and raw foods tax the Earth element. (This statement will get its own blog people hang in there!)
4.Those ‘Spleeny’ Earth types out there will tend toward craving sweet foods, to maintain your healthy blood sugar levels, make these naturally sweet foods, not highly processed foods full of sugar.
5. Ginger tea in the morning is great to wake your digestive fire, and cinnamon is a beautiful herb to add to breakfasts and deserts.
When the Earth element is nourished with mindful eating the consistency applied to our digestion will cultivate a consistency and reliability in our state of mind. With our Earth element centred and grounded our thoughts have a solid foundation, and the actions that flow from these thoughts will be longer lasting.
So as a simple exercise for the week, observe your thinking and your eating. No judging. Just start watching where your mind is and how you are feeling at the time and where your mind is while your eating. Don’t take my word for it, observe this difference between a mindful meal, and one eaten on the run and let me know how you go.