Sunday, March 25, 2007

our bodies' subtle messages

Yesterday, I was perusing the blog of two fellow acupuncturists in New York City - Juliette Aiyana and Jessica Silver. I had the pleasure of meeting Jessica in person last winter during a visit to my in-laws in upstate NY. In addition to working at Juliette's clinic in New York City (see, Jessica worked a few days a week at the office of my mother-in-law's acupuncturist, Mr. Wolf, in Poughkeepsie. She and I were at similar stages in our acupuncture career, and I really enjoyed connecting with her and hearing about her experiences with the school she studied at and starting out in this field.

Back in January, Jessica wrote a blog post entitled Listen to the Whispers. You can read it here: Her post really resonated with me and struck me as something I would have liked to have written myself. She wrote about the importance of listening to our bodies' subtle messages - those little whispers - before they turn into full-blown screams and debilitating conditions.

It reminded me of this week's episode of Grey's Anatomy, in which a man came to the clinic with pain in his foot. He demanded painkillers, and presto!, because he wanted to leave again as quickly as possible in order to get back to work. His workers needed him! The attending intern, Cristina Yang, asked him to remove his sock, so she could take a look at his foot. The patient refused. He just wanted to get his painkillers and be on his way. In essence, he sought just to drown out and override any signs his body might have been giving him to signal that it needed attention. His foot had been bothering him for some time, but he had refused to take the time out from work or even acknowledge that there might be something wrong. This particular patient had Type II diabetes, and, as it turned out, the sores on his foot had progressed to such a severe state that the whole foot needed to be amputated! You can imagine that, upon receiving these news, the patient wished he had listened to the signs his body had been sending him sooner!

This is a very drastic example of what can happen if we ignore our bodies' subtle messages. Oftentimes, what is happening in our bodies will also reflect what is going on on an emotional level. For instance, I used to get recurrent bouts of tonsillitis. The throat chakra has to do with having a voice. I realized at one point how much my sore throats had to do with not feeling that I was able to speak my truth. I could be sure to get an episode of a raging sore throat whenever I was going through a difficult time with my family and I had resentment build up internally. Instead of giving voice to these feelings, they would get stuck in my throat and cause me physical discomfort and pain. I started focusing on releasing these emotions. That didn't necessarily mean expressing my feelings to someone else's face. Rather to just acknowledge them to myself and realize there was no need for me to hold on to them and internalize them physically.

Emotions are a form of energy, and energy can be transformed into matter. Thus, if we experience an emotion repeatedly and over a long period of time, eventually, it will lodge in our body in some form or another. In Chinese Medicine, every organ system is associated with a particular emotion. The Lungs are associated with grief or sadness, the Kidneys with fear, the Liver with anger, frustration, or irritability, the Heart with excessive joy, hastiness, or impatience, and the Spleen with over thinking or excessive worrying. An imbalance in any of the organs can bring about a particular emotion, and, vice versa, an emotion in excess may weaken the organ system pertaining to it. For example, in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), we speak about the classic "student syndrome," where students, due to their excessive thinking and brain work, will suffer from poor digestion, as their Spleen system (which, in TCM, is primarily important for digestion) becomes impaired. Another strong example is the story of Christopher Reeve's wife, a non-smoker, who died of Lung cancer at the young age of 44, less than a year after her husband's death. The grief she was stricken by materialized in her lungs in the form of cancer. On the flipside of this, people who have an inherent deficiency in their Lungs (those suffering from conditions such as asthma and chronic respiratory diseases) often have a stronger tendency towards depression.

As Jessica points out in her blog post, an acupuncturist can help greatly to bring the body back into balance when we first start to feel those subtle signs of imbalance. Western Medicine may not detect anything wrong with diagnostic tests, but your body will tell you when it needs your attention. Listen to your body and allow it what it needs to rest and rejuvenate. Go for a walk out in nature. Dance to your favorite music. Play with your kids or your dog. Take a bubble bath. Get a facial, manicure, or pedicure. Drink a hot cup of tea and put your feet up on the sofa. Do some Yoga or Qi Gong. Go for a run. Watch a funny movie. Read a good book. Sit and meditate. Schedule a massage or an acupuncture session. Whatever it is that makes your body and soul feel refreshed!

with love,