• To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

    - Buddha
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The Heart of Summer

Summer Is In Full Gear, So Let’s Take Advantage of What Chinese Medicine Has To Say About These Long Summer Days!

For me, six words come to mind when thinking of the invigorating and enlivening experiences of summertime, they are: The Sheer Joy Of Being Alive!

summer joy by Dmitry Kichenko.

I feel totally imbued with the human spirit on a long, hot summer day. The farmers market abounds with juicy fruits and delicious veggies amidst the perfume of brightly hued blossoms. Activity is effortless and life feels full, transformed and somehow complete.

Needless to say, there is no complaining here about the heat because it won’t be long before we reach the dynamic height of summer’s inspiration and settle into a cooler, calmer and more collected fall.

So what does this mean for you in terms of body, mind and spirit?

Chinese Medicine teaches us to observe ourselves as an expression of Nature’s observable elements, depending on the cycle of the season and changes in the environment.  Just as Nature goes through a process of change, the Nature inside of you also undergoes a transformation.

If you are in harmony with the fresh green shoots appearing in spring then you will feel reborn, bursting with springtime activity. And when the trees are full of mouthwatering fruits and the plants are blossoming around you, then you will feel the joys of abundance coupled with the passion of the creative spirit.

Hmmm, an abundance of energy, stamina and passion!? Yes, clearly this is why I Love summer!

In the Five Element Theory, summer is ruled by the Fire element and is expressed through growth, joy, spiritual awareness and Love.  This is the Yang-est time of the year, which translates into a surge of physical, mental and emotional activity.

To be in sync with the long days, I wake up as early as 6:00am and stay up until at least midnight (it’s actually 1:48am while I write this post). Don’t worry to balance the work and play, I schedule a midday nap. Without my regular siestas I would be totally exhausted before summer’s end.

Anatomically, the Fire element corresponds with the heart which pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout our bodies. Emotionally, we’ve been warming up, going out and connecting with others. The heat of summer flows into our deeper relationships while our bodies relax around a more open heart.

In the Elemental theory, the heart houses the Spirit, also called the Spirit-Mind. A harmonious Spirit-Mind can be felt as a heart-connection with others and, for many of us, as a spiritual connection with Nature. This is a time that ushers in sensitivity and expression with the true contentment only known by a unified heart and mind. I view summer as an opportunity to transform negative experiences into feelings of Love.

Love is an extraordinary thing; it arouses the realization that the self and others are one. Love inspires what I call altruistic intimacy and the knowledge that what you cause and affect are one. Experiencing your heart’s purity reveals the responsibility we have for every action that occurs on our planet because we are one. Love between two people is a holy sharing when each have experienced their own depths and see their mutual identity and mutual causality through the starry-eyed gaze of eros.

Ahh, it’s easy to get swept away reflecting on the Fire element and Love, but let’s look at our original query: What does the long, hot days of summer mean for you in terms of body, mind and spirit?

Simple answer. The heart-felt enjoyment of family, friendship, perhaps even summer Love, but more importantly the exalting experience of the sheer joy of being alive!

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The Five Elemental-Phases

A Shiatsu practioner must be versed in the functions of the five-elemental phases to thoroughly understand how to work with the body’s energy to encourage balance and harmony.

Each meridian is named after an internal organ. It is important to understand that the function of the specific meridian goes beyond the particular organ function.

Ki energy goes beyond organ function and is also associated with your emotional, psychological and spiritual health.

In an earlier post, I explained how the meridians are either yin or yang. From the perspective of the yin and yang theory it is easy to understand the Chinese view of the Universe. Harmony in Nature is found in the perpetual movement of phenomena.

In this view, yin and yang maintain a balance between one another. Another view of this perpetual movement comes in the balance of the Five-Element theory or Five-Phase theory.

The five-elements (Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire) describe the manifestation of ki during a specific phase-like the type of weather during a specific season. Each elemental-phase stands for qualities and correspondences.

The Five-Elements are descriptions of certain qualities that pertain to particular phases of change. The Metal Element is associated with the qualities of Autumn and with the balance between rest and activity. This is reflected in breathing: whether air flows easily from the world into the body an out again.

The Metal Element is associated with the season of Autumn and with the balance between rest and activity. This is reflected in breathing: whether air flows easily from the world into the body and out again, or whether there is a permanent struggle between what is taken and what is given back.

Each elemental-phase can also be understood as an energetic quality of a particular function.

For example, one of the Metal Element’s defining functions is exchange with the environment.

Your physical lungs inhale oxygen, bringing healthy ki into the body and exhale carbon dioxide, expelling a state of ki that is beneficial to plant life.

The large intestine also participates in the elimination of waste from the body. These functions are supported by two meridians of the same name as the physical organs, the Lung meridian (yin) and the Large Intestine meridian (yang).

They are in effect the yin and yang aspects of the same function- like the two sides of the same coin.

Not letting go of emotional pain and issues with the bowels, such as constipation, are commonly seen in individuals with an upset in the Metal Element.

Essentially, the five-elements relate to differing states of ki energy. The elements correspond to certain functions and processes of the body, as well as to certain parts, emotions and physical phenomena.

Through in-depth knowledge of the elements and their corresponding organs, body parts, senses, emotions and symptoms, a healer–trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine–can feel an imbalance of ki in a particular meridian pair and work with the body’s energy to encourage balance and harmony.

Got Ki?

The foundation of Chinese Medical Theory is energy in its various stages of vibration and manifestation. The concept of Ki, as it is called in Japanese, or Qi, as it is known in Chinese, refers to the energy that is found in the tiniest particles that create and form everything in the universe.

While we are alive, Ki flows through every part of your body from the earth to the top of your head, keeping each cell and every bodily function alive.

While we are alive, Ki flows through every part of your body from the earth to the top of your head, keeping each cell and every bodily function alive.

It is widely accepted in quantum physics that the entire universe is comprised of the same energy in varying stages. Ki is not only the mysterious, such as aura, spirit, consciousness, but also the observable, such as earth, rock, metal and this includes you.

Everything that exists is ki continually transforming itself into varying forms. If you consider the process of life, beginning with conception, then birth, growth and finally death you can see that there are many stages of form at a cellular level. Ki is manifesting as the underlying change in all processes in the universe.

An example of ki’s observable transformation is a naturally occurring forest fire during a period of hot and dry weather. The dry plants and undergrowth become susceptible to the flammable essences in the air. Once these plants begin to burn they turn into smoke and ash that floats into the air around the forest; eventually the ash falls and settles onto the newly cleared forest floor, where it will become part of the soil.

Smoke, charred wood and ash actually cue certain plants to begin germination. The ash mixes into the soil promotes the germination of seeds, these seeds grow into plant life and new trees. In this illustration we witness the change in form from tree to ash to soil and back to tree and recognize that the energy remains the guiding process.

In the United States, we use to have a policy to suppress and prevent all naturally occurring forest fires.

In the 1960s, this standard was reformed when it was realized that by preventing the natural process of the forest fires we were preventing a number of important processes in nature. Including the natural growth of new Giant Sequoia trees found in California and population control of molds and bacteria that inhabit the forest floor.

Ki is "The One" from the opening line in Lau Tzu's Tao Te Ching: The Tao begets the One..

Ki is "The One" from the opening line in Lau Tzu's Tao Te Ching: The Tao begets the One...

As a healer and teacher, I have witnessed many healings by harnessing the power of ki. The techniques that I teach include using more than 350 acupressure points in combination with breath and energy-exercises to improve the function of the body, mind and spirit.

The focus is to maintain a natural balance of internal ki, which keeps your body’s natural healing abilities at their peak.

Key Concepts & Theories Used In Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a Japanese form of bodywork that works to balance the energy of the Body and Mind. To this end, Shiatsu makes use of the body’s natural energy.

The basic concepts and theories used in Shiatsu are based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). They include (but are not limited to) :

Ki Energy

Yin & Yang

Meridians

5-Elements

Imagine Your Body As Land--The Meridians Are Your Body's Main Highways

Imagine Your Body As Land--The Meridians Are Your Body's Main Highways

The aim of a session is to encourage ki to flow harmoniously throughout the body’s energy pathways, known as meridians. The meridians are associated with aspects of the Body and Mind, such as movement and thought.

The meridians are divided into pairs which are yin and yang. And are further subdivided according to one of the five-elemental transformations (Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire).

Modern practitioners of Shiatsu continue to deepen their skills in two ways:

– by developing greater sensitivity to the subtle energy, which flows throughout the body and concentrates in the meridians;

– and by using the traditional theories of Chinese Medicine to accurately read the body and assess its condition for treatment.

 Despite its roots in TCM, the general approach and techniques of shiatsu reflects the cultural background of Japan by emphasizing the importance of being connected with and moving from your hara, and the philosophy of modern shiatsu reflects the philosophy of Zen Buddhism with its emphasis on self-understanding and awareness.

For the practitioner, focus and awareness comes from using hara, which is the body’s center of gravity. This is located in the belly. By using your hara you are using the total power of your whole body.

Using your hara requires you to originate all of your movements from your belly area. To be more specific–to move from a point just below the navel which is your body’s central pivot point. This point is called tanden (or dantian in Chinese).

The Japanese term HARA means to be focused in the vital center of self.

The Japanese term HARA means to be focused in the vital center of self.

The concept of hara, anatomically refers to the area below your ribs and your sternum all the way to just above your pubic bone. This part of your body contains many of the vital organs. Japanese culture believes the hara to be the seat of the soul, where self-consciousness is anchored.

From a pathological perspective, people hold emotional stress in their abdomen, affecting digestion and causing other physical problems.

In the west, the shiatsu practitioner receives many benefits, both physically and psychologically, by moving from their hara and by connecting harmoniously with the client.

These same benefits may be experienced by the home practitioner who uses shiatsu exercises and methods as home remedies for prevention of illnesses. Home application of shiatsu techniques can be very effective, however proper assessment of the state of ki and the meridians is essential for professional results.