Here I am with Karen Revivo from the Therapy Life Centre, chatting about Qi Gong and all things Chinese Medicine. I explain about the abdominal breathing we use in Qi Gong and how the Mind also plays an essential role.
Is it week 3 or week 4 of lockdown? I’ve lost track of time. As an Acupuncturist who works evenings and weekends it’s difficult keeping track of the days anyway. When I was younger and working in the city, the structure of the week was very rigid. Monday was the start of the week; I was tired and invariably recovering from the weekend. Wednesday was the middle of the week and always a dull sort of day, being stuck in the middle of the week; but it was also my training night at the kung fu club, so not such a bad day after all. Thursday was the start of the weekend (well, for me anyway). There was definitely a more relaxed feeling at work and I always felt a lot happier. Friday was technically still a workday, but it felt like the weekend to me. And then finally, it was the actual weekend.
The Bad old days
Back then I structured my whole working week to make work more bearable and to get me to the weekend. If I had anything difficult to do or a bit taxing, if I was able to I would schedule this for a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Monday was always a day that I tucked myself away and kept my head down, trying not to catch anyone’s eye. I called it my ‘colouring-in day’. Thursday and Friday were days that I tried to keep free too; for me these were weekend days. If I couldn’t manage to dodge work on these days, then I made sure it was scheduled for the morning. Don’t get me wrong, although I didn’t like my job (which I’m sure you realise by now) I wasn’t that bad at it either. I did it for 17 years and it was quite demanding at times, so I’m sure in all that time I would have been sacked if I wasn’t up to scratch.
The five elements of the week
Looking back (and knowing what I know now) I can see that my whole week was a microcosm of nature and the seasons, according to Chinese medicine and the five elements. Monday was the most yin day; it represented the ‘winter’ of my week, when it was the quietest and I just wanted to hide away. By Tuesday I was slowly emerging and expanding, like the Spring, ready for new growth. (I make this sound more exciting than the reality of it – we are talking about Insurance here, after all). By Wednesday and Thursday I was totally yang as I go into the ‘fire’ phase, or the ‘summer’ of my week. Now I have recovered my energy and I’m at my most productive, literally firing on all cylinders, ready for the weekend, which is Friday and Saturday. Now I was in the ‘earth’ phase, or the ‘late-summer’, reaping in the ‘harvest’ of my efforts earlier in the week. (I make this sound quite dramatic, but remember we’re talking about insurance here). And finally, we reach the ‘metal’ stage, or the ‘autumn’, which for me was Sunday; a time when we meditate on the past seasons and make preparations for the winter.
These were not happy times for me. But now I take solace knowing that, even in the most challenging and unhappy times in our lives, the seasons do change and we do move on. The trick, I suppose, is tuning in to your ‘self’, knowing how you feel and what you want from life. For me, I did this by practicing Wing Chun kung fu and Qi Gong. The two most important aspects of Qi Gong are breathing and the Mind. In Qi Gong we use Mind to move the Qi around the body, to nourish the organs, the bones, muscles, sinews, tendons, blood and fluids. Without focusing the Mind, Qi Gong loses it’s depth and becomes ‘mindless’ exercise. Practised with ‘mind’ then, Qi Gong can be so powerful that you can get a full workout without even moving.
Being true to nature in the lockdown
We are actually in the wood phase of the year, the time of expansion and new growth. The yang energy is picking up; the weather is getting warmer and we all want to be outside moving our Qi and making things happen. Obviously, the lockdown poses a bit of a problem in that we can’t be as ‘expansive’ as we would like, but there is still much that can be done at home. We can make plans, work on projects and ready ourselves for the summer and the fire phase, coming out of Lockdown like rockets! And, of course, we can practice Qi Gong.
I am still doing treatments during the lockdown, although not in the traditional sense. Due to social distancing measures I can’t do acupuncture or tui na, but I am doing Skype and FaceTime sessions. Talking through your situation with me will allow me to tailor my advice to what would be most relevant for you as an individual. I can also show you Qi Gong techniques, acupoints and self-tui na, specifically for you. Although more limited in scope than face to face practice, there is good evidence that this sort of approach can benefit your health and help you self-manage your symptoms at home. Just call or drop me an email and we can go from there.
What I’ve found to be most important to me during the lockdown is to create some sort of routine. My work has been hugely affected by the lockdown and already I’m waking up with no idea what day of the week it is. I’ve been trying to get up at a reasonable time in the morning (about 8am) and starting my day as I always did, with stretching and Qi gong. I generally then work until lunchtime, working on my blog and website. After lunch I do some exercise, and then in the afternoon I read. It may be Groundhog Day but I’m still managing to be a bit productive and keep my sanity at the same time.
Going from 100mph to zero
At the start of the lockdown it was so easy to get caught up in the general panic. I found the first week of lockdown incredibly difficult. It felt like the brakes had been slammed on and my nose was squashed against the windscreen. What makes it all so much worse is that energetically we are entering the Spring, a period of new growth and expansion. It totally goes against the grain having to stay in when I just want to be outside enjoying the fine weather. What makes it worse is looking out the window and it seems like it’s just me, everyone else is carrying on as normal. I’m lucky enough to have a garden where I can stay grounded. This weekend I did some general tidying up; I started off my seeds for the green house and prepared the veg beds for sowing.
Looking after your mental health
It’s so easy to get caught up in it all: COVID19, 5G radiation, the loss of our right to freedom. Add to this the worry of not being able to earn enough to pay the bills and also the feeling of isolation, and you have the perfect recipe for anxiety and mental health issues. There have also been significant changes to the Mental Health Act, allowing people to be held for 3 times longer than previously (now up to 12 weeks) based on the recommendations of only one doctor instead of three.
Finding solace in Chinese Medicine
So, it’s at time like this that we can look to Chinese medicine for solace and sage advice. We must listen to that voice within us saying, slowdown, this is what you’ve been waiting for. Do some gardening. Meditate. And don’t feel guilty. Here is an opportunity to let go. But I don’t think that voice is saying stop what you are doing, but rather, tune in to yourself. Try to feel what you really need right now. We are so caught up in living at 100 mph that now we are numb to our true needs.
In this crazy world of more, more, more, we only see the yang aspect of the Wood/Springtime. Industry, finance and politics only ever speaks of growth, expansion and the ability to accumulate as much as possible. At the start of the pandemic, the thoughts of lots of people was to go and buy as much toilet roll and baked beans as possible! In Chinese Medicine we say that the Liver acts as the General. The panic buyers were simply responded to their Wood instinct to defend the borders of their empire.
Learning how to yield without snapping
I’m not being judgemental; these instincts are within all of us. But we have been programmed by ‘the System’ to react in this way. As I’ve mentioned many times in my earlier blogs, a healthy Wood element also needs to be flexible. So just being warrior-like isn’t the only characteristic needed to cope with change, you also need to be flexible. Sometimes retreating, stepping back and assessing the situation is necessary on the road to victory. Just imagine an army that can only go blindly forward. A healthy Wood element needs to be supple and flexible, able to bend and yield to the wind. Just like the trees, if we lack flexibility we are more likely to snap under pressure.
So let us take this opportunity to learn how to let go. Slow down and take a moment to tune in to how you feel and what you actually need. Now is not the time to be doing more, but less. Recover and recuperate, because we’ll all be back on the treadmill before long. Think of the yin aspects of the wood element. Without yin there can be no yang.