So, something else that I noticed over the Lockdown was this insistence of “keep on going”, “only the weak give up”, and “keep calm and carry on”, etc. This type of mantra has been around forever of course, but it seems to have become more prevalent lately. Or is it just me? There is nothing wrong with this type of rhetoric; it’s important to remain motivated and keep the spirits up. The flipside unfortunately are feelings of guilt and shame if for any reason you can’t “just do it”. And sometimes it is positively the wrong advice. In my experience, this type of inner voice can be quite destructive and simply leads to disappointment and depression, even physical injury.
Keep on not keeping on going
Instead of just keeping on irrespective of how you feel, how about taking a moment to pause and experiencing who you are and what you want. Nature does it every year, taking a moment to rest and replenish; it’s called Winter. And to top it all, the predominate emotion over the lockdown has been fear, which has the potential to severely deplete our Kidney and Yin energy. Just “carrying on”, together with a Yin deficiency, only leads to one thing…ill health.
I wrote about this a few years ago in my blog about exercise addiction, when a good thing becomes bad. In this article I explain that as your Qi becomes more depleted you have to do more and more to get that ‘runner’s high’, that fix of endorphins that once came so easily.We need to tune-in to what we really need, and to do this we can take some advice from nature. Nature doesn’t try, it just does. The river doesn’t flow uphill, that goes against its nature.
Finding your True Nature
So how can you tune into your inner nature? It takes some degree of practice, that’s all. In Taoism they call it Wu Wei, or action without action. To use the river analogy again, the river doesn’t have to ‘think’ about flowing, it just flows. The wind doesn’t have to think about blowing. The seed doesn’t have to think about growing. Similarly, neither do we. It just happens. But this doesn’t mean do nothing. Yes, we grow, but into what? So, it’s important how we cultivate ourselves.
The trick is knowing what you need, rather than what you want.
Practices such as Qi gong and meditation help the body’s natural energy flow, as do the right foods, making the whole process of Wu Wei happen more easily. And if Qi gong isn’t enough, well, then you come to see someone like me for Acupuncture and Tui na.
Healthy Qi has its own natural flow. In nature we can observe it in the seasons. Water always flows downwards. Fire always burns upwards. Trees grow in all directions!
Qi isn’t static, nor does it just float around like a mist. It moves according to its function. For example, Stomach Qi always descends. If for some reason it ascended, the result would be nausea and vomiting. Qi is also affected by the time of day, the time of year, and the time of one’s life (Qi moves a lot quicker in a 21 year old than it does in an 81 year old!). It is affected by the environment, including the weather and pollution, and also by our emotions, so not only how you are feeling in general but who you have spoken to or what you might have just seen on the news. Even just being in the same room as someone in a bad or good mood will affect your energy, which is something we have all experienced. So bearing all this in mind, you can imagine what the Lockdown and COVID fear is doing to our Qi!
Fill the tank before setting out
So ‘just keep going’ is not always the best advice, especially when your Qi is taking a battering. Running on empty is a common analogy. It makes sense to fill your car up with petrol before your head out on a journey, rather than after.
It is of course important to remain motivated, whatever your physical condition, but the Mind too will be affected by the state of your Qi, and vice versa, the state of the Mind affects Qi. Depression and hopelessness can deplete the Qi, whereas Qi stagnation, often a consequence of Qi deficiency, can lead to frustration and anger. Or in more severe cases, you just lack the energy to do anything or feel anything.
So don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t feel pressurized into keep going when your gut feeling is to just take a moment to check in with your true nature. Going with the flow doesn’t mean simply following the herd, but rather simply doing what is natural for you.
If you are interested in what direction the Qi should flow in, I have listed the main organs below.
Control the descending of Qi: send Qi downward to Kidneys & Bladder.
Controls the smooth flow of Qi in all directions, esp. upward.
Lungs & Liver balance each other (Lung Qi flows downward, and Liver Qi upward)
Control transformation of Water.
Impure Fluids flow downward & clear Qi flows upward.
Lung Qi descends to Kidneys. Kidney Qi ascends to Lungs.
Lungs send Qi down. Kidneys receive Qi.
Lung controls exhalation. Kidney controls inhalation.
Spleen sends pure Qi upward to Lungs & Heart.
Stomach sends impure Qi downward for further refinement.
Spleen controls transformation, Stomach controls receiving.
Therefore ascending of clear Qi and descending of impure Qi depend on ascending of Spleen Qi and descending of Stomach Qi.
Heart and Kidneys
Fire of Heart flows downward to meet Water of Kidneys. Water of Kidneys rises to nourish Fire of Heart.
Derangement of any of the above directions of Qi flow can cause problems.
- Stomach Qi rises instead of descending: nausea, vomiting, belching.
- Spleen Qi descends instead of rising: diarrhea, prolapsed organs