Rest and Digest

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Despite knowing that it’s winter; cold, dark and “normal” to slow down this time of year, I often fall into the trappings of the mind assuming my energy should be the same all year long. Unless you have seasonal work or are retired, most of us continue to work the same hours at our jobs, run the same errands, keep the same schedule with childcare and attempt to maintain the same routines.  Treating ourselves as if we are energetically the same in every season comes at the cost of our natural internal rhythm. When we do not cooperate with our internal rhythms its like swimming against the current and life gets very tiring.

So how do we slow down in the winter if we are required to keep the same schedule as if it was spring? For these kind of answers we can rely on our intuition and  wisdom traditions.  In the wisdom tradition of Traditional Chinese medicine(TCM) winter represent the most YIN aspect of the year. Yin is our  dark, cold, slow, inward energy. This can be compared to YANG energy which is upmost during Summer, light, warm, fast, outward energy.  Winter is the time for your diet and activities to nourish your yin energy.  In TCM, each organ is associated with a season and the Kidneys are associated with Winter. The Kidneys in TCM hold our most basic and fundamental energy(they are like your bodies battery). Rest is very important for charging your batteries, this is why we crave it more in the winter and why some animals hibernate. This is also the time to look inward, taking time to be reflective in a stillness practice such as meditation or journaling, . Allowing ourselves to rest and store our energy nourishes the kidneys and charges your energy battery. This can be likened to the trees and plants that send their energy down into their roots.

Translating this wisdom into our modern lives and daily practice is the challenge. I believe that giving yourself the  permission to go slower and expect less external work to be done is the first place to start with nourishing your Yin. This simple yet profound practice of participating with nature allows you to make smarter choices with your energy.  The next piece is minimizing extra commitments, this is the not the time of year to say yes to more things to do. Say yes to yourself, to doing less, sleeping more and being reflective.  Diet and exercise always plays a big part in our lives. Choose foods that are in season and cooked slowly for a long time.  Winter roots, soups, bone broth and herb tonics our food for the soul and kidneys. Be willing to change up your exercise routine on behalf of the season. Perhaps you do the same exercise but in a different way. Prioritize your sleep! If you miss sleep find a way to catch up the next night or over the weekend.

Taking the time during winter to rest and digest allows you to grow strong during the rest of the year and have plenty of energy.

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The Healing power of Peace

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

As the holiday season fades and we all look towards the new year, some aspects of the holidays always seem to linger:  A couple of extra pounds, some fatigue and lethargy, and a warm heart from all the time with friends and family.  In my heart and mind I also feel the reverberation of the phrase “peace on earth and goodwill towards man.”  So often when we think of staying healthy we consider diet and exercise and moderation in our bad habits, but we may not consider the healing power of peace.  By definition, peace can mean two things: First it can mean freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.  It can also mean freedom from or the cessation of war or violence.  Though the two definitions can stand alone, I believe that we cannot truly have one without the other.

I firmly believe that true peace begins within.  If a persons mental and emotional life is in disarray, than it is impossible for them to bring a peaceful attitude to the world around them.  We can see this by examining our response to stressful situations.  If we are tired or irritable, than the slightest thing can set us off.  A great place to observe this is in traffic.  Driving in traffic when feeling uncentered is certain to result in more anxiety, or anger and impatience.  Many of us are in such a state of inner turmoil.  Unable to still our ragged minds, we find fault with others as a sort of distraction from our own emotional and mental problems.  So we live in a sort of purgatory where we can’t seem to find either internal or external peace.  We can learn so much from studying the lives of great souls:  Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King  Jr., and Nelson Mandela are all people who have lived and taught the old adage that “an eye for an eye makes the world blind.”  They shared with the world the ideals that they personally strove to embody in each moment of their own lives.   In the case of each of these people, peace always started within.  The realization that no-one else can truly bring us peace or make us happy is the first step to developing our own peace of mind.  Since we cannot count on the external world to make our life easy or comfortable, we need to find a way to develop inner peace. 

Regardless of our circumstances, we can all work to develop peace of mind.  Some time tested methods of promoting inner peace include meditation, breathing exercises, mantra/chanting, prayer and positive affirmations.  By practicing these techniques we can improve our ability to stay calm within the face of stress and adversity.  

Any inner peace that we can cultivate is certain to effect world around us.  The world has always had a certain degree of unrest and turmoil.   There is a perception of an ever-present threat of violence, both on a global scale and in our local communities.   Humans find things to disagree on, and we are not always very skilled at disagreeing in a mature way.   Often times such events could be avoided.  If each of us works on quieting the mind, cultivating a less chaotic life, and learning ways to communicate in a non-violent and intentional way, we would be able to diminish a lot of the violence that occurs in our communities and the world in general.  If, when faced with conflict, we could each bring a greater sense of calm and patience and a genuine attempt to diffuse a troubling situation, I think we could pave the way for real peace in the world.  Though there are occasionally violent situations which require some kind of physical response, a lot of violent altercations result from an escalation of a minor disagreement.  Though peace is not always an easy thing to pursue in the short term, I believe that in the long run it is the only real path.  It is the eternal path of the sages and the saints.  It is an essential path for all of us in order to lead a healthy and happy life.  May peace and joy find you in the new year.

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Why Meditate?

By Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Despite our best efforts, most things in life are beyond our control. If we depend on the the world outside of ourselves to comfort us from our personal sorrows, anxieties, fears, and boredom we will not live a very pleasant life.  Meditation is a tool that allows you to take responsibility for your own state of mind and to change how your mind effects your experience of life.

Commonly people think of meditation as something that you are either good at or not. Many people will say they can’t meditate because their mind is too active. However, meditation is not achieving a completely quiet mind, but the practice of noticing the active mind and learning to not take it seriously. The mind can be compared to the weather. The weather is always changing and we do not expect it to stay the same.  Meditation can teach you to watch your mind like you do the changing weather patterns.  Your mind will continue to change from thought to thought, but you can practice staying unaffected by its weather. 

The practice of watching the mind is not unfamiliar to any of us.  For example…. you have the thought while you are working that you wish you were outside hiking.  Generally there will be a feeling of longing for that hike and wishing you could do it right now. Then the thought passes and you move onto the next thought.  The thought of hiking and not being able to do it did does not have to ruin your work day….it simply came up and left, just like the clouds passing.  Meditation helps give us breathing room in our mind. It is a kind of climate control for keeping your well being running at 75 degrees, allowing for space between the thoughts so you do not lose yourself in one of the passing clouds and spend the day or years in a stuck thought pattern.

Meditation practices are techniques that help you develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calmer vision of the nature of life.  Just as we do not expect to be in great physical shape without regular exercise, we cannot expect to have a quieter mind if we do not meditate.  Meditation is an essential practice to help you manage the ups and downs of life.  During the easier times, we will be able to enjoy more of the peace and gratitude of life and during the more challenging times, meditation allows you to breathe deeper into the suffering without losing yourself into a unpleasant thought pattern.

Meditation offers many health benefits and research shows it can be helpful for the following conditions;

• Anxiety

• Asthma

• Cancer

• Chronic pain

• Depression

• Heart disease

• High blood pressure

• Irritable bowel syndrome

• Sleep problems

• Tension headaches

Most meditation techniques include focusing your attention and relaxing your breath and body. There are many different meditation practices. Finding the one that you enjoy and are able to be consistent with is the goal.  Commonly practiced forms of meditation include: guided imagery, sitting meditation, yoga, dancing, qigong, and tai-chi.

I have personally found meditation to be one of the most important things in my life.  I feel like having a regular meditation practice allows me to be a more resilient human. It gives me an anchor in the storminess of world events, personal growth, and relationships, allowing me to keep an open-heart while living in uneasy times.

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