Middleway Medicine Blog

Waiting for the Blossom

by Clark Zimmerman, L.Ac.
 

My daughter calls herself “the flower girl.”  She loves walking around our garden and picking flowers to share with the fairies or to turn into a stew.  She especially enjoys collecting the petals of roses that are just past their prime and showering them on her mother and me.  The other day she spied a rose bud that was still bunched tightly and began to try to pry it open so she could smell the fragrance and then collect the petals.  I stopped her before she could pull it off, and took the opportunity to explain to her that you can’t force a bud to open or it kills the flower before it can blossom.  She relented and we continued our garden tour.  The experience got me thinking about the value of patience.

We live in a time that is greatly influenced by speed and convenience.  Computers have made most everything available at the touch of a button.  The global economy has made it possible to have fresh, summer fruit in the middle of winter.  While it serves to give us more of what we want when we want it, it comes at a cost: we are quickly losing the ability to wait. Like a muscle that atrophies when it is no longer used, patience is disappearing in the modern age.  Even when we are forced to wait, we rarely watch the clouds, listen to the birds, or introduce ourselves to the person sitting next to us.  Instead we play games on our phones, check social media, or do a little online shopping.  We are constantly finding ways to pull our attention somewhere else to make the waiting feel “less boring.”  Patience doesn’t necessarily mean that we just sit and do nothing.  Sometimes patience means getting ourselves ready to receive whatever it is we are waiting for.  If we are waiting for the right time to plant a seed, we should make sure that the weeds have been pulled and the garden is ready for planting.

The key to everything is patience.  You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”  Arnold H Glasgow    

If we distract ourselves to mask the wait, sometimes we miss an opportunity to discover a new perspective on an old idea.  If we are waiting with something in mind it becomes a period of incubation where new ideas arise; new thoughts are often born of the space that exists between things.  If we are always rushing from one place to another, from one thought to another, there is less of a chance for things to unfold in an organic and living manner.  We cast away the ability to stay present in the living moment, always chasing something that is of another time and place.  It is as Henri Nouwen says: “A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” 

After our experience with the rose, my daughter and I continued our garden walk.  We came across some firewood that I had cut to dry earlier in the year–which I started to stack in the back of the woodshed–when my daughter wisely advised me: “Let the wood dry in the sun or it won’t make a good fire.  Just be patient daddy.”  My impulsive, headfirst flower girl again proved herself to be my greatest teacher.

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Taking Shelter

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Over a decade ago, my husband and I moved from Portland to Talent. We were seeking more nature and a smaller community where we could enjoy a slower pace of life. Living in Talent has provided us with opportunities to be inspired by beauty and to spend less time driving; but what has truly given us the peace we were seeking has been the practice of taking shelter/refuge.

Often when a patient shares with me their feelings of being overwhelmed or burdened by stress, I often ask, “Is there a place where you go to sort yourself out?” Many times there is blank response on faces and many times there is a resounding “YES” as they remember their special refuge. For some people the idea of doing something creative while under stress feels like a burden, they prefer a TV episode, glass a wine and bag of chips. This response feels good in the moment but often leads to the same feeling after the episode is over.

Taking refuge is the practice of getting in touch with your deepest self. The practice helps you calm your mind, so that you can be present in the moment and experience the pulse of life within you and all around you. Your refuge can be a physical location-a favorite tree, meditation corner, backyard, or bathtub. Or it may be taking refuge in a another person: a lover, a mentor, or friend. Some take refuge in repetitive action such as jogging, walking, or chanting. Or it could be playing music, praying, dancing, or playing with children. Each of us needs to know how to take refuge. If you do not have the habit of regularly taking time to clear your mind then you likely will feel as if you are on a treadmill of bills and obligations.  

Dedicating 20 minutes a day seems to be the magic number for gaining the optimal benefits from your shelter time. Less than 20 minutes and you may miss the restful recharge you are looking for. Anything beyond 20 minutes is the cherry on top.

Committing to a regular practice of taking shelter and having a reliable way to unwind and drop into the moment will help you find new clarity, inspiration and stamina for life’s challenges. Regardless, of your specific way of taking shelter, the importance lies in the regularity of taking the time and the intention to remember and reconnect to your essence. Taking shelter is the practice of remembering that you are not your thoughts. It is the letting go into the grace all around you. Choosing to take time daily in refuge makes us all better people.

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Fill Your Own Cup First

by Ryder Johanson, L.Ac.

These days I’ve been seeing a lot of people suffering from burnout.  Often times they’re looking for a quick fix for their fatigue, insomnia, headaches so that they can keep on going like they used to.  But even if I can help relieve someone’s symptoms in a few acupuncture treatments, the symptoms are likely to return unless the patient commits to taking better care of themselves.  Those headaches may have only sprung up in the last couple weeks, but they’re the product of decades of burning the candle at both ends.

Looking through the lens of Chinese medicine and the Five Elements, there are a few general personality-types that tend more to burnout.  First, there are the Wood types.  They know what needs to be done and just go out and do it.  Wood types are strong, but even they can deplete their reserves.  Then there are the Fire types who revel in the enjoyment of the moment and who have a magical, infectious enthusiasm about them.  They usually have trouble slowing down and can neglect to give themselves enough downtime to recover.

Woods and Fires can really wipe themselves out, but I can work with Woods and Fires—they listen to me (usually).  It’s those Earth types that can drive me crazy. 

Earths are the quintessential caretakers and providers in our lives—they take on the role of being midwives to other people’s struggles and transitions.  The pater familias who’ll give you the shirt off his back is an Earth.  The mother who is always there to offer sympathy and a hug is an Earth.  Notable Earths include Pope Francis, Princess Diana, Disney’s Snow White, and Dolly Parton.  Golden retrievers are a very Earth-like breed of dog.  Earths are great at offering compassion and support for others—they’re drawn to those in need and having an amazing capacity for unconditional love. 

Where they struggle, however, is that they’re reluctant to receive help from others—they don’t want to be selfish or a burden to others.  But when you’re giving and giving and giving and others aren’t reciprocating, that’s a recipe for burnout symptoms like chronic fatigue, insomnia, headaches, depression, weight gain, and even autoimmune diseases.

Earths are some of the sweetest, warmest people you’ll meet, but taking care of everyone else for too long without appreciation or reciprocation can breed resentment.  Earths aren’t always aware of this resentment, but I find it’s usually there.  The core problem, however, is that giving expression to that resentment feels likes selfishness to them.

But a little selfishness is just what Earths need.  In-balance Earth types have borrowed some of the assertiveness of Wood so that they’ve learned to stand up and speak up for themselves.  And they’ve also borrowed some of Metal’s ability to set boundaries and detach themselves from unhealthy situations and codependent relationships.

 

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