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Yin, Yang, & You

Do you know why acupuncture can help restore harmonious balance?

Westerners often use the term yin & yang to loosely describe masculine and feminine energy. It gets used a lot on tattoos and logos but I don’t think a lot of people actually know what it means,” says Daniel Katz, co-founder of Wildwood, a holistic, integrative health practice on India Street in downtown Portland, Maine. People think it means balance, connectedness, or things like that.”

Yet, the written characters for yin and yang are literally translated as follows:

Yin means the shady side of a hill.

Yang means the sunny side of a hill.

The iconic black and white symbol is representative of a dynamic balance that happens in nature, within humans, and within our universe, explains Daniel. As a way to understand and even to visualize this further, consider:

  • The summer solstice is the most yang time of year
  • The winter solstice is most yin time of year
  • Midday has the most yang
  • Midnight the most yin
  • Heat is yang in nature
  • Cold is yin in nature

To fully grasp this as it relates to human nature, stop to consider the waxing and waning of your own life, just as the sunlight waxes and wanes on a hill. In our ever-changing lives, sometimes you achieve perfect balance and harmony; other times there is too much shadow or too much light.

The job of an acupuncturist is to assess the human body and help restore harmony.

Assessing Qi

Before the 1920s and the discovery of penicillin and focus on biomedicine, doctors did not focus on what was happening inside the human body on a cellular level. At that time, medicine was more observational in nature, and Chinese medicine tended to look at things from a big (non-microscopic) perspective in order to determine a person’s health. Specifically, acupuncturists assessed a person’s Qi (pronounced Chi).

Over thousands of years, Chinese medicine has become a highly evolved system of medicine that employs a series of techniques to break down and diagnose patients. A variety of treatments are then used to help restore the body’s balance. These treatments are often referred to as the three pillars of Chinese medicine:

  1. Acupuncture / Manual Therapies
  2. Internal Medicine/Herbal Formulas/Diet
  3. Qi Gong/Movement/Exercise

Acupuncturists today use precisely the same points on the body that were used thousands of years ago in China. And amazingly, “the 365 acupuncture points on the human body – one for each day of the year – relate directly to yin and yang,” says Daniel.

If you are seeking a harmonious balance for your life on a hill, consider incorporating the three pillars of health, and allow your life to achieve a dynamic balance. And while you’re at it, why not think about how you and your loved ones can contribute to more a balanced and healthy universe!

To learn more about Wildwood or to schedule an appointment, visit our home page.


A Mindfulness Meditation Practice for Beginners


“What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.

-Shunryu Suzuki; Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind


What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mindfulness as: “the practice of maintaining a non-judgemental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis” (merriamwebster.com). It seems simple, right? Now think about your daily life. How often are you able to orient yourself in the present moment with attention and awareness? The modern world moves along at an increasingly fast pace, and if you struggle to remain in the present, you are not alone!

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that is meant to guide you gently back into the present moment. Over time, this can help you regain balance and experience less stress, without becoming overwhelmed by emotions such as fear, anger, sadness or uncertainty. You do this by focusing on the breath and letting go of judgement and attachment.

This January, we will ring in the New Year with posts exploring the shallows and depths of mindfulness, beginning with a simple mindfulness meditation practice that you can try at home. Even if you sit for 5 minutes a day, that will be a great step forward on your mindfulness meditation journey!

A Simple Practice in 6 Steps

Step One: Prepare. Find a quiet place to sit. You can either sit on a pillow or blanket on the floor, or you can sit in a chair if that works better for you. If you are on the floor, try to sit cross-legged. If you are in a chair, allow your feet to connect with the floor.

Step Two: Adjust your posture. Lay your hands gently in your lap; they can rest either palm-up or palm-down. Straighten your spine as if a string is gently tugging upward from the crown of your head toward the ceiling. Tuck your chin slightly toward your chest.

Step Three: Soften your gaze. Allow your gaze to rest about a foot in front of you on the floor. Try to keep your eyes open if you can, as this will heighten your sensory awareness. Let your gaze soften.

Step Four: Focus on your breath. Begin to focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale naturally. Feel the soft breath of air beneath your nose as you exhale and the way the cool air feels as it passes into your nostrils. Can you feel it travel all the way down to your belly? Follow these sensations through several breath cycles.

Step Five: Let thoughts and emotions come. It is natural that thoughts, emotions and images will begin to pass through your mind at this time, and it is okay to let them! The trick is to not get attached to any thread of thought or feeling. Simply observe the thoughts as they pass, and let them go as they leave your consciousness. Return to observing your breath.

Step Six: Don’t Panic. All kinds of uncomfortable physical and mental sensations might come up during your practice, which is why it is perfectly fine to only sit for a short time at first. If your back aches, acknowledge it, and let it go. If anger arises, do the same. Always return to your breath to stay in the moment, and watch how the pain recedes and the anger fizzles. Repeat often!

 

Happy New Year, and happy sitting!