| Seasons Through the Lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine
by Lindsay Walker
Seven years ago, I literally fell into Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I had fallen down some stairs and sprained my ankle. Acupuncture and TCM were recommended. I had a vague understanding that acupuncture entailed placing fine sterile needles into specific points on the body and the pain would somehow shift. This proved true for me when I received my first treatment. Not only did my ankle feel relief, but I felt calm for the first time in ten years. The more treatments I had, the more TCM positively affected my overall sense of well-being. I felt a call to embark and explore the deep waters of Chinese medicine and then fell for a second time, this time head over heels in love.
TCM won my heart due to the fact that this medicine is based on observing and applying the laws of nature, as a mirror for our own physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional journeys; that we humans belong to nature and are never above it. Recognizing the diversity in nature, TCM offers assistance to our healthfulness and includes diverse modalities such as acupuncture, mindfulness, exercise with tai chi and qi gong, body work (including gua sha and cupping), feng shui, diet therapy, and herbs. As such, there are many diverse ways to help realign and bring balance and promote health. TCM also understands that each person is unique. The goal is to individualize the treatments with the many modalities at its disposal, meeting patients exactly where they are at, to achieve their healthcare goals.
TCM connects the synchronicities between nature, and what happens within our own health. For example, one may notice common themes that arise in autumn and can carry into the beginning of the winter months. There is a prevalence of cough and colds, sore neck and shoulders, and dry itchy skin. There is a desire to organize and de-clutter the home and prepare for study, experience the joy of being wrapped up in a cozy scarf, sip hot drinks, read a book by the fire, and adore the beauty that nature provides with golden, blushing leaves, leading to the innocent sight of fresh sparkling snow gently dancing its way to the ground. This time of year can also evoke grief and deep introspection. These feelings, symptoms, and actions are also known as the metal season in TCM (September to November).
TCM states that the lungs store grief and sadness, the large intestine assists with grief and the process of letting go. With a dislike for dryness, energy contracting and moving downward, the nose is the first line of defence to protect the lungs, as is the skin in creating our boundaries with our external world reflecting the dryness of the season. These are all patterns that make up the fall. The poetry of Chinese medicine recognizes that when this season is upon us, even nature takes a pause to say a beautiful thank you, goodbye, and prepare for what’s next. We, too, deserve the grace and space to do the same. Furthermore, it is necessary and healthy to understand and experience these shifts, so that when winter is upon us we are prepared to face the fears that can arise in the cold in winter months. The contracting energy of the fall and winter signals us to rest and preserve our energy reserves so when spring and summer are here, we can thrive with abundant energy and cultivate our bounty.
Traditional Chinese Medicine categorizes different acupuncture points on the body for the different actions, and one of my favourite categories is called the window of heaven points. These points are found on the neck and in the shoulders. By their name and location one can understand that when emotions are felt only in an intellectual state, or only in physical symptoms such as coughs or digestion issues, we need to harmonize the mind and body for deep healing and communication. Grief is an individual journey, and the key to healing and how to process such heavy emotions can be found by going inward and honouring the wisdom that can only be heard in the quiet. Sharing these feelings and knowing you are not alone, taking deep breaths, fun and gentle movements, and proper diet are all helpful in processing such times.
To say that I am in awe of this medicine is an understatement. I stand on the shoulders of giants and give thanks for their deep wisdom they so generously share. I am profoundly grateful for the awakening and communion being forged in my own connection with nature, and welcome the wisdom and lessons it provides. As TCM practitioners, we are witnesses to your healing, offering safe space to be heard, balanced with quiet when the needles are inserted so that the mind and body can be calm and communicate divine wisdom. Know that we are not alone in our healing, or in our suffering. There is always hope and a change in season filled with new experiences just around the corner.
Lindsay Walker is a licensed TCM practitioner in Saskatoon, SK, and is in good standing with the CMAAC—Saskatchewan chapter, and the CTCMA of British Columbia She offers her services at the Broadway Health Collective (http://broadwayhealthcollective.janeapp.com), and specializes in anxiety and depression, gynaecological disorders, muscle skeletal pain, insomnia and sleep apnea, as well as digestive disorders. Also, see the display ad on page 10 of the 29.4 November/December issue of the WHOLifE Journal).