Asian Medicine Wisdom for Late Summer

Even if you don’t fully experience the dramatic environmental changes of the Seasons, everyone knows them: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Did you know in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is a celebrated fifth season?! Well, it’s not celebrated in the sense of holidays, Hallmark cards or other hooplah, but it is acknowledged as its own distinct time of the year and has dramatic impacts on our health if we are not mindful or aware of how it may affect our overall health.

“Late Summer” is known for the final days of summer when the temperatures are typically very hot, humidity increases but there may be a day or two of surprising cooler temperatures, as Autumn approaches. This time of the year is all about building reserves, like our ancestors who were preparing for long cold autumns and winters. Late Summer is ruled by the Chinese Medicine element of Earth. The Earth element symbolizes, and is closely related to the organs of digestion, particularly the Spleen (a not-so-talked-about organ in Western medicine unless you need it removed) and Stomach. Because Earth likes to be warm and dry, the excess heat, or surprising cold, along with humidity (a quality of wetness) has the tendency to challenge our digestion system in Late Summer, especially if your digestion system is already prone to being out of balance, are overweight, or have congestion in the body. Since the tendency int he Summer is to party, be more laid back and enjoy we tend to eat more foods that can challenge our digestion system: frozen drinks, frozen blended drinks and smoothies, overly cheesy or oily dips, more processed and sugary food to accommodate the long road trips, travels, or BBQ’s like chips, hot dogs, soda, ice cream and cakes. If we don’t take time in the Late Summer to get-back-on-track, it is common to see the following ailments, or signs of being imbalanced during Late Summer appear:

weight gain
lethargy
chronic fatigue
cloudiness of the mind
lack of motivation
feeling “burned out”
muscle weakness
flare-ups of chronic pain or injuries
exasperated fibromyalgia
digestion troubles even with no desire to eat or drink
feeling “ungrounded”

There is a famous, and misleading, saying, “You are what you eat.” After years of clinic practice and learning more about the digestive system than most (due to my own challenges with digestion growing up), I truly believe and teach my patients about the importance of “YOU ARE WHAT YOU DIGEST” (not what you eat). This concept was taught to me by the renowned International Ayurveda Physician, Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, who has just released a new book The Hot Belly Diet. The difference is, you can eat as “perfectly” as possible but without the digestive fire and balance, your body is not necessarily benefitting from the organic, free range, non-gmo, etc. food. If your body is not properly digesting the foods and drinks you consume, your body is not sorting, absorbing and processing what your body really needs. Remember, every-body is unique with individualized needs.  And if the body is not digesting properly, or is out of balance, the mind is not properly digesting experiences and chronic mental and/or emotional stress build as well. Overtime if your digestive system is chronically imbalanced, other organs, tissues, bodily systems and the mind begin to suffer. Our Diegstion System is considered to be the utmost importance when it comes to building immunity, improving overall health, maintaining weight, feeling vital and motivated and having clarity of the mind.

Late Summer is associated with building nourishment at the body, mind and spirit level.  If we enter Autumn with healthy, balanced digestion, strong immune system and clarity of mind, we have the reserves and stores to last through the drying, cold and harsh months (can be harsh mentally and emotionally–think SAD, Seasonal Affect Disorder).  Furthermore, when we are full, we have enough to share with others and won’t be as drained or get as sick, especially in preparation for the busy holiday season.

Preventative medicine begins NOW in Late Summer to build the digestive fire and immunity.  If you enter the Autumn and Winter with low reserves of physical, mental and emotional energy, you are much more likely to experience the reoccurring cold, flu, respiratory conditions and bodily pains of the winter.

Tips for Late Summer:

  • Begin to create your daily routine you’ll carry over into the Autumn with exercise, meditation, yoga, sleep, food, rest.
  • Visit your acupuncturist to get a digestion tune-up.
  • Movement: Take a walk after every meal.  Minimum 1000 steps. Ideally, until you build a light sweat.
  • Exercise: sweat at least 4-5 days/week, if not every day. If you feel more exhausted or lethargic after you exercise, you’re sweating too much, in Chinese Medicine lingo, loosing too much essential qi. Ideally, you want to feel energetic and vital after you exercise.
  • If you practice yoga asana, focus on the Prana Vayu of Samana, twists and wide legged forward folding poses.
  • Meditation: Samana meditation, color yellow, themes: grounding, nourishing, filling the vessel/body, releasing the emotion of “worry,” feeling whole from the inside out.
  • Food:  Eat more warm, cooked, foods and beverages. Add ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and cardamom to your meals and beverages (even your smoothies!). Avoid icy foods and beverages, cold foods, overly fried foods, high sugar foods and overly processed foods. Overtime, these will quell the digestive fire and throw your digestion out of imbalance.
  • Recommended food choices: soups, stews, casseroles, baked or roasted food.
  • Beverage: Twig Tea, Barley Tea, Oolong Tea, Chai, sip on warm lemon water throughout the day.
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Asian Medicine Wisdom for Autumn

It’s Autumn which means several things in my world.  Autumn is a wonderful transitional season.  The mornings begin to have a nice crisp in the air once again that just screams to the lungs…Wake up!   And as soon as I take in a deep breath, my body responds with AAAAH!  Oh Autumn, how I love thee.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a.k.a TCM, Autumn is correlated to the element of Metal.  For all you non-TCM geeks, without even having to try to figure out what that means just consider what the qualities of metal are.  Don’t give yourself an aneurysm thinking about it.  Just consider.  Let me get you started.  Metal is ___(fill in adjective here)______________.  Voila!  Now you can begin to relate to the season of Autumn more personally.  Consider how these qualities apply to your own life, your relationships, mental state, habits, or more importantly how you can use these qualities to bring more balance in your life, i.e. cutting things out of your life that no longer serve you or help you to be the best you can be.

Yes, Autumn, as metal, is more sharp or cutting than the playful energy of summer.  Things all around us begin to show their life’s cycle: wilting, withering, changing colors, falling off trees.  Woah woah waoh, not to get you depressed.  This is a natural cycle and part of your own nature of being.  Asian Medicine is all about celebrating the nature of things and since YOU ARE A PART OF nature, this means celebrating YOU!  This is the perfect time to allow what needs to naturally die away, go.  Let go.  The nature of Metal.  AND when we let go, that creates space allowing for the opposite to occur…receptivity or filling.

More TCM geeky stuff that you should know is the metal element is connected with the Lungs and Large Intestine.  The yin and yang organs of receptivity and letting go.  These images and connections become the perfect guidelines for the natural processes in our own life, no?

In Ayurveda, Autumn is associated with the dosha, or imbalances, of Vata.  Vata is represented by the elements of Air and Space just like the Lungs and Large Intestine.  In fact, the house of Vata is the…drum roll please…Large Intestine.  Coincidence?  Never is.  More like Divine connection!  At this time of the year, it is natural for things in our lives to become irregular, mobile, quick, dry, cold, light, and rough.  Not just on a physical level (lungs and large intestine) but at the mental/emotional level as well.  Both TCM and Ayurveda give us guidelines of how to live with the seasons and not allow these qualities to take over too much and create dis-ease or illness.

During the change of the seasons, Vata, the energy of movement, is predominant. It’s important to avoid excesses in all areas of your life at this time.  Breathing exercises and meditation are important to practice every day.  Begin packing a scarf or top-layer with you every time you leave the house, just in case the weather shifts.  When the weather gets windy, protect your neck.  Most importantly, nurture moderation and stress-free living to keep the immune system functioning at its peak performance.

General food guidelines to follow at this time of the year include:
1) Eat foods that are sweet (whole grains, not cookies), sour & salty (rock salt, not potato chips)
2) Limit the intake of spicy, raw, cold, and light foods. i.e. cold salads, sushi, and cold bean salads.
3) Enjoy warm, cooked foods, a variety of proteins, and healthy fats.

Consider, sipping on the following Vata Balancing Tea throughout the day to help make the transition of the seasons easier on the mind and body.

Ingredients:
1C water
3 deep breaths
1 Intention of “Balance”
1/4 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ajwain (available at most local Natural Food store)
sweetener (optional): sucanat, rice syrup

Directions:
Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add spices. Cover and steep, or use a coffee/tea press, for 3-5 minutes. Sweeten to taste & serve. Serves 1.

Enjoy with balance and the intention of letting go those things in your life (thoughts, habits, relationships) that no longer serve you while being more receptive, or filling your life with things that DO serve you. This is Autumn! Enjoy.

Aloha & Namaste

To learn more specifically about your personal constitution and what foods, spices, beverages, breathing exercises and physical exercises or yoga asana are best to bring your body and mind into balance, call or e-mail Haunani today to schedule your private 1-to-1 session.

Computer Age or Human Age?

Another blog I wrote on February 15, 2008.  It seems just as relevant now as before, except technology has advanced to the nth degree.  May you find some “aha” moments nonetheless.

Ancient Wisdom reminds us, “what we see on the outside is a direct mirror reflection of the inside.

I sat on a Friday night, tonight, February 15, 2008, thinking about this concept.

As a yogi, I find myself in deep contemplation often.  Where most of my peers in their late 20’s are off drinking at a bar, dancing, or getting ready for the night at 8:30 pm, I’m already preparing for bed.  I’d rather wake early to the sound of silence then stay out late in the sound of chaos.  Back to the point, so here I am Friday night reflecting on how the outside world is TRULY a direct reflection of the inside world of us, each human being.

I began to marvel at how wonderful the Internet and E-mail system has become.  How amazingly fast and efficient it is.  Click click click and I have a whole dissertation sent across the globe.  Click Click Click and I have music produced by a friend in France playing on my computer.  WOW!

Continuing to read Jeffrey Armstrong’s newest book Karma, The Ancient Science of Cause and Effect it became so clear and obvious to me how the Computer Age is truly a direct reflection in EVERY WAY of the current Human Age.

The Internet, or inner-net, of energy frequencies and bundles of energy and information streaming through space and time, from our home computers and from our computers we call bodies.  Information sent from one place to another, communicating long distances from brain to foot, foot to brain in milliseconds.  The Internet, aka “the Web”, is a direct reflection of the internal web within us.  The web of energy channels, nadis, (72,000 in all), acupressure meridians, energy points like satellites or signal receivers, vortexes of swirling energy that concentrate energy into particular areas.  The Web is our web.  We can take this one step further to extend our computer based Internet Web to that of the Web of Consciousness of All That Is.  The omnipresent Web of Consciousness that knows All and is available to anyone who chooses to tap into its frequencies…sound familiar to computer talk?

In October of 2005 I took a Healing course called Total Body Modification.  Although I never became a proficient practitioner of it, mostly because it was like learning HTML Coding (something I didn’t want to invest my energy into at the time), I definitely understood and believed the profound healing impact it had on the human bodies (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual).  Not only because it made sense to me but also because I could feel and experience the healing that took place when it was done on me.  Throughout this training the body was continually being compared to a computer.  Our physical body was the hard drive, the brain the internal processor, the heart the software, conductors and silicon connectors our energy channels.  It made perfect sense in a not so traditional way.  I got it.  How simple I thought, if a person can understand computers and their workings, they can understand the human body.  If they can take apart and put a computer back together, they could probably be an incredible healer.  Of course, in the back of my mind this gave me hope that my computer engineer brother who has been calling me his “hippy sister who’s gone woo-wooo” might come around to “get” me when he heard this correlation.  Like I said, after that weekend training, I used TBM on a few people while the language and protocols were fresh in my mind.  But after awhile, like learning a foreign language, I didn’t use it and I began to lose the language.

But a major lesson was learned and a new paradigm of looking at the human body and its healing capabilities understood.  Here, two years later on this beautiful Friday night I began to understand TBM in a deeper light, with greater appreciation.

If we continue to look at our external world as a direct reflection of our inner-world, we can also understand more of our human evolution in the past ten to twenty years.  Most importantly how quickly we are evolving as a species, consciously and unconsciously.  Consciously it is very easy to see how quickly technology, especially the computer industry, has evolved.  It was just ten years ago that the Internet had entered the public school systems.  Twenty years ago, I remember our school opened its first computer lab.  Dot matrix screens with green or orange print, dot matrix printers, and the only game available was Frogger or Oregon Trail.  The Internet wasn’t even an everyday word until I was in high school.  Even then, most home computers were on dial-up modems.  Remember when it would take 5-10 minutes for your computer to warm-up and dial-in?

Today, we are seeing faster, smaller, more powerful computers every month.  Not only is the hardware advancing but the software is becoming more complicated, more user friendly, and the diversity of programs is unthinkable as to ten years ago.  Computer viruses are becoming more prevalent, harder to track and able to destroy more information than ever before.  Sound familiar?  Our bodies are two upgrading, adapting, taking on more energy and changes than every before.  And like the Apple vs. IBM debate as to “stick with what I know computer” and not try the new one, we fight ourselves and deny change even if the other “sounds just as good.”  Internally struggling to stay with the comfort zone of what I “know,” refusing to even consider changing to another computer or different lifestyle.  In the process creating more stress or denying the inevitable change, becoming attached to something that is being outdated, thus our software systems begin to show signs of wear and tear…cancer, hypertension, migraine headaches, repetitive injuries.  We are definitely in a mirroring stage of existence.

While viruses become more and more ramped, at the same time the anti-virus programs, firewalls, computers that filter Junk and pop-ups are also growing at an astounding rate to keep up with the “negative” aspects of computers.  As a “healer” I can see a direct reflection of the number of Healers who have come out of their closet to step into their role as a healer in the past five to ten years.  Different modalities, creative, intuitive, channeled, and integrative methods of healing the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual body spring up every week.  They all work, and like anti-virus software, are becoming more and more powerful against the unforeseen virus.  Becoming more preventative in nature rather than curative.

Another direct reflection of the Computer World as our own is the ongoing struggle between choosing to stick with our old computer systems that we grew up with or adapting new systems that are unknown but sound more reliable, efficient, and virus proof.  Where some people take the leap of faith of buying a new computer and totally different computing system without even thinking twice, typically the switch from IBM to Apple (a more virus preventative computer), there are those who still hold on with a strong hold to what they know because they don’t want to have to go through learning something new or changing what already “works” for them.  Again, does this sound familiar to our conscious evolving (or not evolving) groups of society?  Some people quickly adapting to change while there are those who refuse to think outside the old paradigm box of what makes them comfortable.  A critical difference, once again reflected in our growing computer world, is that we can’t deny the change any longer.  It’s happening whether we want it to or not.

Consciously we can see, even in our economic market, that computers, their workings, software, and components are changing faster than ever.  Our bodies, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual bodies are ALSO changing faster than ever.  At an unconscious level, the computer industry may think they are working to keep up with developing technology, but perhaps technology is attempting to keep up with changing and evolving human consciousness?  My altruism holds faith in the later.  They are one and the same, a direct reflection of each other.

At this critical, burgeoning time of human consciousness, we can choose to hold on and refuse to change to a new hardware, operating system, processor, and software because we fear change, the unknown and we’ve become to complacent and comfortable to learn something new thereby inducing stress, virus, and other conditions or dis-eases of our computing systems.  Or we can take a step towards the unknown, go with the flow of change and ask for an upgraded operating system, processor, and software that keep us up to date with the ever expanding possibilities thereby reducing undue stress and dis-ease in the body.  How do you want to live?  It’s up to you.

Going back to where this whole article began, if the outside world is a direct reflection of our inside world, what else can we learn about ourselves as evolving spirits on planet earth if we look outside?  Are you destroying yourself like our environment?  How much pollution and carbon emissions are you filling your body with or are you choosing new ways of living that reduce these chemical toxins?  Are you choosing to live and support spraying your food with toxic chemicals and pesticides the same way you spray your internal organs with pharmaceuticals and drugs?  Are you recycling because it makes you look good from the outside and it’s the fad thing to do, the way you try to do the new fad diet or health conscious trip because it makes you look like you care form the outside?  How do you really feel on the inside?  What steps are you truly living because you believe in it versus the things you do because it makes you look good?

Remember our outer world is a direct reflection of our inner-world.  I challenge you to look at the outside life in this manner and than reflect on your inner-self.  See a resemblance?  If not, it was fun to consider this point of view and to write this article.  You read this far, which means something caught your attention and I thank you for your precious time.  For those who have read this article and truly “get it” I thank you too for your time.  May our ever-changing world continue to inspire us to “Be the change we wish to see in the World.”

Aloha & Namaste

What’s your Passion?

Last night I rediscovered “What’s your Passion?” from past blogs on an older website.  On the memorial date that changed the world’s events forever, and thus our lives, I felt it was appropriate to repost it.  Especially now as the spouse of an active duty Marine Corps Infantry Officer, I find this post more meaningful than when I first wrote it.   May you continue to find gratitude in all parts of your life including the stranger or person standing next to you.  Every-body is extraordinary with an extraordinary story.  

February 7, 2010 by Haunani Chong

About two weeks ago I was truly blessed to attend a reception sponsored by the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine with special guest Naomi Judd in San Diego, California.  The reception, titled  “Journey into Healing,” turned out to be spiritually uplifting and confirmed the path I’m walking on now and the path that lies before me.

Starting off as an inspirational speech, inviting doctors to consider the more subtle aspects of whole-being (like emotional and spiritual health), the reception turned into a night of promoting and advocating integrative health and wellness solutions for ALL, including our service men, women and veterans.

Towards the end of an hour-long, interactive, and surprising, funny speech, Miss Judd concluded by reading a letter from her lifelong friend.  Miss Judd’s friend was a mother who watched her son’s life change, transform, and eventually end because he chose to live his life’s purpose (dharma)—serving in our Country’s military.  This letter was brutally honest, heart wrenching and at the same time life-promoting.  What struck my heart-chords the most was the line, “Will my country ever learn to love the way he loved for our country?”  Tears filled my eyes.

For the past two weeks I’ve taken this same question personally.  Will I ever learn to love the way he loved for my country and me?  I am touched by this young gentleman’s selflessness.  He was willing to sacrifice it all for my freedom.  And yours.  My freedom to be here now writing this blog, to attend a post-graduate degree in Asian Medicine, to teach yoga and to have the ability to share my ideas and thoughts in public.  That’s love, unconditional love—to serve in a way that allows others to live their dreams.

So, what’s your love?

My love is humanity.  My love is you.  My love is medicine.  My calling is to serve all of humanity by improving medicine by integrating holistic mind-body solutions into clinics, hospitals and all lives, especially the military system.

Today, I ask you: what do you love so much that you’d be willing to sacrifice it all?

The First of Many

Breathe.  Connect.  Be. came to me a few months ago during a meditation.  So much for really stilling the mind, right?!  Haha.  That’s typically how my “meditations” go.  Nonetheless, here it is Breathe.  Connect.  Be.  A new blog dedicated to uplifting you to your highest potential through education, inspiration, humor, honesty and passion.

What you’ll find are articles, videos, photos, how to’s, and links on the topics of: Yoga, Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, holistic living, holistic health and wellness solutions for all ages, Feng Shui, Meditation, motivation, Integrated Medicine and real life experiences.

Who is Breathe.  Connect.  Be. for?  Primarily YOU!  It’s no coincidence you found this page, or this page found you-a matter of perspective or belief.  However, if you found something helpful, heartful, wise or just plane unbelievable or insane, PLEASE SHARE IT!  Add it to your Facebook, Twitter, blog, next group email or even as a gift to someone.

Specifically, you may have been drawn here for one of the following reasons because:

  • you feel a deep calling to change something in their life.
  • you are sick or have been diagnosed with a disease or illness and is looking for another option.
  • you are looking for a like-minded community or connection to others who also appreciate a holistic way of life.
  • you need a laugh…or a cry.
  • you are a yoga teacher and want to learn more.
  • you are an editor and want to republish something on this blog.
  • you are passionate about humanity.
  • you love life.
  • a friend recommended this blog site to you…you should read more and figure out why.
  • you need inspiration for your own blog, clinic or work.
  • you are searching…again, it’s no coincidence you found this blog.

Regardless of why you are here, my intention is to share my authentic self and experiences with you.

In a very influential time in my life I read a quote from Mohandas Gandhi which read “My life is my message.” My life changed forever.  From that day forward, I dedicated my life to uncovering, discovering, learning and living a life that was in alignment with what I valued in myself, others, the Earth and eventually the presence of something higher than myself.  I decided I wanted to live a life that served others and created positive, mindful and well-intentioned footprints on this World.  From a young 20 year old who thought she had it all as the Restaurant manager of a four-star fine dining restaurant, to the yogi who lived in the jungle, to the weak and out of balance shaved-head girl who preferred to sleep on the ground, to the strong and energetic business professional and now wife of a United States Marine Corps Infantry Officer, I’m living a life that is dedicated to respecting and loving each person as a WHOLE AMAZING BEING (body, mind and spirit) that is an integral, much needed and unique gift to this World. Each one of us is here with unique and varied paths and journeys.  It’s not for me to make everyone choose the path I did or even pretend I know what someone else’s path is.  What I have discovered along my own path are tools and little gems that have turned suffering into freedom, aggression into love and abuse into forgiveness.  To not share these gems and tools would be selfish.  Choosing a life of adventure, Truth, Soul searching, healing and radiance was, and is still, the best path I ever decided to take. Like the famous poem of Robert Frost proclaimed “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

May you always remember to Breathe.  Connect. and Be.

Aloha & Namaste,
Haunani