Anger – A Catalyst for Change

Last night I conducted a conference call for Mothers Day; with the intention of opening up the recognition that the essence of motherhood is not confined to those with children. The longing for life opens up the channels of motherhood when one can stay with the intention of the heart and not get carried away by fear and attempts to control.

A therapist friend was on the call as well, who had gone through her own fertility challenges before she had her own biological children at ages 43 and 46, without reproductive intervention.

A woman on the call told us that she came across an email newsletter that said, “Open if you’re a mom.” And it made her mad. How dare anyone limit the opening of a newsletter to those that occupied the role of mom?! Like a dagger to the heart, it had all the elements of making one feel even more desperate and hurt.

So we talked about anger. Should one not get angry when triggered by some external event that reminds one of what they are so desperately trying to do? Should one not feel jealous when those close to them are with child – without even trying? It’s easy to shrink into the small roles of fear, hurt, and sadness, while the biggie – anger – is pushed aside by the judgment, “I shouldn’t be angry.”

My therapist friend talked about anger being a great catalyst for change, for breaking out of confines. TCM gives us two pictograms for anger – one is the image of a fish breaking through water tension to become a bird – indicating breaking out; evolving. Another is the image of a slave woman under a man’s hand, oppressed by circumstances that evoke a sense of breaking out. Let’s reframe. When there is anger, there is anger. Be with yourself with whatever your experience is. When there is jealousy, feel the jealousy. Only then can you break out of the emotional contraction. Let anger be a catalyst for change.

One of the greatest obstructions to fertility is an energetic contraction called Liver Qi Stagnation – mainly caused by unexpressed, unacknowledged emotional states and unfulfilled desires. This keeps the liver from metabolizing hormones, and keeps one physiologically stuck. We do many exercises on retreat to break out of the liver qi stagnation.

What roles, ideals, beliefs and confines do you need to break out of? What confines are holding you back from living your life fully, from pursuing your dreams without limitation?

Be true to yourself and your own experience. Who else will be?

Aging

According to the Nei Jing, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, Chapter One, The female essence (jing) goes through seven your cycles. Seven is considered a harmonious representation of natural cycles: there are seven days in a week, four cycles of seven complete the phases of a full menstrual cycle. There are seven spirits; seven stages of development, and seven vibrational frequencies.

  • 1 x 7: A girl's Kidney energy becomes prosperous at seven years of age.
  • 2 x 7: Her menstruation appears as the ren (sea of yin) channel flows and the chong (sea of blood) channel becomes prosperous at the age of 14.
  • 3 x 7: Her Kidney qi reaches a balanced state, and her teeth are completely developed at the age of 21.
  • 4 x 7: Her vital energy and blood are substantial, her four limbs are strong and the body is at optimal condition at the age of 28.
  • 5 x 7: Her peak condition declines gradually. The yang ming channel is depleted, her face withers and her hair begins to fall out at the age of 35.
  • 6 x 7: Her three yang channels, tai yang, yang ming and shao yang, begin to decline. Her face complexion wanes and her hair turn white at the age of 42.
  • 7 x 7: The ren and chong channels are both declining, her menstruation ends, her physique turns old and feeble, and she can no longer conceive at the age of 49.

Notice that there is a peak from age 28 – 35; thereafter her jing declines. What the jing cycle doesn’t define for us, but what is at least as important is that as the jing declines, there is an increase in shen, or spirit. So, while we still work to enhance the essence during the decline, the shen, must be attended to. If you focus on the jing during the last three cycles of seven, it sounds pretty dismal. Her face withers, her hair begins to turn white and fall out. Her complexion wanes. Her physique turns old and feeble. But also notice, that while they highlight the decline, she is still able to conceive until her menstruation ends. What keeps this process going during the decline? Her spirit. Life is created through jing and shen, essence and spirit. While Chinese herbs and lifestyle changes may help enhance your jing, the shen is your internal state of consciousness, and cannot be neglected in this process.

The rise in shen could be represented by inner wisdom; a sense of completion and giving up needs of the material world. This is a state of spiritual health and wholeness. Feeling empty and unfulfilled depletes both the jing and the shen. Daily meditations, gratitude for what you already have, and feeling a lightness in your heart allow you to live in a state of abundance, nourishing to both the jing and the shen.

Tending to a Broken Heart

One of my friends and associates was dealing with fertility issues, and after an IVF had failed, she told Ram Dass that her spirit had been broken. He responded that no, her spirit wasn’t broken; her mind was. Our illusions can be crushed; our dreams can be shattered, the way we think things should be can be interrupted by life, leaving us feeling lost and broken. But it is not the spirit that that is broken.  Your spirit can’t be broken. It is what picks you back up when your plans have been derailed.

TCM recognizes that the heart , which houses the spirit, is pure and incorruptible.  Just outside the heart, though, is the heart protector, which is the interface between the smaller mind and the wisdom of the heart. The heart protector absorbs the wounds, and suffers the pain. Every time it feels as if the heart is broken, it is an opportunity for the protection of the heart  to open up and let more spirit through.

When I was going through my second miscarriage, it seemed as if I was getting sucked into a void where nothing in the world made sense anymore. Grief stricken, lost and confused, it was my spirit that came through, picked me up, and let me know that it was in charge. What was to be would be. The miraculous was at hand, in process, and it was not my job to figure it out. It was not even my job to heal the pain, but to surrender to it. It opened me up to something greater than the need to guide and protect the direction of my self will. The desires of my own soul were not neglected through this process, but could finally be fulfilled – in ways far beyond my limited mind’s ability to orchestrate the movement of the universe to give me what I thought I needed. My son came through when I could get out of the way.

The direction of my life was made clear when I was no longer playing the role of actor, director, and producer.  I could rest in the reality of the divine movement of the play of all of existence, in which I was an integral part; where my future was being divinely guided.

Another friend is going through a heart-wrenching breakup right now, where it seems as if the reason for being has been snatched away from her.  How could life be so cruel as to take away one’s greatest love? There is no way to explain the ripeness of moments like this – the raw potentiality of a broken heart. When the heart breaks, the mind’s direction is shattered. It is then that the spirit can rise, and direct our course without our interference. What I do know is this – her life is being divinely directed. Those who are crushed by pain have the greatest opportunity to live according to the incorruptible light of spirit, the unconditional love and joy of existence itself. I feel her pain, and I hold it in the light of spirit, knowing it is not a mistake. It is a miracle in the making.

Protection

What do you hold dear? What feels like you need to manage, control, or hold? Reputation, safety, a dream? Another's love? Chinese medicine calls the energy of protection wei qi. This energy lives outside the body during the day. It protects you from pathogens and separates you from the world. A separate entity requires protection. If your wei qi is strong, you fight off colds. You can also feel your wei qi when someone around you is negative or angry, and an energetic barrier arises.

Last week I had a mole that seemed to bleed beneath the surface of the skin. I had been pondering skin cancer for a while, so of course, in my mind I had malignant melanoma. I looked at the energy of overgrown protection. Too much wei qi? Is there a difference between the inner and outer light? Is there anything real between them? The lines between me and others real in appearance, but not real.

When you see you aren't an island unto yourself, nothing can harm you, because the lines of separation are simply an energetic function.

I sit here and let my mind wander back over my life - to positive, happy feelings and those of regret. It seems if I could somehow take those positive feelings and move toward more of them, my heart would be happy. And if I could correct the negative, there would be more happiness.

How could the artist that drew the portrait of life have chosen to paint such tragedy along with the beauty? Because the artist is not separate from the portrait. What kind of landscape would there be with only light and pastels?

The energy of love and connection longs to feel loved in return. There is still psychic energy trying to protect that need. The depth of loneliness behind it is unfathomable; yet when it is allowed, there is such anguishing joy to be held in the recognition of utter aloneness, which is oneness.

As a previously unconscious energy pattern rises to the surface, it moves from dense and opaque to transparent. I hurt for my loneliness, and everyone else's. I want to be there to help everyone I encounter not feel lonely... So they don't have to feel it. Then I don't. Protection. Isn't it ironic that protection lives with loneliness?

The bone marrow can't seem to get that there is no one here dictating events. It still seems to pump out self will. There is resistance to the fact that I can't make a single thing happen and I can't protect myself from what seems to be happening. Thoughts are given, emotions are given, action is given. Positive emotions don't make positive things happen any more than negative ones prevent them. The spleen claims it as mine, and makes it into flesh. I can't shake off the feeling of protection, or speed it along. And beneath it all, there is nothing to protect. I feel it in my thymus gland.

The Shen

One of the most ancient texts of Eastern healing, written 2000 years ago, tells us: All diseases arise from the heart; all healing comes from the heart. The heart they are referring to is not just the anatomic heart muscle; nor is it simply the emotion of love; the ancients call it shen.

Shen is the spiritual power depicted by the Chinese character:  ? representing an altar, through which extending influences flow from above/beyond. Other definitions of Shen include:

The very essence of divinity; Consciousness; Spirit, infused from heaven. Pure, infinite, cosmic light, a luminous  force of vitality which comes from the divine. Shen is the means through which the will of heaven is known. The Shen encompasses the highest mind of consciousness that provides insight and makes you conscious of who you are. It is the energy that enlivens the body and psyche. The Shen resides in the heart.  The Heart holds the office of Lord and Sovereign. The radiance of the spirits stems from it.

When the ancient emperor Huang Di queries the sage, Qi Bo he asks him how we can lose harmony with the spirit of nature so that disease can arise. He understands that before healing can happen, we must be “rooted in spirit.” And Qi Bo goes off on a discourse regarding the power of heaven.

Spirit, heaven, consciousness – the vibrant energy through which all is enlivened and known. Spirit brings all into existence, and to spirit essence returns. When we can enliven this power within, we enter a state of healing, which does not require the intermediary of a physician, a state of profound healing is at hand.; closer even than your thoughts. The Tao te Ching tells us – Use it as you will; it never runs dry.

Chinese medicine is essentially about one thing – healing the spirit. Before true change can occur, we must raise our consciousness to a level above where the disease has been manifesting. It is an inside job. A true “healer” does nothing beyond taking you into the power of your own shen. And they watch in amazement at the transformation that heaven brings about through your inner essence.

When individuals come to retreat, many are confused about the concept of true healing and what fertility has to do with the heart. Many have had less than profound experiences with acupuncture. On the first day, I tell them that my intention is to bring them to a place where a shift in consciousness occurs, and that which obstructed their energy loses hold. The essence of all life, yours and your child’s, will come from that which envelops the spirit – the heart. It flows into your womb and invites life.

A  true “healer” does not hold the attitude of “I know what to do and how to do it, and I will heal you.” A true “healer” is in a sate of awe, rooted in their spirit, so it can be enlivened in you. Anything else is quackery.

Separation from Life

The first time I met my son was through the clear enclosure of his incubator, where he spent the first two weeks of his life, with tubes and IVs. Born via emergency C-section the night before, he was whisked off to neonatal intensive care while I underwent further surgery. The pain I felt in not being able to touch him, hold him, or care for him mimicked the pain of being unable to conceive him. He was in a bubble, and I couldn’t reach him. I am reminded of the pain of being separate from life every time I hold a retreat. The intense longing to touch the most precious expression of unconditional love is one of the most powerful forces I know. It is to meet life head on, scary in the intensity of its fragility.  A hopeful mother longs to bring forth life. Her attempts have failed her. Little by little, through the maze of infertility, she comes not closer to, but further away from this intimate expression, once felt to be so close at hand.

Visits to the doctor take her from hope to despair. Too old; too few eggs, too scarred, hormones too high, too low… now labs and medical procedures separate her from her hearts greatest desire. After a few IVF failures, she searches the internet. “Stay away from these foods,” sites say.  “Don’t exercise,” other well-meaning hopefuls say. Avoid alcohol, coffee, air travel, eat pure, local and organic. She now feels like these rules separate her from her child. With every suggestion, she feels like there is another barrier between her and her child.

These suggestions don’t necessarily make you more fertile; they may, however, make your life more balanced. They are not recipes to make babies. Why is it that life seems to come more easily to those who don’t try so hard? Perhaps the thickest barrier between you and your child happens to be all of the rules you are trying to adhere to in order to bring forth life. Life doesn’t adhere to rules; it defies them. Life comes to those who appear undeserving; those who eat poorly, who don’t care for themselves, who can’t afford children, who neglect and abuse them, and those who find another pregnancy a tragedy.

What I’m saying is this: Don’t separate yourself from life. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t try to eat a perfect diet, think perfect thoughts, feel perfect feelings, go to perfect doctors who will give you a perfectly logical diagnosis with perfectly simple treatment options. Don’t try to be perfect; in fact, stop trying at all. Trying is the separating factor. Live your life. Let your future children come to you, as you are, not how you are trying to be to control their arrival. Be who you are, how you are. Don’t separate yourself from yourself. When you accept yourself and all of life totally, as it is, the internal conflict of trying disappears.

Menstrual Phases (Part 5) - The Luteal Phase

Between 6:00 and 9:00 position of our yin-yang symbol, we enter another dynamic transition of the menstrual cycle. I consider this the most magical, and yet most invisible aspect of the fertility cycle. Yin has transformed into yang through the process of ovulation. Under the influence of LH, the follicle has transformed itself into the corpus luteum or yellow body, which secretes progesterone for a pre-programmed 14 days, or half a moon phase. This “yellow body” bears the color of earth, to which the spleen belongs, which governs the endocrine function of progesterone’s holding effect. The spleen meridian runs through the ovary. The egg has been released, the fimbria (or fingers) of the fallopian tube has picked it up, and if sperm have made it through the vaginal canal, cervical opening, up the uterus and into the tube, fertilization is possible. If fertilization takes place, one cell becomes two, and the zygote, which means “union,” splits. Here the central tai ji pole, or original chong meridian, opens to heaven, where, the Taoists describe a poetic vision as the big dipper pours the essence of the stars into the new individual to provide it the spiritual essence for its upcoming life.

The liver meridian runs through the fallopian tube.  When its qi is unobstructed, fertilization is more likely. Liver qi stagnation can cause the fallopian tube to “clench”, and even may end up showing a false positive in an hysterosalpingogram.

In our reverse cycle energetic, required to create an individual through the pre-heavenly essence or prenatal creation, the liver directs its energy to the kidney, as blood feeds the essence. The kidney grasps the qi. The penetrating (chong) meridian arises from the uterus; and is the envelope through which consciousness chooses expression. According to the Ling Shu, (Spiritual Pivot, 1st Century BCE), every day of the menstrual cycle, the qi descends via the Governing meridian, one vertebral process per day, until day 21, when it enters the chong meridian, which allows the mingling of heart fire and kidney water. If the parents essence have ignited the cosmic qi (or if the cosmic qi has allowed the parents essence to ignite…) the entrance of a new soul will enter into manifestation. This is the time of implantation. The palace of the child must communicate with the embryo, which is also emitting chemicals calling for a home. The endometrium expresses proteins that let the embryo know, “you have a home here.”

Held anger blocks the liver-kidney conversion. Excessive worry and anxiety can inhibit the spleen qi’s holding ability. What can you do to help this process most? Stay out of it. Nature did not intend for your involvement at this time.

If this magical union takes place, the lung (whose highest function is “releasing”,) directs prenatal creation as it calls the corpus luteum into increased production of progesterone to uphold the embryo during the first ten weeks, at which time the placenta will take over its function.

If the cosmic qi is not ignited, the lung directs a new cycle to begin; the uterus discharges its blood and a cycle of hope is renewed.

Menstrual Phases (Part 4) – The Ovulatory Transition

Yin has reached its zenith. Accordingly, estrogen rises to its peak, performing yin functions of maximum follicular growth, maximum endometrial proliferation, production of clear, thin, fertile cervical fluid, and the cervix becomes more yin: soft, open and moving upward to the center (yin) of the body. If all of the previous functions have been met during the Yin phase (adequate and unobstructed blood, qi, and essence,) a cascade of events occur throughout the body in response to these yin cues. The hypothalamus tells the pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone, which will cause the mature follicle to discharge its egg and turn into a corpus luteum. This process is governed by unobstructed liver qi, directed by the lungs. If the process is unobstructed, as these internal energies rise, there is a concomitant rise in libido, as she feels a magnetic draw to her partner. Believe it or not, your most fertile time is when you feel sexiest. Pay attention to this, rather than an ovulation predictor kit. It is far more reliable. This is the summer of the seasonal solar cycle; the full moon of the liunar cycle. The spleen has produced the blood, its qi has lifted it to the heart and pericardium, where it is endowed with the life giving powers of heavenly essence (tian gui), and it is now directed to the liver and then to the uterus via the kidneys. This process can be inhibited by having a “heavy” heart, laden with depressed, repressed, oppressed, suppressed emotions and resistance to life circumstances. This inhibits the true expression of who we are and how we interact in life, and thus inhibits internal movement. The heart receives and interprets sensory input via the hypothalamus, which could be seen as occupying the spleen’s ascending power to the heart and pericardium. This process advises the entire HPO axis whether or not life is ready to be received within.

Guilt, anger and frustration stagnate the feedback that rises to the hypothalamus via the governing meridian. The “wei” qi or protective energy increases and moves inward toward the center, to keep out pathogens during fertilization. A woman may feel sick during this time if her wei qi is low. If the liver qi is obstructed, she may feel breast tenderness, irritability, and anything but the usual rise in libido. Ovulation may not be not smooth, and the cycle may be out of sync during this time.

Your energies are maximum during this time. If there is stagnation, you likely do not feel well during ovulation. If you don’t have signs of obstruction, your moods are likely enhanced, and you may have higher energy levels. Feel free to increase exercise during this time. Run, bike, dance kick-box – whatever you love. Drink milk thistle or peppermint tea if you have liver qi stagnation. If you have a lot of repressed emotions, practice getting them out physically. Stomp, scream and slap the blockages out of your system. Hit a tree with a branch. Hit a punching bag.  And those of you have been on retreat with me, perform the boulder exercise.

The Spirit of the Kidneys

The zhi spirit lives in the kidneys and presides over the most inaccessible parts of the psyche, the instinctual responses of the sex organs, the biochemical intelligence of the endocrine system, and the knowing of our bones. The zhi connect us to the collective unconscious, the part of our psyche that draws us out of, and back into, the infinite. The power of the zhi can be likened to the power of a hot spring, a geyser or the steaming vents of sulfurous fire that shoot up from the trenches of the deep ocean floor. This energy cannot be argued with. It emerges and bursts upward in a fantastic display of negentropic potency. In the human microcosm, it is related to the power of the life force, the instincts, the will, and the driving urgency of ambition. Zhi is the will to live, the unknowable mystery of quickening life. Zhi rises from the wellspring of our being and imbues us with the desire to grow, thrive, and live fully. We encounter this mystery each time a child is conceived, a seed sprouts, or a new creative impulse is engendered. - Five Spirits: Alchemical Acupuncture for Psychological and Spiritual Healing, by Lorie Dechar.

I view the zhi spirit, the deepest aspect of our instinctual, yet shadow selves, as the darkness that causes germination. Indeed, the pictogram of zhi is a sprout hidden within the depths of the heart. Its color is deep navy blue, almost black. The light of spirit is pure, bright, and untainted, but almost imperceptible in the depths of the zhi. It is like a cinema. The light still shines, but if the film is very dark, it colors what shows up on the screen of our lives. Because the mind is a rapidly moving succession of thoughts and images, we must be still and face our fears to access the power of zhi.

This is the most potent practice I know of, and yet the one that most people are averse to. They want something productive, something to know, something to DO! “How will being still and facing my fears help me become pregnant?” The answer is that it unleashes the power of the life force. Unexamined fears contract the kidney energies, and reduce blood flow and access to the reproductive essence.

Exercises which enhance the reproductive essence are very yin. Very still and quiet. Exercises which feed the desire to do, to be productive, to get something done, are very yang. They deplete the essence.

Take some time every day in stillness to quiet the mind and attend to your internal landscape. If you feel like you need something to do, soak your feet in warm Epsom salt with calming essential oils to relax you and improve blood flow to the lower body.

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Resetting The Cycle of Hope vs. Despair

No matter what your TCM diagnosis is – kidney yin deficiency, dampness, blood stasis… when the pattern of imbalance is addressed, we also need to address the mental pattern of effort and frustration as an inherent aspect of the fertility journey. I have had three children. Each began with a dream, as a gift from beyond; but not one of them came through my efforts to bring this dream into actuality. They came of their own accord. The only thing that got in my way, causing my state of “in-fertility” were my efforts to control or to think that I could bring about their coming. This trying blocked off the light of spirit and depleted my yin, as I wound myself deeper and deeper into frustration and despair.

Remember when you first visited the possibility of having a child? Most often, hope was high, and effort was low. There might have been a great amount of excitement as you looked toward the possibility of having a child. Yet, when desire itself did not bring forth the results you expected and time went on, hope dwindled and you tried harder.

This is the typical cycle of hope becoming despair, and effort resulting in frustration. There comes a crisis point at which your body/mind goes into a state of panic. It seems that no matter what you do, nothing happens. Frustration mounts. When trying results in frustration and hope results in despair, the human condition cannot continue for long without building up an immense reserve of stress hormones. This cycle itself interferes with conception. The cells become less receptive to hormonal cues. Adrenal hormones rise as the reproductive hormones take a back seat. We are in crisis.

Regardless of where you are on your fertility journey, you simply cannot go back in time to try to recreate a false sense of hope. You cannot fight what is - your inner truth and wisdom won’t allow it. Yet, when you find yourself in a state of despair, don’t fight it. Feel the feelings that are associated with despair and frustration. Usually this state is bound up with fear, worry, anger, and grief. When you can feel these feelings, then you can move beyond them. Be where you are, as you are, how you are. Then the system can be reset. Frustration unwinds and hope can shine through again. Hope is already there, moment to moment. It is not something that we can create in the future. We lose sight of present hope when we are trying to figure out how to have hope again.

Menstrual Phases (Part 3): The Yin Phase

Our yin-yang representation of energies rising and falling, transforming from one to another provides a model of the yin phase of the menstrual cycle, from 3:00 to 6:00. Here, the yin energies (deep, dark, inner movement) increase. This is the phase from the end of menstruation (the blood emptying phase) to maximum growth (ovulation.) Here we can visit the dynamic intersection of rising hormones and the deep, inner menstrual response. The endocrine energetic is a forward, post-heaven (or earthly)

response to life as it is. We are building the foundation through which life can come.  The kidney energies, emptied from the previous cycle’s menstruation, are now ready to give rise to new possibility. The kidney essence will feed the liver blood, which will rise until it reaches its apogee and begin the conversion of yin into yang. The endocrine response will raise estrogen as the follicle grows. In response to the rising estrogen (a yin hormone), the inner menstrual reverse cycle is occurring.

At the gynecological level, the reverse of the endocrine response is underway as the blood, created by the spleen, rises to the heart, is cooled by the pericardium, and directed to the liver to build which recruits kidney essence in the form of the uterine lining.  One energetic system moves up and out as the other moves in and down.

This cycle can be interrupted by anything that over extends the inner reserves out in the world.  Overabundant desires can deplete the blood and stagnate the qi. Overextending your energy in worldly affairs can deplete the spleen qi and kidney yang; leaving very little to invigorate reproductive essence. Any frenetic activity in life – physical or mental, can disrupt the heart kidney axis, shortening the follicular phase. The resulting TCM diagnoses can include:

Qi or kidney yang deficiency – usually will delay ovulation. Signs of fatigue and coldness. May include blood deficiency, as spleen qi makes blood, and ascends to the heart.

Too much heat – a short follicular phase, early ovulation. Liver fire and heart fire are often exacerbated by forcing movement instead of resting. This scatters the qi, and can be associated by concurrent qi deficiency.

Inadequate yin – lack of cervical fluid, Might be associated with blood deficiency or heat. Often accompanied by a deep inability to accept what is.

Deficient liver blood – might delay ovulation; usually accompanied by scant menses. Often accompanied by lack of hope, and despondency, which stifles the liver qi.

Qi stagnation – will often delay ovulation, which will be symptomatic.

Blood stasis – lack of inner life movement.

Dampness – may have abundant cervical fluid, but cycle is still sluggish.

As you’ve been reading this, your attention may be focused on your particular TCM diagnosis, while ignoring the cause. If you go to an acupuncturist to treat the pattern of imbalance without addressing its cause, it won’t take root. It might clear up symptoms, but rarely will a doctor be able to restore your fertility without your help in curbing the energies that are causing the imbalance. Addressing the diagnosis is relatively superficial; addressing the cause requires some depth and courage. If your longing outside and the frustration over the lack of fulfillment of your desires are too strong, the spirit of the heart literally cannot reach the kidneys.

You must always care for yourself first. Then what’s showing up as imbalances. Then on the goal of a child. It simply doesn’t work the other way.

Menstrual Phases (Part 2): Menstrual (Blood)

According to the yin/yang model, the blood phase governs the 12:00 to 3:00 position.

Release

The beginning of the menstrual cycle is heralded, as all new beginnings are, with a release. A viable pregnancy was not supported. The corpus luteum involutes, progesterone levels and temperatures drop, and as one cycle turns over, the next one begins with letting go. This is a crucially important time. Energetically, the lung initiates the movement of release. Like a finger on top of a straw, when its holding capacity is withdrawn, the liver directs the release of menstrual blood, as the heart-kidney axis pours its heavenly essence through the vaginal canal. The bao mai or envelope of potential, causes the uterus to liquefy and shed its lining.

Downward

The energy of this internal channel, directed inward and downward, must be unobstructed. There must be an outlet through which the life force, in the form of blood, can flow. Energies are directed within and down, not up nor without. We release and let go. With any process of letting go and moving on, there is sadness and loss.  We may feel depressed. That’s because the energies are depressed. This is natural and normal, and nothing to be resisted. Grief experienced and expressed, allows a new cycle to begin. If we inhibit this movement, we can halt the resetting of a new cycle, upsetting the delicate balance. For example, if we do not experience the internal sadness and instead cover up with a false positive attitude, we are going against the flow of nature. If we overindulge in despair, we can cause too much of this downward movement, holding the energies of renewal down, inhibiting a new cycle of creation.

Inward

This can result in blood stasis, where the blood remains congealed in the channels, blocking the upcoming cycle. During the blood phase, we are to be at rest. TCM tells us not to expose ourselves to severe temperatures, too much exercise, immersion in water, or intercourse. Because the cervix is open, it can take in during this time if we are not calm and releasing from within.

Outward

Any disruption of the natural flow can result in blockage of the heart kidney axis, counterflow qi, blood stasis, and inability to turn over to initiate a new hormonal cycle.

Renewal

Days 1 – 3 of the menstrual cycle indicate the menstrual expulsion, and the hormonal resetting. If this cycle is complete, estrogen, progesterone, and FSH should be at a low on day 3. Complete release then initiates a rise in yin. Hormones will start to rise; the uterine lining will start to fill.

Problems:

Scanty blood flow – blood deficiency; the uterine vessels have not received adequate nourishment.

Early menses, spotting – can be due to blood stasis, heat, or qi deficiency

Continued bleeding – same as above, interrupting the “reset” of  a new cycle.

Failure of temperatures to drop – heat, inflammation, incomplete release

Pain during menstruation – cold, blood stasis, qi stagnation; interrupted outflow

Emotional stagnation – unwillingness to go within and experience the full release

All of the above issues can be obstructed by blockage in the heart-kidney communication. The vibrant energies of the life force, love itself is not adequately directed to or not capable of being received by the deep kidney energies.

Menstrual Phases (Part 1): Shen

Endocrinology + Gynecology = Potential for Life Introduction to the Menstrual Cycle: Part I

On the left, we have the energetic generating cycle of the endocrinological system, whose job it is to respond to the patterns in life that are already in existence.

On the right, we have the Taoist cross model of interaction, which illustrates the ability to jump to a higher level of possibility - evolution. This also allows us to look at the interface of the “reverse generating” cycle, which takes us into the “preheavenly” realm, where the unborn is brought into the earthly realm.

The menstrual cycle is the interplay between the generating (hormonal) cycle, and the reverse generating (menstrual) cycle.

During menses, the full uterus empties itself, and the hypothalamus returns to a zero point to reset the entire process. At ovulation, the full ovary empties itself, as the hormones are high. The generating cycle creates hormones in response to the way we perceive the world. The reverse generating cycle occurs invisibly beneath the surface, pulling out possibility based on the interface between our response to the world and how the spirit of existence wishes to manifest itself as a reply to the messages we have transmitted.

12:00 – onset of the blood phase.

The uterus empties itself as the hormones begin to rise.

3:00 – we move into the yin phase.

Hormones support follicular growth and proliferation of the uterine lining.

6:00 – yin transforms into yang.

Yin and hormones peak as a conversion occurs to a more active secretory endometrium.

9:00 – we enter the qi phase.

The uterus will either hold, or direct a new cycle to begin. Hormones will either rise to support conception or will reset to begin another new cycle.

We will go over each of these cycles in more depth as we look at the interactions, hormonally and gynecologically between the earthly generating and pre-heavenly cycles of conception.

The Uterus - A Fu Organs

Chinese medicine breaks down the energetic systems of the body into one source, two divisions, three treasures, four vital substances and five elements which establish internal functional boundaries and are further separated into yin and yang organs. Yin (zang)      Yang (fu)                   Contracting Emotional Perception

Spleen             Stomach                                             Thought, worry

Lung               Large Intestine                                  Grief, holding on

Kidney            Urinary Bladder                                Fear, protection

Liver               Gallbladder                                        Anger, desire

Heart              Small Intestine                                  Joy, excitement

Pericardium     San Jiao

Ovary              Uterus (and fallopian tubes)                Control

Yin (zang) organs have primary life giving functions. The yang (fu) organs receive and distribute. They fill and empty. In addition to the vital functions necessary for survival, the uterus is considered a fu organ. Although it is not necessary for individual survival, it is necessary for continuation of the species. It empties and fills. The uterine function, carried deep within the most yin aspect of the body, is governed by cycles outside the control of the other vital body functions. It cycles through filling and releasing according to the gravitational field between the earth and the moon. It is endowed not just with blood, but with “heavenly essence” or the ability to provide the life giving power of heaven to fill with life.

Fu organs are a junction between inside and outside. Energetically they are more fluid and superficial than their corresponding deeply fixed zang organ. When we look at these physiologic functions beyond their anatomical placement, we can access a spectacular beauty of the interface between the internal and the external.

When you open your senses to the external world, you take in your physical environment. When you turn within and condense your senses to a more sublime perception you can take in an endless internal landscape. The inner world contains thoughts, emotions, beliefs and ideals, but if you can move beyond even that, there is something deeper. You have access to the “unborn” origin. There is something mysterious and powerful that contains all possibilities. At the source, there is a miraculous potential that manifests into the unimaginable expressions. You have this power within you.

This inner power, however, is often clouded by our perceptions. These perceptions govern the hypothalamus and the ability of the endocrine and uterine functions to relate harmoniously or not – the junction of the inner and outer landscapes. This is where most menstrual and hormonal imbalances arise. When you quiet your mind and return to the source within, see if you can move beyond the clouds of perception and into the clear potential behind fear, anger, grief, that which you think will give you joy, and control. Move into the unconditional origin through which all things are possible. There are acupuncture treatments that can open up the windows of perception (most around the neck) to the clear light of spirit itself. Try massaging the area that begins at the base of the skull, and move around to the suprasternal notch in front, on both sides. Another powerful exercise utilizes the qi gong infinity ball. Think of the crossing point as the interface between the inner and outer world. And finally, spend time getting to know and move beyond the limitations of your own perception. Be still and know.

9 Heart Pains

What life issue causes you psychological discomfort? Whatever issue that makes you feel stuck, according to Taoist philosophy, is not a problem, but an invitation. Accordingly, each spirit takes birth to explore a certain curriculum in his or her upcoming life. We will be provided certain life circumstances and challenges to learn these lessons and thereby reach our destiny. When we are born, these areas are hidden and dormant, and will emerge when the life circumstance is ripe for the learning. When these circumstances present themselves, they create a certain magnetic pull, or “need” that we will not be able to resist. When this need arises, we have entered one of the “Nine Palaces.” When we enter into the palace and are unable to come to terms with its lesson, it becomes a “Heart Pain.” Chinese philosophy provides 9 major life-lessons: Health;

Wealth (having enough – issues of scarcity or abundant resources);

Prosperity (reputation, honor, how you are viewed);

Relationships;

Children/Creativity;

Global/World issues (includes travel);

Career/Vocation (acquiring knowledge associated with);

Wisdom; and

Home/Family.

These nine heart pains or nine palaces contain life lessons that will not go away until we learn from and evolve beyond the lesson. They have a certain “charge” associated with them – mentally, emotionally, or physically. We either highly value or resist issues associated with them. We may feel a great need to protect ourselves from issues surrounding them. If you don’t overcome your heart pains, they will be transferred to your children, unless children are the pain you are faced with. When you think about your present life “issue,” is there a physical sensation associated with it? Does your heart rate speed up; blood pressure increase? Does it give you a feeling of contraction in your gut or chest? Does its loss feel like it hurts your heart? Do you feel like you have to protect yourself or the issue? Then it is a heart pain; a palace through which your destiny is urging your spirit to shine through.

Pain, according to Chinese medicine, means lack of free flow.  The presence of physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual pain indicates this area needs restoration of free flow. Instead of turning away from this pain, we are drawn into it.

When these fundamental lessons emerge, there will often be a deep sensation that you are being threatened; that protection around this issue is required. This brings up the energetic official called the Pericardium, or heart protector, whose job it is to protect that which the heart holds precious. The highest function of the heart and pericardium is to open, rather than protect. When you can open up to meet these issues head on and transcend their lessons, then you have the possibility of reaching your destiny, intimately associated with your heart’s desires. Repressed pericardium issues, or long standing heart pains, may need assistance, through the unconditional love of the Heart and the unconditional acceptance of the Lungs to open and release. Use the microcosmic orbit breathing exercise, directing the heart’s energies within.

Tending to a Broken Heart

One of my friends and associates was dealing with fertility issues, and after an IVF had failed, she told Ram Dass that her spirit had been broken. He responded that no, her spirit wasn’t broken; her mind was. Our illusions can be crushed; our dreams can be shattered, the way we think things should be can be interrupted by life, leaving us feeling lost and broken. But it is not the spirit that that is broken.  Your spirit can’t be broken. It is what picks you back up when your plans have been derailed.

TCM recognizes that the heart , which houses the spirit, is pure and incorruptible.  Just outside the heart, though, is the heart protector, which is the interface between the smaller mind and the wisdom of the heart. The heart protector absorbs the wounds, and suffers the pain. Every time it feels as if the heart is broken, it is an opportunity for the protection of the heart  to open up and let more spirit through.

When I was going through my second miscarriage, it seemed as if I was getting sucked into a void where nothing in the world made sense anymore. Grief stricken, lost and confused, it was my spirit that came through, picked me up, and let me know that it was in charge. What was to be would be. The miraculous was at hand, in process, and it was not my job to figure it out. It was not even my job to heal the pain, but to surrender to it. It opened me up to something greater than the need to guide and protect the direction of my self will. The desires of my own soul were not neglected through this process, but could finally be fulfilled – in ways far beyond my limited mind’s ability to orchestrate the movement of the universe to give me what I thought I needed. My son came through when I could get out of the way.

The direction of my life was made clear when I was no longer playing the role of actor, director, and producer.  I could rest in the reality of the divine movement of the play of all of existence, in which I was an integral part; where my future was being divinely guided.

Another friend is going through a heart-wrenching breakup right now, where it seems as if the reason for being has been snatched away from her.  How could life be so cruel as to take away one’s greatest love? There is no way to explain the ripeness of moments like this – the raw potentiality of a broken heart. When the heart breaks, the mind’s direction is shattered. It is then that the spirit can rise, and direct our course without our interference. What I do know is this – her life is being divinely directed. Those who are crushed by pain have the greatest opportunity to live according to the incorruptible light of spirit, the unconditional love and joy of existence itself. I feel her pain, and I hold it in the light of spirit, knowing it is not a mistake. It is a miracle in the making.

Body Mind Spirit

Body     Mind     Spirit

Jing      Qi          Shen

The Buddha said that with our thoughts we create our world.

I emphasize the strength of Shen over Qi, and Qi over Form.

When we know ourselves as and reside in the source, or Spirit, we are no longer limited by the filters of our own interactive perception.

At the level of qi, when our energy is being pulled into our subconscious beliefs, we project this onto a world that is only a projection of our internal state of consciousness.

When we interact only at the level of form, believing that the manifest world is all there is, we have made ourselves small and weak, needing protection. Very little can change at this level. When we can see through and beyond our present limiting patterns of perception, we actually change the way the world appears and the way in which we interact in it.

True change happens at the Source/Spirit level, and opens up our filters of perception so that we are not limited by the manifest world. In the image above, the yellow color could be seen as the illuminating source of existence itself that shows up at the energy level, and at the level of manifestation. Thus, when we know our own source, the way we interact in the manifest world opens up to that light, and reflects it. This source energy is in everything that shows up in the manifest world. When we recognize it, the manifestation opens up to that spiritual axiom that every atom contains the entire universe.

When we change the way we perceive things, the things we perceive change.

So, what does this have to do with fertility? Everything. The way that your potential is manifest is through the hypothalamic filter that causes your hormones to manifest in the way they do. You simply cannot change your hormones at the level of the body. The qi of perception must change, that the light of spirit shines through. Then, as the Taoist origins of Chinese medicine suggest, you embody the spirit of evolution. You are creation itself.

This is not as daunting as it might appear. It is the very essence of what we attempt to accomplish at retreat. Then we work with the body at the level to support these modifications at the level of spirit and energy, rather than the other way around.

Absolute vs. Relative

For the purpose of our discussion of where babies come from, we could say that all life begins in the Absolute, or Tao. We can also call it the unborn, or that which has not yet been made manifest. Yet once things are made manifest, they operate via specific and inviolate laws that govern existence or that which we see – the manifest world. The manifest world is governed by laws such as relativity: E = mc2.

When we can’t explain some particular phenomenon according to these natural laws, we call it “a miracle.” It seems to have defied the laws of gravity, relativity, or thermodynamics.

The study of the entirety of existence is referred to as cosmology. Yet, when we are dealing with where it comes from, we call it cosmogony. TCM views the body as a microcosm of the macrocosm. This is the view of the manifest, cosmological world. It governs the forward movement of the interaction of the elements. Yet, when we are dipping into the Unborn, we are delving into cosmogony – where pre-heavenly and post-heavenly essence intersect in order to bring a new possibility into existence.

This doesn’t only happen when babies are born. It happens when any new possibility emerges which had not been. We see it all the time – a new insight changes the way you view things. Something previously hidden comes into view. Spontaneous remissions from incurable diseases. In all these cases, the Absolute was made relative.

Einstein, who fathered the theory of relativity, spent his life looking for the unifying principle, beyond the relative, that would link all of existence. The relative world can be explained by the friction of opposites, yin and yang. Egg and sperm. Good and bad. Father and mother. Right and wrong. There is something to the left of the equal sign and something  else relating to it on the right. Yet right in the center of the equal sign is something that can’t be measured, something which can’t be put on either side, yet shows up on both sides. It defies science, because it is beyond that which can be segmented and studied. It unifies. It is the source. It is love.

Love is that which gives rise to all of existence. This is not the gooey emotional love. This is the fierce spark that ignites life, which then vibrates into the opposing forces – male and female, love and hate, fear and safety. This love is unconditional. It is beyond all conditions, and yet shines through them all.

So, the source of this love vibrated into the desire for a child to be made manifest. At one side of the equation is child (love), and the other side of the equation is no child (fear). Yet, where did the desire come from? Did you make it happen or did it arise on its own from the source? Can you trust it without taking it into the place of opposites and perceived control – where you think the manifest world is in charge? Can you let it go and return to its source, that arises from your own heart, and leave the outcome to Love itself?

A Doctor’s Role in Fertility

I just finished our annual retreat with our Continuing Excellence in Fertility Professionals, where we combine personal introspection, TCM education, qi gong, and a Taoist view of the elements. The universal view of the order that govern all of life is:

The Blood follows the Qi.

The Qi follows the Xin (Heart/Mind)

The Xin follows the Shen (Spirit)

The Shen follows the Tao.

In this model, Blood = the physical body, and the mental and emotional functions which it embodies. It is the last in line. When we, as practitioners, work at the “blood” level, we are relatively inefficient if we are not concurrently working at the energetic level of the heart’s wisdom, which follows the workings of the spirit, which is the universal Way of all things.

When a doctor is trying to manipulate the Blood level while neglecting the other levels, there is no therapeutic change. While the form may adjust itself slightly, when there is no change at the level of Qi and higher, there will be no lasting change at the manifest or Blood level.

You cannot change egg quality by working only at the level of the blood. Therefore, changing your diet and taking supplements while neglecting the way you respond to the world will have little effect. If your energetic reaction to the world is one of stress, protection, and survival instinct, it will lock the Blood level in place. Changing your diet, then, while improving the level of manifestation, will not reach the level of potentiality, which is of Spirit.

A doctor at retreat asked me, “So what’s the use?” Why do we use acupuncture, herbs, diet, and lifestyle adjustments if all true change happens at the level of spirit?

The answer is that we work at the level of the Blood and Qi in order to bring someone into the recognition of true changes that occur at the Shen level. If a doctor is not accessing the Spirit level, true transformation is not possible – only slight manipulation of the form. While at the level of Blood, we may improve the menstrual flow somewhat, lower FSH temporarily, and improve mental outlook for a cycle or two, these changes will not be lasting. They will not reach the level of potentiality, which is of Spirit.

The Nei Jing tells us, “Of course, before needling, we must be rooted in Spirit.” If your doctor is not rooted in spirit – her own and yours, she is practicing at the level of Blood. The ancients called these practitioners “technicians.” While they could diagnose and needle, they didn’t have the power to transform.

All true transformation occurs at the level of the Heart, which houses the Spirit, which gives rise to all potentiality. Here, egg and sperm quality change. Hope is a palpable force, not a weak begging the universe for what you want. The heart opens to allow all possibility. This is true healing; a doctor’s highest role.