Thursday, January 20, 2011

The process: reconsidering six aspects of our lives

As I have spoken of, I strongly believe that by carefully addressing six aspects of our lives, we can transform ourselves and IY"H hope to live long, happy and fulfilling lives. This transformation is a process, and requires discipline, dedication and diligence, much as a student of martial arts devotes to the mastering of his art-form.

Though I have previously discussed some of these aspects, in this article I would like to briefly go over all of them, considering the various parts of our lives that we may be taking for granted. In coming blogs IY"H I hope to examine more closely each aspect.

Here, therefore, are the six aspects involved in the process of transformation:

1. We need to consider how we should eat. This involves a number of criteria: what we eat and what we should avoid. What should be the proportion and percentages of different foods we eat. How, when and how much we should eat. How we should prepare ourselves to eat, and what we should be doing and thinking of,while eating and afterwards. These questions I have already addressed in Part II of this series.

2. We need to consider our fluid intake, as dehydration is a major root cause of many imbalances and illnesses. From my experience, I find that nearly every patient I see is dehydrated! We need to, therefore, consider what we drink and what we need to avoid, which drinks have diuretic properties which actually cause us to become more depleted of fluids. How much should we drink? When should we drink and when shouldn't we? Should we avoid drinking from certain containers? How can we know if we are becoming dehydrated, And can drinking too much actually be harmful to our health?

3. We all breathe oxygen in order to live, but is the way we breathe actually harming our heath? Amazingly, the majority of toxicity from air pollution is self-induced! Almost everyone I know, with the exception of singers and runners, inhales shallowly, breathing through their mouths, rarely exhaling properly. How can we expect to feel good if we don't train ourselves to breathe out the poisonous carbon dioxide (Co2) which accumulates within? Ever consider that all carbonated drinks get their effervescence from the added Co2? Ever wonder why some people sigh so frequently? In Chinese medicine, frequent sighing is a classic sign of what we call liver Qi stagnation. So what's the connection?

4. Nothing allows us to regenerate better than healthy, adequate sleep. But how much do we need? When is the optimal time to sleep? What activities should we be engaged in before going to sleep? How does the food we eat affect our sleep? Does it matter if our sleep is broken, as long as we get enough total sleep? Does medicated sleep benefit us if we have difficulty fall or staying asleep? What should our environment be like when we sleep? Is it beneficial to fall asleep in front of the TV, listen to a tape, or have soft music on when falling asleep? And how should one feel upon waking?

5. Chinese medicine teaches that pain is equivalent to stagnation or lack of movement or motion. Implicit in this idea is the importance of proper exercise. But what do we mean by "proper" exercise? Does that mean cardiovascular aerobic exercise? Should it be in a gym? And how much and when should be exercise?

6. Finally, besides what we eat, drink, breath, rest and exercise, what are we doing to nurture our souls, our spirits? Is all stress bad? What is considered as good stimulation? What specific activities should we be engaged in to nurture our souls? Is there such a thing as too much nurturing?

These are all very important questions--questions that we should all be asking ourselves. As I tell each of my new patients, I consider myself to be a detective, a tour guide and a translator, deciphering and attempting to put order and meaning into the chaos which so many of us default to. Many of us just keep going until illness or pain stops us cold! But by carefully considering these six areas of our lives, we can really begin to learn who we are, how to put ourselves in balance, and most importantly, what we can make out of our lives.

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