Lessons from Tigers and Bears: Activism Requires Self-Care

In times that necessitate activism, we must take extra steps to care well for ourselves. The more stress we face, and the more external our focus, the more energy we need to put into our self-care to maintain balance.

One of the qigong sets that I teach illustrates this well. In the five animal frolics, each animal is a short qigong form within the larger set. Sometimes we practice one or two, and sometimes we practice all of them. The animals teach wisdom lessons through the form.

The crane stands, gets ready, flies, draws in, then looks out at the world. This oscillation between stances and moves that focus inward and gather strength permits her to fly high once she’s ready to take off. Immediately after her flight, she withdraws into herself, and then she’s ready to look out at the world and prepare to take it on once more.

What a perfect model for the introvert activist! First practice stillness and strengthen your core. Then psych yourself to engage the world. Next fly high (“When they go low…” or otherwise). Now take the time to check back in with yourself, examine and address your own needs and gather your strength. Then look out and assess what you need to do next. Practice stillness again and repeat.

The tiger isn’t such an introvert. Our tiger begins by crouching, a more active inward motion. Then, she gets ready and then pounces. She doesn’t require as much stillness as the crane, but she still gives herself two steps to get herself ready before pouncing. She is cautious and builds her strength rather than squandering it. After pouncing, she draws back, much like the crane after flight. Finally, she looks over her environment to make sure there are no predators eager to steal her prey.

We, too, need to start by checking in with ourselves to assess and take care of our needs. Then, we need to prepare ourselves before acting, especially if we plan a powerful action. After our power move, we need to check in with ourselves again before shifting our gaze back outward.

The bear moves powerfully, walks, reaches, and acts with grace and an awareness that his every move influences the environment. The moves lack the inward and outward oscillation of the crane and tiger, but still, after a period of extended activity, the bear retreats for a period of hibernation. The more heavily we move about in the world, the more critical it is for us to take periods of retreat. Likewise, after a lengthy period of rest, we need to refocus outward.

Many of us are emulating the bear in making a shift now from focusing inward on our own lives and concerns to becoming activists in response to the challenges facing our country. We need to remember to continue alternating focus between activism and self-care.

To learn more about self-care, consider joining us for our upcoming Spa Day. Find out more on our event page, too. Herbs, shiatsu, and qigong can help you with your self-care, too!

To learn more about the conditions I have worked with, click here.

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Post-Election Stress (post #2): Anxiety

Many people report an increase in anxiety since the election. Several articles have noted that this is affecting children as well as adults.

While it may take years to change our society enough to eliminate the reasons for this anxiety, we can do things to provide relief. When we reduce our strimageess levels and take our anxiety down several notches, we become more effective at planning strategies for making the changes we want to see.

Shiatsu, qigong, and chair massage are all very effective at reducing stress and anxiety. Getting regular shiatsu treatments helps us prevent many stress-induced health problems, and lessen others. People tend to feel far calmer by the end of a session, and the improvement usually lasts for at least a few days. Establishing a regular qigong practice helps as well. Other forms of exercise and meditation are also useful.

The standard advice is to maintain a daily practice that involves doing either the same practice or the same practice with slight variations daily, and for many people, this is a useful approach, as it allows one to deepen one’s understanding of the practice.

For others, however, doing the same thing daily, or even something similar daily, is simply anathema. That’s fine; if you do qigong on Mondays, yoga on Tuesdays, Tai Chi on Wednesdays, and jog on Thursdays, and have a shiatsu treatment on Fridays, you’ll have done something to address your stress every day for five days. You may not become as good a yogi or qigong practitioner as you would with daily practice, but you’ll be maintaining a practice that works for you, which is far more important. And you may be able to delve deeply into those aspects of your practice that are common to all the activities.

img_0753Increasing the nutritional profile of our diet is another important part of enhancing our ability to cope with stress. In particular, we want to make sure that our diets include adequate minerals and vitamins. Copious dark leafy greens, seaweed, and nettle infusion are excellent allies. A cup of chopped seaweed added to a pot of soup or stew increases the nutritional umph of your meal substantially. So does a handful of dried nettle, which also helps restore the adrenals. Nettle and seaweed are not specific remedies for anxiety, but by building us up and strengthening us, they help us handle the stress without becoming as anxious.

The nervine herbs are medicinal herbs that help with anxiety, depression, sleep, pain, and general emotional turmoil. Many herbs fall into this category, and they range greatly in strength. What herb or herbs will be best depends very much on the individual and the circumstances, and it’s easiest to figure that out through one-on-one sessions with an herbalist. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find the optimal herb or combination.

One herb that I find agrees with and relaxes most people is catnip. Put about half a cup of dried catnip into a quart-sized jar and then slowly fill the jar with water just off the boil. Let it steep for half an hour or so. The longer you steep it, the stronger it will get, and the more bitter notes in the flavor will come out along with the minty. If you’re steeping it for hours, make sure that it vacuum seals when you cover it. Serve with honey. My students request this so often that we nickname our Wild Herb Week program “Camp Catnip.”

Languages heal the brain

I was delighted to see this article confirming that bilingualism aids in recovery from stroke, because it corresponds to my experience working with people recovering from concussions. Granted, concussions differ greatly from stroke, but both affect memory.

When I work with people recovering from concussions, I use a complex approach including herbs; shiatsu; specific acupoints for headaches, nausea, and other symptoms; and outgoing qigong, also known as qi projection. I often combine mental challenges with qi projection.

The client and I choose the mental challenge together, but it often involves language. Sometimes it’s rapid-fire transitions among languages, or telling a story – usually one that teases the memory in its own right, such as a minor  conversation from three days ago; or a description of a scene from a five days back that includes details about smells, sounds, textures, and colors as well as conversation – and translating the story into at least one other language. The qi projection makes it easier for the client to remember both the details of the story and recalcitrant words.

Since I am a linguist and a philologist as well as an herbalist  and shiatsu and qigong therapist, I particularly relish the opportunity to bring languages into healing. Fortunately, it turns out to be a very effective combination. In the future I may even combine language instruction with healing work.

 

Should I share this??

At the beginning of a recent Skype-based coaching session, the person I was working with complained that his brain wasn’t ready for the task he wanted to do. He clarified that this was fatigue, not brain fog. I mumbled something incoherent about not believing in what I was about to do. “What?”

“Um, even after all these years of QiGong, I still have a strong inner skeptic, so to satisfy her,  I have to tell you that I don’t believe in distance healing, but, ummm…., I can use QiGong to help you with this.”

“Yowza!!! That’s a bit intense!”

I made some adjustments, and continued. Then he was ready to focus on the task, but there were some anxiety issues. So I focused on acupoints and sections of meridians that help with that, and he completed the tasks he had set for himself. It turned out to be a very productive  session.

While I, um, don’t really believe in distance healing (Satisfied now, O Inner Skeptic?), I have actually been doing it for almost as long as I’ve been doing shiatsu. Receiving it, too, although I really don’t believe in this stuff. (O Inner Skeptic, please just let me write.) It just works; that’s all.

You see, sometimes things come up while I’m driving. When my kid feels nauseated, I need to hold her Pericardium 6 point, and it’s sometimes helpful to hold Gall Bladder 21 and Kidney 1 as well. If I’m driving and she suddenly feels nauseated I can’t hold them with my fingers, so I hold them with my mind. If something comes up for my husband while I’m driving, I hold points with my mind to help him. So does my daughter. And if my foot cramps up when I’m driving, my husband and daughter hold points with their minds to help me. Most often, we focus on acupoints, sometimes on meridians or sections of meridians, sometimes on regions of the body.

I also often use it as a teaching tool, to help my clients and students learn to activate points inside themselves. We do it together first, and then they’re able to do it themselves. I’ve also used it in my work with musicians; outgoing qigong, whether via distance or more direct, can help a musician gain greater control over the color of the music, and also make the sounds brighter.