What are you taking to Heart?

imageThat is the question, the inquiry that leads our lives.

Right now it’s summer – the element of Fire, the arena of the Heart. The Heart holds the wisdom, the Heart holds our connection to the divine universal energy, which is our shen. The Heart is considered to be The Emperor(ess) of the human being, in Chinese scriptures and pretty much all the other ancients as well. With all the other elements – earth, metal, water and wood – there are 2 organ systems. With Fire, there are 4: the Heart and the Small Intestine, the Pericardium and Triple Heater.  As the Heart rules the body/mind/spirt, it requires more assistance.

Modern science support this theory of the Heart’s ruling importance, with its mental logic proof. One interesting website to check out is – www.heartmath.org
Heart Math Institute is a 30+ year old group which researches the workings of the heart, biomedically, neurologoically, energetically, etc.  They offer a perspective of the intuitive mysticism of the heart through the lens of science. Fascinating.

The eyes reflect
imageIn the Taoist tradition, the Heart is where the shen resides, the spirit of the divine, the energy of love and oneness that is in all of us if we keep our hearts open and clear. When we interact with life during our waking moments – with nature, people, animals – our shen flies out and connects with all. We see shen in the eyes of beings with whom we share a moment. It is often fleeting, a glance – or it can be held in deep intimacy. It’s our love vehicle.

The shen is compared to little birds that fly out, interact and then return to the heart space. They can be quite busy during our conscious awake hours, and – requiring rest and respite – they come home to roost in the heart when we sleep. But if we have packed that airy, free space of the heart with clutter, noise, darkness and unresolved, undigested energies – there will be no room for the birds and they will fly away. If not all of them, then at least some.
leaving us longing for connection, for shen, for the divine
leaving us incomplete, depressed, anxious, sad
the ancients called it shen disturbance

This states of our heart are on a continuum – sometimes it’s a black mess in the heart space, sometimes it’s passable, sometimes we feel the shen in its powerful entirety, our hearts filled to the brim with ecstasy. This time around, on this planet – our work is to gently clear out what does not belong and allow for shen to reside completely in our heart space. With constancy and focus. With love. Courage.

What are you taking to Heart?

3 Gates to the Heart
imageIn its infinite wisdom, the Heart has created 3 gates through which everything we encounter in this life must pass before the final entry to the Palace of the Heart. As children, perhaps we were not aware of this selective process, and took to heart the stories, the trauma, the limits that came up – unfiltered, raw experiences. As we do our work, our conscious mapping of our joy and happiness, we can go back in there and gently sweep out the detritus of our childhood, of our lineage, our ancestry, our past whatever. We clean out the Palace of the Emperor/ess so that our joy can be free and unbounded.

There are many ways to do this. Alchemical acupuncture is one. And it all starts with the Heart and our desires.

Warm / Cold?
Again, there are 3 gates before entry to the Heart. The outermost gate is the Triple Heater, the San Jiao, a non-physical organ system that regulates temperature in the body and also the warm/cold reactions we have to the external on a psycho-spiritual-emotional level. Are we warm or cold to a situation, person, idea? If there is no heat, so to speak, it’s cold. It’s out. If this warmth is present – then this entity is allowed to pass through this first gate. It’s a visceral barometer, a feeling-generated assessment.

Safe or Unsafe?
The next gate is the Pericardium or Heart Protector. On a physical level, the pericardium is a membranous sac that contains and protects the Heart.

On a psycho-spiritual-emotional level, it helps us determine what is safe or unsafe to take into our heart space. Will this energy hurt me? Will it bring me pain? If so, it does not belong in the Heart. It belongs somewhere else – in the digestive system. More on that later, but what comes to us in life requires a breaking down, a process of taking what benefits and discarding what does not. A process of time, patience, and attention to utilize all we are given and to only let go the undigestible – on a physical but also emotional level. That’s the life process.

The Heart is about shen, about spirit, about joy, requiring a different focus.

Enter …. or Not
The next gate is the Small Intestine, The Sorter. After we have decided what we are warm to, and then what is safe, the Small Intestine makes the final decision as to what will enter the heart space. We cannot let everything into the Palace of the Heart, the Emperor/ess. Overwhelm would ensue. So the gate of the Sorter, does just that – sorts and decides. Yes / No. Come in / Stay out. A clear determinant.

When the Heart is filled with warmth, safety, valued treasures, our shen moves in and out freely and joy enters. No matter what we are working on, no matter what tragedies prevail, no matter what the stress is in our lives, if we can attend to the clarity and openness of the Heart space, anything is bearable. It’s a 4th dimension arena, which we can enter at any time. It is the only space that can make suffering worthwhile. An embrace, a held glance, a refrain of music, an expression of our creativity, a smile, a mantra, an encouragement – when this enters our heart, all joy is possible. No matter what we are digesting in our lives.image

So as you bask in the summer sun, delight in the offerings of Fire, revel in the long days of light … check into the 3 gates to your heart space, and choose only what is worthy of your love to enter. When we play in the arena of the Heart, in the arena of love and courage, during its optimal time, this summer moment, it can build up our reserves for whatever lies ahead.

The Heart knows. As do you.

 

 

1 SUPER-NUTRITIOUS, LACTO-FERMENTED VEGETABLES

These are the best! Loaded with billions of probiotics and lots of enzymes, consider having some fermented veggies at every meal. Probiotics are crucial for digestion and while taking supplements is possible, they are costly and they may not be viable. A chemist friend of mine once showed me, under a microscope, various “leading brands” of probiotics – and just about every one was dead. DEAD – as in NOT VIABLE, as in a waste of money and, worse, not your expected outcome.

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And with all the gut-brain-fertility-depression-fibromyalgia etc. connections being made in science, we are seeing more and more that maintaining a good digestive system has far-reaching benefits.

If you make your own fermented foods – kefir, kombucha, yoghurt, vegetables – you are ensured that the probiotics are plentiful (in the billions, skip right past the millions, which are not enough) and fresh and nutritious and inexpensive.

And it’s easy … just do it. You have all the tools at home, most likely, as you can see above (optional tea pot for enjoyment added).

Fermented veggies are awesome – you can do anything you like. Cabbage, carrots, fennel, string beans – if you’re not sure if a vegetable will make a good fermented version, try a small jar of it. Experiment with herbs, garlic, onions, shallots, wild onions, wild herbs, chives …. Have fun!

Below is one recipe for Fermented Julienned Carrots. In the next posting, I’ll give a recipe for cabbage, which cover basically the same steps, with a slight consideration to the way you keep the cabbage saturated in water.image

For your first time, you could make a quart-sized jar, or just plunge in with a half gallon! They keep in the fridge for weeks, maybe months (mine never last that long).

Super easy, super cheap, super nutritious … awesome all round!

 

 

FERMENTED CARROTS

1-1/2 pounds fresh carrots, peeled and then cut into julienned slices
small onion, sliced thin or minced (could use shallots)
a few garlic cloves, optional, sliced
fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon whey (see below – or add another tbsp of salt instead, though I like the whey)
filtered water
—> another options is to do a ginger carrot combo

Using a wide-mouth quart jar (or double and use a half gallon), take about a cup of filtered water and dissolve the salt in it.

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Add the carrots so they pack in nicely. Add in dill and onions and garlic. Stir.

Fill the jar with filtered water, to cover the carrots, leaving about 1″ headspace. Shake it up a bit. (I just cover and place upside down a few times).

 

 

 

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Cover the top with a cloth (I use a cloth napkin). Put a rubber band around it.

Place at room temperature, 65-80 being ideal, and allow to culture for 7-10 days or longer, as desired. Keep out of direct sunlight. Check after 4 days, particularly if the weather is warm or if you’re impatient – it may be to your liking at that point.

Ideally, use a wooden slotted spoon to dish out the carrots. Metal may react with brine a bit. Plastics are nasty. But convenience rules!

I drink the brine – it’s loaded with nutrients! (and I love the salty taste!)

 

imageTO MAKE THE WHEY:

take some whole-milk, organic yoghurt. If the whey on top is clearly visible (and clear), then drain off a tablespoon, or 2 tablespoons if you are making a half gallon. If not, then take a small strainer, put a coffee filter (could use an unbleached paper towel if you’re not a coffee drinker) and put if over a glass. Take a few tbsp of yoghurt, place in strainer and let sit for 20 minutes or so – until you get the desired amount of whey. You don’t have to wait for it – you can just add in at the last minute.

SPIDER BITES – not as dangerous as we think

This April, my 15 year old daughter came back from a camping weekend with what they thought was a spider bite. The counselor advised her to get it looked at by a medical professional, as the skin had gotten red and purplish and swollen. I took her to First Care, a medical walk-in center, in Highland, NY, which is an excellent facility (and NOT an ER room, which I avoid like the plague!)

Jeff, the nurse who initially met with us explained that he learned in ER training – if you did NOT see the spider bite you, then you don’t have a spider bite. Since spiders are not nocturnal, you most likely won’t get it while you sleep. You’ll feel it bite you, so that would be another indicator.

Brown Recluse Spider

Brown Recluse Spider

 

There are two types of serious spider bites in our area, upstate New York – brown recluse and the wolf spider (from which you’ll get a reaction but it’s not potentially serious as the brown recluse bite). The black widow spider bite is less dangerous than the brown recluse, but there are rarely black widows in upstate New York, as they tend to like more temperate climates.

 

Wolf Spider

Wolf Spider

Doctor Donaldson, who came in later, confirmed this information. He added that he did not want to prescribe antibiotics at all, even as a precaution. (Which I probably would not have used, as I use other remedies in lieu of antibiotics for most health challenges.)

 

 

 

What I did for my daughter, which I would do for any bad reaction to a bite:
* activated charcoal poultice –
take a capsule, add some water, apply and bandage
–> I had used this prior to leaving the house and by the time we got to First Care, it was almost gone, both the redness and the hotness
Activated charcoal is great to have on hand – taken internally, it will clear up food poisoning pretty dramatically

* apis mellifica, homeopathic – it’s a homeopathic remedy, Latin name for bee, but for any bug bite that has a reaction it works, I’ve used it for years with great success
* echinacea + barberry, I might want to add cleavers and burdock, which are blood cleansers
* you could use baking soda poultice for itching
* coconut oil is good as it has lauric acid which is an anti-microbial and it has free radicals
* I also had her take internally 2 capsules of charcoal and repeat that before bedtime

For the herbs and homeopathics – Take them on the hour, alternating them (so you are taking a remedy on the half hour) until the reaction is over, usually just the first day and then taper off the next day
Drink lots of water
* probiotics would be great as well

To make it simple on the road, you could do clay or mud and just take the homeopathic remedy apis mellifica. The above remedies are extra, sometimes I like to be aggressive at first and then back off. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing much at all!

The doctor said in his 35 years of ER work, he only saw spider bites two times, so they’re pretty rare. A lot of times people get a staph infection or some other reaction to who knows what, and a spider bite it blamed. The brown recluse spider can give a nasty venomous bite – and cause tissue necrosis, however. But again, this is pretty rare.

Actually, when I first started practicing acupuncture 8 years ago, a woman came to me for backache and I noticed that she had a nasty spider bite on her leg. She had gotten it weeks ago, had seen the spider bite her. It was treated with meds, but it was still lingering pretty seriously. I did an acupuncture protocol that I had learned in school and which I had been using at the Manhattan cancer hospital where I also worked, for clients undergoing chemo/radiation, to help the body detox from the toxins. My client called me that night and said she wanted to return the next day – her back was fine but the spider bite reaction was almost gone. That was great, to have visible proof of the efficacy of this particular protocol (which I’m happy to share with any acupuncturists you may know.)

 

The Two Best Health Drinks in the World (and you make them yourself)

Spring …. it is springin’!! As we fully imbibe its green magic, consider adding some green magic to your diet. Greens, greens and more greens – for several ideas on that, see my website, www.ThereseSibonAcupuncture.com and look under the Self Care section – Spring Cleanse and the Power of Greens (and have fun with it all!)

Here are two recipes for amazing green smoothies. The first is one I’ve used for years, and I never tire of it. I’ve had so many people sample it and the feedback has been across the board raves! This is a smoothie that is filling, nourishing and loaded with pretty much all you need, nutritionally, to get through the day. I particularly ensure I make it when I know that I will have a lot of running around and may not get optimal food on the way. While I am not suggesting that this can replace meals, it can at least provide the nutrients that you may not get otherwise. And it’s delicious!

The amounts listed are guess-timates – add more or less of the ingredients as you choose. I tend to like it on the thick side, so adapt for yourself as desired.

 

THE MOST AMAZING GREENS & FRUIT SMOOTHIE

> Coconut water (approximately 3 cups) *
> Small handful of cilantro (I cut off part of the stem ends, if they are fibrous)
> Larger handful of kale (I strip off the leaves and discard the parts of the stem that are too fibrous)
> Fresh pineapple (or frozen) 2 rings, approximately
> 1/2 grapefruit, peeled (I like to leave on as much pith as possible, even though it’s bitter, as it has a lot of bioflavenoids, and I like the taste)
> 1/2 to 1 avocado
> 1 tbsp of so flaxseed oil
> 1 tbsp of so coconut oil – if it’s too solid, I’ll heat gently under my stove-warming light before adding to blender. If you blend the drink longer, the solid oil will melt, so that’s another option.

*****************

Put all ingredients in blender. I use an Oster BCBG, which was rated 2nd to the Vitamix. The Oster is $40 and the Vitamix $400. I have not found the need to purchase the Vitamix, for my purposes, even though it’s an amazing machine.

Blend, blend, blend (longer time for oster or non-vitamix). I like a smooth consistency. Adding the avocado and the oils emulsifies the drink and gives it a creamy consistency.

I put in a large quart sized jar and sip over the course of the morning. Yum. I feel so energized and satisfied! :)image

 

 

* for this smoothie, I use Zico Coconut water (NOT coconut milk) . While I prefer Taste Nirvana coconut water for plain drinking and for the health drink recipe following, I don’t find it necessary for this one (there is a considerable price difference).

 

 

 

 

A LIGHT COCONUT & KALE HEALTH DRINK

 

Easy peasy – Just add 1 or 2 bottles of coconut water and a handful of kale in the blender. I like to add a tbsp or so of coconut oil. If I melt the oil under my stove light warmer, then I can add the oil that way, if it’s too solidified. If that doesn’t work for you, I would add the kale and a little bit of the coconut water and blend it til the heat of the blending melts the oil. Then add the coconut water. I like this drink to be somewhat cool, but you choose.

Blend blend blend – you could add a splash of agave and a 1/4 tsp of vanilla, if you want a sweeter, more exotic drink

Loaded with electrolytes from the coconut water, amino acids and vitamins from the kale, and the amazing health benefits of coconut oil – including triglycerides which are a quick source energy and lauric acid, which can kill bacteria, viruses and fungi – this drink is a quick and easy immune and energy boost.

Greendrink

 

I like this Taste Nirvana brand (plain and with pulp) for this drink. It’s more expensive than Zico, but for this it’s worth the price.
(no, I don’t make anything promoting these products!)
ENJOY!!!!

 

1 What do Galloping Horses, Seeds and the Weather Have in Common?

Answer: Whatever your heart desires!

How do you manifest that?? Read on. . .

galloping-horse-1We are in the year of the Horse, and it’s a Wood Yang horse. Wood is the element of spring, upward moving, fast and Yang is outward, upward, moving fast (as compared to yin, which is receptive, inward, slow) – to simplify.

This Horse year, according to Chinese astrology experts (which I am not, but I am an avid follower!), is going to be a Promethean, fast-paced gallop. Following 5 years of dissolution, of breaking down and disseminating (two years of Water and one of Earth) this Wood Yang energy is a huge energetic shift, the most dramatic in the last 60 year-cycle of Chinese astrology. In this system, there are 12 years corresponding to 12 animals – instead of 12 months, which correspond to 12 mythological signs, (which name 12 constellations of stars in the sky) as occurs in western astrology.

In addition, in the Chinese astrological system, each year or animal is linked to one of the 5 elements (fire, earth, metal, water, wood) and also to yin or yang. So, this year is the Horse, the element of Wood, and Yang.

Now to the weather. . .in the northeast US, we have had a dramatic cold snow-filled winter and our early spring holds the same. As I described in my last blog, Get out Jail Free, the feelings and emotions connected to the Wood element, Spring, can be anger, frustration, impatience. It’s time to move, and sometimes we just cannot do that – either we are snowbound, or it’s just too cold to be out and about, or the spring cleaning tasks of gardening and property maintenance are just not happening. We feel STUCK! But . . . if this galloping horse year 2014 – which started January 31st 2014 – holds this amazing energetic propulsion shift, then wouldn’t it make sense to start from a refreshed, rejuvenated state of being?

As always, we have choice – we can choose to be in a state of anger or impatience, we can choose to use the time to rest up or attend to more foundational actions, we can choose to just tune out and ignore it all, we can choose to wisely look through our lives and dream and plant seeds, visualizing our future desires in the upcoming year.

Perhaps to concretize, to make physical this energetic ritual of dreaming and visioning, you may want to – literally – plant some seeds. A pot or two in a sunny window, planting the seeds for a flowering plant or an herb – this type of action gives form to idea.

You could also consider making this easy, refreshing, chia seed pudding. Gluten-free, loaded with calcium and omega-3s, protein, vitamins and minerals, these tiny nutrition-dense seeds were used by the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incans as a staple of their diet and as an energy food. Chia means “strength” in the Mayan language, and they were known as the “Indian Running Food” because runners and warriors would use them for sustenance.

Perfect food for this galloping Wood Yang Horse Year!

CHIA SEED PUDDING with Mango Berry Compote

galloping-horse-3serves 2

4 tablespoons chia seeds
1 cup coconut milk*
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch or 2 of salt

* use any coconut milk that comes in cow milk-type cartons, not canned or septic cartons, so as to avoid BPA exposures

In a small bowl or jar combine the first four ingredients. Give it a good stir and refrigerate for at least one hour. After the
first thirty minutes give the mixture a stir, so it doesn’t clump together.

Fruit Compote Topping

1 mango, peeled and cubed

Heat gently in saucepan, breaking up cubes to make a soft consistency.
Remove from heat.
Add a cup or two of frozen, organic berry mix – stir gently
galloping-horse-2
When pudding is ready, spoon into separate bowls or containers (clear glass, even jelly jars are nice to see the colors) and add the compote on top

GET OUT OF JAIL FREE

Aaah ’tis spring …. and what is one clue to its arrival? The increase in FUs and car honkings at road intersections!

Impatience is in the air … this anticipatory ‘We’re Almost There …. but then again not’ hovering all around. The sap in the trees, having been underground since its descent in the fall, is moving up up up – and then stops with the cold, and then moves up when the sun shines. A staccato jazz rhythm in each and every tree. And that’s our rhythm, as humans, as creatures in the spring.

We are climactic beings … no matter how 24/7, indoor, urban we may choose to live. After the dormancy of winter, which we may have chosen to ignore (in our 24/7, indoor even urban lifestyle), this rising up of energy, of season is all around. In my treatment room, everyone’s pulses express variations of that same rhythm – coming and going, a little tight then relaxed, staccato.

photo 2In the Chinese taoist paradigm of 5 elements / 5 seasons (late summer considered the 5th), spring is the element of Wood. We’ve actually been in Wood, in Spring since around the equinox, with the increase in daylight. Wood is forward and UPWARD moving, yang, a no-holds-barred energetic.

There are 5 elements, 5 seasons, 5 spirits. Each of the elements / seasons has primarily two organ systems associated with it (one yin, one yang) and each yin organ is associated with a spirit. It’s an all-inclusive, body/ mind / spirit system of looking at human beings.

Wood is the terrain of the Liver and the Gallbladder organ system energetics. Our Liver houses the spirit of The Hun – the dreamer, the visionary, the one who sees the big picture. Literally, the Hun is the dreamer – at night when we sleep, it flies out and visits the beyond, the universal spirit, communicates with it and then returns to us, giving messages coded in dreams.

Each of the elements has an emotional component and anger is associated with Wood, with the Liver functioning particularly. Why? Because the Liver is associated with the smooth flow of qi (energy) in the body. Sometimes it’s a rocky road. And that can be frustrating. Maddening. Aggravating. If it’s not smooth. Which it rarely is all the time. The upside of anger is righteous outrage – the feeling that inspires activists to create change in our society, for example.

Typical of the spring season, it’s a bit push me / pull me – 70* one day, snow the next (in northern US, other climates have their own versions of course). With the Liver (and Gallbladder) being the predominating organ systems during spring, we naturally have this vision or dream of new beginnings, clearing the old debris out of our way. We want to move move move. Yes, it’s cabin fever, yes it’s boredom from the long cold winter and yes it is perfectly, wonderfully and magically part of the cycle of life. This is the Tao of the seasons, which cycle again and again, the same yet different, returning each year of our many lives (if you believe in earthly re-incarnation).

The other day, my teen age daughter and I got into a screaming fight over An Issue typical to teens and moms (housework chores). It escalated to a speedy and take-all-prisoners velocity. “That’s it!!” I heard myself yell. “Now you’re grounded! One week!” She yelled back. “Ok, make that TWO WEEKS!!”

Really? I almost had to laugh mid-argument (though I wasn’t in the mood) as it was that surreal, on both our parts.

I drove her to an outing, daggers of silence in the car.photo 1

How do I extricate myself from this one? Without blame or letting go of my intention (contributing to a clean house)? I am not a “you’re grounded!” parent, that just came out. ….. hmmmm ….. PING!!! an idea presented itself. I will give her a GET OUT OF JAIL, FREE card!!!

Getoutofjail-photoI wrote up my one version, wrapped it up in a beautiful blue Tiffany box (crossing out the Tiffany so as not to disappoint) … VOILA!!! Saved the day, saved face, for both of us.

So, consider creating a few GET OUT OF JAIL, FREE cards for yourself, your loved ones, your not-so-loved ones. Anger and resentments are pretty nasty prisons to be stuck in.

So – sigh, release, open the gates … give yourself, and the rest of us, a well-deserved break.

Tapping Trees for a Sap Spring Tonic

treeThe best spring tonic is in your backyard! Find a maple tree and purchase a spile or spout, a sap bucket or bag (or be creative connect a plastic unused paint bucket and aluminum foil) and tap the tree for this mineral-rich, healthy drink.

The common way to tap a tree is to drill a hole in the lower trunk, angled slightly upwards. From the Cornell cooperative extension pdf online (see link for further details): “Tapholes should be drilled when temperatures are above freezing to reduce the risk of damage to the tree. Use a 7/16 inch diameter drill (available from hardware stores or maple equipment dealers) in a hand brace or breast drill. Drill into the trunk of the tree in an area that contains sound wood (free of scars, wounds, or older tapholes). …. Drill 2 to 2 1/2 inches into the tree at a slight upward angle to facilitate flow of sap.”

Tapping doesn’t t harm the tree – but remove the spile or spout when finished. Read the Cornell PDF for more info.

glass-sap2Use the sap to drink as is, heat for tea, use in making oatmeal. Even though it looks like plain water, you will taste a subtle maple flavor. This is not maple syrup, which requires a 40 to 1 ratio – meaning it takes 40 quarts of sap to boil down to 1 quart of maple syrup. That is a lengthy and detailed production, best done outdoors.

Other trees to tap-
Black walnut
Birch – which flows after the maple trees have stopped, so you re-use your equipment
Tap the sap and enjoy they benefits of this healthy spring tonic.
http://maple.dnr.cornell.edu/pubs/maple_syrup_production.pdf
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