Open or Shut the Gates?

So the pre-Christmas build up and the day itself has been and gone, but we’re still gearing up for the New Year celebrations – for my family there are birthdays too! Everyone in the world wants to meet for a “Christmas drink” – we don’t see these people for most of the year, but somehow as soon as December hits, everyone wants to meet, your diary is chocka-block and you don’t even have a window in which to pick up the Turkey!

Now this isn’t a bad thing in itself, the invitations are offered in the jolliest of spirits, everyone is full of Christmas cheer, overtaken by the excitement of the festivities and the warmth of being with people you love… but the emphasis must be on exactly that, being with people you love. At this time of year, many of us struggle with saying no to acquaintances and well-meaning neighbours, so that our social calendars over the holidays are stretched to bursting point and we don’t have time to do the things we really want to do, or the things that are going to nourish us the most.

This kind of joy, the bubbly, jolly socialising, reaching out to others to make connections and relationships is all associated with the Fire Element in Chinese Medicine. It is to do with the Heart organ (with the Small Intestine), and the Pericardium (Heart Protector) with the Triple Burner (temperature regulator in Chinese Medicine). All the associations we recognise to be aligned with the Heart, are synonymous with the Fire Element – love, happiness, people, parties, laughter, warmth and closeness with others. However, conversely, the opposite is also true, at the other end of the spectrum, i.e. a lack of joy, not wanting to socialise, hating parties, feeling miserable and flat – the key is to keep the Fire Element in a state of balance, so the emotions don’t fluctuate massively from being incredibly up, to plummeting down into the depths. This is the case for all of us, as we all have all five of the Elements within us, but it is particularly important for Fire CFs (those people who have Fire as their Element or Constitutional Factor, which is like their energetic default setting)…

This was particularly evident in the last couple of weeks before Christmas, as in clinic, I noticed I was treating nearly all of my Fire Element (or Fire CF) patients with what we call the luo-junction points, Pc 6 and TB 5 – my quota totally sky rocketed as we got nearer and nearer to Christmas!

These points, called Pc 6 (Pericardium 6, Nei Guan, Inner Gate) and TB 5 (Triple Burner 5, Wai Guan, Outer Gate), can provide us with a valuable lesson during the festive period, as it is about maintaining a healthy balance between reaching out and opening our hearts to others, or retreating inwards and “closing the gate” to people around us.

I have used this point combination a lot during December, to allow patients’ spirits to feel more balanced, to get emotionally prepared or “fired-up” for the upcoming onslaught of celebrations, and to feel like they are actually allowed to say no to some social engagements if they so wish – however hard it feels! The Inner Gate (Pc 6) reaches the inner aspect of the person, regulating the opening and closing of the gates of the Pericardium, which protects the Heart. When this inner part feels weary, fearful or overwhelmed by social engagements, the point can stimulate the Heart Protector’s compassion, connection and warmth, allowing us to go “out” whilst still feeling protected.

The Outer Gate (TB 5) has the function of actively discerning who may enter and leave through our gates. It regulates our external boundary, helping us to reach out (physically and emotionally – hence its location on the arm, towards the wrist) to make contact with positive people… when it is not functioning correctly, we may reach out to too much (showing too much of ourselves to others), to too many people, or the wrong people, creating a negative affect.

So remember, think carefully about your own inner and outer gates as you gear up for the New Year parties – are you seeing the people you really want to see? Are you reaching out and making connections with loved ones who are important to you? Or have you succumbed to “accidentally accepting” an invitation that came in whilst your inner gate was too open? Were you unable to protect your heart when someone asked you to celebrate with them? Do you need to do something quieter at home, instead of a drunken night on the town?

Choose to welcome in 2012 with something that will nurture yourself – you can open the gate, or close the gate, whatever suits your own energy, just listen to your intuition as this will be very different for different people. Wishing you all very happy New Year celebrations, whatever they may look like!


© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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All of the Sweetness, None of the Sugar

So I seem to have overdosed on Christmas movies in the last couple of weeks! (Hence the gap in writing the blog – the intention was there, but the Christmassy procrastination / hibernation reigned supreme!).

Having found that “Movies 24” changes to “Christmas 24” from the 1st December, there is a veritable feast of cheesy, sickly sweet, American straight-to-TV Christmas films that start every hour on the hour – a one-stop-shop for festive merriment of baking and icing gingerbread men, threading popcorn for the tree, singing carols around the piano (how come everyone can always sing in tune, and there is always someone who plays beautifully?!)…

That heart-warming, fuzzy, contented feeling that comes after seeing the happy ending, where the couple finally get together underneath mistletoe, or the family are reunited (after facing potential misery) beside the giant sparkly Christmas tree covered in snow, as happy shiny people in brightly coloured scarves, hats and ear muffs skate behind them in the background shot – it not only boosts our Fire Elements (the Heart, and emotions of jolly joy and warmth, about happy socialising and people), but the stories feed the Earth Element, nourishing the Spleen (Earth organ).

The Earth Element is all about nourishing, mothering, home-making, feeling centered and grounded, bringing family and communities together, with sympathy, understanding and looking after each other in the sweetest, most supportive way. The virtues of Earth are about care of others, putting others before yourself, a love of family, food, and the home (we won’t dwell on the vices of Earth in this post – that’s just not festive!!). The over-the-top niceness and sweetness that comes in these movies portrays this Element perfectly – so much so that my Wood CF sister cannot sit through them without getting impatient… I however, adore them – the cheesier the music, the more predictable, more magical, more sticky-sickly-sweet the better!! It really does satisfy my Spleen’s craving for sugary loveliness. The Spleen loves sugar, and when imbalanced (to any degree, slightly or hugely), causes us to crave (and eat!) more sugary things like cake and biscuits…

It is also no surprise that these types of films can be called “cheesy” as the Spleen also loves cheese and dairy – though, as described previously, depending on your constitution, cheese may not love your Spleen! It can cause phlegm to build up in the body, creating symptoms like a blocked nose, increased snoring, catarrh in the throat, heavy limbs, or a muzzy head – I treat this in the clinic a lot, especially after all the consumption of Christmas Cheese boards! Cheese hates me, but I can get my fix of sticky, milky, satisfying cheesiness from these films, without compromising my health! And an unblocked nose is always a bonus at Christmas!!

Supporting the Earth Elements (Stomach and Spleen) can reduce cravings of sugar or dairy, and acupuncture certainly does this by boosting the function of these organs. But you can support your own Spleen at home, at this time of the year, by nourishing it in a more abstract way – not with actual food, but with “food” for the spirit of the Element. So if you go to reach for another mince pie, or a Christmas Tree shaped cookie, why not stick a Christmas movie on instead, and get all of that delicious sweetness, but none of the actual sugar! Holistic health in the holidays! Enjoy!


© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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