The Shen Mind Connection

The Shen Mind Connection

 

 

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at things differently and while it may be a little confusing, there is usually some common ground that can be found upon examination and explanation. One such area is the idea of the mind. The mind in Traditional Chinese Medicine is commonly referred to as the shen.

 

In Chinese medicine, the shen is interpreted as the spirit or consciousness. The shen lives in the heart organ system and it is considered to be one of the vital substances of the body. The shen is said to preside over the activities that take place in the spiritual and mental planes. So, for many TCM practitioners, shen is actually referring to the mind. And if we look at serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, the shen or mind is where the dysfunction actually appears. Chinese medicine refers to this as being “misted” or “clouded”. However, it should be noted not all practitioners agree the mind and the consciousness are the same thing.  This is because many of our mental processes are considered subconscious.

 

As stated, the theory is that the shen lives in the heart. So if a person has a disturbed shen, there may be anxiety, stress, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations and more.  Many people with a disturbed shen experience insomnia. Chronic insomnia can then lead to actual mental illness. If we follow this logic, we can see how the shen (in Chinese medicine) and the mind (in Western psychology) are related and somewhat interchangeable.

 

When we approach the shen from the standpoint of Western psychology, it is hard to deny there is a lot of shen disturbance in the modern world. This can be anything from anxiety, depression and addiction to the aforementioned serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia. A person with balanced shen will present as healthy, harmonious and level-headed. A person with disturbed shen will present with a lack of spirit or emotion, illogical reasoning and symptoms of mental illness.

 

Ultimately, we want to have a balanced shen. This means we may have emotional responses to external stimuli or internally generated thoughts or feelings and we are capable of controlling and recovering from these situations without much incident.  Somebody who has a disturbed shen, would not know how or be able to deal with a similar situation and may act out irrationally while drawing attention to themselves. An example would be when a person with a balanced shen becomes angry or cries for some reason. They tend to feel relief after the emotion has passed. While somebody with a disturbed shen may continue the irrational behavior for quite some time without ever feeling that relief and they might need intervention to return to a somewhat balanced state.

 

Maintaining a healthy shen also means that we maintain a healthy body.  A strong shen is fundamental to good health.  When the shen is weak, the body will eventually fail.  To keep the shen healthy we should focus on maintaining a positive mindset, getting enough rest, seeking peace, connecting with nature, meditating and showing compassion. This means we ultimately need to avoid overwork, chronic stress, an erratic daily schedule, lack of sleep and volatile emotions such as anger, hatred and resentment. This may seem pretty logical, but based on the amount of shen disturbance/mental illness in the world, it is clear we have lost our way to some degree.

 

The good news is the cumulative shen of the planet can be changed over time and we can all have a hand in making that change.

 

 

 

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Walnuts and Your Brain

Many people like to add walnuts to food to add some zest and a little crunchy kick, but walnuts are much more than a flavor additive, as they are chock full of healthy properties and have been used in Asia as an overall health tonic and brain booster for years. Let’s take a nutty look at walnuts.
Walnuts, otherwise known as Hu Tao Ren​
​ in Chinese medicine, are used as a kind of herbal remedy. In Chinese medicine, they look at the quality, temperature, flavor and color of a food to uncover certain elements that are beneficial to those who need to balance those qualities in their body. For example, the walnut is classified as “warming”. Warming foods tend to improve circulation and raise what is known as the yang qi. The yang is what is energetic, bright, outward, hot and moving (as opposed to yin, which is more inward, dark, still, cool and moist). Warming food is used in cold conditions; for example, if your stomach is cold from an overabundance of cool foods, you may have some digestive issues like gas and bloating due to slower digestion. In addition, the walnut is lubricating, moist and a bit greasy. This quality is helpful for lubricating the intestines and helping digestion and constipation.

In Chinese medicine, the element of the food goes to certain organs and is beneficial for them; walnuts are said to benefit the lungs, large intestine and the kidneys specifically. Walnuts strengthen the lungs to help chronic cough, asthma and skin conditions (which are connected to the lung, according the Chinese medical principles). Walnuts also are a kidney tonic and help urination; in addition, kidneys are said to influence libido, fertility, the back and knees and the aging process. Walnuts have been used to help libido and fertility, a 2012 study in Asia showed males who consumed walnuts had improved sperm quality. In addition, walnuts are used for insomnia. They help raise serotonin levels, which promote feelings of well being and help people sleep better. Finally, in looking at food as medicine, foods that resemble a body part often treat that organ. What does the walnut resemble? Two lobes of the brain, the left and right hemisphere. It is commonly known that walnuts are an excellent brain food. Walnuts have been shown to have high levels of Omega-3, which is an essential fatty acid that helps brain and heart function. Walnuts are anti-inflammatory, have antioxidants and recent research has shown they may have anti-cancer properties and help diabetes due to beneficial
fats. In addition, they have vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, minerals and B vitamins. Walnuts help digestion and give a feeling of being full, so they aid in weight loss.

It should be noted that in Chinese medicine, most food recommended for health is used in a formula that is unique for you and an overall treatment plan is created. Walnuts are not a panacea for health care, and it’s best not to self-diagnose; instead, visit an acupuncture provider to get a thorough diagnosis and a balanced formula right for you. Walnuts are not recommended in cases of fever, diarrhea or allergic reaction to nuts. If you are generally healthy and want a nice tonic, add a nice handful of nuts to not only perk up your food but also your body.

 

 

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Acupuncture for Stroke Recovery

 

 

Strokes are quite common. In fact, strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. Approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke each year. A stroke results from an acute lack of blood supply to a portion of the brain. Because brain cells are very dependent on oxygen, a few minutes without proper blood flow can be quite damaging. Symptoms of a stroke may include numbness or weakness of the limbs, difficulty swallowing, headache, mental confusion, paralysis, problems with coordination, sudden visual loss and slurred speech. Modern imaging such as MRI’s can help detect how bad the brain damage is following a stroke.

Typical post-stroke care in starts with seven days of hospitalization followed by a couple weeks of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Unfortunately, even after all of this, most stroke victims still have deficits and disabilities. Acupuncture can help to repair these deficits and disabilities.

After a stroke, acupuncture should be started as quickly as possible. Three treatments per week is recommended to begin with following a stroke. Studies show patients get well faster, require less nursing and rehabilitation, perform better self-care and use less money to recover when acupuncture is added to the recovery treatments.

Scalp acupuncture seems to be the most effective method of treating stroke patients. Scalp acupuncture has a couple of different systems, but Zhu’s Scalp Acupuncture is the most commonly used. Zhu’s Scalp Acupuncture prevents or reduces brain swelling or edema, thus halting further damage to brain tissues. It promotes perfusion in the brain, which restores blood and oxygen to the brain cells. It helps break down blood clots and it can accelerate functional recovery.

Scalp acupuncture views the scalp as a microcosm of the whole body. Scalp acupuncture works on zones rather than specific points. The correlation between scalp acupuncture and stroke is fairly easy to figure out, as the scalp is close to the brain.  Acupuncture increases blood flow and oxygen to the areas of the cerebral cortex that were damaged from stroke and helps revive the cells and nerve function. Scalp acupuncture also incorporates a lot of what we know about the brain from a biomedical standpoint. Things such as the idea that one side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body. So if a patient had paralysis of the right leg, the acupuncturist would needle the left side of the scalp.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can also be used in a preventive way to avoid a stroke from occurring. Getting regular acupuncture treatments can help with relaxation and relieving stress that can contribute to strokes. Also adopting a traditional Chinese diet can be beneficial, as it is high in fiber, low in fat, sugar and dairy products. It is proven, populations that eat this kind of diet have a decreased chance of stroke and heart attacks. There is also a Chinese herb, bai guo ye or ginkgo biloba that can help prevent the occurrence of stroke. This herb stimulates cerebral circulation and can prevent blood clots in the brain.

As we can see, acupuncture can be beneficial for those who have already suffered a stroke. But it can be just as beneficial in preventing strokes. This is just one more reason to add acupuncture to your arsenal of weapons when it comes to your health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stroke recovery

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Our Lungs and emotions

 

The organs in Chinese medicine are more than just a physical representation. The organs include not only their physiological function but also mental, emotional, spiritual and elemental qualities that align with nature and the seasons.

 

 

The lung season is autumn. This is a good time to protect the lungs from changes in weather by wearing a scarf to keep your neck warm, staying out of wind and keeping your dryness at bay. It’s an excellent time to nourish the digestive system with warmer foods such as sweet and sour soup, steamed vegetables and making seasonal choices at the market. It’s also a good time for letting go and allowing changes to process without repressing emotions such as sadness and grief.

 

 

The lungs are known as the “delicate organ”, as they are the uppermost, most superficial aspect of the body and therefore the most sensitive to environmental changes such as wind, dryness, heat, cold and damp. They breathe in the pure air to nourish the organs and let out the impure. According to Chinese medicinal principles the lungs push waste and fluids downwards to help the large intestine, so these two organs are known as paired organs. The lungs transport yin fluids (the yin part of us is what is moist, lubricating) and distribute moisture. They are also in charge of the opening and closing of pores and sweat glands, and they provide moisture to body hair and skin.

 

 

The lung channel opens to the nose, governs the voice, its color is white and its flavor pungent. The emotion associated with the lungs is grief. The lungs receive and let go, keeping the movement in and out in a healthy exchange with the outer world. If that exchange is blocked emotionally by grief and sadness, it affects the smooth action of the lungs. When someone is sad, they hold their breath and oxygen is decreased. The emotional blockage of not letting go and the symptom of grief affects the receiving and letting go action of the lungs.

 

 

How can you tell if your lungs might be deficient? Some symptoms include frequent colds, asthma, bronchitis, cough, dry skin, fatigue, pain and distention in the chest. Itchy skin, and increased nasal discharge can also be indicators.

 

Here are some ways to strengthen your lungs:

 

 

Breathe: Taking deep-cleansing breaths is an excellent way to keep your lungs in shape. Abdominal breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is ideal for keeping the circulation, oxygenation and lymph drainage of your lungs strong. Place your hand on your abdomen and feel your hand rise as you breathe deeply more from your core than your chest. Breathe in and hold for a few seconds, let it out slowly and repeat several times. Singing is also good for the lungs, so belt out your favorite songs.

 

 

Exercise: Exercise like tai qi, qi gong and walking keep your lungs in shape naturally, as inhaling and exhaling steadily brings in fresh oxygen and circulates energy.

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