Category Archives: Clear Mind

Restore Your Nervous System

Yes you can do this! I know. You want to feel more relaxed as well as energized, more balanced some how. “Well if I could just get a week off work (every week) to lie on a beach in a tropical country I’d be great”. Yeah, I get it, our outer conditions are usually not as we would like. So we do our best to strengthen ourselves from within.

We all need a strong nervous system in modern life. Our nervous system may have taken some hits from stress, thinking too much or working too much and also from drug or alcohol abuse. Acupuncture often looks to the Heart and Kidney systems involvement when stress is the issue where there is Heart Fire (excess energy) often caused by Kidney Deficiency (weak Kidneys not controlling the heart-mind). Acupuncture can be used to calm an overactive (Yang excess) nervous system or the end result of chronic stress that often leads to is a depressed nervous system (Yang deficiency).

The way Japanese acupuncture works is to find the leaks in the system, to plug up the energy leaks in where our energy may be draining so we can keep more energy for ourselves, to live our life dreams. The acupuncturist will test reflex points using gentle pressure to find out what is imbalanced and apply what will get best results for your body. Since each person’s health history and constitution are unique, the advantage of using a more individualized approach using confirmation signs means less needling and faster results rather than applying a standardized formula for every case.

I work to make acupuncture is a deeply relaxing restorative and gentle experience for people. You have a quiet space all to yourself with some soothing music if you like, where you can rest, recharge and let the needles do their work.

Some things you can try today to soothe your nervous system are:

  1. Make it a goal.  When we do have time in our day to relax, we can set an intention to make it truly relaxing. Instead of filling our free time with too many distracting multi-tasking activities we can take it down a notch.  When eating for example, we can also create a peaceful space visually, energetically and with attention to our thoughts to allow our self to stay in more peaceful, healthy energies.
  2. Winding down before bed.  We can improve sleep through relaxing before sleep by listening to soft peaceful music, meditation, taking a bath, or journalling to help let go of concerns of the day.
  3. Breathing exercises. There are some great ones you can find here.

I look forward to seeing you soon!

Yours in health,



Eating in Peace

Greetings Dear Readers,

新年好 Happy Ratty New Year

What is meal time like for you?  Do you sit down and enjoy a calm atmosphere and allow time for the food to digest?  Let’s get into the subtleties of food energetics.  It’s not just the food itself, or the vitamins and minerals it’s also the atmosphere and our mind.  The energies of our body and mind and the environment we are eating in that play a huge role in how our food is digesting and what we are absorbing.

Ever notice that being around close friends or nice environments, the food always seems to taste good and you feel healthy and nourished even if the food quality isn’t so great?  Why is that? It’s all about the dining experience.  We’re not just absorbing nutrients from food, we’re also absorbing energies through all five (or six) senses.  Everything we hear, see, smell, touch, it’s all coming in to us on some level, leaving some sort of impression in our body-mind.  The energies in and around us are all felt on some level like having antennae which pick up messages from the outside and relays them in.  In fact, our gut contains an abundance of nerve fibres which shows that our gut really is our second brain and shows us why our eating atmosphere affects our digestion.

Here’s a check list of things that Traditional Chinese Medicine finds important to your dining experience:

1. Sitting down.  Eating while standing or moving about creates Liver Qi stagnation according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.  If you’re drinking a smoothie, it’s not such a problem, but with heavier food, help your stomach out and grab a seat.

20080807 - Family Dinner at Bethany Beach - 16...

2. Eating mindfully.  This means close the book/newspaper/magazine/computer/TV/ phone/internet and pay attention to the food.  Appetite and hunger are also mental experiences so being mindful of the experience helps to bring satisfaction from having eaten the meal. Look at the food, enjoy the colours, textures, flavours, savour each morsel and feel the satisfaction as it satiates your hunger and nourishes the cells of your body.

3. Eating in peace.  Keep the conversation calming. Talk about what you’re grateful for, hopeful about and what you’re enjoying in life rather than getting into talk about work, having arguments or debates.  Avoid being too intellectual at meals because the Spleen’s job is to digest both thoughts and foods.  So let your Spleen focus on the food.  Once upon a time (not that long ago) going home for lunch was the ideal scenario, a luxury for those going to a day job or school.  Somewhere around the 80’s came the “power lunch” the idea of having business meetings with co-workers over lunch.  Can be fun if you’re on good terms with your coworkers but can cause digestive problems if you all sit and talk about the stressful job during your lunch break.  The same goes with having dinner.  Try to create a peaceful, light, joyful atmosphere and avoid bringing work concerns to the table.

4.  Give time for the food to digest.  After eating, especially a larger meal, most of the body’s

Martel and van Over have friends for dinner an...

energy is working on digesting that meal.  If you push yourself to do other taxing things like working, doing chores,  mental work like studying or writing then your digestion will be compromised.  It’s good to give your body at least 5 minutes of rest after the meal to just sit at the table and digest.  Don’t be in such a rush to do the next thing.  Slow down a wee bit.  It’s good for your Yin energy.  In TCM, health is a balance of Yin and Yang.  Yang is active, Yin is restful.  Our world has been becoming increasingly Yang and many people are becoming Yin-deficient.  Just relax and feel grateful for the food.  Remind yourself to cultivate some Yin.  There’s a TV channel in British Columbia, Canada where I used to live that during the Christmas season plays a video of a fire place, 24/7.  That’s it, just logs burning in a fireplace for hours and hours, days and weeks.  So relaxing and healing for the Yin energy.  Not surprising, it’s the most popular channel at that time of year.

Bon Appetit!

Yours in health,


The Small Intestine Channel = Spam Filter of Your Heart

Greetings Dear Readers,

As human beings in this modern age we are more stimulated than ever before.  A seemingly endless barrage of sights, sounds and information.  How much is meaningful?  How much is true?  The Small Intestine energy is responsible for separating the pure from the impure.  If the Small Intestine channel is weak, it may not be performing this discrimination function at top capacity.   On a mental level, a person may not be weighing their options correctly to come to the right decision.   Small Intestine energy allows us healthy discrimination or discernment (not the same as judgment).   When this happens we use the clarity of wisdom to decide what we take in and what to leave out.

Today at Sarvodaya's Early Morning meditation
Today at Sarvodaya’s Early Morning meditation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you ignore advertising pop-ups when you’re emailing or doing some internet research?  This is your Small Intestine energy (A.K.A. your “Inner Spam Filter”, as my teacher says) working extra hard so you can concentrate.  In Buddhism this work is actually a type of spiritual practice called “restraining the doors of the sense powers”.  It means guarding ones’ eyes, ears and such by avoiding looking at or hearing things which disturb the mind.  In this way our mind can be clear and sharp.  This kind of a mind allows us to communicate well, make good decisions and focus on what adds value to our own and others’ lives.

Romantic Heart from Love Seeds
Romantic Heart from Love Seeds (Photo credit:

The Small Intestine is the outer gateway to the Heart channel.  Small Intestine is Yang while the Heart is Yin.  The Small Intestine energy protects the Heart (also called the Emperer in TCM) by filtering out energies or thoughts that would damage this inner most aspect of our being.  In TCM, as well as many Asian philosophies and religions, the heart is the residence of the mind/spirit/subtle mind (depending upon which philosophy you ascribe to).

Getting stuck in life can result from not enough sorting through our experiences to inform our actions.  Or once we’ve made a decision, a lack of Gall Bladder Qi is often a cause of procrastination; this decision is made but we fail to act.  The Small Intestine belongs to the Fire element.  Fire=light, a light which can show us the truth, a light on our path so we can see which steps to take next.  During the Fire season of summer, or any time you feel your mind is too busy and not clear, it’s helpful to support you Small Intestine energy by clearing your mental clutter.  Meditation, de-cluttering your space and/or trying to keep life simple allows room for you to gather your focus and sort things out.

Happy Sorting!


Ear Acupuncture for Yin Deficiency

Greetings Dear Readers,

Today I’d like to share with you some of the benefits of the 5-point ear acupuncture protocol called “NADA”.

NADA, which stands for National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, works by increasing the Yin energy of the body thus promoting an internal sense of peace which improves concentration and sleep, and reducing the need to find “peace” through external substances such as cigarettes, drugs, and other behaviours that may become addictive such as over-eating, gambling, etc.

The ears are associated with the Kidney/Water element in TCM which is Yin.  Similar to foot reflexology, the ear is a micro-system of the entire body so for every body part there is a corresponding ear point to stimulate it.  Below you will find a description of how each acupuncture point addresses Yin deficiency to calm the system physically, mentally and spiritually.   You will also find a recipe for Sleepmix tea, the herbal formula developed by Michael O. Smith to support this treatment.  Also, please note that acupuncture treatment can be used concurrently with prescription medications.

In modern times, our nervous system and mind tend to get too Yang due to our fast-paced living, busy schedules, mental distractions, lacking connection to Yin things such as the Earth, silence).  Too much Yang “burns up” the Yin and so Yin deficiencies are extremely common.   NADA is now being successfully used for various Yin-deficiency conditions such as insomnia, improving concentration for students and those suffering from ADD, stress reduction, night tremors, various behavioural disorders including suicidal ideation as well as recovery from traumatic events such as war and crises.

Sympathetic point:

Body – regulates the sympathetic nervous system, controls pain, relaxes tension in internal organs, dilates blood vessels.

Mind  – lowers epinephrine/norepinephrine causing relaxation

Spirit – quiets the spirit, promotes feelings of serenity

Shen Men:

Body  – pain relief, tension reduction, lowers hypertension

Mind –  quiets the mind and brings relief from anxiety, depression, restlessness, insomnia

Spirit – improves spiritual connection, opens the Heart to loving self and others

Kidney point:

Body – activates hormonal and physiological functions

Mind – promotes courage and will to overcome fear, improves mental state

Spirit – helps strengthen intentions, seeing the positive in situations

Liver Point:

Body – activates hormonal and physiological functions, reduces tension in muscles

Mind – improves mental clarity and decision making, helps to clear away anger, frustration, depression

Spirit  – helps one connect to one’s creativity, dreams, intuitions and life goals

Lung Point:

Body  – used for expelling toxins from the lungs, regulates defensive qi (immunity)

Mind – helps relieve sadness and grief, restores sense of integrity and self-esteem/ self-respect

Spirit – for Heavenly inspiration, stronger connection with one’s Higher power

Recipe for Sleepmix Tea

This tea is a Western herbal formula used to reduce insomnia, improve digestion, lower stress, aid in detoxification, and increase feelings of relaxation.

3 parts chamomile

1 part peppermint

1 part yarrow

1 part hops

1 part skullcap

1 part catnip

Use 1 Tablespoon of herbs per cup of boiling water.  Let steep for 5 minutes.  Can be used long-term and won’t cause morning drowsiness.  It contains no caffeine.

Yours in health,


Acupuncture Relieves Anxiety

Greetings Dear Readers,

Maybe it’s an interview for that job you’re really hoping to land – your heart is racing, palms sweating, feeling jittery, over-heated, butterflies in the stomach. Most people understand a little anxiousness as part of the adventure called life but everyday anxiety is another story. Luckily Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has had great success with getting to the root of this matter.

Rather than just popping a few pills with questionable side-effects, what acupuncture does is effectively re-wire the energy circuits of the body. So instead of all the firey energy from your heart rushing upwards causing dizziness, sweating, ungroundedness, and facial flushing, acupuncture needles in the right places can stop the cascade of neuro-chemicals such as cortisol (released as part of the flight-or-flight stress response) and instead activate opium and serotonin receptors thereby increasing feelings of well-being and relaxation.1 If that’s not enough, the effects can last up to several days with no negative side-effects.

So how did those quirky TCM people figure this out? The ancient wisdom of TCM breaks down symptoms according to patterns relating to the organ systems. In plain English, most people with anxiety will likely have one of the following commonly seen patterns: “Heart-Fire”, “Kidney-Yin Deficiency Heat” or “Blood or Yin Deficiency”.2

People with “Heart-Fire” anxiety often have heart palpitations, ulcers (canker sores) on the tongue, trouble falling asleep and a bitter taste in the mouth when they wake up after a fitful dream-disturbed sleep. This person will benefit from avoiding “hot” foods such as chili peppers, onions, alcohol, caffeine and chocolate and do better with eating cooler foods such as leafy greens, kale, celery or cucumber. In addition it is helpful for them to increase their Earth element (this comes from a Five Element acupuncture protocol called “Turn Fire Into Ash” meaning that the excess Fire in the Heart is calmed by pushing this energy towards the next element in the Creation cycle which is Earth (Fire-Earth- Metal-Water-Wood). The Earth element is increased by such things as letting go of too much worry and over-thinking, eating mindfully, wearing Earthy colours such as brown and eating foods that grow underground such as carrots, beets and potatoes.

The Kidney-Yin Deficiency Heat person will have anxiety along with night sweating, dizziness, ringing in the ears, flushed cheeks, dry mouth and low back ache. This person will benefit from getting more sleep, avoiding overwork, eating Kidney Yin foods such as black beans, seaweed, butter and sesame, slowing down (Yin=slow whereas Yang=fast) and doing meditation or qi gong.

Blood deficiency is very common in women because of monthly blood loss through menstruation.  The person will feel tired and want to lie down, have numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, blurred vision or floaters in the visual field, a pale complexion and scanty menstruation. They do well with dietary changes mainly such as including blood-building foods such as beets, dark green vegetables, egg yolks, bee pollen and the herb “dong quai” (also called angelica).  With diligent daily use of blood-building foods symptoms should clear up in about three months.

The Yin deficient anxious person is essentially lacking essential fluids (Yin is liquid in nature) and experiences afternoon fever, night sweating, dry mouth, and scanty dark urine. This is often seen when a person has been working too hard, staying up late, eating fast food on the run, essentially “life in the fast lane”. This person does well with resting from overworking, going to bed by 10pm, eating slow, home-cooked meals and eating Yin foods such as seaweed, dairy, beans, berries, foods that are black, blue or purple in colour such as eggplant or black sesame seeds and taking a more slow, mindful approach to life.

You do not need to live with chronic anxiety. There is a lot your acupuncturist can do to relieve these symptoms and I have only scratched the surface here. Your acupuncturist will diagnose the pattern by examining your tongue and wrist pulse, observation and a few short questions. You should feel effects during the first treatment.  For those with needle anxiety, (oddly enough I’m one of them), acupuncture needles are very thin (infinitely smaller than the hypodermic needles used to inject vaccine in hospitals) and are often not felt when inserted.  You can also ask for Japanese needles which are as thin as a hair.

Do your symptoms fit any of these descriptions? If so, let’s set up an appointment and get you on the road to better health and peace of mind.

Yours in health,

1. Jaung-Geng Lin, Yuan-Yu Chan, and Yi-Hung Chen. February 22, 2012. Acupuncture for the Treatment of Opiate Addiction. National Institutes of Health.
2. Maciocia, Giovanni. Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Guide. 2004. Elsevier Ltd.

Awe-Inspiring Experiment by Dr. Masuro Emoto

Greetings Dear Readers,

Dr. Masuro Emoto, Japanese scientist performed this experiment by photographing water in frozen form to create crystals. What is so interesting and revolutionary about this experiment is that he took a piece of paper with words such as “love”, “thank you”, to the outside of each jar, poured water from the same source into each jar and photographed the water after it had been exposed to a single word.

The results were phenomenal. A different, and quite exquisite crystal pattern for each word. He also took words such as “sick” and “hate” and placed them on the jars and the water didn’t form proper crystals! Instead the photos revealed ugly and unformed blobs, more like some chemical soup you would not want to drink.

He then applied to humans and said if words taped on to a jar can have such a strong effect on the liquid inside, then if human beings are 70% water, what effect are our thoughts having on our bodies? Something to think about.

Do you notice how your thoughts affect your body?

Love to hear your comments and questions.


How to Enter a Meditative State

Greetings Dear Readers,

January is retreat month for those who follow the Buddhist calendar. It’s an excellent time to quiet life down a little and experience some spiritual renewal. Below are some teachings which come from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso my spiritual guide and lineage holder of the New Kadampa Tradition. Author of many clear and practical books on Mahayana Buddhism, his latest book, Modern Buddhism, is now available as a free e-book download.

Modern Buddhism free e-book

First, let’s clarify what meditation is. Meditation is not about going blank, spacing out or thinking about nothing (although there are moments for this). Meditation means focusing the mind on a virtuous object. In our normal waking state our mind is moving here and there thinking about objects of attachment (tonight’s dinner), objects of anger (email spam) and neutral objects (tomorrow’s to-do list). Like the wind blowing, the mind is often scattered, not very controlled, and a bit reckless like a bull in a china shop. It’s a little like a tantrumming child running around and that’s not who you want in charge of your adult life!

The benefits of meditation (there are hundreds) stem from what meditation does to the mind. Meditation gathers our thoughts together, create some calmness, composure and space for positive thoughts to take hold. This concentration and positivity creates a more powerful mind.

What is a virtuous object? It is a thought, feeling, visualization or sound that serves to create peace in the mind. There are thousands of objects to use. For a Mahayana Buddhist, the main practice is Lamrim which translates as “Stages of the Path to Enlightenment”. Lamrim is a set of 21 meditations done one each day for 21 days and then the cycle repeats itself ad infinitum. It appears repetitive but repetition is key as it brings depth of understanding or wisdom. Each time we cycle through the 21 meditations is different, a little deeper than before with new insights, ideas and questions. This wisdom developed is carried in the heart and lived in daily life, not just intellectual knowledge that may be quickly forgotten or abandoned.

At first it is necessary to quiet the mind so that we have room to allow the virtuous object in. You may sit quietly with your eyes closed and just focus on your breath for a few moments, just watching the breath coming in, going out, coming in again. Do this for a few minutes before focusing on your chosen meditation object. This helps bring the mind to a more neutral state which calms the anger, stress and disappointment we may be feeling. It also makes the mind less busy, less of a tornado. We become more in control of our mind, watching what it does and learning to direct it where we want it to go.

Find a visual object such a picture or statue of a deity or Buddha that resonates with you. Place it before you on a table or perhaps on a shrine or alter set up for meditation. Allow yourself to study the sacred image, becoming familiar with, building a spiritual connection to it and learning to hold the image in the mind’s eye when your eyes are closed. Or, instead of an image you may want to chose a thought that brings peace such as wishing love towards others, renunciation or patient acceptance. The goal is to sit and contemplate, analyze and study the virtuous object from different angles, connecting it to your own personal experience so that it makes sense for you.

Once you have built up some experience of knowing the object the next thing is to hold the mind still on the virtuous feeling that comes. It’s not an affirmation, “I am loving towards others, loving towards others” on and on, although that can be helpful. It goes from a thought to a feeling carried in the heart. When the mind wanders away from that feeling we just notice the mental wandering and bring it back to the chosen object. You will go through this process of seeking the meditation objet, dropping it and coming back to it again several times each session and this is normal. It takes a long while to become strong in concentration but over time as this mental muscle develops you will notice your mind becoming a little more controlled.

One last thought, meditation is not just something you can do at home for a few minutes or hours, it is really something that can be practiced anytime, anywhere to bring greater benefits. As I explained earlier, meditation means to focus on a virtuous object. This you can do with your eyes open as you go about your day. We can do this standing in line at the bank (i.e. we can just rejoice in the wealth people have gained through the karma of having given in the past rather than feeling jealous) or if we’re stuck in traffic (developing compassion for everyone around us who is also stuck, people who want to go home and be with their families or people who just feel stuck in life, not sure what to do to make themselves happy).

What benefits do you get from meditation? How’s your practice going? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Happy January!

Letting Intuition be Your Guide

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and
the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors
the servant and has forgotten the gift”.
– Albert Einstein

Having a strong mind-body connection can help you improve your health. The body and mind “message” each other constantly about what to eat or when to rest, what to do. It’s like, “hi can i get an orange juice? not milk this time” or “it’s getting kinda sluggish in here can we move around some more, go outside maybe? Thanks.” It’s all about getting one’s needs met. When we are living in the “information age” as it’s called, our logical minds are so strung out on projects, ideas and the to-do list that we forget the body and stop responding accurately to its’ signals. But the body doesn’t stop messaging. The phone is ringing but no one is picking up. Eventually the signals start getting louder as the needs are not responded to. This is when simple discomfort builds into more serious pain and dis-ease. Simple nourishing touch is an easy and enjoyable way to bring our response-ability back.

Michael Gershon, M.D. wrote the book The Second Brain. After studying the human bowels for 30 years he realized that there are nerve cells in your gut that act as a second brain. It is further explained that as the embryo develops in the womb, neural cells first begin in the gut then divide out to form the spinal cord, split again to form the heart (where there are also neural cells) and split again to form the brain. So when we have a “gut feeling” there’s science in that expression.

Think of the mind-body as a storage house of loads and loads of information on all levels. We absorb more data than we are consciously aware of. We have something of a psychic satellite picking up energies and information from the world in and around us through our eyes and ears (our two more predominant senses) as well as our skin, nose, mouth and just the mind itself as it filters through dream awarenesses, memories, and the akashic record of all we’ve ever known. There’s so much there. The key thing for us at any given moment is filtering it so we know what to focus on. Clarity brings peace.

In this “Infornation Age” as it is often called, we are carrying around too much information. There’s a lot of excess information that doesn’t have much relevance to our lives, to what actually matters to us and our goals or spiritual work for this lifetime. Some of this information needs to be digested and sorted so we can make use of it and some of it just needs to be tossed. Some of this mental processing is actually taking place in our gut or second brain. We are literally digesting our experiences and emotions.

When we’re thinking, reading, or working things over in our minds, this takes energy. In TCM this energy of concentration is governed by the Spleen organ system. Interestingly, the Spleen is also responsible for digestion. Although there are many organs involved in digestion, they are all principally governed by and fed by the energy of the Spleen system. The Spleen is also connected with sense of touch in TCM and so people with Spleen deficiencies (often seen in students and people who do a lot of reading or worrying) are often helped by forms of body work such as shiatsu, tui na, cranio-sacral, ect.

I think of shiatsu as decluttering for my energy system. It gives me a quiet space away from the business of my world and the logic side of the mind. It allows me to “digest” life’s journey and access my gut-level intuition. Zen Shiatsu can strengthen one’s sense of self as touch develops awareness of our skin, our personal boundary of who we are and who we are not. This will bring out an intuitive self-awareness, in a completely organic way.

It’s like Feng Shui for the mind. Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese system of arrangement, is about creating a smooth flow of energy. Intuitively we feel the energy of the space we’re in. A cluttered dirty room gives us some bit of discomfort – if only a subtle mental discomfort – and drags our spirit down or makes us feel a bit anxious to get away soon. On the other hand a very beautiful space, think a garden or a national art gallery tends to be very uncluttered, carefully arranged and lends to feelings of peace and serenity. The relief from visual chaos allows us to remember the simplicity and beauty of life.

We can create a Zen garden in our mind by clearing away some of mental clutter, digesting, sorting and tossing the feelings, attitudes, beliefs that are no longer useful to us now. We can digest and release these thoughts by connecting to our gut brain, feeling it out through body work.

Do you feel more calm when you connect to your body? Love to hear your comments and questions.