December 19, 2016
In this week’s theme, Liz discussed the ins and outs of obligations, particularly centered around the holiday season.
Obligations are frequently burdens. They often conflict with what we want to do, and can easily be obstacles inhibiting what we want to do. When our movement is dictated by forces outside of us, it is natural to respond with stress, frustration, anger, resignation, or a combination thereof.
From an acupuncture standpoint, our desire and ability to make decisions for ourselves, act on them, and move forward in life is mainly related to the Wood channels – Liver and Gallbladder. These are the officials who act as the general on the battlefield – sitting on high ground, examining the scene, plotting the right move, and ordering their troops to act. The Liver has the vision and the plan, and the Gallbladder acts on that vision, making decisions to bring the plan into the world.
Consider what happens when you have something you want to do, but there’s an obstacle in the way. Perhaps you’re sitting in traffic, or you have 12 items on your to-do list but only 3 hours to complete them. Obstacles can come in the form of the other cars on the road or the clock on the wall.
When these obstacles are present, stress is a typical response. And when we are stressed, what are the typical symptoms that show up? Tension in the neck and shoulders, headaches, irritability, and frustration are very common.
Interestingly, the Gallbladder acupuncture channel runs along the side of the body from the toes, along the sides of the torso and right along the tops of our shoulders, back of our necks and over the sides of the head. It has a direct route to the temples and eyes in the head.
So when the Gallbladder wants to make a decision and bring that action into the world, but hits an obstacle, frustration mounts. A car revving its engine but unable to be put into gear. So just like a revving engine with nowhere to go, the channel gets all tense. With that channel running along the tops of our shoulders, the common symptoms of tight shoulders and neck, as well as headaches (!!), ocular migraines, and high-pitched ringing in the ears all come out of the woodwork.
Irritability, frustration, and anger are all the emotions associated with the Wood channels in the body. So are their opposites, including patience, understanding, a bigger perspective, and kindness.
So what’s a person to do with this pressure of obligation and stress?
- Drink water. Consider wood when it dries – not only does it become brittle, but it twists and warps. So when we are hydrated, our wood channels are more pliable. We are more pliable, able to bend with the demands of life.
- Breathe. Breathing naturally descends qi (instead of the rising of tensions… notice how all those obligation-related symptoms are in the upper parts of our bodies??). Another reason why meditation is helpful. We breathe gently, and let the breath do its thing, which includes bringing our energy out away from our heads back down throughout our whole body.
- Exercise. This has several benefits from an acupuncture standpoint. It will force us to do #s 1 and 2 above, so that’s helpful. Exercise is also a powerful mover of qi. When we feel obligated, our energy rises as far as it can and then gets stuck in our shoulders, neck, and heads, where it festers and causes all sorts of problems. It can easily promote rapid thinking. All the energy in the brain? Sure, let’s run with it! Except… no where to go, we’re still stuck. Exercise helps move that energy so it’s not just sitting there wreaking havoc.
- Get acupuncture. A combination of acupuncture points will help break the cycle of too-much-on-the-shoulders and too-much-in-the-brain that obligation-related stress can bring. Sadly, no acupuncture will eliminate what your family is asking or expecting of you. But when your energy is more balanced, the better you can respond to them.
Remember that the Liver and Gallbladder meridians are sitting on the top of the hill looking out at the battle fields and deciding how to proceed. The healthier they are, the better decisions they can make.
Acupuncture for obligations is about reinforcing the boundaries between you and everyone else (gallbladder, triple warmer and pericardium channels), providing nourishment internally (spleen, pericardium), reinforcing your own will and reminding you that you are in control of your own life (spleen, heart, and kidney).
So while things are riled up and tense is the best time to get treated! It’s of far greater benefit to you to get treated while you are tense rather than waiting until after the holidays are over. NOW is when it’s most needed!
Curious to see how you can benefit from a treatment? Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (978) 503-1048.
Happy obligation-free holidays!