In some ways, lockdown seemed easy. There were strict rules to follow which were simple, pretty much stay indoors for a couple of weeks, only go out on essential journeys, wear a mask and keep your distance. In the main it was uncomplicated, we were told exactly what to do. Now as we move forwards and step outside there aren’t the same rules, there are guidelines that can be open to interpretation and judgment calls. There’s a grey area instead of black and white. This unsure ground can create a panicky atmosphere. We may feel nervous about getting it wrong or exposed to other people’s judgment. This fearful feeling stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, triggering stress hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, prolactin (the celibacy hormone) and epinephrine which elevates the heartbeat. In Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys control the endocrine system and the production of hormones. So by keeping these organs healthy we can calm the nervous system to relax, rest, digest and thrive instead of descending into an agitated panicky, spiral of flight, fight or freeze.
Fear can feel very different for different people. Sometimes fear manifests as a short temper, we are triggered to fight and lash out, for others our energy becomes frozen, we become despondent and perhaps just stay in bed. Depending on where you are with your response to fear, Chinese Medicine has a solution.
If you are feeling low then follow the diagram and gather the energy in the kidneys by placing your palms on your kidney area, specifically Bladder 23 & 52, rub them gently, feeling the warmth gathering in the area. Use your imagination and direct your breath down to the area, feel the kidneys grasping and holding the breath, whilst your hands continue to rub and warm the area. This will build your Chi (energy) giving you a solid sense of grounded stability, as the kidneys and its partner organ, the bladder, are seen as the roots of the body in Chinese Medicine.
Perhaps you are at the other end of the scale and you are running around, skittish and uneasy, so anxious you can’t sleep, appetites all over the place and you can’t focus your mind. In this way we need to sedate the Chi by moving it, using stretches, massage and flowing motions to calm and relax the system. The bladder meridian runs down either side of the spine, down the backs of the legs, along the outside of the feet right to the outside of the little toe. A great way to stretch out this meridian and calm the nervous system is to stand with feet, hip-width apart, knees bent, tail bone tucked in. Stretch up with the hands until the palms face the ceiling, looking up at your hands follow them as you hinge forward from the hips, still with your knees bent, until your hands come down slowly to touch the floor with your head relaxed, top of the skull pointed to the floor, feel each of the vertebrae naturally easing out the spine. Slowly roll the body up, vertebrae by vertebrae, until you roll back the shoulders ready to begin the move once more.
And then of course there is the foods that overstimulate the kidneys, such as coffee, fizzy drinks overconsumption of poor quality table salt and processed foods exacerbating feelings of unease and panic. These should be avoided instead choose other slightly salty flavoured foods such as oats, barley, seaweed, miso and sesame seeds to relax the kidneys.
Blueberries, blackberries and black grapes are also great for the kidneys so a bowl of relaxing porridge with a flurry of berries and seeds is a perfect way to begin the day with unwavering calmness. Like a tree, your kidney energy creates deep roots for the body so you are unshaken by the storms and changes that blow all around you.
Join me in the Chi Flow with Jo – Energy Club every weekday morning for wake-up Chi Gong where we cover all the practices from Conscious breathing, Self Shiatsu, Traditional Chinese Food Medicine and Meridian stretches, all to strengthen and move the energy.
These practices improve our resilliance both physically and emotionally. There is the support of the group with live chat every morning plus lots of stress, anxiety and panic relieving practices. This practice helps you plug into the energy of the universe, rediscover who you really are, know that all is well and that you are loved. Here’s a link to a quick 3 minute video to generate a feeling of calm and stability Chi Flow with Jo – Calm Core Stability
In the Chi Flow with Jo Club, don’t worry if you miss a session, they are recorded and sent straight to your email so you can watch again at any time of day.
Free class on the last day of every month – Link sent in the newsletter – simply pop your email below and I will add you to the list.
Don’t let lack of funds stand in your way – there is an Abundance Club, where members of Chi Flow with Jo have PAID IT FORWARD and donated funds so that anyone who wants to join can join – simply visit https://joannefaulkner.ie/product/chi-flow-with-jo-abundance-club/
Enhance your Energy perception AND feel well
The world is beginning to open up, there are cars on the road, kids in the park, hustle and bustle is back. But where is our place in a new world order? There’s so much information about how to behave and how to act it can be hard to find what fits for us. It can seem that everybody else is coming out of lockdown, meeting friends, smiling easily and taking everything in their stride and perhaps it doesn’t feel like that for you. Perhaps you feel unsure about this new way of interacting. Do you embrace friends, Do you have to share a cuppa outside or is having tea together inside ok? Can you stop and talk to strangers, passing the time? Can you go on dates? Mask or no mask? Even though there are written guidelines, how do they apply to your life? Where does lockdown end and normal life begin? I miss smiles with random strangers in supermarkets and on the street. I know the masks are necessary I just feel uncomfortable. Everybody else seems fine, head down, no contact, keeping distant, getting things done without connecting and heading home. It feels like everyone is getting it right, easily adapting and slotting right into this new way of being. But that’s just a big case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) usually applied to social media, this is where everyone has great kids, tidy house, perfect house and the sun is always shining. However, that’s never how it is. The truth is everyone is finding their own way. So how can we use Chinese Medicine to help rediscover our internal compass?
Don’t multi-task: Doing too many things at once can mean we become overwhelmed and lose sight of our purpose. The ultimate goal is to be happy and at peace. By taking things slowly we can experience our feelings. Are we at peace and happy or are we ticking off a to-do list that we “think” will make us happy? You have to enjoy the journey not just the destination. So slow down, don’t bite off more than you can chew, you will become irritable and tense, scattered and exhausted. Touch is often overlooked as a way to feel well but it can simultaneously ease pain, lessen anxiety, promote healing and help you to take the obstacles in life in your stride. Try this point to calm the mind and release tension.
GOVERNING VESSEL 24.5 – Yin Tang point
This point is often instinctively massaged by people to relieve headaches and eyestrain. In my book Good Food: Better Sex I use this point for regulating the endocrine system but it can also be used for any facial pain, including those related to sinus congestion.
Find in the midline of the body between the eyebrows. Close your eyes, rotating and pressing into the area for 30 seconds every day. Combine it with rubbing your checks and massaging your jaw to release tension in the whole area, relaxing the neck, shoulders, upper chest and clearing the mind.
Slow Food Down: In Traditional Chinese Medicine excessive worry and insecurity is the emotion of the spleen and the stomach, these organs are associated with the earth element. So eating foods that support these organs such as whole grains, root vegetables, fennel, butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, pumpkin, sweet potato and peas, will help the body navigate the specific emotions that arise.
Try a new twist on carrots by cooking 500g in boiling salted water until soft, then mashing them with a fork and mixing in the following ingredients
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 level tbsp. sweet paprika
Finish by adding two large handfuls of baby spinach leaves to the hot, mashed carrots so that it wilts before serving. The stomach and spleen don’t like raw food so even wilting spinach means it is softer on the stomach for digestion.
The grass is rarely greener when we jump the fence so it’s healthier for the mind and body to find things we enjoy right here, right now. Even if we are uncomfortable in this new world, find things that you are thankful for will help. Keep a list, on the fridge, on the table, or even make a gratitude jar, adding at least five things to it every day. Maybe its that you have food in your fridge, air to breathe, fingers to feel, or a tongue to taste, there is always something to feel grateful for. Be easy on yourself, take time for things to unfold and know that everyone is navigating the same sea just in different boats.
Send me your email HERE if you would like a free pass for the Chi Flow With Jo – The High Flying Energy Club on July 1st – Chi Gong exercises and Self Shiatsu to help you flow with your life
For more information on Shiatsu Conscious Cooking and to buy the books full of recipes, tips and Chinese Medicine click here: www.joannefaulkner.ie
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It used to scare me. It’s taken me fifty years to embrace my body and my own healthy, juicy sexuality. Abusive childhood sexual experiences, misguided religious education and contradictory cultural norms taught me no one loved a girl who loved feeling good and feeling sexy. She would be used, abused and left open to ridicule. Even now publishing Good Food: Better Sex – A Holistic Health Cookbook that brings sex out of the shadows and onto the kitchen table, has been an act of bravery. I know that talking and writing about sexual health has been deeply healing for me. Just like the #metoo movement it sometimes takes only a few people to speak of the sexual shame and trauma they experience, on a day to day basis, for a flood of recognition to take place in others.
Chinese Medicine’s understanding of sex has been a revelation for me. It explains its function without judgment. It’s just another aspect of life which has to flow and express itself, no different than breathing, eating, laughing or sleeping. It’s part of life and without it, we would not be alive.
Sexual energy creates worlds. It is the energy that grows all life. From the mix of Yang Sperm and Yin egg, splitting and reproducing cells until, 9 months later, a new baby is born, that will carry on reproducing cells; bone, blood and everything in between, as they grow through puberty, adulthood until finally reaching the grave. We are born with this automatic programming, to reproduce at a cellular level.
Just like the air we breathe and the food we eat sexual energy is an essential part of life. It makes the plants, the trees, the courgettes and the daisy’s, the fish in the sea and the birds in the air. All reproduction relies on sexual energy which means its pretty powerful stuff.
A plus is that sexual energy feels good. Nature has designed it that way so that we don’t die out. We are supposed to feel good, experiencing the pleasure of our sexual energy and being alive.
No-fail Corn Bread with Walnuts and Feta Cheese From Shiatsu & the Art of Conscious Cooking
In Chinese Medicine, that feel-good, dopamine-producing aspect of sexual energy applies to anything we create, whether that’s dancing, singing, painting, cooking, designing a house or anything we can conjure up and desire to make manifest. It’s an enjoyable expression of who we are. We have brought something into being whether that is a baby or a loaf of bread. In Chinese Medicine, the energy that drives the expression of who we are is also sexual energy. It is passionate and powerful, it creates life, no wonder it’s scary.
Because this energy is powerful, all sorts of people and institutions want to control it. Sometimes with the best intentions, information around sex only relates to the physical act or unwanted consequences. But this method of teaching is not enlightening or educational. It curtails our individual expression and our joyful exuberance of who we are or could be. For me it was like a part of me was suppressed. A part that was joyful and exuberant, that liked to dance in the sunshine and swim naked in the sea, feeling sunshine on all of my skin. However, the message from school and state was that this sexual side would bring me nothing but trouble. It was messy, unpredictable, and scary so better to keep it controlled and contained. If I didn’t monitor myself and my behaviour following the dictates of society, I felt I would be ostracised, rejected and never find love. However understanding and expressing my passionate, creative, sexual energy has allowed me to find my integrity, my own moral compass. I can trust and respect my actions, this is true love.
Sexual energy shouldn’t be dictated to – by the partner you choose, the religion you follow, or the society in which you live. If wearing a short skirt, red lipstick or stilettos while shopping excites someone else’s sexual energy that is theirs to feel pleasure from. I don’t have to respond, engage or take part in their sexual energy unless I want to feel pleasure, and share the experience with them.
Because in Chinese medicine, healthy sexual energy is not tied to only sexual intercourse it has allowed me to find my voice around sex. I can now express myself as a whole person, not just the parts that are acceptable to my parents, religion or the society in which I live, and I feel like I have regained a limb. I don’t dance like no one is watching, I dance like the whole world is watching and they’re loving me.
This excitement can feel scary because it is unpredictable. Unlike the misguided teenager who just went anywhere to experience the thrill of it all, I know now whether my sexual energy is pleasing others or pleasing myself. I hold myself tip-top of the list, with self-love and safe boundaries but still willing to explore messy feelings. Just like cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body mass index I can address my sexual health. I can talk about menopause, impotence, premature ejaculation and vaginal dryness without shame and embarrassment. I am a whole being, sexual and spiritual. The trauma I experienced around my sexual experiences and education was not my fault but healing from it is my responsibility. I didn’t know it at the time but that’s what writing the Good Food: Better Sex cookbook was all about.
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What do we do when all plans are out of the window? Perhaps you had arrangements for this summer. Maybe you were getting married, going abroad on your dream holiday, finishing your leaving cert or celebrating a big number birthday but now all those plans are gone. Even as lockdown loosens and restrictions ease, we can be left feeling flat. Without working towards a hopeful future we had planned, we can feel despondent in the present. Good news, Traditional Chinese Medicine with a focus on diet and acupressure points can help us appreciate this period of uncertainty and even guide us into a more balanced, happier future.
Firstly when you are lacking mental brightness and positivity don’t push yourself. Simply be where you are. Notice what is around you, name five things that you see or hear that are beautiful. This can be hearing birdsong, seeing how green the grass is or, sensing how the breeze moves the leaves in the trees. When you prepare food, do it with love. Arrange your meal on the plate so it looks beautiful, clear and set the table with care so you eat with appreciation. These are small simple tips that in Chinese Medicine that feed the heart. This organ is the emperor of the body, it stores our spirit and is represented by a flame. Don’t let your fire dwindle, feed the flame and lift your spirit by seeing and creating beauty right here, right now. The season of the Heart is the summer so choosing all those fantastic summer foods such as watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, beetroot, tomato, radish and red peppers benefit the heart physically and emotionally. Try experimenting and put them together in a new way so you see your food as alluring and elegant.
Watermelon works well in a salad dish and complements a barbeque splendidly. In Traditional Chinese Medicine this ingredient cools summer heat. When your inner flame is burning too brightly and you are overheating, red in the face or sweating profusely, juice this fruit or munch on segments to move blood, reducing pain and heat around the joints, making this a perfect food for gout, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
1 medium watermelon
100g feta cheese
1 red onion
A handful of fresh basil leaves
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Chop the watermelon into bite-size pieces. Slice the red onions into paper-thin, half-moons and sprinkle them along with the crumbled feta onto the watermelon. Scatter the basil leaves and drizzle the olive oil over the top to finish.
Tip: Choose a watermelon that has wide spaces between the dark green lines – they’re sweeter that way.
A physical exercise to shift stagnant downturned emotions is to make loose fists and lightly pummel the front of the thighs. Bring the fists up and down over the quads, which are a group of four large muscles at the front of the legs between the knees and hips, for about 30 seconds. This stimulates the Stomach and Spleen channels, responsible for harmony and comfort in the body. So rather than reaching for something sweet to raise the spirits try a little light pummeling which after a couple of days, works wonders in lifting despondent spirits.
It can be hard to appreciate the present when the future feels uncertain but being in the heart in the present moment can transform tragedy to inner strength. Be kind to yourself. I cant assure you there are better things on the way but there will be different things and if we can keep the eyes open appreciating the beauty in life, right here right now it will help glide us easily along the path to a bright, balanced tomorrow.
For more information on Shiatsu Conscious Cooking visit www.joannefaulkner.ie @joannefaulknerShiatsu on Facebook and Instagram
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Do you want to understand your body and take control of all areas of your health? Take the Online Courses to become more body confident, loving your food, loving your body, and loving your life.
Courses include: 2 Online Shiatsu sessions with dietary advice PLUS Copy of Conscious Cookbook sent straight to your door
PLUS 30 Days / 30 Videos – bitesize cookery programs, Chi-Gong exercises, and self-shiatsu acupressure points in your own home.
- Stopping Sweet Cravings
- Sexy Savvy Menopause
- Reduce Pain in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue
- Good Food: Better Health
- Good Food: Better Sex
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