Embrace the Summer with a Healthy Heart: A Journey through Qi Gong, Food Medicine, and Acupressure

Embrace the Summer with a Healthy Heart: A Journey through Qi Gong, Food Medicine, and Acupressure

Embrace the Summer with a Healthy Heart: A Journey through Qi Gong, Food Medicine, and Acupressure

Today, we’re diving deep into the heart of summer – quite literally – as we explore the Heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

In TCM, each organ is associated with a specific season, and high summer is the season of the Heart. This time of year is bursting with vibrant energy – flowers blooming, bees buzzing, and the world alive with activity. Let’s explore how we can harness this energy to nurture our hearts.

The Heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine

In TCM, the Heart reaches its peak activity from 11 AM to 1 PM, the busiest and most active time of the day. The Heart’s flavour is bitter, its sense organ is the tongue, and its emotion is joy. Right now, take a moment to focus on the centre of your chest, think of someone you love, and feel this area soften and glow.

Humming and singing, using the tongue, can quickly connect you to the joy of the heart, while negative speech can harden it. How we use our tongue significantly impacts our emotional and physical health. Use your tongue wisely, bless your food, give thanks for things throughout your day and let joyful energy flow through your heart.

Learn to use Mantra in my previous blog

The Element of Fire

Each organ in TCM is also associated with an element.

The Heart belongs to fire, an element with many faces – from the wild, destructive forest fire to the comforting glow of a hearth or the serene flame of a candle. All types of fire share the power of transformation, and this is the energy we want to cultivate in our hearts – a gentle, transformative flame.

Fire symbolizes constant movement and transformation, embodying yang energy.

While unchecked fire can be destructive, within boundaries, it illuminates, warms, and brings clarity.

Fire is the element of the organ.  Our hearts are like an internal flame, often called the “emperor of the body,” with all other organs in service to it.

The Heart is where our consciousness, or “Shen,” resides, connecting us to the divine, whatever that might be for us, a sleeping baby, singing prayers together in community or taking a walk on the beach.  To enjoy life (In-Joy) life is to be connected to the divine and nourishes Heart Health.

The Universal Symbolism of Flame

The flame is a powerful symbol across many cultures and religions, representing transformation, enlightenment, and the divine. In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is depicted as a flame, symbolising divine presence and inspiration. In Hinduism, the sacred fire “Agni” represents purification and the connection between the earthly and the divine. 

In Buddhism, the flame is a metaphor for spiritual awakening and the illumination of wisdom. The ancient Greeks revered the hearth goddess Hestia, whose eternal flame represented home and family unity.

Across these diverse traditions, the flame signifies the profound interplay between destruction and creation, a source of warmth, guidance, and spiritual insight.  (read more in a previous blog)

Nurturing Your Heart

To ensure our heart burns brightly without raging out of control, we must provide a safe container for it – a home.

In TCM, the blood is the Heart’s home. Keeping our blood vibrant and healthy is key.

Foods for a Healthy Heart

The taste for the Heart is bitter. Bitter greens like chicory, watercress, dandelion leaves, and rocket nourish the Heart and help the Liver detoxify the blood.

Red foods are also fantastic for the Heart, containing antioxidants like anthocyanins and bioactive polyphenols that ensure smooth blood flow, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure.

Incorporate red peppers, beetroot, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, Chinese red dates, goji berries, watermelon, rosehips, and pomegranates into your diet.

Pomegranates, with their bittersweet flavor and abundant seeds, are perfect for heart health. Try sprinkling pomegranate seeds on a salad with bitter greens and crumbled feta for a delicious, heart-healthy meal.

For more recipes, check out my cookbooks at joannefaulkner.ie/cook-books.

Qi Gong for the Heart

Qi Gong, a moving meditation, helps us gain perspective on our emotions and the world around us. It’s a fantastic tool for maintaining a balanced and peaceful Heart. (scroll down for the free class)

Let’s try a simple Qi Gong move together.

You can do this sitting or standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Place your hands on your heart/Middle Dan tien and take a deep breath in. 

As you inhale, slowly extend your arms out to the sides, palms facing up, as if opening your heart to the world. Exhale, bringing your hands back to cover your heart/middle Dan tien.

Repeat this exercise nine times and feel calmness in your heart and perspective with your problems.

Finally, bring the energy and your hands down to the lower Dantien, just below and behind the belly button. This movement symbolises opening up and receiving energy while staying grounded and centred.

Balancing Your Shen

Remember, your emotions can either fan your inner flame into an inferno or cause it to dwindle. Keeping your “Shen” balanced means not letting external factors control our joy or sadness. By nurturing our Heart, we can drop our emotional armour and connect more deeply with ourselves and others.

Remember, your emotions can either fan your inner flame into an inferno or cause it to dwindle.

Keeping your “Shen” balanced means not letting external factors control our joy or sadness.

By nurturing our Heart, we can drop our emotional armour and connect more deeply with ourselves and others.

Sun Simiao, a great Chinese medicine practitioner, said

“In your heart, there is love; don’t love too deeply. In your heart, there is hate; don’t hate too deeply, because too much of any of these will attack the Shen.”

Our spirit is a unique treasure that must be protected like a flame, not allowed to burn out or blaze uncontrollably.

Moderation and Inner Balance

Before and after my morning meditation (at which you are welcome to join me, simply sign up for the free class below, I dedicate my practice by reciting, “May I be free from passion, aggression, and prejudice.”

While we understand avoiding aggression and prejudice, passion must also be moderated. Too much passion, even for a noble cause, can lead to imbalance. Don’t let your passion and heart fire overwhelm you; maintain touch with softness, humour, and compassion.

Conclusion

To wrap up, remember to nourish your Heart with bitter greens and vibrant red foods. Practise gentle, heart-opening Qi Gong moves to keep your “Shen”/Spirit noursihed and balanced. Approach your emotions with perspective and moderation, allowing your inner flame to glow steadily and warmly.

Stay connected with your heart, and let it shine with joy and compassion.

For more tips, recipes, and Qi Gong practices, sign up for a free Qi Gong class below.  August will focus on Healthy Heart Practices with Qi Gong, Acupressure and Food Medicine.

Until next time, keep your heart open and your spirit bright!

WATCH THE ENERGY UPDATE BELOW TO LEARN MORE

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DISCLAIMER:

No content is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice and guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to any medication or treatment protocol you are currently using or stopping any medication or treatment protocol you are currently using.

My Menopause Story

My Menopause Story

At 34, I had a rough birth with my twin boys.  That’s me in the photo.  It’s taken just after putting up the Christmas tree so I know I had another 3 weeks and a kidney infection before I gave birth to them on January 5th 2003.  They weighed 6.7 and 6.3 lbs – that’s a lot of baby for a 5-foot woman to carry.  So when they were delivered via emergency C-section at 40 weeks after 2 days labour, I had nothing else to give.

My body didn’t even have the energy to contract my uterus so I haemorrhaged and almost died. Yes I saw the white light and someone had a chat with me.  It was an amazing experience and being so knackered I wasn’t sure I wanted to come back.

But back I came to look after my twin boys and run the environmental empowerment organisation I owned,  The company worked with the regeneration of Ballymun, well known for its high levels of unemployment, drug usage and high-rise tower blocks. It could be a dangerous and stressful area of Dublin to work in. I over identified with the success of the projects and worked way too much. I had qualified as a shiatsu practitioner in 2002 but this job was where the money was.

When the twins were 2, I found out my partner was having an affair within the company. I was just too exhausted to carry on. I turned the business into a community development. I left him and my business.

That’s when my Peri-Menopause symptoms started. I would get so dizzy I thought I was going to black out.  The first one happened on a busy motor way which triggered panic attacks leaving me feeling anxious all the time. My sleep pattern was disrupted and I was so exhausted I would forget my children’s names. I felt so isolated and alone, I often thought I wasn’t going to make it. My whole body hurt. I was only 5ft tall and weighed 14 stone because I comfort ate all the wrong food.

Luckily I had my background of Chinese Medicine and Shiatsu to guide me.  I started to improve my diet following Traditional Chinese Medicine Guidelines.  I began to practice a Chi Gong and receive regular shiatsu. I started with baby steps, little by little. I’m 55 now with no panic attacks, and no anxiety. I sleep well, and can remember what I walked into a room for. My skin is glowing and I have no grey hairs. Keeping the weight off can be tricky but I know what to do when the pounds start climbing on and if I have the odd bad nights sleep I know which points to press, which foods to eat and which Chi Gong exercises to do to ensure that things come back to balance naturally. My life is good, I have a sense of purpose, I wake up feeling rested, and I am happy.

The problem for me is that I was suffering Adrenal exhaustion. My kidneys, had nothing left in the tank to balance my hormones naturally, which meant I was either on overdrive with my heart bouncing out of my chest or too exhausted to move of the sofa.  For you it might be your liver making you feel bloated or gaining weight around your middle or your spleen out of balance, craving sweet food to give you energy but with a brain fog to see nothing clearly.

There are no two people the same / there are no two menopause is the same / there are not two solutions the same.

Which is why I created Chi Flow with Jo Intermittent fasting programme.

  • A fasting schedule that increases gently and slowly – not eating from 8pm to 8am – could you do that?
  • 30 min Daily Qi Gong exercises working on the Spleen and Liver (recordings also sent daily)
  • Daily Live Check in – for Q&A and support
  • Daily nutrition advice and recipes
  • Free access to Live Boost metabolism Talk
  • Join me LIVE in my kitchen for easy simple healthy recipes including Castor oil pack to clear a fatty liver
  • Closed Facebook group for sharing and support

We are often told we need to endure or just wait for the menopause to pass, but that can take years.

Don’t regret getting older – this is your time to shine.


So if you are

  • The queen of stripping: taking off layer after layer, with skill and speed when a hot flush hits?
  • Too exhausted to do anything, but when your head hits the pillow, you find it impossible to sleep?
  • A supplement junkie, trying everything to thicken hair, reduce hot flushes, help you sleep, stop your joint pain but nothing works long term?
  • Too nervous to go out because anxiety and heart palpitations appear out of nowhere?
  • Slowly gaining weight around your middle but your arms and legs are staying skinny?

It’s never too early and it’s never too late to make changes so you can be more confident, less anxious, get fitter and stronger, find your purpose, say goodbye to self limiting beliefs and negative emotions.

YOU CAN DO IT ! 

Your best life experiences are still to come

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”

Lao Tzu – Chinese Medicine Philosopher.

At the end of the month I will be giving a FREE fasting and the menopause Qi Gong class – to receive the live link and the recording sent to your email – simply CLICK HERE or enter your email into the form below.

Fancy a FREE Qi Gong class at the end of the month?

 

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Libido in the time of COVID-19

Libido in the time of COVID-19

Fight or flight? Survive, thrive and procreate, these are the two basic instincts of human behavior controlled by the Nervous system. The first stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which controls the body’s responses to a perceived threat by stopping digestion, triggering stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol plus prolactin, the celibacy hormone. It shuts down the lateral thinking parts of the brain, it contracts the vagina and releases the bladder. However, the second, parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the opposite.  It controls natural balance in the body so it can relax, rest, digest, thrive and procreate.

At this time of COVID-19, most people seem to be falling into the first response section and procreating is the furthest from their mind. This flight or fight response is ok if you are under immediate threat but on a long-term basis, the body and mind will become unwell, causing the very situation that you were trying to avoid. So how can we calm down and replenish joyful love into everyday living? In my last blog, I described how to bring romance back to life with spontaneity and trying new things. But maybe you aren’t there, perhaps there has been too much change and you are feeling terrified in a world that doesn’t seem so certain anymore. Attending to your libido seems the furthest from your mind and that’s ok right now. You have to dig where you stand and take action in a way that suits you. So rather than forcing your sex drive to kick start, begin by simply increasing calm and focusing on relaxation, good health will follow.

Infographic from Good Food: Better Sex

The Kidney and Bladder are the organs in the 5element system of Traditional Chinese Medicine that govern the nervous system. Working on these meridians can release tension from the muscles, relax the organs and improve the breathing so that oxygen can feed the body and the mind. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we use food, acupuncture points and Chi Gong exercise to balance and relax the body.  The good news is that it is relatively easy to help the body switch to the parasympathetic nervous system where all parts of the brain are in use, heart rate slows, digestion, absorption and elimination of food happens. It also allows the erection of the penis plus lubrication and opening of the vagina to take place, all you need to do is breathe.


Many practices blend body and breath such as Chi Gong, Ujjayi breathing, Yoga and Tai Chi. Here I share a couple of simple breathing exercises from Good Food: Better Sex.


The first exercise – place your hands on your belly, just below the navel. Take some large breaths. As you breathe in feel your hands rise and as you breathe out feel your hands fall. The belly will decrease as the diaphragm pushes the air out. Focus especially on the out-breath. Breath out as long as possible, right to the end of the breath and hold it for three seconds, let the in-breath take care of itself. Do this at least ten times. Taking your attention along with your palms to the area just below the belly button.

The second exercise – sweep your arms up overhead to gather the energy all around you as you breathe in. As you breathe out, bring down your palms over the front of your face and body, as they come to your belly take them to the back, over the kidneys, sweeping them down the backs of the legs and up the inner legs. Come to rest with your palms holding just below your belly button. Do this ten times and feel your body relaxed, kidney’s restored and nervous system reset.

In the book you will find more exercises including breast and testicular massage, practiced to increase health and longevity, plus beneficial acupressure points and food medicine. https://joannefaulkner.ie/product-category/cook-books/

You don’t need a partner to have Good Food: Better Sex you simply have to be your own best lover. Put your health and wellness first and good things will follow. It is perfectly normal that libido changes especially during times of an unforeseen pandemic and hormonal shifts. Don’t begin to think there is something wrong with you or your relationship. Just breathe, and know that all this will pass.


If you would like to work with me to increase your vitality and energy, to connect with your body, balancing hormones and jump starting your libido – why not book a 1-1 session with me  and I can help you access the innate health of your body, to tune-in with your sexual energy which in Chinese Medicine is at the core of feeling well and ageing slowly.

I can help you know which points to press, which foods to eat and how to communicate with your body

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO

My Curve has flattened

My Curve has flattened

Usually, I live with my partner one week on one week off. He looks after his kids down in West Cork, then comes to Dublin and lives with me for a week. It’s been like that for three years. But just before lockdown began, I traveled to Eyeries on the Beara peninsula. Since then we have been together 24/7. Gone are the evening phone calls where we talked about the day, the weekend strolls when we missed each other’s company and the heightened desire as our bodies longed for each other in the missing week. Now we have it, we have all of it, there’s no escape and I have fallen in love.
I love the peace, I love the view, I love the rhythm to the day. I love waking up without my first thoughts being “what do I have to do today?” I have fallen into a comfortable rhythm of the day. I don’t feel panic, overwhelm or fear during lockdown. I feel good. One unexpected result though is that my curve seems to have flattened. My Libido is low.

Maybe it’s because we are together all the time and as I wrote in my last blog post, regularity is not a recipe for romance. So I have been changing things up, bringing spontaneity into the kitchen and the bedroom. Trying new foods and initiating new things has staved off the boredom. We both practice Chi Gong and have been teaching each other new moves. We have also been playing the Yes/No game from my new book Good Food: Better Sex. You can try this clothed or naked. I will describe here how to play with your clothes on. You can use your imagination or buy the book if you want to try it naked.

 

 


First, ask your partner where they are feeling tension in their body? Where would they most like to be touched and how? As the receiver, check in with yourself; do you want to lie down, sit at the kitchen table, or be held in the giver’s arms? How is the quality of touch you want; light stroking of the hair, firm kneading of the shoulders or simply holding hand? Don’t forget to inform the giver of any areas that are out of bounds, where you don’t want to be touched.


As touch begins the receiver says yes and repeats yes as long as the physical sensation feels pleasurable. As the giver, you can begin to move slowly around the body, perhaps from the arm to the shoulder or from the belly to the breast. As long as the receiver is saying yes then continue. It is essential to hear a verbal “Yes” before continuing. If you hear nothing, take this as a no and massage another area or body part. As the receiver, be clear, if you are feeling yes, say YES and if you are feeling no, say NO. Also, you are encouraged to change your mind. As the receiver, you can also say “that is lovely but I’ve had enough on my feet could you rub my back”
As the giver check-in and ask if what you are doing is enjoyable. If you have been stroking their calves and want to work on their feet, you can always verbally check in with them again before you change. In this way, we are listening to our partner and they are being heard.
I recommend setting a time limit, perhaps begin with two minutes and swap roles after the time is up. When you have more time and you feel like making it more intimate you can increase the time but at first, keep it short and easy. This shouldn’t be a chore. Through this simple, enjoyable two minute exercise we are really listening to our partner and we are really being heard.

Fear and panic can also decrease libido. As a Shiatsu practitioner, I really know how effective touch is to reduce stress and anxiety. If you don’t have a partner I encourage you to massage yourself, begin with your feet and hands, or just stroke your shoulders. Self-pleasure is most effective when we feel good so begin by using touch as a tool for health.


Why not try the Online Courses that can teach you to understand your body and take control of all areas of your health.

How to become more body confident, loving your food, loving your body and loving your life.

Courses include: 2 Online Consultations 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.

Choose from:

  1. Stopping Sweet Cravings
  2. Sexy Savvy Menopause
  3. Reduce Pain in Fibromyalgia  and Chronic Fatigue
  4. Good Food: Better Health & Sexual Energy

Watch the video to find out more at https://joannefaulkner.ie/online-courses/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Good Food, Better Sex during Lockdown?

Good Food, Better Sex during Lockdown?

Maybe you made promises to have and to hold, love and cherish your partner till death did you part but I wonder if that included lockdown situations?  With the occasional burst of entertainment, mixed with long stretches with no other company, you may not be so beguiled by each other.  Nowadays you can Netflix and Chill every night, but I wonder how that is working out for you, how is your relationship now that you are living together 24/7? Are you trying new things or has the boredom of lockdown seeped into the bedroom?


One area in which people do seem to be trying new things is in the kitchen. On social media, it seems like we are all experimenting with food. Everyone is posting their banana bread, buttermilk scones and sourdough starter.  There’s lots of playing with food, experimenting and trying new things. With time on our hands, we are changing and adapting to our new situation by refreshing our menu and falling in love with food all over again.

Romance is something that is on the table at the beginning of a relationship when two people are learning about each other.  Couples take each other out to dinner.  They cook for each other, curious to discover the other person’s likes and dislikes. Shared food is a shared pleasure, all the more exciting when things are new. However, romance becomes stale when you get stuck in a rut.  When you get up at the same time, do the same things, cook the same food, watch the same TV, go to bed with the same routine, and even lovemaking can become repetitive.  However allowing change, even promoting change within the relationship will keep it alive.  So just like trying new recipes, embrace this COVID-19 altered pace of life during lockdown by trying new things in your relationship.  Base your love upon the fundamental truth that everything changes. If a relationship can change, it can remain fresh and romantic.
Perhaps this is why there has been a sharp rise in sales of the book Good Food: Better Sex.  This book mixes the health benefits of food in Traditional Chinese Medicine with sexual health practices found in Tantra and Taoism.  There are fun simple exercises with food such as blindfold play with home-made chocolate covered strawberries. There is a recipe for natural lube with guidance on how to use it, and plenty of practical exercises to bond you and your partner from different ways of touch and ways to say yes and no.

Then there is the food.  With over 100 different recipes to improve all areas of sexual health, try tasting something new together from watermelon and beetroot juice with its viagra effects, to the gentle spices of onion pilaf and Kashmiri cauliflower which boost immunity and ease the digestive system.  Try the oat milk pancakes with pecans and natural yogurt for a perfect Sunday brunch to calm the nervous system, boost fertility, and raise libido.
• 100g oats
• 100g buckwheat flour
• 350ml milk (almond and brown rice milk also works well)
1 egg
• Pinch of salt

Liquidize the oats, buckwheat flour, eggs and milk so that it becomes a milky mixture. Make sure there are no lumps before leaving to rest for at least half an hour.  In a large non-stick pan, melt a nob of butter and coat the pan with it. Pour a ladleful (approx. 50ml) of the prepared pancake mixture onto the pan, tilting it so that it covers the base with a thin coating. These are a crepe style pancake rather than a thick American pancake. When bubbles begin to form on the top of the batter in the pan, flip and cook for another couple of minutes. Slide from the pan onto a plate, dolloping natural yogurt on top with a drizzle of maple syrup and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Good Food: Better Sex focuses on how the body responds to food using flavours, colours, seasons and the senses. It makes it easy and straightforward for you and your partner to try something new and exciting with food.  So instead of eating your dinner in front of the TV together, why not bring back the romance and surprise each other by trying something new? When we emerge from Lockdown, you can look back at this time as having enjoyed deepening connections, Good Food and hopefully Better Sex.


I can teach you how to understand your body and take control of all areas of your health.  How to become more body confident, loving your food, loving your body and loving your life.

Courses include: 2 Online Consultations, regular Q&A check in’s, 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.

Choose from:

  1. Stopping Sweet Cravings
  2. Sexy Savvy Menopause
  3. Reduce Pain in Fibromyalgia  and Chronic Fatigue
  4. Good Food: Better Health & Sexual Energy

Watch the video to find out more at https://joannefaulkner.ie/online-courses/