Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Really? More nature?

"In order to increase our knowledge, we must be in dialogue with nature." 
- Professor S. James Gates, Physicist
I can't seem to get over the idea that nature still informs science. I think, really? Haven't we seen all there is to it on the Discovery Channel?

My story of the future is that we'll be living in the movie Minority Report. Nature will just be an accessory; we'll have found a way to create pure water out of nothing, and we'll keep trees around because they're cute, not because they oxygenate the air, root the earth or provide shade. We'll be over nature like a teenager is so over having parents.

I recently listened to a podcast from On Being with Krista Tippet. Krista interviewed Gates, a string theory physicist, who finds joy in solving the unsolvable questions of the universe (how about THAT for a life purpose). I was struck by his words above, struck that I have something in common with this brilliant man - we both investigate nature to inform our work. Granted, he teaches scientists about advanced mathematics and I may teach patients about age-old bowel movements....but both of us look to nature as our teacher, our textbook, our wikipedia, or google.

The basic laws of nature are my starting point when talking with a patient. For example, how are they in relation to time and space? How are they affected by temperature and pressure changes? How does their body change with more or less consumption of air, water, food and sleep? If a person experiences hot flashes, they may look flushed, have a red tongue, loose stools and rapid pulse. So I think, when there is a heat wave in summer, what moves it? A nice breeze to sweep it through or a sopping rainstorm to cool it down. Similarly, the body can open its pores to vent heat and/or activate its sweat glands to cool with moisture. I look to acupuncture points on the body that prompt these functions that are naturally occurring all around us as well as inside us.

No matter how complex our society becomes, we cannot escape the laws of nature. They bind us and they free us at the same time. When we don't sleep, our bodies shut down. If we don't eat or breathe, we cease. When our time is up, we pass on. And conversely, it is BECAUSE of nature that we could even evolve into an ever more creative tech-addicted modern society. Advancements are born from our ideas, which are electrical firings in our brain, which are only created inside bodies that consume air, water, food & sleep.

Going back to the basics never gets old.
Photo courtesy of Marie Pierre Nuthall

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring takes your body for a roller coaster ride

Before coming to acupuncture school, I thought seasons and weather patterns were just things that either made it easier or harder for me to get out and go places. Rain was a hair killer, snow was a drive killer, hot sun was a fair skin killer. What happened outside stayed outside. It had no affect on me other than that. Or so I thought. 

As I've been studying this medicine based on nature, I've learned how much our own bodies are ecosystems with built in seasons too. Our temperature rises and falls depending on the hour, day and season, and our landscape is either dry (alligator legs?) or rainy (swampy pits?). Our body clocks are affected by the time change. Our hormones are also directly affected by the amount of light the day gives us. Our skins is our largest organ, absorbing and protecting us from not only the sun's rays but also moisture and wind.

News flash: what happens outside is not staying outside. It's all up in your business.

I know spring as a roller coaster called "The Pissed off Life Lover". Every year I expect February to get less and less cold, so that March can grow warmer and warmer so spring can sprinkle it's magic on us with its sunny, 65 degree, bird-chirping, sit-outside-on-a-patio-enjoying-life weather. I've learned though, that part of spring is that one day it's a mess of a rainstorm -  freezing and windy - or the random snowstorm followed by a bright pollen-filled day. One day I'm in love with life: nothing and no one could be more beautiful. The next day I'm a sinusy mess ready to end it all for no apparent reason. It makes for a jerky ride.

That roller coaster feeling in this season is actually the norm. And that pissed feeling for no reason - also the norm. Now that I know it's a roller coaster, and I'm aware that what goes on outside is affecting how I feel on the inside, I'm more prepared. I fasten my seat belt and raise my hands in a screaming smile instead of a scary shriek. In other words, I wear layers, take naps, break out the neti pot(or do a spring cleanse!), drink water, and get a few acupuncture treatments to ease my way through it.

How are you feeling this spring?

(photo courtesy of Avi_Abrams' photostream)

I'll be talking more about this topic on Saturday, 3/10/12 at 10:30am at Crossings in downtown Silver Spring, MD. My classmate Rachel Brumberger and I will be talking about ways to ease into spring including tips about allergies, nutrition, rest, and activities that tap into the emotions that you may or may not be aware of that come with the season too! Join us! Register by emailing me.