In traditional Chinese medicine there are five elements and each are connected to the seasons of the year – Taoists uniquely acknowledge the important transitional season of ‘Late-Summer’ that occurs around late August and September time.
I’d like to share with you some tips on how to keep healthy and harmonious during this Late-Summer season…
You can listen to my teaching on Late-Summer health here:
You can read the full transcript of my teaching on Late-Summer health and harmony below:
In traditional Chinese medicine there are five elements and each are connected to the seasons of the year – Taoists uniquely acknowledge the important transitional season of ‘Late-Summer’ that occurs around late August and September time.
This period is often referred to in the West as the ‘Indian Summer’ and it spans the end of summer and into autumn. This is when Summer with its extreme Yang energy, intense brightness and heat, yields and softens to the beginning of autumn, when the cooler Yin energy start to creep in.
Late-Summer in Chinese medicine and philosophy is associated with the Earth element, which is just one of the five Chinese medicine elements that also include: Metal, Water, Wood and Fire – each associated with one of the seasons of the year.
Taoists teach that you should always align and harmonise your energy with the current season, the translation of this concept being ‘appropriateness’. You can attune to the energies and qualities of the Late-Summer season and the Earth element in three ways: through your lifestyle, diet and spiritual health practices.
So let’s first consider some lifestyle habits…
The Earth’s energy is at its most dominant during the Late Summer period, with nature’s fruits being at their ripest and crops ready to harvest. You too should enjoy and take advantage of this absolute abundance by gathering and distributing all that Mother Nature has to offer during this time of opportunity before the colder and inwardly-focused Yin months ahead.
I’d encourage you to become mindfully aware of how you nurture yourself and your life force. The goal of this season is to return to your central core to re-generate and continue to allow your life force or Qi to flow, but in a more seasonal appropriate and balanced way.
Take time to care for yourself first, so that you can then nurture others. Remember: YOUR authentic and balanced well-being is of greatest important. Support others but without over-extending your own energy. Value and nourish yourself as the highest level of personal spiritual practice you can do, so that your love can then flow out to others.
Even though Late- Summer is a short season it can be marked by intense transformation within nature and you – remember: ‘you are part of nature, nature is part of you’.
For many, this is the time of returning to work or study after the summer break and making life plans for the working year ahead. On a mental and emotional level, the Earth element is in charge of ‘digesting’ your thoughts and cultivating your mind-set, and thus governs your learning, thinking and analysis.
The Earth element also symbolises your human need to be grounded and to firmly establish your roots in a solid base. Whether this is the place you call home, a family or community unit, or your work environment, your environmental or outer-world stability will always help create an inner stability and harmony within you.
Things in your ‘outer world’ will, however, always remain changeable, and this is why cultivating a strong and flexible inner-stability, through your daily personal routines and mindfulness practices, is also important.
The Taoists teach that you should be like the bamboo that can bend in any wind but will always remain firmly rooted! So how can you be more like the bamboo?… Well, inner calm and harmony can start with something as simple as being careful to not absorb too much negative news in the media, or by ensuring that you also spend time energetically digesting and nourishing yourself by reading, listening to, or watching positive and uplifting things every day.
Extending the need to be grounded to the Earth and your spiritual-self, you should also mindfully work at strengthening your connection with what I refer to as your ‘Spiritual Truth’.
This truth will be different and very personal for everyone, but essentially it means asking yourself: “Am I living with honesty and integrity, doing the things I love?...or…. ‘Am I settling for doing what others want or expect me to do, or am I being limited and blocked by my emotional feelings and fears?”
Simply by asking yourself these personal enquiry questions you’re acknowledging that you are an individual, divine spirit, and they will help you begin to re-connect with your spiritual truth and potential.
Remember: truth and love are one of the same.
You can also strengthen your spiritual and energetic alliance with the Earth and the wider Cosmos by spending time with and in nature, either by being outdoors in a ‘green’ environment, or by caring for nature’s plants and animals in some way.
So now let’s consider your diet…
The Late-Summer Earth element is associated with the Spleen, Stomach and Pancreas organ systems of the body and you can nurture your Earth element and these associated digestive organs through your diet.
In traditional Chinese medicine the Spleen is a central organ and any blockages or imbalances in its energy can affect the whole body. The Spleen’s role is to be the chief distributor of Qi energy from foods through to every cell of the body. All other organs depend on it for nourishment and health. The Pancreas works alongside the Spleen to control the extraction and assimilation of nutrients.
The Stomach’s role is to rot and ripen your food and, as the receiver of nourishment, it takes the energy from food for the Spleen to then distribute.
In Late-Summer the weather can remain warm but you should resist the temptation to have excessive amounts of cold drinks or raw food and salads as the stomach actually prefers warmer foods, which will help ease the digestive process (porridge is a perfect example of this).
The Earth element is also associated with the taste of ‘sweet’, and eating or drinking slightly sweet foods at an appropriate level will nourish the Earth element and its associated organs (a fruit such as a pear would be a perfect example of this).
But it’s all about BALANCE! So too much sweet food can also overwhelm and damage the organ and meridian system and impact your energy levels. So, as always the case in Chinese medicine health care, moderation is the key. Listen to your body with truth and honesty, pause whilst eating, and NEVER eat to full capacity!
Ok, so finally let’s review some emotional and spiritual health practices…
The Earth element is associated with the emotion we described as ‘worry’ caused by over-thinking. If you’re a person favouring the Earth element you’ll need to be mindful of balancing your emotional energy to prevent excessive feelings, such as those we label as worry or anxiety, as you’ll be particularly sensitive to this form of imbalance.
I work with many clients whose Spleen energy is out of balance, because of lifestyle, dietary or emotional issues, and this will commonly manifest in digestive health problems and sluggishness in their physical energy, coupled with emotional problems such as: being stuck, stubborn or inflexible.
Similarly, I see many clients whose present an imbalance in their Stomach energy and this will also manifest in digestive health problems and the emotions they would describe as: loneliness, emptiness or abandonment.
Both types of imbalance can usually be treated and energetically harmonised relatively quickly in the short term through acupuncture and dietary changes. However, if the underlying cause of the imbalance is an emotional one, I would suggest talking therapy work, and I would spend time with my client to help them understand and harmonise their emotional energy so that the imbalance doesn’t reoccur in the medium to long-term.
The Earth element emotions described as worry and neediness are counterbalanced by learning trust and acceptance. Though a journey of a personal and spiritual self- enquiry and awakening, I would like you to think about how you can cultivate on a daily basis, a more open and trusting mind-set both in yourself and the Cosmos around you. Remember as a ‘child’ of the Cosmos, you are blessed and held, you are divine, and you have nothing to fear!
Taoist blessings for an abundant Late–Summer season
I wanted to devote this short introductory teaching to the extreme side of your Yang mind and its child-like energy, as it can affect all of us at some point in our lives.
I’ve observed that if not appropriately loved, guided and educated, your Yang mind in its extreme can negatively affect your general health and well-being, happiness and life potential in the long-term. In other words: your mind, body and spirit….
You can listen to my introductory teaching on your Yin Yang Mind and Inner Child here:
You can read the full transcript of my introductory teaching your Yin Yang Mind and Inner Child below.
P.S. I’m also producing an extended Wu Wei Wisdom teaching on the subject of your Yang Inner-Child, which will be available in September 2014. In this extended teaching you’ll learn:
How to identify when your Yang Inner Child is affecting you emotions, thoughts, words and actions and life purpose and potential.
How to uncover and explore the childhood circumstances that have created your Yang Inner-Child.
I’ll offer you a range of proven and practical spiritual tips and techniques to take control of your Yang InnerChild and your life.
You’ll also benefit from a range of powerful spiritual enquiry questions, affirmations and healing guided meditations to help you discover, reconnect to and manage your Yang Inner-Child for inner clarity, balance, harmony and peace.
TRANSCRIPT OF INTRODUCTORY TEACHING ON THE INNER-CHILD
……I’d like to step back for a moment to first consider the wholeness and oneness of your unique and authentic energy. You should understand that this can present itself with two very different characteristics. Although interdependent and mutually supportive, the nature of these two characteristics can at times create confusion and turmoil as they attempt to coexist and cooperate with each other within the wholeness or oneness of your energy.
On one hand your energy can manifest as the playful, joyful, spirited, open, non-judgemental, inquisitive and the expansive side of your nature. These are the qualities that reflect the softer, spiritually-centred and spiritually-connected ‘Yin’ part of who you are – this is what the Taoists teach as ‘Shen’.
There is another characteristic of your energy, more childlike and immature, that resides within the human-centred ‘Yang’ manifestation of your oneness. This arises strongly when the energy of your human Yang mind perceives itself to be under threat, exposed or facing the unknown. It becomes volatile, unbalanced and moves into its extreme as a form of self-protection.
In this extreme state your Yang energy is more disruptive and expressed most notably through your emotions of fear and self-doubt. The Taoists teach this as a ‘Shen disturbance’, a state of energy being far removed from your authentic, harmonious inner balance, inner peace and ‘Wu Wei’.
It is these two extremes of the same energy that people find so confusing and difficult to recognise.
In its extreme your volatile Yang energy behaves much in the same way as an unruly, immature and out-of-control child, and will create a sense of chaos and disorder in your thinking and emotions. This is why many people also refer to this energetic expression of themselves as their ‘inner-child’, another popular term for this out of balance energy would be ‘theEgo’.
The discomfort your extreme Yang mind causes you to crave to return back to the familiarity and safety of ‘how things were before’, even if this has never been successful for you. Your extreme Yang mind wants to be safe and secure above anything else!
I lovingly meet and greet my client’s extreme Yang energy on a daily basis in my therapy work at Peak House Practice…
The energetic diagnosis and subsequent harmonising and rebalancing of both their Yin and Yang energies, be it physical, emotional or spiritual, is what they come to me for guidance, help and support with – even though they may not necessarily fully understand or appreciate this when we first meet!
I also want you to know that this expression of energetic extreme is not just confined to the safety and comfort of my therapy room. I often observe it in action in my everyday life as I encounter people who exhibit the tell tale signs of their Yang inner-child whilst going about their business. I too am not immune and I’m pretty sure my wife would tell you that she also endures my occasional extremes of Yang energy at times!
Everyone will experience this energetic state of being at some point in their life. It is part of humanity’s journey and this is why it’s such a universally relevant and important issue to explore and make sense of today.
The key is to be able to recognise these extremes of energy and understand their trigger or cause when they arise, either within you or someone you love, so that you can learn to lovingly support and rebalance the energy as quickly as possible!
Your Yin and Yang energy will always ebb, flow and transform, as is the nature of all energy in the Cosmos. Guided by misunderstandings in your belief system it can swing into its extreme state because of the people, events and situations you encounter.
But never forget part of our journey is to understand how these two characteristics are not opposite, separate or at ‘warring states’. They have to coexist and cooperate, they are one. A Taoist proverb states “bees need flowers, flowers need bees” and this equally applies to the Yin and Yang characteristics of your mind.
So where does the extreme energy of your Yang mind Inner-Child come from?
Well… in my experience, your Yang mind energy is first moved to its extreme during your childhood or adolescence years, and this is normally because you’re sensitivity has matured much earlier than your cognitive reasoning, and so this creates an energetic imbalance within you.
What happens then is the familiarity of your experiences or environment can hold you into becoming ‘blocked’ and ‘stuck’ in this extreme energy. And so it is that your child-like traits of thinking and doing are repeated time and time again, almost like they are connected to an ‘emotional loop’ on constant replay.
This pattern can easily continue through your teen years and well into your adult life. Even though it is energetically unnatural and unhealthy to do so, it has now become familiar way of thinking. With your child-like misplaced determination and misguided beliefs you now perceive being familiar,safer or the ‘lesser of two evils’.
An extreme of Yang energy can arise during these important childhood and adolescent years. This is often when an emotionally significant, unfamiliar, challenging or traumatic experience or a series of events, trigger uncomfortable, upsetting and seemingly overwhelming feelings within you, and you believe it is beyond your capability to deal with these emotions.
At this young age it is understandable that, if you’re not appropriately guided by an adult, you will be left unable to make sense of and logically rationalise what is happening to you. So you’re left being confused, rejected, unloved, abandoned, guilty, ashamed, sad, or frustrated. The full spectrum of childhood emotions are being created by your misunderstanding and childlike thoughts and you can’t figure out or understand why this is, or even what’s happening to you.
And so the energy of your child-like Yang mind becomes paralysed, frozen and trapped in that scary moment of time. From then onwards you begin to question, doubt and blame yourself as being the only way out of this dilemma.
You begin to fear the world around you, perceive you are alone and a victim, “not enough” to be unable to manage or cope. You begin to reject and move away from everyone and everything including your divine spiritual nature and your ability to connect with and share in the magnificence of the Cosmos.
So how can you harmonise and rebalance your Yang mind and Inner-Child and take control of your life?
Well…. many people think that their Yang mind, Inner-Child or Ego is their enemy to be battled with or something to be ashamed of. I’d like you to understand that this is definitely not the case – it’s just the oneness of the energy of your beautiful mind in its Yang extremities, and it badly needs help, support and above all love.
The Yang mind can be very misguided, needy, fearful and scared, but never underestimate its strength of determination and stubbornness. What it craves is some loving, calm, authentic and logical spiritual guidance that will help it develop and mature into its majestic beauty and fullness. Although you shouldn’t be surprised if it rejects this in the first instance! Remember it is childlike and very stubborn!
Many people believe that this energetic transformation and rebalancing is something that will take years or a whole lifetime to achieve but this is not true!
Once your Yang inner-child begins to trust this process and feels loved and supported, it will start to enjoy the emotional education process and participate openly and freely. The Taoists teach this as a “blessing” and when you feel able to receive the blessing, changes will happen surprisingly quickly.
You’ll be amazed how swiftly the energy of your mind, your thoughts, your actions and therefore your life re-balances and re-harmonises in a very positive way as you regain your authenticity and life’s purpose. This is Wu Wei or ‘effortless effort’.
You can subtly attune to the exuberant energy and bountiful qualities of summer and it’s associated Chinese medicine element of Fire through your lifestyle, diet and spiritual health practices.
I’d like to share with you some tips on how to keep healthy and harmonious this summer, and offer you a guided meditation to nurture and support your heart, which is one of the most important organs of the traditional Chinese medicine summer season…
You can listen to my teaching on summertime health and harmony here:
To complement this summer health teaching, you can listen to my ‘Taoist Inner Smile Meditation’ recording here:
You can read the full transcript of my teaching on summertime health and harmony below:
Summer in traditional Chinese medicine is associated with the Fire element. Fire is the element of enthusiasm, drive, desire, joy and passion. If you are a person favouring the Fire element you will be lively, dynamic, outgoing and enthusiastic.
Taoists teach that you should always align and harmonise your energy with the current season, the translation of this concept would be ‘appropriateness’. The Fire element in Chinese medicine is associated with Yang. Unlike the deeper, darker, calmer Yin element of the winter months, Yang is all about excitement, assertiveness and exuberance.
This is a season when all of nature is in full bloom and the same should be true for you. But, as with any other time of the year, it’s all about finding the harmonious Wu Wei balance, so remember: if your Yang energy becomes too volatile this can also create problems too.
You can subtly attune to the energies and qualities of the summer season and the Fire element through your lifestyle, diet and spiritual health practices.
So let’s first consider some lifestyle habits…
As a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner I always recommend that, where possible, you take advantage of the long summer days by rising earlier in the morning, perhaps going to bed slightly later at night and getting in some rest at midday. This rest period could be a 10 minute power-nap or sitting quietly with your eyes closed somewhere private. Of course, as you would guess, I would strongly recommend a 10 minute meditation and there is mounting evidence that even a short period of meditation has many beneficial effects on your mind, body and spirit.
Be careful to avoid the temptation to over exert yourself and do too much during this more active period of the year, as this will also create an internal imbalance. For instance, a lot of clients have difficulty sleeping during hotter weather and this can also affect the balance of their energies. So ensure you make the appropriate adjustments to your bedroom environment or your rest patterns to help with this.
Nature reaches is fullest potential during the summer months and so, as you too are part of the Oneness of nature, it’s a perfect time for you to also focus on your potential, changes in your life, on growth, joy and spiritual awareness.
Think about how you can develop your creative or spiritual self. Perhaps try a new hobby or experience, something that might push you out of your comfort zone. Do it now, don’t procrastinate, this is absolutely the time of year just to get out there and do it! You should also make it a priority to devote some time to doing the things you really love. Simply make an effort to get more joy and laugher in your life this summer.
The next thing I’d like you to consider is your diet…
In summer, indigestion can easily occur, so I always recommend a light and less-greasy diet at this time of year.
So that your Fiery Yang side does not overheat, now is perfect season to introduce some cooling ‘Yin’ foods into your diet. Food with cool and cold properties will clear excess heat, reduce toxins, and generate vital body fluids.
In general, cooling foods tend towards the green end of the spectrum, so things like lettuce, cucumber, and watercress, for example. Fish and seafood are also very cooling, in contrast to most meats, which can be warming.
It may be common sense but do also remember to drink plenty of water. Although it can be tempting to enjoy that extra glass of chilled wine or beer as a cooling summer treat, do be aware that alcohol is very Yang and heating, which can easily upset your inner balance – so as always, enjoy…. but moderation is key!
So what are the spiritual and health practices that can nurture your health during the summer season?
Well, in Chinese medicine the summer Fire element is associated with the organs of the small intestine, pericardium, triple burner and, most importantly, the heart.
The Taoists describe the heart as the ‘supreme controller’ and teach that the ‘Shen’, or spirit, resides in the heart. Any imbalances of the heart mean that the functions of the Shen will be impaired. This is why supporting the heart energy is absolutely vital to your emotional and spiritual health as well as your physical well-being.
According to Chinese medicine, when the summer element of Fire is out of balance, a person’s joy, the emotion associated with the heart, can go haywire, and when their Fire is deficient they can feel totally ‘flat’ and ‘burned out’.
Many people come to me for an acupuncture treatment during the summer months suffering from excessive yang energy or a heart energy imbalance. Typically they can feel restless, irritable, tense, or tend to be more argumentative. They may be suffering from poor sleep patterns or have allergies such as hay fever, skin irritations, rashes or eczema that have suddenly flared up. All are symptoms of an underlying excessive yang Fire, which can be rebalanced naturally with a few acupuncture treatments and slight tweaks in their lifestyle or eating habits.
Finally, for those of you who like to practice self-nurturing and self-healing, the Taoist ‘Inner Smile Meditation’ is a wonderful meditation to support and lift the heart fire energy at this time of year. I’ve recorded this meditation for you, which can be found on my website [the audio link is at the top of this post]. I hope you enjoy practising that inner smile…
The month of June has seen both Father’s Day celebrations and National Men’s Health Week in the UK. This has prompted me to share some teachings on my work supporting male clients and their physical, emotional and spiritual health.
In this interview I offer practical advice for men wanting to nurture their health and happiness, and for women seeking to understand the emotional mind-set of the men in their life. I also explore the relevance of a spiritual approach to resolving the everyday problems and challenges that men are faced with.
You can listen to my teaching on men’s emotional and spiritual health here:
You can read the full transcript of my teaching on men’s emotional and spiritual health below:
I wanted to share with you my experience and thoughts on men’s health and their physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing…
In my practice I’ve traditionally treated men mainly for physical health issues, such as pulled muscles, difficulty with their joints etc. but I’ve also noticed that more recently, men in general seem to be much more open to addressing their emotional issues and are grasping the fundamental connection between their emotions and their physical health. Men are now more happy and comfortable to use the emotional label: ‘stress’ in relation to their feelings and this is now often the first reason why they come to see me.
A lot of men feel stressed trying to meet the demands of the workplace and home and balancing the two together. This is particularly true since we’ve been through this recent very difficult economic and financial time and a lot of men have been either under the threat of redundancy or their own company has been under extreme financial pressure.
For many of my male clients these sorts of situations are very difficult to reconcile and balance and a lot of them feel that they have no one they can talk to or relate their concerns and fears without being perceived as ‘being weak’. As a result they experience the uncomfortable and often seemingly overwhelming physical feelings that we commonly call ‘stress’.
Learning how to lovingly control and discipline your mind and your thinking when going through very testing times and life situations is one of our greatest challenges as human beings. If, as a man, you hold the belief that you must always be strong, successful and unflappable in any situation, because everyone else depends on you, this misunderstanding can make life very difficult for you at times. Ironically such beliefs block your flow of energy and will stifle your inner creativity and resourcefulness when you actually need it most.
Of course, if as a man you’ve never been taught how to question your beliefs and control any unbalanced and unhealthy thinking or negative self-talk that may arise from these beliefs, it can seem difficult or time wasting to do so at first.
So a normal session with a male client would be something like them coming to me wanting to talk about their ‘stress’ in whatever form, and then hopefully we can quickly move to a place where we can explore what is at the root of these feelings. I show them how, by choosing to reject any unhealthy and unhelpful beliefs and take control their thinking they can easily and quickly neutralise and balance their emotional feelings. This is the most efficient and effective way to control your emotional feelings.
Once they understand this teaching and how to return to their most authentic, open and creative state of Wu Wei – that place of authentic inner balance and harmony, they can easily apply it to any life situation for themselves. This process of self-discovery and self-mastery is very practical and straightforward (which men love!), and can be incredibly liberating and powerful for any man who has otherwise been used to ignoring, withholding, and suppressing their feelings or being overwhelmed by their emotions.
It can be used and perceived as an emotional toolbox!
So what are the consequences of not dealing with the underlying cause of ‘stress’ for a man?
Well… the suppressed energy of a man’s emotional avoidance has to go somewhere – the nature of all energy is that should flow. It cannot and should not be held in one place, and so it will manifest in other out– of -balance elements of their life or health.
Blocked emotional energy can present itself physically in many ways but it would normally be something like a stiffness in their neck and shoulders or lower back, digestive or sexual health problems, or an inability to have a good night sleep. In terms of their lifestyle a man may be drinking and smoking too much or gambling as a form of emotional avoidance. They may be pulling themselves away from their family and home life, or creating a sense of isolation by working long hours in the office or bringing their work home with them and not be able to switch off.
Again, all these physical health or lifestyle issues are the type of things men often find easier to talk to me about in the first instance before we can comfortably move on to explore the much deeper or root emotional issues that need to be resolved.
In actual fact, some men may NOT initially consider their problems as emotional because they do not want to admit to it themselves. Many men are fearful that their emotions could be seen as a weakness or failure within them and so they are much happier to talk in general terms about ‘stress’ or ‘not been able to sleep’ or ‘smoking or drinking too much’.
I believe that emotions are a Universal and natural feature of the human condition and that we are all part of this Oneness. When a man can grasp that emotions are not a weakness at all, but are actually a great strength, asset and powerful ally IF understood and used correctly then their whole outlook changes.
Occasionally a frustrated female client will ask me if there is merit in giving their partner or husband a copy of the popular book ‘Men are From Mars – Women Are From Venus’ by John Grey, in order to help their men work on their emotions …but there’s definitely no one-size fits all solution I’m afraid!
Some men could enjoy the book and they will see themselves in it and can relate to what is written… but I also think a lot of men would have difficulty in reading the book and would find it even more confusing.
The reason for this is that many men are looking for a practical fix for their problems and don’t want to identify or associate with other men’s ‘issues’ and the deeper emotional psychology of mankind!
Having said that, the concept presented in the book of a man ‘going into his cave’ is certainly something that I see men do a lot. When encountering a difficult or threatening situation a man will often isolate himself in order to focus on the perceived problem at hand. This is often done because they believe that they can’t rely on or trust anyone else to deal with the situation, and so they become very single-minded and narrowly focussed on the problem. But this also means they start to overlook and limit all of the possible scenarios, solutions and outcomes to a situation.
In these situations I would encourage them to learn to trust that venturing out of their ‘emotional cave’ can be a good thing! Being more open and talking to someone else can often open up more possibilities and bring about a swifter and more positive resolution to life’s challenges.
It’s for this reason that some practical one-to-one coaching and guidance can really help men in these sorts of situations. I often refer to it as ‘sitting with it’. I like to sit in the middle of the problem or issue with my male clients, whether it’s in a face-to face session with me at Peak House Practice in Derbyshire or a Skype session with a client someone 1000’s of miles away. We then drill down and shine a torch-light on the route strands of the situation in hand and then kick around several ideas and solutions until we find one that feels right for them.
I always remind them that if you have only one solution, you have a problem. Two solutions you have a dilemma, three or more solutions you have authentic choice!
These tailor made outcomes are bespoke to each client and this can feel more comfortable for my male clients who don’t want to be offered a generalised stereotype or a mass market solution to an problem that is very personal to them.
They can then go away try out and test some of the practical steps, then come back, give me their feedback and we can tweak and adjust the next steps and actions accordingly to make it good fit for them.
By using this process, their emotional intelligence and emotional mastery skills become honed and crafted into a balanced, harmonious and well-oiled-machine that serves them well for many years to come!
So what place has spirituality within men’s practical health and life issues?
I believe all matters of emotional and physical balance and harmony are spiritual issues… I think a lot of men have great difficulty in embracing the idea of their own spirituality, compared to women who often find exploring their spirituality far easier.
Many men have been bought up in an environment and taught that they ‘should be tough‘, that ‘boys don’t cry‘, that ‘they should pull themselves together‘ and ‘not be a sissy‘ etc.
So I think that one of the greatest challenges I have with my male clients is to explain to them that, no matter how well intentioned, these are poor and even incorrect teachings, and that connecting to their spirituality means having integrity and being truthful and honest with themselves and how they life their life.
Being spiritual is not about being religious, nor is it about what many people think of as New Age mumbo-jumbo, it’s actually about believing, thinking and doing what feels authentically right for you, NOT what is or was right for your parents, teachers, peers or significant others your life.
Taoist’s teach that the male energy is naturally is more Yang than that of a female – taken to its extreme this means a propensity for being loud, boisterous, extroverted and showing off, or of course the direct opposite. But this too can be a generalisation and stereotype and so this is why I prefer to diagnose and treat each client on an individual basis.
It can, however, be useful for some of my male clients to understand the qualities and characteristics of Yang and to teach them how not to overstimulate this energy but instead bring it back into a balance by encouraging them to cherish and explore the softer and more thoughtful and loving qualities of their energy.
This teaching has also been useful for many of my clients who are parents to boys. Many parents will ask me for advice on nurturing their children’s spirit and energy and I believe the key, whether it be for boys or girls, is to encourage their individuality and self-expression.
Every human being has an element of self-doubt so as early as possible a parent should try and deal with this seed of doubt. Talk it through with your child… help them understand they will make mistakes, they don’t have to be perfect, and that above all else they are divine! Remember: expectations or criticism never motivate and will only serve to inflame their self-doubt.
Empowerment for many men comes from freeing themselves from the heavy shackles of the male stereotype which has been forced on them from external sources throughout their life and allowing themselves to reconnect with a much more powerful force within: their true spiritual nature.
This spiritual nature is the Yin part of all of us. It is the most dominant, resourceful, creative and creative force within – it is who you REALLY are. The rest of the fears, comparisons, achievements, are is merely an illusion constructed by the human Yang mind or what some people call the Ego – this is what separates you from the Oneness of everyone else and the Cosmos and makes you fearful and insecure.
When a man can reconnect to his spiritual nature this will provide him with an unwavering and a solid anchor and guide during any uncharted and challenging times in his life. Their Yin spiritual nature is soft and yielding, it does not shout, scream or push excessively or aggressively like the Yang mind does, yet it get things get done! Remember softness does not mean weakness – the Taoist teaching is the Yin part of us is ‘the iron fist in a velvet glove’!
Many men ask me how can being spiritual help with the practical, real life problem they are facing right now?
Well…. when I counsel and coach men on finding the healthy and harmonious Wu Wei balance in their life situations, whether it’s dealing with a particular family or relationship matter, or resolving a cash flow or staffing problem in their business, we are also dealing with a practical spiritual matter!
We are working at first unblocking and defining their spiritual energy or Qi (Chi) and balancing and harmonising this with the spiritual energy of their partner, other family members, their business, its assets or staff.
This means that the spiritual energy and intention they put into their relationship or business should be a true and authentic reflection of who they are and what they are passionate about. Once this is in order we then working towards nurturing the dynamic energy of the relationship or business so that it flows as smoothly and harmoniously as possible. This is what I refer to as Wu Wei, the state of effortless-effort.
I’ve just held my first Spiritual Sunday Retreat in the UK, which was a wonderful sharing experience for everyone who attended. To mark the occasion we’ve just created a new video that captures some of the moments of the day – you can watch it here:
I’ve also just set up a new YouTube video channel where I’ll be posting future Wu Wei Wisdom video teachings and meditations – please subscribe to this channel if you’d like to receive these videos as they happen.
I’ll be running two more special retreats this year and more information on these events can be found on my Peak House Practice website here.
Next week marks national Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which this year focuses on the subject of anxiety.
Anxiety and anxiety related health issues are something I work with on a daily basis as clients from all over the world contact me seeking a drug-free, alternative and spiritual solution to empower them take control of, heal and rebalance their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
If you suffer from the uncomfortable feelings that are commonly labelled as anxiety, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), panic-attacks or a phobia of any kind, I’ve recorded a practical teaching and a guided meditation on the subject to help you calm your anxious mind…
You can listen to and download my teaching on anxiety awareness and treatment here:
You can listen to and download my guided mediation for anxiety and stress here:
You can read the full transcript of my teaching on anxiety awareness and treatment below:
What is anxiety?
In West anxiety is often described as worry or fear that often arises because of a perceived threat or a perception that something going wrong in the future.
Anxiety can affect you psychological health – your ability to concentrate, your sleep patterns, and your general mood. It can be like a vicious circle between your physical health and psychological wellbeing.
Around 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem like anxiety each year and in the US anxiety disorders affect 18% of the adult population.
You may occasionally experience fleeting and brief moments of these uncomfortable feelings that are commonly labelled in the West as anxiety,or perhaps these feelings are a more familiar, regular and ongoing for you? You may have even been diagnosed as suffering from: panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) or a phobia.
I prefer not to use these emotive labels as, in my experience, they confuse, corrupt, and even negatively re-infect your thinking, and in turn can increase the uncomfortable emotional feelings that you may be experiencing.
Let’s look more deeply at anxiety – what is it really?
The term anxiety is actually a description of a range of physical feelings, such as: a churning or ‘butterflys’ in your stomach, a tightness in your chest, a weakness or tenseness in your muscles, dry mouth, dizziness etc.
I find it more helpful to call all of these feelings red-light feelings, because they are telling you something is misaligned in your thinking and that you are currently out of your spiritual balance.
These red-light feelings, no matter how unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unwelcome they may seem, are NOT your enemy, in fact they are your best friend, when used correctly. They are highlighting that you have a personal or spiritual lesson to learn in this situation – this is what the ancient Taoists call ‘a blessing’.
So you have a choice…
You can choose to learn the lesson being presented and accept the blessing by mindfully working through the process of using your feelings as a helpful spiritual guide and understanding how to love and trust your unique abilities to authentically deal with any situation you are presented with in a loving a flexible way.
Or you can choose to ignore the lesson by attempting to avoid the situations or people that have highlighted your spiritual misunderstanding and created the subsequent red-light feelings. Or you may choose to try to mask the acute red-light feelings with suppressants like alcohol, food, drugs, shopping – anything that diverts you away from having to take responsibility for the situation and your authentic thinking.
Unfortunately these types of avoidances are just an illusion, they will never work!
If you try to avoid or ignore the red-light feelings they will come back, sometimes even more acutely, as the Cosmic life lessons will re-present themselves again and again, perhaps in different way, as a different situation or person, but they will always return until the spiritual lesson is learnt.
You need to understand that when you avoid your red-light feelings like this you are also limiting your life fulfilment, constricting your potential and, more importantly, betraying your self-worth and your Cosmic Contract. This paradoxically increases the red-light feelings.
Remember, you have a spiritual contract with the Cosmos you came from to live your spiritual truth, so take responsibility for yourself and your life journey, honour that unique divine Oneness within you.
This process will not always be easy, straightforward or even comfortable. But the rewards are immense and profound as you raise your Qi energy vibrations and start to open yourself up to, and aligning with, the Cosmic flow of energy and love that is all around you and just waiting for you to reconnect.
You can take control right now – take the first step!
I want you to learn to be able to change your red-light feelings into green-lights, these are the feelings of joy, contentment, satisfaction and bliss.
This state of being is your birth-right. Remember, you don’t have to earn love, you are love! This is a state of inner balance and harmony, or what the ancient Chinese Taoists call Wu-Wei. This is when you are in your flow or your ‘sweet-spot’, operating to your highest and fullest potential.
Simple things right now to regain you inner balance and find your Wu-Wei:
Try talking to someone but ban the ‘F’ word – don’t focus on your feelings, instead examine your thoughts and beliefs that created those feelings and try and find your spiritual misalignment.
Be soft and loving to yourself… don’t fight fire with fire as it just makes the fire bigger! Make friends with your feelings and use them as your guide: keep diary so you can become mindful of what thoughts create what feelings. Look out for those spiritual lessons that are being presented to you every day. Be interested and happy to explore those lessons – these are your blessings!
Develop your self-love and self-worth with healthy lifestyle habits:
~ Avoid excesses such as too much coffee, sugar or alcohol as these can over stimulate an already sensitive situation.
~ Find ways to positively channel your sensitivity and creative imagination by doing things you have a passion for and artistically stretch and stimulate yourself in a positive way.
~ Explore relaxation… why not try mediation or gentle exercise such as qigong, tai chi and yoga – all of these are excellent practices.
Above all, ask yourself when you encounter these life lessons: ‘is this my spiritual truth?’… and always live in your spiritual truth.
This will move you away from your red-lights and connect you back to your green-lights, your birth-right, WHO YOU REALLY ARE.
This is your spiritual journey: drop your shoulders, breathe deeply, relax – always live in your spiritual truth.
How wonderful it is to now be in Spring with nature bursting into abundance!
I’ve recorded this Taoist Spring Meditation with guidance on traditional Chinese medicine springtime health. I’ve also included lots of positive affirmations and powerful practical and spiritual tips to help you stay happy, harmonious and at peace this season. I hope you enjoy it!
You can listen to and download my Spring Meditation here:
To mark national Allergy Awareness Week in the UK, this interview explores my work with traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture and their successful role as an alternative and natural treatment for hay fever. You’ll also learn tips to help you self-manage your hay fever symptoms during the spring and summer months.
You can listen to the audio recording of this interview here:
Read the full interview transcript below:
Alexandra Lees: Allergy Awareness Week is marked at the end of April in the UK. This coincides with an increased number of patients visiting Peak House Practice concerned about their hay fever as Spring sets in…
David James Lees:Hay fever is considered to be an over reactivity of the immune system due to certain allergens. Around 20% of the UK population suffer from hay fever and its irritating symptoms make for a miserable spring and summertime for many people.
Research, published in the journal Allergy showed that traditional Chinese medicine can dramatically reduce hay fever symptoms such as a runny nose and itchy eyes.
Acupuncture has been used in China and other eastern cultures to both prevent and treat the symptoms of hay fever reactions for over 2,500 years.
AL: So what’s the Chinese medicine take on hay fever?
DL:Well,from a Chinese medicine perspective hay fever can be diagnosed as a deficiency in the Lung and Kidney defensive Qi or energy systems.
Often this is combined with an invasion or retention of what Chinese medicine practitioners refer to as chronic ‘Wind’ – this is not the same as the wind we associate with digestive upsets!!! Together both can present as an extremely acute physical condition.
The cause of this type of ‘deficiency’ can vary so a Chinese medicine practitioner would always undertake a full diagnosis of the patient and their history to understand this better.
In my experience, one of the main causes can be damaging lifestyle practices such as: smoking, drug taking, and excessive eating or alcohol consumption. But I would also consider any circumstances that may have reduced the client’s physical immunity or robustness.
I would also check for some other more obscure, but potentially important issues. For example, problems or difficulties during their mother’s pregnancy, and their childbirth or childhood, may have created a general long-term weaknesses in the energy of their Lung or Kidney Qi.
Perhaps a previous serious Lung or breathing illness may have resulted in a weakness in their ‘Lung and Kidney defensive Qi’. In this case there may be other health issues involved, for example: asthma and skin rashes or irritation, such as eczema or psoriasis.
Something that is NOT often considered in the West, is the client’s emotional state, particularly around the emotions of fear or grief. In Chinese medicine these emotions can directly affect the organs of the Kidney and Lungs if not harmoniously resolved, and in my experience can have a direct influence on the resilience of your immune system.
AL: What are your observations as a practitioner?
DL:Well, in my experience hay fever and associated allergies are unfortunately on the increase.
I’m unsure whether this is due to the general lowering of our immune systems in our modern society, meaning we are now less able to deal with allergens in the environment such as: pollen, spores or a polluted atmosphere caused by vehicle and industrial emissions.
Some studies have suggested that the changes in fluctuations seasonal temperature and the increasing unpredictability of the seasons may also be having an impact.
As an observation from my own practice, I have also noticed that in recent years more people seem to begin to suffer with hay fever later in their life. This means that could have their first hay fever ‘attack’ well into their 50’s or even 60’s!!
There has also been a notable shift in the timing of the onset of hay fever through the course of the year: it used to only be a condition of Spring, but I am increasingly treating patients whose hay fever starts in Summer or even Autumn.
As more people become sensitive to the change in pollen counts of the different plants and trees and the increasingly damp and polluted atmosphere that we live in, this is certainly a situation that needs to be addressed.
AL: So how would you go about treating hay fever with Chinese medicine?
DL:When doing a diagnosis it is very important to distinguish the different types of hay fever and how they affect the individual patient.
There is a saying in Chinese medicine that “the disease may be the same, but the people suffering from it are different”, and so a more in-depth, detailed patient history and diagnosis always helps to identify the root of the imbalance for each person.
For instance, some people can suffer from sneezing, profuse running nose with white watery discharge …. whilst others can suffer more with a feeling of being blocked-up, sticky red eyes, thirst, and tiredness.
These differences are significant and have to be understood for any Chinese medicine treatment to be fully effective and successful.
When treating hay fever with acupuncture the Chinese medicine practitioner will insert tiny sterile needles into the appropriate meridians or channels of the body to stimulate and rebalance the energy (or Qi) of the client. The aim here is to overcome the block or stagnation and address the ‘imbalance’ or ‘deficiency’ in their immune system by strengthening it.
Unlike most hay fever drugs we commonly use in the West, such as antihistamine tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops, acupuncture has no negative or undesirable side effects. In fact, it can be quite the opposite!
After an acupuncture treatment, where the client’s flow of Qi has been rebalanced and stimulated, this will heighten the general sense of wellbeing, leaving the client feeling more positive and motivated to deal with any lingering seasonal effects.
AL: Can you offer some tips on how people can self-manage their allergies?
DL:Hah, a lot of clients ask me this! There are several ways you can reduce for yourself the effects of hay fever and perhaps lessen its uncomfortable impact on your life:
Smearing a small amount of Vaseline inside your nostrils can reduce pollen being caught in your nasal hair, especially if you are aware that you are being adversely affected by certain grass, trees, plants or flowers. Some people find this a very effective as a short-term preventative measure.
Some patients have also told me that wrap-around sunglasses can be a great help with runny, red sticky eyes, and splashing cold water around your eyes can also relieve eye discomfort and soothe away those irritating and uncomfortable swellings.
Vacuuming and dusting your house with a damp cloth regularly also helps to remove pollen and spores from your immediate environment.
Keep windows closed in the morning or early evening when the pollen rises and falls, as the greatest irritation can arise at these times.
Avoid smoking or breathing in cigarette smoke, as this can irritate and increase the effects of hay fever by lowering your immunity and the general robustness of your health.
AL:If there was one key piece of advice you could offer about tackling hay fever what would it be?
DL:Well, I would say that prevention and maintenance is absolutely critical to reducing and eliminating hay fever attacks…
I would always recommend that a patient comes for an acupuncture treatment before the onset of the worst state of their hay fever symptoms, as this allows time for me to strengthen the underlining deficiency before the allergy symptoms really take hold.
For people who suffer in late spring or early summer time, now – around April time, is the best time to be having a treatment to prevent the onset of the symptoms that would normally arise in a few weeks or months’ time.
It is difficult to generalise, but typically only 3 to 4 acupuncture sessions are needed in the first year of a client being treated, to significantly reduce their hay fever symptoms.
From then on, I normally recommend a yearly ‘top up’ treatment, just before the onset of the symptoms or the offending season. This method helps keep the disruption to a minimum and, in some cases, will eliminate the hay fever symptoms and attacks completely.
This means sufferers no longer dread the warmer months and can enjoy all that spring and summer has to offer!!
In this interview I discuss the complex symptoms and causes of IBS, the mind-body connection, and how I use my talking therapies, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, meditation and other relaxation techniques to help clients with IBS.
You can listen to the audio recording of this interview here:
Read the full interview transcript below:
Alexandra Lees: April marks International IBS Awareness Month. IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is something that is now talked about much more widely in the general press and health media than it used to be, and certainly we regularly have clients who suffer from IBS coming to us for treatment at Peak House Practice.
Would you say that some people are more prone to suffering from IBS than others?
David James Lees:Well, surveys have shown that around 22% of the UK population suffer with IBS. It’s a condition that can affect anyone at any time – some people may suffer from IBS as a one off, short-lived, single event, and others may suffer from it as an ongoing, chronic condition that keeps reoccurring for many years.
I think one of the most important things to understand about IBS is that theirs isn’t a TYPICAL sufferer. From my experience a clients with IBS could be as young as 12 or 13 years old or well into their 70s. Women are 2 – 3 times more likely to suffer from IBS than men and many ladies get IBS type symptoms particularly around the time of their period.
AL: So what are the typical symptoms of IBS?
DL:Again this can vary a lot, but I would say that typical symptoms include an uncomfortable bloating or pain in the abdomen; this can be a gripping or sharp pain. Some clients also describe sensations of butterflies or churning in their stomach. These types of symptoms are often coupled with diarrhoea or constipation or a combination of both.
If the symptoms are severe or are coupled with other things like dramatic weight loss, I would always recommend a client visit their GP first so that they can do the necessary tests and rule out other illnesses such as infections or anything more serious.
AL: What, in your experience, are the causes of IBS?
DL: In ancient China there is a saying that: ‘the illness may be the same but the people suffering from it are different’. One of the challenges with IBS as a health condition is that the underlying cause will vary from person to person. This is also why it’s so very important to not generalise about the condition and the method of treatment, but to instead spend time working with each individual sufferer.
Alongside an understanding of lifestyle factors, such as a client’s and diet, sleep and exercise regime, I believe a more wide-ranging physical and emotional health diagnosis is also necessary. The combination of my talking therapy work with my traditional Chinese medicine practice allows me to get this more detailed overview and begin to build a comprehensive picture of a client’s unique IBS ‘triggers’ and the ROOT cause of their symptoms.
Diet can certainly play a role. People can often be sensitive to certain types of food, for example those that contain wheat or gluten, and so adapting their diet by cutting out or reducing any ‘trigger’ food types, perhaps drinking more non-caffeinated fluids and even eating slower at meal times can help a lot.
Many clients who come to me with IBS have already researched, understood and applied this kind of diet and eating advice but are still suffering.
AL: Why is this David?
DL: Well, in my experience I would say that emotional challenges, tension and stress in a client’s life can be a significant trigger for IBS symptoms in around 80% – 90% of my clients. Any emotional imbalances and upsets will affect the digestive system and bowels making them more sensitive and less tolerant to food and so the symptoms arise.
AL:I guess this underlines the important connection between mind and body?
DL:Yes, this connection, which is integral to the traditional Chinese medicine approach to health, is critical to understanding and managing our wellbeing. Thankfully this principle is now becoming more understood in our modern Western Society.
Sadly for many clients their IBS symptoms can be part of a vicious cycle of emotional and physical ill health. The uncomfortable or painful physical symptoms of IBS can affect the quality of their life and in turn make them feel stressed or down. Studies have estimated that 3 out of 4 people with IBS will have at least one bout of depression because of the impact of IBS on their life. This then leads to further IBS type symptoms. It’s my job to work with the client to break this cycle of ill health.
AL: So how exactly would you do this?
DL:When a new client comes to me we’ll discuss general lifestyle factors and their diet, and explore the type and frequency and pattern of their particular symptoms and I’ll also complete a Chinese medicine diagnosis visually and by taking their pulses.
For me it’s very important to spend some time talking with a client to track back in time to the first onset of their symptoms – this helps me uncover what was happening in their life which may be related to and the root cause of the IBS. Often the symptoms can first arise around the time of a significant emotional upheaval or event in their life such as: a period of work related stress or redundancy, ill health, death in the family, or a relationship breakdown or difficulties.
Every client diagnosis is individual and this would inform the unique blend of therapies I used to treat them.
Normally a treatment package would include acupuncture to help rebalance any physical health imbalances I diagnosed and help the immediate or presenting IBS symptoms by providing pain relief and easing a client’s digestion. Acupuncture can also be great for general relaxation and for reducing any stress and anxiety that the client may also be suffering from. In a smaller number of cases I would consider the use of Chinese herbs to also help ease digestive problems if appropriate.
Alongside any treatments for the presenting symptoms to provide short term relief, I would also aim to tackle and ‘rebalance’ underlying root cause of the problem so prevent the IBS symptoms from reoccurring in the medium to long-term. This is where working at harmonising and rebalancing a client’s lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise and emotional health really matter.
If dietary factors are involved, simply by asking the client to selectively eliminating certain types of food from their diet can produce an improvement in the condition within as little as a week.
For those clients with emotion-related IBS, where the onset of the symptoms coincided with or may have been triggered by an upsetting or stressful event or period in their life, I would work with them to help them understand and learn how to better manage any uncomfortable or challenging emotions and feelings they may encounter so that they could regain control of their thinking and their health.
I’d also work with these clients to teach them simple relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, tai chi, or Qigong, which can all be great as form of ‘health maintenance’ to stop their emotion related IBS symptoms from reoccurring.
Ultimately it’s about working with a client to find the best ways to bring them back into harmony and balance, because I view any illness, in whatever form, as an imbalance. I believe that total wellness is our birth-right and this can be gently restoring by harmonising the person’s physical and emotional health.
To mark national Acupuncture Awareness Week in the UK, this interview explores my therapy work with acupuncture and its vital role as part of the emotional and spiritual healing process.
why not all acupuncture is the same ~ the different approaches to acupuncture in the West;
why acupuncture is so powerful when combined with emotional counselling and coaching work;
how the ancient Taoists viewed emotional and spiritual health and why they only consulted a doctor when they were in good health;
and perhaps controversially… why acupuncture has never cured anyone!
You can listen to the audio recording of this interview here:
Read the full interview transcript below:
Alexandra Lees: Acupuncture is now becoming recognised as an effective mainstream complementary therapy in the West. If someone is choosing to try acupuncture for the first time it can be rather confusing as to which style of acupuncture would be best for them or which acupuncturist to consult. Are all forms of acupuncture essentially the same?
David James Lees: There are three main forms of acupuncture practised in the West: Five Element Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, and Medical Acupuncture (often called Western Acupuncture), and there are important differences between these three approaches.
The form that has been practised in the UK the longest period of is Five Element Acupuncture. For a while this was the only type of acupuncture practised here and of course it’s still practised and is a very relevant part of the whole body of acupuncture work today.
Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture or TCM is, as the name suggests, a method that thousands of years old and was practised only in China until relatively recently. It came to the West when Chinese doctors started to leave China and practice more widely.
I studied at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine in Reading for 4 years where they integrate the teachings of both Five Element Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Acupuncture.
Five Element Acupuncture is more about working with what the Chinese call the ‘element’ of the individual, which can be one of five categories: fire, earth, metal, water or wood.
A Five Element Acupuncturist will treat the person in relation to what is called their CF or causative factor – this is essentially their underlying ‘root’ or ‘foundation’ element.
So, for instance, if a patient consults a Five Element Acupuncturist with a bad back the acupuncturist will normally aim to first diagnose the underlying CF or causative factor of that patient. Using this information they will then strengthen and rebalance the CF of the patient by using particular needle points related to that element.
This is done on the basis that, by treating the root or foundation causative factor of the patient, this will in turn indirectly resolve the presenting symptoms or ‘imbalance’ that caused the lower back problem.
By contrast, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner will typically treat the presenting symptoms more directly. So if a patient with lower back pain goes to a Traditional Chinese acupuncturist they will needle points on the energy channel or ‘meridian’ that relates to the physical location of the pain.
When I observed the work my Chinese Masters and the Doctors in China one of the most important things I learnt was how they always treated the presenting symptoms as a priority. Although I’m trained in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Five Elements Acupuncture I tend to predominantly use the TCM method in my practice.
So now if somebody comes to me with a painful arm, leg, back or neck, I will first of all treat those presenting symptoms to relieve the immediate physical discomfort and pain. Once I’ve done this I can then begin to look for any underlining cause or the weakness or deficiency in the patients Causative Factor, so that I can treat this ‘root imbalance’ to prevent the problem from reoccurring.
I often find that emotional issues such as stress and anxiety can aggravate or prompt the onset of many common physical health complaints and so this is where I use my talking therapies in tandem with the acupuncture to help with this.
The third form of acupuncture, and the type that most people receive when they go to a GP or physiotherapist in the UK, is what’s called Western Acupuncture or Medical Acupuncture. This focusses on the needling of smaller number of ‘trigger points’ to treat bad backs, shoulders, necks etc.
This form of acupuncture has now been taught in the West for the past few decades, mainly by doctors or physicians to other doctors or physicians, and you can learn these Medical Acupuncture trigger points and how to do a needle insertion in a relatively short period of time.
My observation is that Medical Acupuncture can be effective as a form of treatment for a limited range of physical health issues, typically those associated with muscular pain.
In China there’s a great saying that ‘diseases may be the same but the people suffering from them are different’.
I think this makes the case well for treating both the presenting symptom and the person and the particular approach of integrating TCM with Five Element Acupuncture, which is what I do regularly.
For me as a practitioner this essentially means dealing with the presenting symptoms first, which hopefully can be cleared up very quickly within one or two sessions. This then allows me to move on and explore the underlying reason as to why the treatment was needed in the first place. My analogy for this would be: making sure I put out the fire first before investigating what caused it!
AL: Within a typical client session for emotional and spiritual support you’ll combine an acupuncture treatment with your ‘Wu Wei Wisdom’ talking therapy work. This integration of acupuncture with personal counselling or coaching is quite unusual – do you find that some clients are sceptical about how and why you use the acupuncture?
DJL: Most clients come to me via a referral or recommendation by someone they know who has already been to me. This means their friend or family member will have already explained to them how I work and how powerful it can be to integrate treatments such as acupuncture, Qigong healing and meditation with talking therapies such as counselling, hypnotherapy and NLP.
Occasionally a new client may be a little bit fearful of the idea of the acupuncture needles. They think they’re going to be similar a doctor’s hypodermic syringe, but actually they’re nothing like that at all! The needles are thinner than a hair and most people don’t even feel them being inserted.
The whole experience of acupuncture can be quite a positive revelation for new clients and certainly different from what they’re expecting. Once inserted into the body, the acupuncture needles activate the healing Qi spiritual energy of the client, and for most people this gives a very pleasant, peaceful and calming sensation. In fact the acupuncture treatments I give at the end of my sessions can be so relaxing for some patients that they regularly doze off on the treatment bed!
AL: Although you treat and work with patients with a wide range of health problems you do specialise in emotional and spiritual health issues. How have you come to this place in your work?
DJL:Before I trained and practised Chinese Medicine I had a professional background in counselling and I have since gained qualifications in hypnotherapy and NLP. Running in parallel, and very much interwoven with this professional training, has been my study and practice to become an ordained Taoist. For me this is a spiritual and philosophical journey that I will continue forever!
I have always been very interested in talking to my clients and understanding their lifestyle, their thinking and beliefs, and tuning into the authentic essence of who they truly are – even if they themselves do not know who that person is yet!
For many clients it is these core issues that may be affecting their wellbeing and their physical, emotional or spiritual health. Over the years my particular interest in emotional and spiritual health issues has naturally grown and I guess, by the Law of Attraction, I tend to attract patients who have emotional and spiritual imbalances.
In my practice now I really enjoy combining my Taoist philosophical understanding of how to lead a healthy and balanced life, along with my Traditional Chinese therapies of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Qigong healing and meditation, and my more modern Western ‘talking therapies’ of counselling, coaching, hypnotherapy and NLP.
AL: What would you say is a Taoist or Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to emotional or spiritual health?
DJL: In Taoist philosophy and the practice of Traditional Chinese medicine, emotional imbalances are referred to as ‘Shen disturbances’. The closest translation in the English language of ‘Shen’ is ‘spirit’.
So essentially a disturbance of the ‘emotions’ is viewed as a disturbance of the ‘spirit’ of the person. When a client is suffering from an emotional problem that would be typically be referred to in the West as: stress, anxiety or panic attacks, I would view this as a ‘Shen disturbance’ or ‘Shen imbalance’.
I would first work with the client to help them to relax and calm their mind and body, so that together we could then progress on to explore and discover what had disturbed their Shen. I normally find that this is connected to a misunderstanding a client’s thinking or beliefs.
Acupuncture can be very effective as part of this whole process because, in the first instance, putting needles into certain Shen points of the body, can settle and soothe the patient. This then helps to clear their thinking – it’s almost like clearing the water in a muddy pool.
Although this initial settling of the client’s emotions may only last for a relatively short period of a few hours or days, it gives us the time and opportunity to calmly explore and work through their thinking and beliefs together. It also offers the client the mental and emotional space to see the issues or situations they are confronted with, from a fresher, broader, and more balanced perspective.
Using acupuncture in this way, often in combination with meditation and Qigong healing, allows me to be much more effective with my talking therapy work. It’s almost as if ‘fast-tracks’ the whole therapy process, so much so that I truly believe that together we can achieve something like three years worth of counselling work results within a matter of a few months.
Sadly, I think that in the West emotional disturbances and mental health issues may be almost like the new health epidemic and it’s something that we should all take care to address. Our society seems to hold great value in looking after our physical health, but even now in these more enlightened times, imbalances in our mental and emotion well being still can be very much misunderstood and stigmatised.
What I’m trying to do with all my work, whether it be with my private clients at Peak House Practice, my public talks and workshops, or my writing and broadcasting, is to break through these misunderstandings and show how vital and precious your mental, emotional, and in turn your spiritual health, really is to you and your unique divine potential.
I have noticed that there are more men now coming to see me for help with emotional challenges. A while ago, my work with emotional issues would have been about 80% female to 20% male clients but now this is changing. My experience is that, despite the pervasive stigma within our society, men of all ages are becoming much more aware about their mental and emotional health, which is great news.
I believe that everyone, regardless of age or sex, should value and make time to manage their emotional wellbeing in the same way they would manage their physical wellbeing. Simply by spending 10 minutes a day doing some kind of meditation can make a huge difference. This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting cross legged in front of a Buddha – it could mean walking the dog, going for a bike ride, relaxing with some gardening or crafting, practising deep breathing exercises whist waiting for the bus. Anything can connect you to your spirit and it’s whatever works for you and helps stop your mind from running around and around, so that you can take control of your thinking and bring yourself into a more balanced, calm and authentic way of being.
AL: Is it true that in ancient China patients would only pay to see the Chinese Medicine doctor when they were well and healthy?
DJL: This was one of the first things that I learnt when visiting China and this concept was quite interesting for me as it is profoundly different from the way we relate to our doctors in the West.
In ancient China every village had it’s own Chinese medicine doctor and the villagers would only pay the doctor with produce from their fields when they were well enough to work. So as soon as they became ill they could not work their land or pay the dues to the doctor.
This meant that the Chinese doctor would give them advice and treat them when they were fit and healthy, maintaining their Qi energy so that it was flowing, balanced and strong, and keeping them in good health.
So the whole concept of Chinese medicine, whether it’s acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Tui’na massage or Qigong meditation, is built on the premise that wellness and ‘being in balance’ is something that should not be taken for granted and that care should be taken to maintain good health and prevent illness rather than just treating illness when problems occur.
Ancient Chinese philosophy and the principles of Taoism are based on the understanding of how to best achieve and maintain this wellness of internal balance and flow, by avoiding stagnation and blockages in your Qi energy, and finding your unique harmonious flow in life or ‘Wu Wei’.
When you’re in this place of Wu Wei or ‘effortless-effort’ this means you’re well, happy and balanced in your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self.
AL: You controversially once said in a lecture that: ‘acupuncture has never cured anyone’. Surely that statement goes against everything you practice and believe in?
DJL: Ha, yes… I think it’s important to see beyond the headline here and look deeper into the point I was making!
I consider that wellness occurs when you’re physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in balance and in your flow. This is actually a most natural state of being, it’s your birth-right. Another important thing to consider is that we are all natural healers. We all have the ability to self-heal.
It therefore frustrates me a little when I hear health practitioners of any type saying ‘I cured this’ and ‘I cured that’ because I believe this misrepresents what is actually happening.
I consider that what acupuncture does do is to help move and clear the blockages and stagnations of Qi or energy within an individual that are creating their ill-health. This then allows for the natural flow of energy within the body to step in, take over, and for the body to begin to rebalance and heal itself. It’s like clearing a dam in a river, once you remove the rubble and debris from the river bed the water will flow effortlessly!
So when I say acupuncture has never cured anyone, what I mean is that people cure themselves. Acupuncture simply lends a helping hand, and it can be incredibly powerful in helping facilitate and speed-up what is a natural process of self-healing.
Viewing the role of acupuncture and many other supporting therapies in this way does not diminish their value or relevance. This approach can be empowering for both the client and for me as the therapist as we are both working together with the same love and intention to stimulate and reinvigorate the healing process. This is the wonderfully vital and precious flow of energy that unites all of us and every living thing within the Cosmos.
A client’s mind-set and intention, or what the Chinese call ‘Yi’, is very much critical to this therapy approach. To ensure that the natural healing process I’ve described is fully mobilised, it’s incredibly important for the client to take full responsibility for maintaining and balancing their own health.
They should not just assume that someone or something else can do this for them and that they have no role to play. Without their commitment and positive intention the healing cannot be truly effective. For this reason I always encourage my clients to pro-actively participate in their therapy work and treatment plan with me.
Whether it’s from them booking sessions only when they choose to, to them taking session notes, keeping a review diary, or them knowing that they can always challenge me when I suggest something they don’t understand or agree with. This connects the client to the therapy process and their healing, and this is absolutely the way it should be!
The open and honest dialogue that this type of client-therapist relationship creates is essential. I want my clients to challenge me when I say something they disagree with, because I believe in that moment of ‘challenge’ or ‘discomfort’ there is often a profound healing to be found.
This can be either because I have said something wrong, which is fantastic for me because this means I can learn something new, or, often if it doesn’t ‘FEEL’ right for the client this can also mean we have touched upon, almost like a raw nerve, a fundamental misunderstanding their thinking. Often it can be this misunderstanding that is at the foundation of their health imbalance – in which case we have struck gold!
When working through the emotional issues that may have affected a client for a many years or even a whole lifetime, there is no doubt that it takes effort and determination from both parties involved. Both of you have to be committed to rolling up your sleeves and have the intention or ‘Yi’ to work as hard as it takes to sort it out.
One of the things I like the most about working in my own therapy practice is that there is no such thing as a typical client and that is what makes my job so very interesting! Just last week a girl of 12 years old came to me with her mum and then later that day I treated an elderly gentleman in his 80’s. I love working with such a wide spectrum of people, each with their own story, needs and expectations.
I often say to my new clients during our early sessions that ‘I may have been in these woods before, but I’ve never been on your path’. Everyone’s healing path is individual to them just as everyone’s misunderstandings and imbalances are unique to them.
It’s my job is to highlight my client’s root misunderstandings and imbalances, help facilitate their natural healing ability, and re-connect them back to their true spiritual and divine potential.
Ultimately, however, only they have the power to make the choice, with their own free-will, intention and self-determination, as to whether or not they return to that place of self-reliance, self-love and self-healing.
I feel truly honoured to be able to work with my clients through this process of personal discovery and enlightenment and to share their journey to optimum health and well being.
David James Lees is an ordained Taoist and a multidisciplinary therapist, Chinese medicine practitioner, spiritual author and broadcaster. He enjoys sharing his unique message of practical, no-nonsense spirituality and inspiring people live their truth, reconnect to their authenticity and reach their fabulous potential.
Skype Sessions with David are now available for national and international clients!