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.
As Valentine’s Day approaches I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to discuss the topic of love and relationships from both my professional experience and a Taoist spiritual perspective….
Listen to my audio teaching here:
Read the full transcript here:
I’d like to focus on the three main areas of ‘emotional misunderstanding’ that I encounter when dealing with love and relationship issues with my clients and offer my practical Wu Wei Wisdom to help you with these situations.
Many of you will have experienced the wonderful sensation of being in love and also suffered the painful feelings associated with a relationship breaking down. I believe it to be a vital part of the human psyche to strive towards a feeling of being loved or being in love. This is such a strongly positive experience, encountered when your Qi (or spiritual energy) is flowing in harmony – what I refer to as being in your ‘Wu Wei’.
This profound feeling of love allows you to experience a true sensation of inner peace, connection and harmony both with yourself and your significant other. Sharing good and bad times, being able to support each other without being judged or criticised, gives you both strength and comfort and can help lift you towards your highest spiritual vibration.
The first teaching I would like to offer relates to an emotional misunderstanding of the energy of love…
In my practice as a spiritual counsellor and coach the issue I encounter most frequently when helping clients with relationship matters is that of self-love or self-worth – Taoists label this energy as Ch’ang,which can be loosely translated as ‘self-nurturing’. This teaching is as relevant to you if you are single or seeking a loving relationship as it is if you are experiencing challenges or difficulties within a current relationship.
Verse 10 of the classic spiritual Taoist text the Tao Te Ching, which I have translated for you here, reveals many insights on the profound subject of Ch’ang in its poetic words:
Can you nurture your own spirit whilst holding the unity of Oneness?
Can you connect to the Qi of your sensitivity, creative imagination and determination whilst harmonising with Wu Wei?
Can you understand your Human centred mind without corrupting your Tao centred mind?
And can you do all this whilst loving and nourishing yourself rather than indulging your self-interest and selfishness?
Then you can truly love all people without harming yourself,
allowing others to rise to their fullest height whilst not diminishing your own stature.
One of the most important messages offered here is that you must learn to nurture and love your own ‘spirit’ above all else. If you can do this and find and treasure your own personal truth there can be no fear, disappointment or lack of love. Harnessing your flow of Qi (spiritual energy) in this way allows your sensitivity, creative imagination and determination to flow harmoniously, and will create a tremendous feeling of bliss – the feeling that we in the West call ‘LOVE’.
If you find yourself using emotive terms to describe negative feelings such I feel alone, vulnerable, cheated, unloved, betrayed etc… use these as a signposts to tell you are disconnected from your Qi or spirit. It’s imperative to address these misunderstandings and begin to reconnect yourself to your Tao centred mind and Oneness with the Universe through the practice of Ch’ang or self-nurturing.
There are also countless ‘spin-off’ benefits practising Ch’ang, one of the main ones being that you invoke the Universal law of attraction. This means that if you’re seeking a relationship or attempting to improve your current relationship by practising Ch’ang you’ll automatically generate lots of positive vibes that’ll magnetise more of the same positive energy, situations and people into your life.
I’ve explained how this particular process works in much greater detail here in my blogs on the law of attraction which you may enjoy reading further. The subject of Ch’ang, self-love and self-worth is also huge teaching in Taoism, which I also explore in further detail in my audio teachings.
For now please reflect on your own self-love and self-worth to ensure that Ch’ang is flowing harmoniously within your life – if you can achieve this you’ll be amazed at the results you’ll encounter almost immediately.
The second teaching I would like to offer is underpinned by advice I received during my first professional counselling job…
After graduating from university I worked with the Marriage Guidance Council (now re-branded as ‘Relate’ – I’m showing my age!). During my time here I was very kindly taken under the wing of a senior counsellor who offered me this little piece of advice which I’ve never forgotten:
“Always remember that in the relationship counselling room there are three energies: the female energy, the male energy and, most importantly, the energy of the relationship. This third, relationship energy will never be maintained unless both partners are willing and able to commit to and participate in caring for and developing this rewarding but extremely challenging process.”
Reflecting on this now I fully appreciate the truth behind these words and I regularly encounter situations whereby one or both partners are not mindful of, or are unable to deal with, the challenging process of maintaining a loving relationship.
When embarking on a relationship most people are aware that they are making a commitment to the energy of the other person (or why else would they want to be with them?!), yet many fail to appreciate the gravity of responsibility that comes with committing to, and growing, the energy of a loving relationship. And so it is that, when faced with even the smallest of challenges, the unattended relationship energy breaks down much more easily.
The issue I most commonly encounter in this regard is centred on regaining trust, love and respect for a partner that you feel may have betrayed you or deeply hurt your emotions. In these situations, where you may have (temporarily) diminished affections for your partner, it’s critical that your shared commitment for the relationship energy remains strong as this is the very thing that will help carry you through what may be a personally challenging time.
Often it is not the ‘fault’ of the dynamic or events between two partners within a current relationship that causes difficulties. Personal issues and misunderstandings that one partner carries with them (including negative emotional experiences sometimes stretching back into their childhood) that have never been fully resolved, can transfer into and contaminate and stagnate the energy of a current relationship. It may also be that the remaining partner may never understand or come to terms with this ‘emotional baggage’ and can feel emotionally locked out, rejected, frustrated and helpless as a result.
In both these scenarios, if the relationship as a ‘living entity’ is not strong, the focus of energy will be drawn inwards and devoured by the seemingly overpowering negative feelings and emotions of each partner rather than the being directed more positively towards nurturing the relationship.
All these problems and issues can be resolved so that the relationship energy can begin to thrive and grow but it takes lots of love, determination and on-going open communication from both partners to do so. Before each partner can begin to address their own issues as individuals, the healing must always involve stabilising and harmonising the energy of the relationship, and this requires the willingness and commitment from both partners to participate in this process.
The third teaching that I would like to offer relates to emotional misunderstandings in the form of personal expectations within a relationship…
Phrases I commonly hear when working with clients are: “She’s not the woman I’m married” or “He’s changed such a lot since we’ve been married“. These types of statements immediately tell me that the individual does not fully grasp the wonderfully dynamic and sometimes volatile nature of the energy that makes up a relationship. If you can relate to these types of statements and feelings you must understand that as human beings we can never stop changing and transforming, and similarly, the energy of your relationship will always continue to evolve.
This idea of change and movement of energy is one of the most fundamental teachings of Taoism yet our human centred mind can sometimes find this process somewhat scary or frightening – it will look back into the past longingly thinking that things were better as they used to be, or else it projects into the future is unable to see things in positive light.
Remember, you cannot hold onto any moment or phase within a relationship. Attempting to do this creates a stagnation that results in either or both of you having to force or artificially manipulate the energy of the relationship. This is when conflict within the relationship can arise and feelings of dissatisfaction and resentment grow, creating an opportunity for the relationship to be strangled with Ego thoughts such as “this is too much hard work“, “I can’t be bothered” or “it’s just not worth the effort.”
There will of course be good and bad times; initial feelings of excitement and thrill may transform into a deeper and stronger and more lasting feelings of mutual respect and intimacy within your relationship; there may be periods when the relationship is extremely close and interdependent and times when this is not the case.
The solution always lies in accepting, embracing and celebrating the evolving nature of yourself, your partner and your relationship. Instead of trying to work against this natural flow of all things why not work with it? The energy of your relationship should be flexible and expansive so that both you and your partner can feel happy to freely express yourself, to learn, to grow, to reach your true potential, all without having to deal with any negative feedback or repercussions. As the lines of the Tao Te Ching state:
Then you can truly love all people without harming yourself,
allowing others to rise to their fullest height, whilst not diminishing your own stature.
Encouraging your partner to grow to their fullest height should not in any way diminish your expectations or potential of yourself. View yourself and your partner as independent spirits following their dreams; support each other to be the best that you can be as individuals without stifling your own potential. When you achieve this your relationshipbecomes the best that it can be and you’ll both benefit from the process!
In conclusion, I hope my teachings here have offered you a fresh perspective or reconnected you to your authentic thinking on the subjects of love and relationships.
First and foremost always apply the principle of Ch’ang and self-nurturing in all that you do.
Then extend this nurturing and love outwards by embracing the importance of making an equal andshared commitment to the three energies involved in your relationship: you, your partner and the relationship itself. Take time to work through and agree a mutual understanding about how you will both nurture and promote the relationship.
Finally, regularly affirm and embrace the dynamic, ever changing and flowing nature of your relationship and your mutually supportive life journey together. This will allow you to maintain vibrancy and interest within the relationship in the long term. From a Taoist perspective this means you’re maintaining the harmonious flow of Wu Wei, which then attracts unlimited positive energy into your life and your relationship.
‘The sun will always set whether you watch it or not’…
This is a wonderful spiritual teaching that I received from my wise Taoist Master in China on the ‘Tao’ or ‘Way’ of the Cosmos and its fundamental relationship and interaction with all our lives…
Listen to my audio teaching here:
Read the full transcript here:
The teaching serves as a reminder that if you choose to disconnect from the flow of love and energy all around you, perhaps because of fear or distrust, the Cosmos will never judge or punish you, nor will it withhold its abundance and blessings from you. It simply keeps on flowing and giving even if you (consciously or subconsciously) choose to reject or close yourself off from all it has to offer.
Sometimes your misguided and harmful Ego mind may try to convince you that this is not the way of the Cosmos. Any negative thinking and self-talk such as ‘I’m not worthy…’, ‘I’m a bad person…’ ‘Life/the Universe is against me…’, ‘I’m a victim…’ , ‘I’m being made to pay/suffer’… etc. will only disengage you even more from the ever-present, positive and nurturing energetic flow of Qi or spiritual energy available to you.
Just as the sun sets without fail, all the while the Cosmos lovingly and peacefully goes about its business. It patiently waits for you to readjust any extreme Ego thoughts you may have so that you can return to a more balanced and neutral Wu Wei mindset. When you do this you reactivate what I refer to as your ‘Spiritual Contract’ with the Cosmos.
This Spiritual Contract is your birthright. From the point at which you energetically manifested into human-form at birth, your contract remains your connection back to your spiritual Source. It’s a reminder of the place of divine energy and love that you came from and the same divine energy and love you are today. This contract can serve as your spiritual compass and steadfast guide through good times and bad, and it’s also your connection to the abundance the Universe has to offer.
An essential part of your Spiritual Contract with the Cosmos is your free-will as an adult to take responsibility for managing and balancing your human-centred thoughts, words and actions. The Cosmos will always support you if you want it to, but you alone must take personal responsibility for navigating your unique life journey so that you may reach your true spiritual potential and fulfilment.
It’s your choice whether or not you align yourself with the Way of the Cosmos and receive or reject the flow of love and abundance. The Taoist Masters call this harmonising and balancing of your spiritual connection: ‘Supreme Success’. They teach thatwhen this is achieved the ‘Cosmic Helpers’ and blessings will flood into your life. The modern interpretation of this teaching on the flow of cosmic energy would be ‘The Law of Attraction’.
If you choose to rebalance and reconnect to the Cosmos, it has no interest in any past misunderstandings or indiscretions and it cannot judge you ‘worthy’ or ‘unworthy’. Such matters only have the value and importance that your human centred Ego mind places on them. My Taoist Master taught me that the past should be viewed as a ‘walking dead person’ – this profound analogy reflects the spiritual truth that we only ever have this present moment and so we should always seek to live in the here and now.
Remember, you are a beautiful and divine child and spirit of the Cosmos. You will only learn spiritual lessons on your unique human journey by making ‘mistakes’ and then learning the Universal lessons from those misunderstandings. The Taoist principle of Oneness teaches that this same process of learning and enlightenment applies to everyone. This means no one is exempt from making mistakes, no one is superior or inferior, no one is special – we are all the same, yet all fabulously unique!
Of course your human centred Ego mind loves to view your spiritual journey and Cosmic connection in a totally different way. It mistrusts and doubts the unknown and unseen flow of Universal energy or Qi all around you. Your Ego’s ultimate fear is of being emotionally exposed or hurt so it will always strive and manipulate in order to protect itself from being vulnerable, confronted, found out, or embarrassed. It craves security and gratification from a narrower physical and material world: one that is more immediate, tangible, predictable and controllable. In doing so your Ego steers you further from your Spiritual Contract and truth as it diverts you onto its misguided journey of seeking perfection, approval, praise and superiority.
So the eternal human challenge (and one which keeps me very busy in my work as a spiritual therapist and coach!) is about finding what the Taoist’s refer to as Wu Wei. This is your unique ‘sweet spot’ of harmony between your human and cosmic energies. Finding this point of inner and outer balance in your life allows you to survive and thrive in human form within the collective Ego of society today, whilst remaining fully connected with the Cosmos and your spiritual truth, so that ultimately you may create your unique spiritual experience here on earth.
Next time your Ego’s self-talk starts criticising and nagging at you to achieve perfection… or complaining that situations are not moving quickly enough… or even that you’re not ‘enough’… pause, breathe deep, and reconnect to the beautiful sunset of your inner truth. This is the Tao nature of you and all things that can NEVER be destroyed or withheld from you. When your Ego shouts loudest this is absolutely the time to take-control, calm and rebalance your thinking, reaffirm your connection with your Spiritual Contract, and then open yourself up to receive the helpers and blessings the Cosmos has waiting for you.
The sun sets whether you’re watching or not… but why not pause and reflect on its magnificence with the understanding that you came from the very same place and are on the same magical Cosmic journey of transformation!
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.
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