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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Magic of the Day



"If you've never been thrilled to the very edge of your soul by a flower in bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom."
~Terri Guillemets~

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Nourishing the Middle Jiao and Gu Qi During Times of Transition.

As we begin to understand more and more about our current pandemic, I feel more equipped  to write about how we can take care of ourselves during these challenging times. I study as much as I can now and I am learning from the doctors who are sharing their hands on experiences in China. Having access to this information has been incredible. I spend a lot of time processing what I am reading and hearing so that I may translate this information into meaningful and life affirming content for my patients, family and friends.
The current consensus is that this is a pathogen that moves through several energetic layers, from a Chinese medical perspective, and presents as a damp condition. Knowing that dampness is a key part of the presentation of the virus once it enters the lungs, it feels important to support our systems with exercise, regular meals and quality foods.
During this transition I have been advising everyone to lean into preparing their own meals, especially soups. The possibilities are limitless. I prefer to slowly make them in layers.
To begin, we start with the broth as a base and then add greens, other vegetables and toppings.
Soups warm and nourish the middle Jiao. This is the energy center of the core that includes the Chinese Spleen and Stomach. The energy that is created by the transformation and transportation function of the Spleen is called Gu Qi.
For many reasons, cultivation of Gu Qi encourages the manifestation of Righteous Qi, as part of a continuation of Qi through various organ systems.
If we are eating appropriately and at regular times, the Spleen will be happy.
It will then be able to nourish Blood and ultimately many other functions of the body that enhance a healthy Wei Qi or Immunity. When the Spleen is regulated we are less likely to create excessive phlegm. The lungs are particularly susceptible to dampness excess, especially for those of us who live near the ocean.
Having a healthy Spleen supports stability, nourishment of the mind, the heart and appropriate timing in the acts of giving and receiving.
Here are just a few ideas for creating nourishment during these swirly days. I hope that they inspire anyone who reads this entry to explore one's own capacity to create warmth and goodness in one's life right now.



The soup above, began with a chicken broth, and vegetable broth. Black rice, sea lettuce flakes, scallion, ginger and goji berries were added for releasing the exterior and building Blood.
After drinking this elixir I felt my skin open and the heat move Qi at the surface.
This was wonderful for a cold Spring day.

The ingredients photographed below include: goji berries, shiitake mushrooms, cranberries, lemon peel, and violet flowers. I cut the ingredients finely for the carrot, ginger soup. Additional ingredients include celery, onion, carrots, small golden potatoes, spinach flakes, sauerkraut, coconut milk, paprika, chipotle powder, garlic, topped with dandelion and parsley.



Below is a detail of the violet flowers sitting on dollops of coconut milk. Given the contrast of the opposing orange and purple, the beauty warranted its own special image. When soups are beautiful, they evoke a sense of curiosity and joy. Theses are important elements of digestion.
The ancients say that digestion begins with our eyes.



Below is another detail which includes, shiitake mushrooms. I soaked these in warm water twice and used the mushroom infusion as an addition to the soup. It adds an earthy flavor that gives it an added layer of musky beauty.



Below is the soup in its entirely.
The colors orange and yellow, belong to the Earth Element. I made this soup today after a cold and wild rain. It feels appropriate to have a warmer soup because of yesterdays wind and dampness. The gusts were so high that it felt like a hurricane. When we have this kind of unstable weather, the Earth Element enjoys special attention.



Lastly, this Spring green soup was made from asparagus, kale, parsley, cilantro, garlic, vegetable broth, sauerkraut, topped with lemon peel, carrot slices, asparagus shoots, goji berries and shavings of a savory Dutch gouda.
Sauerkraut is sour. The energetics of sour foods condition/tonify the Wood element in Spring. It is a small added ingredient to the soups that adds flavor and energetic support to awaken the detoxifying function of the Liver.
The green soup was pureed after the greens were sauteed in sesame oil. This oil is warming in nature but gives the fresh greens a nutty and earthy element. I like adding sesame oil to soups because it can soften the clawing nature of leafy greens.
Parsley and cilantro are excellent for detoxification and supporting the Liver in Chinese medicine.



It is important to remember that if we have histories of trauma, we may rush through meals, override that para-sympathetic function of digestion and forgot to taste the sweetness of life. Some of us may actually be holding the freeze response in the viscera. Paying special attention to this aspect of our physiology is a meaningful part of our unwinding and healing.
I find that after a nourishing meal, sitting for a bit with a hot water bottle over the stomach is wonderful for allowing the process of digestion to continue. We want to hear the peristalsis, this often means that we are digesting well and that the function of the Chinese Stomach is online. 
Hot herbal tea, a drop of peppermint oil on Acupuncture points Pericardium 6, slowing down for a little bit before resuming activity allows the Middle Jiao to reorganize and for our bodies to absorb the goodness of the meal that we just enjoyed. 
When we have appropriate time for digesting food, we are also digesting information in our lives that may be asking for time and integration. In Chinese medicine 'Yi' also known as 'thought', is stored in the Spleen. When we slow down to truly digest our food, we may also be digesting past or present thoughts, and appropriately allowing assimilation not only on a nutritive level but also on the physiological, psychological and energetic level of the Chinese Earth element. 






Thursday, April 9, 2020

Because the World Needs More Egrets

There are spacious days right now, ones filled with study, silence, beauty and observation of the natural world. I have seen nature come closer, to create more intimate opportunities for connection.
So many new birds are arriving, 


This beauty was photographed in the bright Spring light. Egrets are shy and in my experience difficult to photograph. They do not like people getting too close to them, they are elusive in that they appear to be still and willing, and in a blink of an eye they are gone. 


I love their layered feathers, large transparent wings and long necks. They always feel elegant to me. Graceful extensions of the skies. On warmer days, the skies are teaming with new life and I often wonder what they see looking down on us during this unprecedented time. 


On a walk yesterday a heron flew over the middle of Springs Fireplace road. It followed the yellow lines and swooped down so close to me,  I felt as though I could almost reach for its amazing wings. It was the closest that I have ever been to this magnificent bird. 
Watching egrets and herons are once of my favorite activities. During this pause, the greatest luxury and gift is the extra moments with nature and being the observer during different times of the day. 
The day began overcast and damp, followed by late afternoon sunshine and more rain tomorrow. To be able to pay such close attention to the subtle changes of the skies, the water and the new plant growth feels like a very special privilege. 
One that I treasure so close to my heart. 


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Magnolia Medicine.

This past week I had the wonderful opportunities to attend webinars by Dr. John Chen. He is a brilliant teacher, Western pharmacist and Chinese doctor. I listened for hours and feel compelled to share a bit about current affairs regarding the pandemic through the lens of practitioners of Chinese medicine in the United States. 
I was fascinated to hear how hospitals in the city Wuhan and others in Hubei provence treated patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 cases. Because there were thousands upon thousands of cases,  Dr. Chen shared the protocols health care providers used under these circumstances. He generously provided herbal formulas from different pathogenic stages of the disease from a Chinese medical perspective.



As practitioners in the United States we are unable to access some of the herbs used in the various patterns that were described in his presentation. These herbs are either not approved for use, or they are in short supply due to the epidemic. Dr. Chen was very helpful in pointing out where we could help patients in preventative medicine and post infection care. What a gift to hear a Chinese doctor be a liaison and a beacon of information during these challenging time. 
Where I see my role as a practitioner is supporting the defensive stage. In other words, helping people stay healthy and strengthen immune systems. Each patient is unique so one formula or remedy will not apply to everyone, especially for patients who have underlying autoimmune issues, and pre-existing conditions.



 Many people have written to me asking what remedies to take now, how to stay safe and healthy. I will do my absolute best to offer resources with dietary information, theory and support in these weeks ahead. As many of you now know, I am not treating in person but I am scheduling half hour and hour long sessions on the phone and on Zoom. This is a more organized way to work for my patient's safety. 
I will use my blog as a platform to share many wonderful resources that I have at this time. I hope that this message finds everyone safe and well in these changing time. 
Thank you Dr. Chen for sharing your wisdom, generosity and research experience with all of us. 

Magnolia flowers photographed today.
Springs, East Hampton. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Art of Self Regulation in Turbulent Times.

In my healing work, the color yellow often shows up when there is an integration of new information and organization in the physiology. It is a color that also resonates with the Earth element in Chinese medicine. As we are approaching warmer days and more greenery, the first daffodil blooms are a welcome sight. Spring will arrive with buoyant and generous warm days and we will witness the return of the hummingbirds, the dolphins and the whales. 

Knowing that we are part of the natural rhythms of the seasons is important to revisit as we are being asked to separate, confine, go in and in many cases isolate. The natural flow of Spring which is expansive, is also moving, flowing upwards and fed by the sap of the new growth. 
At a deeper level, we are collectively being asked to mind our capacity to self regulate in a very unsteady time. This can feel confusing and challenging in our bodies. 

How does one even begin when we are feeling waves of sympathetic charge, fear and stress?
I have been gathering the most effective tools that I have learned and used in my own healing and regulation work and  I am offering them here through my blog with hopes that perhaps they may be of service to anyone who may read these forthcoming posts. 



Over the course of the past seven years, I have been studying the role of the nervous system in healing the physiology. Through the lens of Chinese medicine we might call this process the regulation of Qi and Blood. How our system pendulates between different energy states often determines how we maintain our health.

Firstly, we need to establish safety. My mantra is always 'safety first'. Once we establish this felt sense,  our systems can begin to down regulate into a more spacious and gentle place. Secondly, we find the most spacious place in our bodies that offer a felt sense of ease. It is from the ease that we can build towards more safety in the rest of our system. It is like a ripple effect.

Sometimes staying in this spaciousness is all we need to begin a natural flow of self regulation. 
I often include resources like scent, sound, weight on the body in the form of heavy blankets, support under the joints and behind the head. Sometimes a meditation recording, music or just the sound of the birds through an open window can inspire and guide our systems into our own personal rhythm. For those of you who already work with me in my private practice, this will be a review but also a reminder of how to allow a dropping into oneself and back into the spine and softening of the joints. 

Exercise, copious fresh air, good sleep, sunshine, hydration, herbal teas, and foods that are very simple and clean. The past two weeks have personally been the beginning of a cleanse marked by clear vegetable broths and greens like parsley and cilantro. These soups are easy to digest and move with the continuum of the softening of the Liver in Chinese medicine. The Liver and Gallbladder are governed by the Wood Element in Spring. 

Lastly, holding on to gratitude and compassion are essential. 
One of my dear and brilliant mentors Dr. Mario Martinez recently wrote a beautiful article that I will share here that reminds us to stay within these frequencies during adversity. 


I am also offering this gorgeous read during our collective rest and reorganization:

Teachings on Love 
by Thich Nhat Hanh

 This book is a tender reminder to stay gentle. When I read these words, not only do I hear his soft voice of kindness and goodness but I am also reminded to forgive, love and hold compassion and gratitude for myself first. Our healing of the collective essence, the earth and our future depends upon our capacity to heal ourselves with honesty and integrity. I believe this from the bottom of my heart. 

Because many of you who I work with are staying close to home to stay safe, in New York City, out of state, or out of the country, I am now offering half hour and hour long phone sessions and video conferencing sessions through the Zoom format. Please feel free to contact me to set up a time for a session. 
Stay posted as I add Spring recipes for Immunity, or in Chinese medicine what we call Wei Qi and for the nourishment of Kidney Qi. During adversity we need to attend to our Essence and be very kind with our thoughts and to our bodies. 

Wishing everyone gentleness and sending support during these changing times, 
with love, 
Maria





Friday, March 13, 2020

Transition into Early Spring and the Dao. Many Paths, One Center.

When we are in the midst of seasonal transition, I always love to revisit the Daoist translations and the work of Dennis Willmont. His work is rich and meaningful on so many levels. I look for the pearls, something to hold onto, even if it is for just a few savored hours of study and exploration. He has merged what feels like lifetimes of academic research into just one book and he has written so many! Thank you Dennis.
This particular excerpt caught my eye today, it is from the Embracing Dao section of the book title Many Paths, One Center, A Comprehensive Study of the Diodejing. (Volume 4 in the Daodejing Series)

"The idea of PROTECTION works on the PREVENTION level of HEALING where an alliance with the Principles of Dao is fundamental. Such an alliance is also fundamental in having FAITH in the ORDER OF THE UNIVERSE as the External provider of VIRTUE/EMPOWERMENT.

One who sincerely embodies VIRTUE is like a NEWBORN. Poisonous insects (that is, hornets and scorpions) and snakes do not sting it, fierce beasts do not prey upon it, and birds of prey do not spring upon it. -Daodejing 55."

"Now it is heard that he who is proficient in living LIFE meets with no wild buffalo or tigers in his tracks, and comes out of the MILITARY without SUFFERING from SHIELDS and WEAPONS. For him the buffalo finds no place for his horn, the Tiger finds no place to claw, and WEAPONS find no place to slay. What is the reason for this? Because he has no place for DEATH in him. -Daodejing 50."



The understanding that I take away from this translation is to seek and mind the middle path.  By walking alongside this construct, we are less likely to swing too far into one direction or to become injured. 
As Spring arrives, I have been taking pictures of the new flowers, making collages and reading. I observe the middle path of the natural rhythms and remain the constant and curious observer. 
Befriending this hibiscus flower again in bloom has brought me so much joy this week. The color, the vibrancy and grace,  the study of the anatomy, and to be held in its pink embrace.


These collages include my botanical illustrations, a dragon that I painted many years ago, my needlepoint and favorite reproductions from my grandmothers books. They are happy floral images and I wanted to include as many beautiful images in this post as possible. 


The middle lower center image is one of my sun prints, the bird image in the lower right hand square is by Tanya Wolfkamp, the needlepoint from a series that I completed this past Winter. 


The Hellebore above was taken in the afternoon light this week, here in East Hampton. This is the best light of the year because the leaves have not yet emerged but the sun is stronger and crisp. The bluebird was an extraordinary gift yesterday that made my heart sing. 

Wishing everyone the gifts of the middle path as we transition into Spring in these changing times.