“Control your emotions or they will control you.” – Chinese Proverb
by Susan Tretakis – I have always been a fan of meditation. Through my study of Reiki and practice of Yoga, I know its importance in my life. Perhaps it my journey with Traditional Chinese Medicine and making the emotional commitment to fully accept a mind-body connection for my health that the following quote from Google resonates with me: “Meditation is not just for relaxation; its primary purpose is to develop the capacity to respond skillfully and gracefully to both life’s difficulties as well as joys.”
Many of you know that Chinese medicine is the original mind-body medicine. WebMd clarifies: “The Chinese view is that personal energy systems are balanced on both the physical and the mental. When you target one, you can’t help but influence the other.”
Lauren Swanger, in the “Howard Count Holistic Newsletter” wrote in January 2017, “TCM is based, in part, on the Taoist belief that humankind is part of the universe and we, and the universe, are interconnected. Chinese medicine teaches us that what happens to one part of the body has an influence on all other parts of the body. Similarly, the mind and body are viewed as being one where the mind influences the body and the body influences the mind. Because Chinese medical philosophy and theory make up the base of TCM, many of these concepts have no true counterpart in Western medicine. TCM is a systematic and holistic approach that links the mind, body, and spirit to identify imbalance in the body.
In the latest edition of “A Qifull Life, the author writes that “Meditation is a key component of TCM. It is just as essential as a good diet and a healthy lifestyle, because without a strong foundation of meditation, the mind is not at rest; it is not at peace.” However, one line stands out for me: “The main benefit of meditation is that it prepares the mind and body for everything that life throws at you. In TCM, meditation keeps everything stable and balanced.”
I know that both acupuncture and meditation have helped to unblock my “qi”; I have written many times before – and will probably write it many time in the future – that acupuncture has changed my life. But so has my acupuncturist, a TCM doctor who is a compassionate, caring realist who knows that I can become easily overwhelmed when I am off the safety of his table. Because of this, over the past year he has given me tools and guidelines to deal with the crazy world outside of the safety of a wellness center.
He suggested that I put an app on my phone, as well as utilize Alexa for guided mediations for sleep, anxiety and panic. I did that. He told me that when those out-of-control panic attacks come, to follow my breath – to count my breath – and has given me suggestions on how to quiet that “crazy noise” in my head. He suggested some homeopathic remedies that I should have available to help me through those panicked times – each one a natural and non-addicting remedy and therefore a much better choice than Xanax.
My TCM doctor has, as I have written before, enabled me to leave my previous general practitioner and move to one more willing to listen to me. So, in full disclosure, I will admit here and now that when he suggested I see a WESTERN SPECIALIST about random and periodic bruises showing up on my legs and arms, I was shocked.
In fact, I think my exact, screeched words were, “Are you crazy? No more doctors – all they see is an old woman and will send me for more tests and why can’t you fix this?”
He “patiently” explained – again – the concept of “complementary medicine”. He “patiently” reminded me not all doctors were the same. And he “compassionately” suggested that since this issue was troubling me – impacting my sleep and hanging over me like a dark cloud for almost four months, wouldn’t it be better that I found out – with a specialist – what is going on.
Three months ago, when I brought up this concern to my general practitioner, she reminded me that all “aging people develop thinner skin and bruise easily”. Not exactly caring nor compassionate. She suggested we’d review it in February, after going for more blood work for her to review.
My TCM doctor asked me why I would wait and worry for such a length of time. He reminded me that I was in charge of my health – “the driver of my healthcare bus” – and I did not have to wait on scheduled visits to care for myself.
He reminded me that I had power.
It was this empowerment which had me sitting in a highly recommended hematologists’ office this week. And it was this empowerment that taught me some new life lessons that I will never forget.
Most hematologists are associated with oncology practices. I sat, surrounded by people who were truly sick; some dragging oxygen tanks, others using canes and walkers. Many were with nurses’ aides. Some sat quietly, some spoke so loudly to their friends or family that I couldn’t escape their medical horror stories. I watched people sign in and say to the receptionist, “I’m just here to have my port removed”. I watched one elderly man cry to his wife that he just wanted to die.
My emotional boundaries were broken; I felt all of their pain and fear. I wondered why I, with just some random bruises, was even sitting there with my blonde, blue and purple hair. With my breath lessening every minute, I texted my TCM doctor, “I am here, surrounded by very sick people. I feel like I am wasting this doctor’s time. Why am I even here?”
And he texted back, “Perhaps to realize how healthy and fortunate you are.”
Truly – and I triple dipped down on my commitment to a healthy TCM lifestyle.
Suddenly, I remembered my tricks; I did not need to sit and listen to these medical horror stories. I took out my phone, plugged in my earphones and listened to my meditations for decreasing stress and enhancing mindfulness. I followed my breath – and when my name was called some 20 minutes later – I was a far calmer person.
My new Western specialist was thrilled I was seeing an acupuncturist; in fact he sees one himself. He was impressed that I was actually referred by a TCM doctor. He explained that if I was getting weekly acupuncture treatments, I was obviously not a bleeder, a good thing in his Western medicine handbook.
He discussed with me what he thought was happening after reviewing my labs from October. He wanted to do more extensive testing – which meant more blood – because then in two weeks’ time, “We can see if there is a problem or if there is not. For now, you shouldn’t worry.”
And he ended my visit by saying something eerily similar to what my TCM doctor had said to me two weeks ago, “It is a good thing that you have come in so we can address this as soon as possible; there is no reason for you to worry about something which may be nothing. Such stress is not good for you.”
As I got myself together to leave, I glanced at the bulletin board in his office. Ironically, he had this Chinese proverb in the corner: “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. But involve me, and I’ll understand.”
I understand so much more now. Life is not always going to be pleasant, but I have a health care team that I trust and who care; my TCM doctor has given me the skills to deal with whatever comes at me.
In short, Traditional Chinese Medicine has “involved me”.