"But in all of the sadness, when you're feeling that your heart is empty, and lacking, you've got to remember that grief isn't the absence of love. Grief is the proof that love is still there." -Tessa Shaffer
Last week, I had a nice blog post planned about ways to help prevent the flu and boost the immune system, but this week really changed the focus of my heart in a big way. On Monday we had a dear friend pass suddenly. Dinner was filled with tears, moments of silence, sharing our disbelief and all holding each other just a little bit closer. Then of course the events of Wednesday's school shooting in Florida, led to the entire country feeling the same way. I've been crying watching the news, feeling angry when I think of something like this happening and all with an ache deep in my heart. Loss is so painful and heart opening at the same time. Our entire being can become very vulnerable and it can be hard to know how to cope and also stay healthy with the array of emotions.
Because I wasn't sure how to cope myself, I decided to do what I often do, look in my books and learn from the wisdom of the five elements. I'm going to take each element one by one and share some ways to keep your mind and body well in the midst of this difficult time.
1. FIRE: The fire element is intimately connected with the organs of the heart and pericardium. The heart is where our feelings of love, joy and optimism arise. The pericardium is a membrane that covers the heart and in Chinese medicine it is known as the heart protector. When these two organs are in balance, the heart can be open but it is still protected from being overly exposed to external negative influences. It's important to have an open heart, but when we are too vulnerable to every emotion, then we can tend towards anxiety and 'taking in' every emotion around us. Ways to help keep this balance of openness and protection, is to be careful how much information you are taking in about the news of the day when it is this emotionally challenging. I can struggle with this balance, but when the news is making you cry and Facebook is making you angry, then that is a clear sign that it's time to unplug.
2. EARTH: Just as the planet earth carries us through the darkness of space with security and stability, so too does the earth element signify, mothering, altruism and groundedness. If a person is dominant in the earth element, they are going to want to nurture and take care of everyone around them when times are tough. The urge to 'mother' others during times of grief will come naturally to an earth. Donating their time and money to the causes they care about will help them to feel like they are 'doing' something. My first inclination when I heard of my friend losing his husband was, 'we should cook him a meal.' When nurturing others though, don't forget about the nourishing of the self. Many people find it much easier to give support, than to receive it for themselves, but this is an important part of healing and keeping your earth in balance.
3. METAL: The metal element is the one most associated with grief. The season of metal is the transition of fall to winter, when the days get shorter, colder and eventually go into the stillness of winter. When this element is in balance, there is a healthy transformation of loss and grief into acceptance and inspiration. Yet because this element is intimately connected with the lungs and the breath, many times the immune system can find itself compromised during this process. When going through times of grieving, take care to protect your lungs, meditate and take some lung strengthening herbs. My favorite choice is Astragalus (Huang Qi), which builds our Wei Chi (protective Qi) and will strengthen the metal element and support it during times of grief.
4. WATER: The water element is the season of winter and represents the root or core of life itself. The water element represents the power to transform fear and doubt, into wisdom and trust. This can be a very challenging endeavor during times of loss and especially a traumatic event. Fear is a powerful emotion, and not so easily tamed. The water element is connected to the kidneys and adrenal glands. The adrenals control our 'fight or flight' response which is why fear can so easily lead to anxiety and becoming ungrounded. Ways to help keep your water element balanced, is to prioritize quiet time and draw upon the wisdom of others to stay inspired.
5. WOOD: The wood element is the season of spring and so when it is in balance it is a serious 'go-getter'. Those dominant in the wood element are the one's already lobbying congress for stricter gun laws. But when the wood element is not in balance, the emotional tendency is to feel irritable, angry and constrained. Their body gets tight and their jaw is clenched. The wood element feels angry at the unfairness of life, but instead of getting 'stuck' in that place, a balanced wood will begin to take action to help correct the injustices. Clearly articulated anger and frustration can be very powerful, but be careful not to keep those emotions trapped inside the body, but expressed in a healthy and clear way. During times of grief, the wood element needs to move, exercise, dance and stretch, or they will really start to get 'stuck'.
I hope reading this helped you as much as writing it did for me. Take care of others, take care of yourself, and we will all move our world forward with as much love and grace as we can muster! xoxo
Melissa is a self described 'nerd' about all topics relating to health and wellness. She is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and co-owner of Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing.