After the previous blog about anxiety, I’ve received some good feedback that made me feel the need to address one ubiquitous characteristic of life that also plays a pivotal role in Chinese Medicine Five-Phase theory (for a full introduction to Five-Phase theory, click here). This characteristic is change. Change is fundamental to life itself, but it can also be uncomfortable and frightening enough that we sometimes wish it didn’t occur.
Whether a particular change is positive or negative, looked-for or unlooked-for is not today’s topic of concern. It doesn’t even matter whether you believe there is some larger reason, intelligence or purpose behind life as a whole: change will happen in your life, and frequently. These changes could leave you feeling happy, fulfilled, heartbroken, fearful, or anything else. So what does Chinese Medicine say about change, generally speaking?
Well, to be frank, the whole point of Chinese Medicine is to help a person maintain dynamic equilibrium: to respond to the challenges and changes of life while maintaining or even enhancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. This is why, ideally, this medicine is used preventatively. It is far easier to maintain health than it is to repair injury, and it is faster to heal from a new wound (or illness) that is properly cared for than it is to break down scar tissue that has formed and festered over many years.
That said, I’ve never met the perfect Chinese Medicine patient (and I include myself) who has achieved perfect overall health and uses treatment strictly as a preventative measure. So what does that say about the role of Chinese Medicine theory in our actual, non-theoretical, change-filled lives?
Chinese Medicine states, in short, that change is the driving force behind life itself. Energy moves, changes, flows, and develops into new energy. In fact, change is just another word for energy flow. And anytime you develop a symptom of any kind, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, or any other sort, it means that a change in energy has not occurred smoothly.
You are undergoing constant cycles of change. This applies in a regular, scientific medical sense just as much as it does in Chinese Medicine. Over time, your body literally replaces every one of its cells. At this very moment, however healthy or unhealthy you feel, parts of you are being renovated: bone cells are torn apart and remodeled to makes them stronger in response to the ways you move in daily life. Skin and hair cells turn on, grow, and turn off throughout life. Even your nerve cells grow and change over time. And each individual cell constantly repairs and replaces its building blocks as they wear out.
We don’t have to think about these things for them to happen, and quite frankly, even if you stopped living right now it wouldn’t stop your body from changing. In order to live more fully, though, we can do things to encourage the changes we encounter to make us stronger, happier and healthier.
People of different phases and different levels of balance may find themselves more or less attracted to change in general and also better able to handle change. For instance, Fire thrives on change, like flames leaping around, but may also tire of the challenge of following through with change or building a stable basis in life that keeps change from turning to chaos. Water types may find it hard to accept change in life in a general sense- after all, water is deep, settled and enjoys being still and reflective, and must find enough spark or momentum in life to keep the momentum necessary to sustain a truly meaningful life. Wood and Metal are both likely to be driven toward positive change, but they each also have challenges. A Wood person will want to be in control of all changes that occur and must summon the flexibility and trust in others to accept and work with changes that are initiated by the outside world, as well as accept help with self-initiated change. Metal has a similar set of challenges, but with a twist: to Metal the world is very well-organized and should proceed in a certain, orderly fashion. It’s not so much whether changes start within or without that may trip up a Metal person, it’s whether things proceed according to plan and whether life responds “as it should.” The Metal person must find the spontaneity and grace to change course or expectations in the moment. And last but not least, the Earth type is quite content to help others through changes and provide support and comfort for others as life progresses, but must also be willing to participate in change and accept support.
One metaphor for all this change is a little mill wheel in a river. So long as water flows over the wheel it spins, providing power to the mill. The water changes constantly and over the years the wheel may need all its parts replaced. But it is still, in essence, the same wheel, just as you are the same person even though your energy is ever-changing and throughout life even your physical body is replaced, repaired and maybe even upgraded.
This is life: the wheel spins, the water flows, and constant, balanced motion yields stability, productivity, and maybe even fulfillment. Fortunately for those of us who are not actually wheels, we can help ourselves make the best we can of each change by actively choosing, whenever possible, what aspects of each change we let flow through us and give us power and what we let flow around us and disappear.
It is my hope that, with Chinese Medicine, I help my clients achieve and maintain balance in such a way that they are able to respond to the constant change of life with as much ease and grace possible.
This world is best off when we are each in a position to choose to constantly grow into the best and brightest aspects of ourselves.