Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Holiday Office Closure

As usual, we will be out of the office from Christmas to New Year's for the winter holidays. We'll be back in the office on Monday, January 3rd.

From the Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, this time just after the solstice is ideal for focusing inward, spending quiet time with friends and family and conserving your energy.

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you health, happiness and good fortune in the coming year!
From Sean, Lori, Bill, Erin and Leslie
(and Lily, of course!)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Slow-Cooker Congee

Congee (or "Jook") is a wonderful, easy to digest, highly nourishing rice porridge dish. This recipe falls under the category of "more things to do with stock." I often recommend this when people need to restore their energy, and seasonally, it is one of the most appropriate dishes for consolidating the energy in the winter.

Start with 4-6 cups of stock and 2-4 cups of water (depending on how concentrated you want to make the congee) for a total of 8 cups of liquid. Put this in your slow-cooker/crock-pot. Add 1 cup of short grain white rice (I like Koda Farms Kokuho Rose). Turn your slow-cooker to low and come back in 6-8 hours. About 20 minutes before you're ready to take it out add about an inch of fresh ginger cut into matchstick size.

This will make 4 servings. Serve it topped with pork, sauteed greens and freshly toasted walnuts - or whatever else you like!

Note: To make this on the stovetop increase the fluid to 10 cups, bring to a boil and then simmer on low until it is ready, probably an hour or so. Again add the ginger 20 minutes or so before its done.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Using Bone Stock in Everyday Cooking

We are now in the time of year where the energy is moving inward. This is a great time to use bone stocks in your everyday cooking to support the energy and nourish the kidneys. I'll post a recipe soon for slow-cooker congee using pork stock, but in the meantime, start using a small amount of stock - around a tablespoon or so - when you steam vegetables and cook rice. Just mix it in with the water and you have a quick way to get concentrated nourishment that consolidates the qi and supports the essences.

To make stock follow the recipe: Making Bone Stock

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Classical Chinese Medicine Study Group

I am going to be starting a new Classical Chinese Medicine study group in January. I have led an ongoing group for a number of years (except last year), with Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee supervising and meeting with us twice a year, when she is in the area. In the past we have focused on the Neijing Suwen, working with key chapters in Chinese.

The format for the study group is very collaborative and interactive with discussions and presentations. The group works together and as individuals to make a functional (i.e. for our own understanding) translation of the text which will give people experience with reading and writing classical Chinese - it truly is "Chinese Medicine from the Classics." This is something that I love doing!

I am looking at starting mid-January of 2011. I haven't set a specific date or time yet, but we previously have met on a Saturday or Sunday morning from 10-12 or so. This will be an ongoing group so there is not a set timeframe in terms of number of months, etc. We usually meet once a month as a group (except for December due to holidays and what-not) and then twice a year with Elisabeth. After the first meeting people should have an idea of whether it is something that they would like to continue on an ongoing basis. The group is ideal for practitioners or students of Chinese Medicine, or those with some background in the basic theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Contact me at http://traditionalhealtharts.com/contact.html if you are interested or have any questions.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Using A Gaiwan to Prepare Tea

I have had many people ask me the best way to prepare tea. Of course, everyone has their own preference, but I like to use either an yixing clay teapot or a gaiwan. As shown in the photo to the right, a gaiwan set consists of the gaiwan container, which is shaped like a cup with a saucer and lid, and a teacup or pitcher to pour the tea into once it has brewed.

Step 1. Put the tea in the gaiwan (the cup shaped container with the lid).

Step 2. Rinse the tea by pouring boiling water (or cooler water for green tea) into the gaiwan over the tea.

Step 3. Carefully, using the lid as a strainer, pour the rinse water from the gaiwan into your teacup to warm the cup. Pour out the rinse water once the cup is warm.

Step 5. Prepare the first round of tea by filling the gaiwan with boiling or just boiled water (again use cooler water for green teas) and cover, letting steep for 15-30 seconds or so. Once it has steeped pour into your teacup (or cups), using the lid as a strainer. Sip and enjoy!

This can be repeated multiple times, with slightly longer infusion time each round.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lily Photos

People have been asking for some photos of Lily, so here they are. The top photo is Lily at Mt.Shasta, sampling the local fare. Then Lily with Maracas, Lily playing with Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee and finally, Lily joking around with Dr. Bear (Iwashina Anryu) and Lori.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Harmonizing with the Season

I will be sending out the second newsletter in the current series of newsletters soon. The series looks at the practical, adaptable methods, practices and approaches to health that are detailed in the Chinese medical classics. This current newsletter focuses on harmonizing with the seasons, with an emphasis on autumn (because it is autumn, of course). I discuss this in the office a lot, as the seasons have a tremendous influence on our energy, emotions and overall health.

In the autumn it is easy to get overwhelmed and burnt out. There is a reversal of the qi - from the outward, open movement of the summertime, to the drawing in or harvest of the autumn. This makes it easy for heat to accumulate in the chest, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and reactive. It is important to take the steps to keep yourself in harmony with the season.

The key themes of autumn are discernment, boundaries and letting go of what is not essential. It's ok to work hard (essential even), but that work needs to be on the things that matter. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself, what would happen if I didn't do (fill in whatever you like here)? If the answer is "not much" then don't do it. Spend the time on what is more essential to you and you will be on your way to more fully participating in the movement of autumn.

In the newsletter article I'll have more on this.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Salt Chicken

From the Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, chicken has a warming effect on the body. This recipe is great for this time of year (and even in the summertime) as cooking the chicken in salt "cools" it, making it more appropriate for warmer weather - and very tasty.

All you need is a whole chicken and 1 pound of good quality sea salt (not table salt).

Put the salt in a wok or large cooking pan. Heat the pan on high until the salt starts crackling. Lay the chicken on top of the salt, turn down to medium and cover. Cook for 50 minutes and you're done!

I like to serve this over rice with steamed greens or stir-fried vegetables and mushrooms.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chinese Medicinal Plant Walk

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens in Glen Ellen, CA
Saturday September 4th from 10 - Noon

1989.049_fl_lm_1Every year Peg Schafer and I lead this medicinal plant walk at Quarryhill Botanical Gardens. Quarryhill is an amazing, world-class woodland garden specializing in Asian plants. We'll see and talk about a variety of rare and commonly used Chinese medicinal plants in terms of cultivation and usage. This is a great opportunity to see, learn about and get a feel for the live herbs in a beautiful setting.

All proceeds benefit Quarryhill Botanical Garden, $15 non-members (of the Gardens) $10 members.
(707) 996-3166

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Way of Tea

I often talk about the health benefits of tea in the office. However, a high quality tea also provides a deep and quiet enjoyment and, traditionally, is even seen as as way to cultivate one's awareness and sensitivity.

The tea itself is fundamental, but we also need pure water (ideally spring water, but most of us don't live by a pure mountain spring, so as fresh and pure as possible), a teapot or gaiwan to brew the tea, a kettle to prepare the water, and of course, a source of heat. These basic elements reflect the Five Elements or Phases of nature: Wood/Greenery (tea), Fire (heat source), Earth (clay or ceramic pot), Water (well, water) and Metal (kettle).

Perhaps the most important element in all of this, however, is you! Sitting quietly with a few friends, slowly sipping your tea, notice the color and aroma and let the flavor roll back along your tongue. Notice the feeling in your mouth and throughout your body as the qi of the tea begins to circulate. This quiet pleasure is part of the Way of Tea - Cha Dao.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Qigong Demo at Dr. Rong Rong Zheng's Banquet Part 2

Here is the second part of the moving qigong demonstration I did at Dr. Zheng's banquet. This shows the advanced moving gong and closing gong (and lots of waiters - there was so much fantastic food!). See below for part 1.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Newsletter Series

Within Chinese medicine, health is not simply the absence of disease, it is a dynamic changing state that embodies efficient living and allows us to fulfill our potential. There are actually a small number of important things that we can do that are necessary for this. Every day in the office I discuss some of these things with people and see how well they work. The nice thing about traditional Chinese medicine is, even though it may sound different or even esoteric at first, it is first and foremost practical and adaptable; it is about what works over the long term.
With this in mind I have decided to write a series of newsletter articles on the methods, practices and approaches to health that are laid out in the classical texts and are applied to our modern lives. The first newsletter in this series will be emailed out soon.
This series will encompass the following topics:
Living with Awareness
Following the Seasons / Natural Rhythms
Food and Nutrition
Restorative Practices
Movement / Physical Training
Health Interventions
The primary themes within all of these interrelated topics are awareness, simplicity and effectiveness.

If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter you can sign up on the main page of our website (just scroll down to the form ) at Center for Traditional Health Arts. Once you have joined the mailing list check your email for the confirmation letter (which you'll need to confirm your newsletter subscription).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Making Bone Stock

I often recommend bone stock for restoring the energy and providing condensed, high quality nutrients. Within Traditional Chinese Medicine, making this is extracting the essences of the animal that provide tremendous nourishment.

This is the basic way to prepare bone stock:
To make bone stock, start with 4 pounds of beef or pork bones (pork neck works really well). Pork bones will be more cooling, while beef will be a little warming. Bake the bones in the oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes. Then put the bones in your stock pot, add 1 gallon of water and 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar and bring to a boil. Cover and turn down to a simmer for around 8 hours. Strain the bones and let the stock cool. Refrigerate what you will use within a week and freeze the rest. As it cools it is normal for it to solidify into gelatin. This can be used for making congee, as the base for soups (diluted with water) or added in small amounts to soups, stir fry, steaming water for vegetables, cooking grains, etc.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Qigong Demo at Dr. Rong Rong Zheng's Banquet

I've studied with my teacher, Dr. Rong Rong Zheng for the past 19 years. In April there was a banquet honoring her accomplishments and celebrating her 70th birthday. It was a great time with patients, doctors, friends and family coming from China, Japan and all over the US. 
As part of the event Dr. Zheng asked me to do a demonstration of the Moving Qi Gong. Here is a video of the first half of the demonstration. I’ll post the demonstration of the six advanced exercises and closing exercises later.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Elimination Communication

Elimination Communication ("EC"), sometimes called “Infant Potty Training,” is based on the observations that it is natural for infants and babies to cue their parents before they eliminate, that they can learn cues to facilitate elimination and that they do not want to sit in a soiled diaper (who does, after all). It is a soft, awareness based approach that is both amazing and totally natural, once you can wrap your mind around it. Following this gentle approach, we haven’t used diapers with Lily since she was 6 months old (she is now 10 months old).  
There are several books that we have found helpful. You can order these from your local bookstore or use the links below to get them from Amazon.

Infant Potty Training, by Laurie Boucke. This is a more comprehensive look at EC with a cross-cultural perspective.  A nice view on the subject from one of the people that began to re-popularize EC here. 

Infant Potty Basics, by Laurie Boucke. This is more of the basic, how-to kind of information. Very practical and useful.

Diaper Free, by Ingrid Bauer. If you can find this used (it is out of print now) is a nice introduction although a bit repetitive. This is what we started with. I recommend getting the information that you need and skipping around from there. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Natural Parenting

Natural Parenting sounds like a funny term (to me at least), but it essentially is about raising a baby with awareness and following the natural rhythms of development with the baby. This is all very consistent with Traditional Chinese Medicine, although these ideas would be a given in most traditional cultures. Lori and I have come across some excellent resources that I'll cover in an ongoing, series of posts, interspersed with my regular posts on Chinese medicine, philosophy, nutrition, exercise and so on.

These are all things that we do with Lily and we have been amazed at the results. Of course, I find Lily amazing anyhow, but that's just me. I think that these are great resources for parents, grandparents, caretakers, and others interested in an awareness, communication based approach to raising kids.

The first post in this series will be on Elimination Communication or "EC." I'll have that up soon.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summertime - Harmonizing with the Season

Now, just past the summer solstice (which is mid-summer by the traditional Chinese view) I have been thinking about the traditional recommendations for harmonizing with the summertime. Along these lines, I revised the following article that I wrote several years ago:
"The three months of summer are called prospering and developing the flower. Heaven & Earth intertwine and the Ten Thousand Beings flower and bring forth fruit..."
- Neijing Suwen, Ch. 2
The traditional recommendations for harmonizing with the summertime all have to do with finding the proper movement for moderating the fullness of the season. In other words, we must express the fullness and vitality of life that is inherent in the season, but be careful not to let the same fullness of the sun and the heat overwhelm the body.
To begin with, as we do with all of the seasons, we can look at our sleep & activity cycle as one of the most basic ways to govern the rhythms of the body. During the summertime it is recommended to go to bed later (within reason) and wake up early in the morning. This follows the movement of the sun: longer days and the increased light and warmth activate the energy and the body needs less sleep than in the other seasons.
In terms of our waking hours, the summertime allows the largest amount of activity during the day. However, it is important to protect ourselves from the extremity of the sun (even if we are not outside) by doing more activity in the morning and evening, and less in the middle of the day. In this way we won't become overheated or depleted by the influence of the sun, which is always the concern for this season. The Chinese character for this is actually a pictogram of a person who has eaten too much of something good and is overly full. While the light and sun of the summer is full of vitality, too much will leave us full and overheated.
In terms of exercise, Qigong should be practiced in the morning, facing the eastern direction or in the evening facing the west. We can also walk in the morning or evening, taking longer walks when time allows. The image of walking in the springtime was loose strides in the courtyard, staying close to home. Our image for walking in the summertime is a long ramble through the countryside, perhaps taking a nap under a tree or next to a stream during the heat of the midday sun.
It is fine to exert our strength in this season with our work and exercise, but we should remain mindful to not damage the fluids of the body (which are keeping us cool in the heat of the season) with excessive activity.
In terms of our mental state, it is recommended in the summertime that we act calmly and without anger, thus assisting the completion and fulfillment of the beauty of the season. The movement outwards that is inherent in the season should be followed naturally, without any extra force. Whether it is too much time in the sun and heat or too strong of an emotional response, an excess of outwards movement will press the qi and fluids to the surface, where they may be dispersed and lost.
Following these traditional recommendations for harmonizing with the season ensures the proper movement of qi within the body, helping to prevent illness and support vitality.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Miso Soup Recipe

I have been recommending miso soup to a lot of people lately - it aids digestion, benefits the energy and provides great, tasty nourishment. Here is how I usually prepare it:

To make miso soup, start by bringing 4 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 piece of Kombu seaweed that is about 3 inches by 3 inches (it best to rinse the seaweed first in cold water). Reduce heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add a small handful of dried Bonito (dried, fish shavings). Let sit for several minutes then strain. Put 2 teaspoons (or more depending on taste preference) of miso paste in a bowl. Mix in one cup of the base that you have prepared and add a small pinch of Wakame seaweed. All of these ingredients - Kombu seaweed, Miso paste, Bonito, and Wakame seaweed - should be available at an Asian market.