When people hear Chinese Medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) they often just think of acupuncture, and maybe herbal therapies. Did you know there are actually 8 Branches of TCM?! Some branches are more widely used than others, and some you might even be using in your daily life already as a form of self-care without even knowing it! In this series, I will introduce each of the 8 Branches of TCM, starting with MEDITATION. Much of the focus in TCM is in the mind-body connection; emotions can be the cause of disease and vice-versa. The common phrase “a nervous stomach” can be explained by the spleen/stomach (digestive system) relationship to overthinking and worrying. Meditation can have a profound effect on our emotions and how we perceive and react to what happens around us.
Our society is built on a chaotic whirlwind of schedules, deadlines and obligations. If you aren’t multi-tasking, you are doing it wrong. These hectic lives we lead create stress and anxiety. In fact, a poll published in March by the American Psychiatric Association reported that 39% of Americans felt more anxious at the time of the study than they did at the same time last year. This is what makes meditation and mindfulness more important than ever! It’s all about living in the present and not attaching to thoughts of what’s happening next or ruminating on past events.
Meditation has roots in many cultures and there are many different types. Mindful meditation includes sitting comfortably in stillness and turning your focus within. Instead of contemplating the many thoughts running through your head, concentrate on your breath. This helps to calm the mind and reduce stress. As thoughts and feelings arise, you simply let them pass and go back to the breath.
Studies of meditation have shown its effects on the physical body, as well. One study that followed women suffering from breast cancer noted that the length of telomeres, (the caps of DNA on chromosomes that help prevent them from deteriorating) were maintained in the patients who practiced mindful meditation, while the control group’s telomeres shrank. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), meditation has been shown to help pain, IBS, ulcerative colitis, anxiety, depression, insomnia, smoking cessation, high blood pressure and more.
Many people shy away from meditation with excuses like: “I don’t have time.” “I don’t know how.” “Sitting still makes me more anxious.” I was of this camp before I started to meditate. I’m still a beginner, but have noticed many positive changes in myself already. Something that helped me was practicing in a group setting. Many communities offer classes and workshops to help you learn how to meditate. You will quickly find you aren’t doing it wrong and that each time you meditate you can get something new out of it and each experience can be different. The key is to show up and take time for yourself and your fears will fall away.
Together with Erin Maris, owner of E2 Yoga and Fitness, and author of the UWM Course “The Art of Being Still”, we are offering an 8 week workshop that pairs calming acu-points with a guided meditation, followed by journaling and a group discussion. More information can be found HERE. Also check out Erin’s interview with NPR, including two guided meditations for you to try!