Meals are mini meditations. In an ideal world, every time we take food into our bodies, it would be done with the mindful attention we give to meditation and prayer. Almost every ancient tradition speaks of food in this way, extolling the benefits of taking time, becoming present, enjoying the meal, and chewing slowly. It appears that in our modern rush to do everything expedient, this has long disappeared from our perspective. Yet, the further we have gotten from a mindful meal, the greater our physical distance from nourishment has grown. This distance serves as the primary key in many if not all of our reactions to food, and the illnesses that come as result of them.
In Chinese medicine, we speak often of Qi. There are many types of Qi in the body, all really treasures of our longevity. However, the two with perhaps greatest importance to an extended and happy vibrant life are the Spleen and Kidney. The Kidney Qi is our pool of longevity, the inherited Qi imparted to us at birth, it’s home is in the low back. Characteristic to this Qi, is it can never be replaced, we have what we have, and like a most precious treasure it is to be guarded as such. Now, within this context, it is our goal to never need to draw on the Kidney Qi, which means we are implored to live a life which is balanced, and at ease under all circumstance. Leading us to understand the role of the Spleen.
The Spleen is our source of what Chinese medicine calls post natal Qi. It’s job is to take our food and transform it into Qi which can then be used for life, work, play, movement, thought and all other processes. However, if the spleen is weak, if we rush through eating, if we eat in a hurried manner, or without attention, the spleen cannot keep up. When this happens, instead of gaining Qi from digestion, we use Qi to digest and each meal puts us at a net deficit. Signs of diminished Spleen Qi are:
* Food intolerance and allergy symptoms
* Bloating and Gas after meals
* Weight Gain
* Muscle soreness and weakness
Functioning at a deficit, without recognition, the body turns to the Qi of the Kidney, drawing on our reserve pool and over time weakening our resource and our body. Signs of diminished Kidney Qi are:
* Low Back Pain
* Weak of Painful Knees
* Graying of Hair
* Prostate Issues
* Weakened Libido
Lifestyle modification is the single most significant action to restore balance to the Qi dynamic within our bodies. First, the Spleen must be supported, so that it can resume providing essential Qi from our food, in order to stop leaching Qi from the Kidney and further weakening the body. Of great importance, is turning our meals into meditations, for which there are four main aspects:
Eat in a relaxed and calm manner without paying attention to anything else other than good conversation and a peaceful environment.
Chew each bite of food at least 20 times up to 50 depending on the texture and tenacity of the dish.
Have what is on your plate resemble a vibrant array of color, comprised of over 50% vegetable.
Express gratitude and awareness of what you are eating. Within that gratitude, connect with the body and organ systems, aligning an association of nourishment with what is about to enter your body.
The Qi of the Spleen and Kidney and their importance to our longevity cannot be underscored. Our bodies can mimic health very well for a long time before the impact of a hectic life sets in and fully takes it’s toll. Waiting until one has pain, fatigue or other issues to support proper digestion and Qi is a fools process because it can never be avoided. The key is to slow down, to become aware and connected to the essence of what we eat, returning to a balance and relationship with nourishment originating in things that come from the earth, which our bodies recognize as fuel and consuming them in a calm manner. Within this, great longevity can emerge.
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