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16 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k s e p t e m b e r / o c t o b e r 2 0 2 0 SAVVY SELF-CARE best practices Activate Your Center to Align with the Rhythms of Nature By Heath and Nicole Reed We are living through one of the most significant periods of change in our lifetimes. The adage "the only constant is change" can't mitigate the widespread upheavals to our normal routines. Ancient wisdom from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) offers us modern- day counsel to align with the rhythms of nature by fortifying our felt sense of groundedness, centeredness, and presence—even when we find ourselves standing on shaky ground. TCM's Five Element Theory bestows the period around the autumnal equinox with special significance. Just as temperatures begin to cool at the end of summer, a whiplash of heat punctuates and delays the felt onset of fall for a couple of weeks. Farmer's Almanac refers to this on-again, off-again period of fluctuating temperatures as "late" or "Indian" summer. TCM calls it doyo, and it is associated with the element of earth. THE EARTH ELEMENT EMBODIES CHANGE Doyo transliterates as "transition" or "transformation," and is a perfect potential to explore in these unpredictable times. Doyo not only refers to the phase evoking the advent of autumn, but also acknowledges the mini-season where microfluctuations exist in the transition between all four seasons. In this moment, doyo is inviting us to remember to give attention to the slow, purposeful shift from the outward expression of spring and summer to the inward focus of fall and winter. Doyo is exemplified by the element of earth, which provides a mirror of the strong, stable center of our own being where we are nourished. We can reflect nature by rooting ourselves into the core of our essence and trust we can peacefully transition without losing our center. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CHANGE? For many, change might feel difficult, sad, frustrating, scary, or something to avoid. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been forced into some kind of routine change. We are living inside a new normal and find ourselves in a world of fluctuating unknowns. With so much more to consider, clean, and take care of, we are looking for a way to be at peace in the midst of the shifting sands beneath our feet. When we bustle through transitions, we become vulnerable to accidents, injury, added stress, and illness. According to the Five Element Theory, other symptoms you may experience when you are out of sync with the earth phase include "physical fatigue, worry, blame and forgetfulness, loose stools, nausea, poor appetite, bloating, [and] excess weight or being underweight." 1 Other clues we are out of harmony with the changing seasons may include feeling off balance, easily distracted by external events, or muddled and unclear in our thinking. Explore the following practice as an opportunity to befriend the unpredictable and unfamiliar nature of change as you realign with nature, your core, and restore your sea of chi. Centering Breath Qigong Stand or sit with your feet hip-width apart or wider. Feel yourself both rooted down and lifted up at the same time. Visualize yourself as a bridge between heaven and earth. Rest your hands palms up in front of the base of your belly. Slowly float your right arm out to the side and inhale as you continue to lift your outstretched arm over your head. As you exhale, make a half-prayer shape with your right hand as you trace the centerline of your body from above your head, down through your forehead, sternum, and navel, and then return back to start with your right palm faced up in front of your inguinal ligament. Repeat this same flow with your left arm to complete the circle shape and bring your centering energy and intention down the axial highway of your central nervous system. Continue to flow with alternating arms and equal breaths until you feel calm, centered, and aligned. Imagine the light of your attention growing brighter in your belly with each exhale as you return your hands to your center. Just before

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