Thoughts for Mother's Day
This week all my plans and schedules went haywire after a meeting with the caregivers at my mother’s assisted living facility. Mom, age 97, has dementia, and has deteriorated to the point where she needs more care and attention than she can afford. So we will have to move her to another, less costly facility, and soon.
I’m spending this Mother’s Day thinking about all the ways mothers and daughters can get out of balance—and how we can learn from these situations.
My mother is a classic example of what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) would describe as a “Wood Imbalance.” In Chinese Medicine, people are typed according to one of these Five Elements, each relating to a season of the year: Wood (Spring), Fire (Summer), Earth (Late Summer/Harvest time), Metal (Autumn) or Water (Winter). I’d like to thank my herbalism teacher, Patricia Kyritsi Howell, for the TCM definitions and descriptions that follow.
A healthy Wood personality “responds appropriately to emotional, physical and spiritual challenges,” and is “able to adapt to the difficulties of everyday life with grace and humor.” Similarly, the Wood element in the body, represented by the Liver and Gallbladder systems (not to get too deep here, but TCM is not the same as the actual physical organs), “maintains the dynamic equilibrium needed to respond appropriately to change and opportunity.” That’s balance!
Now when Wood gets out of balance, watch out! Some of the physical symptoms include: headaches, especially migraines; chronic muscle tension; eye problems; digestive problems — ulcers, irritable bowel, and the like; insomnia and restless sleep.
A Wood imbalance shows up emotionally as a volatile temper, aggressive behavior, nervous tension and irritability, a tendency toward rigid thinking and over-controlling behavior, and a “victim” mentality.
What makes TCM such a wonderful tool for analyzing symptoms and behavior is the way it shows how each of the Five Elements interact.
When Wood is out of balance, it lashes out. It is angry, so it fans the flames of the Fire element (leading to high blood pressure, poor circulation, forgetfulness and irrational thoughts).
Unstable Wood attacks the Earth element (showing up as blood sugar imbalances, poor digestion, hypothyroidism, confused thinking and obsessive worry).
The Metal element works even harder to control Wood (registering as stiff posture, more inflexible, overly judgmental and hoarding behavior).
And the Water element gives and gives until Wood has sucked it dry (resulting in hair loss, poor memory, diminished vision and hearing, weakened immunity, dizziness, urinary tract problems, pessimism and negativity).
Doesn’t this begin to look like the various stages of dementia?
Throughout my life, my mother has been my teacher, and I see what can happen if I don’t keep myself in balance. I do what I can for Mom, and wish I could do more. Unfortunately, she has never allowed me to do Reiki for her.
I use her example to take better care of myself. For me, and likely for many of you, it’s vital to stay flexible in body and mind. Tai chi and yoga are both excellent disciplines for that.
It’s also important to eat foods that support the Wood element and the Liver system, especially while we are in the middle of Spring: leafy greens, medicinal mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, and the like), more vegetables and fruits. You can supplement your diet with hepatic herbs, in teas, tinctures or mixed in your food; some easy examples include turmeric, lemon balm, yellow dock, dandelion, fennel, celery seed, horseradish, artichoke, milk thistle, yarrow, gentian, cleavers and motherwort.
And one of the best ways to care for your Liver (system) is to get enough sleep! According to TCM, the prime time for the Liver and Gallbladder to regenerate themselves is between 11 pm and 3 am. If you’re not asleep during that time, you’re putting added stress on your Liver.
Finally, I encourage all of you to get some kind of body work regularly to help you de-stress, detoxify and get back into balance. Massage and chiropractic are great, and of course, I highly recommend Reiki and Reflexology. Do it for yourself — and for your mother! It can help make the difference between dutiful and dissident behavior toward aging parents ;-)
Christin Whittington is a practitioner of energy medicine – helping people restore balance in their bodies, their health and their lives using a combination of Reiki, Reflexology, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Qi Gong and herbal medicine.