Lagniappe

Return to Spring

The spring season will soon announce itself with bursts of green shoots dotting the landscape. The dark cold of winter will give way to the warmer longer days of spring as the yin period begins its transformation back into yang. Spring is a season of growth and transformation. It is a time to move and stretch our bodies like the new growth springing up from the earth. We may feel a surge of creativity as our desire to create mirrors the rebirth and creation around us.

Snowdrop with blossom on sunlight, revival of spring flower with bud, the awakening of nature.

To stay healthy during this season Chinese medicine teaches us to go to bed and wake-up early. The energy around us is strong during this time making early morning walks a good time to revitalize ourselves. Like the force which moves through the plants guiding them upwards our emotions should move through us unhindered so that we remain balanced and open to life. When we lose our equanimity by holding on to negative emotions like anger and frustration Chinese medicine tells us we risk injuring the liver, which is associated with this season. We must let go of the turbulent emotions that course through us and remain centered and rooted, moving with the flexibility of a young tree in the wind.

From a dietary standpoint we should eat lighter more cooling foods. We can cut back on the heavy warming cuisine of winter and incorporate more raw vegetables and sprouts.The sour taste, which is the flavor associated with spring, means it is a good time to introduce fermented foods into our diet. Leafy greens are abundant during this period and a great addition to the spring menu. And by simply eating what grows locally during this time, you are eating in line with the season.

 

 

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Moving to Center: Autism and Qigong

I sit next to him and ask him how he is feeling. His eyes quickly dart around the room as he continues to repeat a line from a Disney movie he has just seen. I tap his hand in hopes of getting his attention. Finally, he looks up. He now stands across from me and is jumping up and down flapping his arms as he continues to repeat the Disney line. I place my arms on my lower abdomen and instruct him to do the same. He begins to punch and kick the air.

Breathe in.

He takes a deep breath and lets out a yawn. His arms are momentarily calm and then he starts punching the air.

Breathe out.

He yawns and kicks the air. His movements are becoming slower now. I begin moving my arms up and down with my breath and instruct him to follow me. He is now whispering the Disney line and has his eyes closed. He anticipates my next movement and starts speeding up. I tell him to slow down and follow me. His movements begin to sync up with my own. He is becoming quiet and his body more relaxed. At the end we sit down, cross-legged, on the floor. I instruct him to place his hands on his knees, palms up. Boy in a suit in lotus position

Breathe in.

He shuts his eyes tightly and leans his head back. His nostrils flare and his chest rises as his lungs fill with air.

Breathe out.

His body slumps down. He is quiet, fully relaxed and calm. He opens his eyes sleepily and then looks at me.

 

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Making Butter and Tasting Memories

It was basic kitchen chemistry but it felt like magic. I had never made butter as an adult, and now having just finished I was truly amazed. It seemed like it had separated in an instant, turning from a homogenous white substance into a clump of yellow butter submerged in translucent buttermilk. The taste was incredible and incomparable to any store bought butter I had ever tasted. My only thought was, why had I not done this sooner?

I had decided to attempt making the butter a few weeks prior. I kept returning to this childhood memory of churning butter at a day camp down the road from my grandmother’s home. I still remember each of u2015-01-26 21.43.44s taking turns at the butter churn, moving the cream up and down for what seemed like an eternity. When it was finished my teacher handed each of us a saltine cracker and generously spread the fresh butter onto each one. As a child raised on margarine this was likely the first time I had ever tasted real butter. I still remember biting into the cracker and tasting how fresh and creamy it was. Now, decades later I am returning to that memory and happy to say it is as good as I remember!

How to make butter (for those without a churn)

There truly is nothing simpler! Get one pint of high quality heavy whipping cream. Place it into a one quart mason jar. 2015-01-26 22.15.57Start shaking. Pass the jar to someone else, keep shaking and shaking.

At first it will turn into fluffy whipped cream, after this it will separate and you will magically be left with butterfat and buttermilk. Pull the butter from the jar, run it under cold water and carefully squeeze it, removing as much buttermilk as you can. Repeat this step until the water no longer looks milky. Salt if desired and enjoy!

If you decide to refrigerate the butter, it will be much harder than ‘normal’ butter. This is due to the higher fat content in the homemade stuff.

For more information go to: http://www.ameliedemahylac.com

In Defense of the Placebo Effect

I do a bit of traveling and every time I meet people the topic at some point turns to ‘what do you do?’ When I tell them I am an acupuncturist it is usually met with interest and perhaps a story of someone they knew who was helped with treatment. But on occasion I’ve been given the response, ‘you know it’s just placebo, right?’, as if they are letting me in on the big secret. I finally stopped my usual technique of boring them with research studies on the mechanism of action when I started thinking about what they were saying.

‘Just placebo.’

We toss around this term so casually, never really considering what we are saying. Placebo is considered a respectable word to use. It is used by ‘rational’ people to debunk all manner of quackery that ‘irrational’ people believe in. And yet the essence of the placebo effect is that our beliefs can effect change within the body; that the mind has the power to heal.

There is this deep fear within many to embrace an ideology that extends beyond the physical world as we know it, a desire to squirm when the term mind-body healing is used, yet we speak of the effects of stress, a mind-body harm, quite comfortably. We cling desperately to our current mechanistic world view because it is known and therefore safe. But, a world that extends beyond this outdated concept is a world that suddenly opens up to an infinite array of possibilities.

Trying to cultivate the power of the placebo begins with the understanding that a belief in our ability change our lives and bodies is no ‘placebo’.  There is no specific technique to be learned, it is simply knowledge of and confidence in our potential. In the end, it is with this understanding that we realize the power to change, the power to heal is an innate gift that we each have within us.

Meditation: Finding Silence

If we could transpose all of our passing thoughts, feelings and images onto paper, how furious would the typing be? Would we have a discordant novel by the end of the day? Would it be joyous? Full of despair? I feel that if any of us had access to such writing, we would likely be horrified by what we read. And yet this constant noise within our minds is almost always overlooked due to the fact that we have never known anything else. Many of us living under the supposition that nothing but this is possible. We are like functional alcoholics, seemingly maintaining our lives, all the while thoroughly unaware of what is going on inside of ourselves. We interact with the world, but with muted senses and a lack of awareness. But to move beyond this world is to enter another, that of meditation.

The essence of meditation is learning how to create silence within the constant noise. It is the art of connecting, of learning to see, hear, taste, and communicate with real awareness, and without being blocked by our minds. The thought of this silence often fills people with reservations, as if somehow ‘not thinking’ would mark the end of who we are. Nothing is further from the truth. To meditate is to discover who we are and enter a world we never knew, but that has constantly surrounded us.

Fermentation Experimentation

My first experiment with sauerkraut did not go as planned. It was summer and I was living in Taipei, Taiwan. The temperatures were in the high 90s with humidity so high that mold was growing on my suitcases. Ignoring what should have been common sense given these conditions, I decided this was the time to experiment with making sauerkraut. I followed a basic recipe (mostly), waited, and soon had cabbage sporting an amazing array of mold. I learned two things that summer about sauerkraut: first, it is not foolproof, and second, you must follow the recipe to a tee. Going in with this knowledge, and the mild temperatures of the Bay Area, my next attempt was a success. The secret I had missed in my last try: completely submerge the cabbage beneath the brine. Anything you miss will mold.

In order to make sauerkraut, you literally chop up a couple of heads of cabbage (I like to grate mine), pour on a couple tablespoons of salt, mash it down in a crock, cover it with the outer cabbage leaves to keep the cabbage down, and put something heavy directly on the cabbage so the brine will rise above it. I got my recipe from the great man of fermentation, Sandor Katz. His book “Wild Fermentation” is a must for anyone who wants to embark on a fermentation journey!

For more information go to: http://www.ameliedemahylac.com