The Curve Balls of Life.
One moment you are sitting on your sofa, and the next you are in the car heading to the far north!
There are things in life that there’s no litigation for, things that sideswipe you when least expected, things that will knock you off balance if you’d allow them to.
They say expect the unexpected, failing to plan is planning to fail!
It’s all pretty useless advice! As the old army saying goes, “no plan survives contact with the enemy!”
What’s to be done then?
My lovely old Mum has long had a balance problem.
We often hear about balance and Kidneys. So often it’s ascribed to Urine infections and the like, but from a Chinese medicine perspective it goes energetically much deeper.
Think about the shape, (and the number!) of ears you have! Generally speaking it’s TWO, exceptions allowed for crazed artists! What other small organs come in twos? You get a point if you answered Testicles or Ovaries and two points for Kidneys.
The connection from ears to Kidneys may not be an obvious one, but for a Chinese Medicine practitioner, hearing problems, balance problems and clearly things like Urinary problems, all lead you to wonder about the “energetic” health of the Kidneys. Just think of the pair of ears, and compare them to the pair of Kidneys, same sort of shape, same sort of size, placed each side of the body… Now you can see where the idea arises from. (The same logic and connection applies to the sex Organs too..)
The Kidneys get a pretty bad rap when you start to look at the associated problems as defined through TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) – they govern the colour of your hair, the strength of your bones, the fluids that lubricate your joints, and the level of your libido! We mentioned before that hearing and balance were all wrapped up in the kidney story too..
Sex drive gone, grey hair, brittle bones, knackered knees, and deaf as a post, sounds pretty much like OLD AGE! And there you have it, the older you get, the lower the “energetic” function of your kidneys, the more you feel your age! Look after your kidneys people!
My lovely mother has somehow got through life without drinking a drop of water. When she crossed the Sahara, there was a trail of dead camels who had run out of juice, whilst she was still going!
Over the past however many years, I’ve heard a succession of doctors say “well, you are one the edge of Kidney Dialysis” then check her notes, to see that her function has never changed, it was low, stayed low, and is still low! I think she’s a medical miracle!
The only thing I can think is that maybe if you never use the Kidneys, maybe they just hibernate!
They used to get a few stern cups of coffee each day, but that was it. My Mum came from a generation who were suspicious of water.
As the old Scottish joke used to go, “Water… It’s fine, taken in the right spirit”
So we come full circle to my mum and her dodgy balance.
It’s never a good day, when you receive a call to say that she’s fallen out of bed, and is in the local hospital.
When we look at Chinese Medicine, we start to see the layers that go beyond Western Style Medicine. In Chinese Medicine, we are told that each of the major organs holds certain positive and negative emotions.
The particularly “youthful” positive emotion associated with the Kidneys is Willpower, the power to “grunt” one’s way through problems be they physical, emotional or mental.
When you are young, you are able to see things through to the end.
As we get older, we pick and chose our battles, rather than taking on all comers. It’s seen as wisdom, but deep down is a combination of sense, and using what power we have wisely.
The negative emotion of the kidneys is FEAR: Fear and it’s associated detractors, such as insecurity, anxiety, lack of willpower and a tendency to Isolation
As I type that list, I feel the weight, both for me as I start to age, but also for my lovely dear Mother.
Any suggestion of any sort was always met with a firm – “No dear.”
So often, shortly afterwards and with some time for reflection and reconsideration, she would come back to one and say, “I’ve been thinking…” and the answer would have moved to a tentative “yes”
But It would never have started with a yes! Her Kidneys would never have let her commit to something out of the ordinary without a huge amount of thought.
The oldest “new age” acronym in the book makes it’s stately way to the stage then..
F.E.A.R = False Evidence Appearing Real
We gaze on it, like an old friend, often seen, but never really appreciated. It applies so much to life. We are by nature generally cautious people. We like to look before we leap. This is what the Kidneys do for us “energetically” they help us to take a well balanced approach to risk. If you are risk-averse in life, it might feel much safer, but you might also feel that everything has left you behind! If you always JUMP, then often you’ll not have a happy landing. Balance is the all!
So there it is then, whilst leaning out of bed, balance wasn’t there to save my mother, her desiccated kidneys weren’t able to register the tilt of her body, and over she went.
What of my balance?
How do you react when the phone goes?
I remember a few of those moments, the phone call from the Police about my son – he’d been a silly teen, and had been picked up by the police, another time they called about my daughter’s unwise behaviour too! A teacher called to say my step-son had had an accident whilst out on a hill climb.. All total “heart in the mouth” moments. Your children scare you!
Thank God, no lasting damage.
I remember how my heart quite literally leapt into my throat. I think in Chinese Medicine, they talk about the effect of the Kidneys as “anchors” for the Heart, and when shock or fright arrive, the Kidneys are no longer able to hold the leaping heart down. The Kidneys themselves who normally so solidly regulate our passing of water, if the shock is big enough, people pee themselves instantly. This loss of water downwards, kidney energy escaping down, as heart energy leaps up, they are supposed to regulate each other, but fright dispels this relationship.
Now I have the phone in my hand, and my sister is telling me that Mum is in Hospital.
It’s not the first time, probably not the last, but it’s different this time.
This time I feel totally in control of myself. The shock passes straight through my body, without attaching. This time I’m able to accept the news, plan to leave right there and then, and all without skipping a beat.
I guess that sounds like bragging, but it’s not.
I’m not sure how my equanimity will be, when I get the call telling me that my mother has or is about to pass over.
I’m fairly sure though that I can tell you how I’ll feel and why.
Please Don’t think that I’ll not be gutted, I will..however, I’m fairly sure that most of my equanimity will remain intact. It’s something to do with Qigong and meditation.
As I’ve drifted through this story, you’ll remember that I’ve mentioned many times the idea of Organs in balance, and out of balance. This is the key. It’s the middle road to the that we seek in Chinese Medicine, that’s the holy grail if you will.
Too much is just as bad as too little in TCM, too much will-power probably makes you an overbearing boor, maybe it’ll make you live a bit longer, but there’s probably nobody who wants to spend those extra years listening to you! (And as we saw, too little is just the dwindling of life with old age, the kidneys seen as the hourglass of our lives…)
I can’t say that I have a particularly “strong” stock of Kidney energy as such, but I do feel that with all the daily work I put in, that there’s a harmony in my body that there never used to be.
As my lovely teacher, Teacher Lu says, “A harmonious family of Qi Organs!” (Qi being the Chinese word use to express internal energy, amongst many other concepts!)
We practice different types of meditation. Standing and sitting styles, Do Something and Do Nothing Styles too. What’s the point of Meditation? Frankly speaking, the calm that I have cultivated through this practice spills out into every facet of my life. These days if you cut me up, then you might get a growled “bloody idiot” but under my breath… A far cry from the volatile patterns that ruled my life in the past.
Poke me with a sharp comment, jab me with a disapproving look, nudge me out the way, and I genuinely feel ill have a better than 50% chance of catching my old patterns and allowing your barb to pass through me. Even if you manage to “nick” me, it doesn’t bleed for long these days.
It’s not really something I have consciously tried to fix, it’s just a by-product of the practice.
The Practice is there, because I long ago recognised myself as a deeply flawed, easily addicted and deeply patterned person. I realised that without significant work, it would be over sooner, rather than later. I decided that having lost my father when I was relatively young, and not having enjoyed the experience one bit, that I would do my best to lead a long healthy, happy and balanced life for my kids to follow should they wish.. Choose Life… And I did.
The Qigong exercises make my body feel supple and bendy. Don’t get me wrong, I still have aches and pains, but that’s because I’m doing lots of exercises.
The Stillness and deep meditation creates an internal, unshakable confidence and calm.
Life, I’d rather you didn’t throw me the Slings and Arrows of outrageous fortune, but where better to learn the craft, than in real life?
Real life doesn’t piss about! When it’s time to give you a good kick, are you going to stand there like a giant stiff dried up old tree, or will you flex like a sapling? Might Oaks get blown down in storms, but reeds get flattened, and then stand right up again after the storm passes…
Be flexible in mind and body, just like a reed. Cultivate calm. Flow down the river, Don’t paddle against it. When Life comes knocking, it’ll pass by your door with no injury.
In Qigong, we talk about making ourselves Transparent. That’s exactly it! Learn to make yourself Transparent and all will be well!