One of the great, classic texts of Chinese medicine and philosophy is The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, or Neijing. Reportedly written by the great Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor, in 221 BCE, it is the backbone of all modern acupuncture studies, and its text has a strong relevance to our lives today.
The book is a dialog of questions and answers between Huang Di and the great physician, Qi Bo. Attention is paid to living in harmony: with the seasons – the external, within our physiological systems – the internal, and (among others) with our food, which bridges the two.
Here is one quote from early in the book, about living in harmony with the autumn:
(Huang Di says) “In the three months of autumn all things in nature reach their maturity. The grains ripen and harvesting occurs. The heavenly energy cools, as does the weather. The wind begins to stir. This is the changing or pivoting point when the yang, or active, phase turns into its opposite, the yin, or passive. phase. One should retire with the sunset and arise with the dawn… This is the time to gather one’s spirit and energy, be more focused, and not allow desires to run wild… “ (the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, p. 6, Maoshing Ni)
I bet the first place you got hung up was the retire at sunset bit. Your (frantic) inner voice started yammering away: ‘I can’t go to bed then! The kids are still up! There’s that meeting to go to! I bet this worked real well in a time when everybody was a farmer, but I could never do that now!’
Relax, please relax.
Look more closely at the quote. This is the time of year when the energy of the planet and the seasons – in our area, anyway – is sinking, drawing down to conserve energy and rest through the winter. So if you can’t go to bed at 7:30, what could you do? How about thinking this way:
- This is the time to gather energy. Become a squirrel. Use your sleep to gather, store and refresh your energy.
- There’s a big difference between feeling like you have a lot of energy at night, and want to do something useful with it, and feeling twitchy. Twitchy feels like you’ve had way too much caffeine. If twitchy or wired is what you’re feeling, see the next step.
- Allow yourself some decompression time before you fall into bed. I’m not crazy about that being filled with TV, but maybe you could still watch, just cut back a bit. Do something that doesn’t overstimulate you. Most importantly, how about 2 hours before bedtime with no work?
- If you’re used to going to bed at 11, try going to bed at 10:30. Once you begin paying attention to how your internal rhythms really want to mesh with the season, you may find that you want to go to bed earlier.
- Don’t eat for at least 2 hours before bed. It takes energy to digest your food, and you’re supposed to be recharging that energy at night. Plus, food can be stimulating.
Be easy on yourself about this. More importantly, be gentle with yourself. Don’t go all frantic about this, about ‘another expert’ telling you how to live your life. How about this: Try these steps for a week, and see what happens. Maybe it will make you nuts, in which case we’ll have to find another approach.
And maybe – this is my hope for you – you will begin to hear your body speak to you, and you will listen to what it says.
Holding you in the Light. ~ karen
ps It might be saying ‘Now? Can we go to bed now? I’m soooo tired. Now?’ Or maybe not…