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Don’t play whack-a-mole with your symptoms

Don’t play whack-a-mole with your symptoms

Whack-a-mole

Many of us think that real medicine is what other people do to us. We get sick, we go to the doctor. We need our back fixed, we see the chiropractor. We see the acupuncturist to take away our headaches.

But the ways that we tend ourselves on a daily basis will always be more important than what experts can provide.

Our symptoms serve as warning bells that we’re living in some way that’s out of alignment. They are opportunities to learn more about how to live well, and yet we often just treat them as a nuisance and silence them as quickly as possible.

Do you remember a commercial a few years ago for an antacid? It showed two women in a car with one suggesting they go through a fast-food drive-through. The other answers, oh no, I can’t eat there or I’ll have bad stomach pains. The first woman says, that used to be me too, but not with these! as she pulls a box of antacids out of her bag.

We end up just getting rid of the most superficial expression of the imbalance and not resolving the deeper issue. (Even holistic medicine can be guilty of this!) It’s like putting a piece of tape over the check engine light.  Or like playing whack-a-mole. Guaranteed something else is going to pop up.

We tend to keep our nervous system on hyper-alert through the way we live, the coffee we ingest, the news we read. No wonder we miss our bodies’ signals!

Being in fight-or-flight mode serves us well when we’re in true danger (like we’re about to get mugged) but not when we’re stuck in traffic (especially if that happens every morning).  

We want our nerves to be soft, supple and responsive. Not frayed and akin to a constantly barking dog.

Some form of cultivational practice like yoga, tai chi, qi gong, or meditation can help immensely. They help us slow down and tune in enough to know what we actually need to be well. We can pick up on subtler signs that something’s off and change course accordingly. And we’ll build a deeper reservoir of energy to draw on for the times when we’re doing something really important and we need to push ourselves.  (Note to self: Reorganizing books on bookshelf does not qualify as really important. Go to sleep.)

Often times we’re used to moving in the world in such a stressed way, that when we get relaxed, we may feel ineffective or listless. But it’s possible to access that place of calm and still be highly active in the world.  It takes practice, and it’s well worth it.

By:

In life, man is soft & supple; In death he is rigid and hard.
Plants and trees in life are tender; In death they are withered and dry.
Therefore, softness and tenderness mean life;
and hardness and stiffness mean death.
He who only relies on hard power will not win the battle.
The tree whose wood is hardest is cut down.
The mighty and the strong are thus cast down; and the humble and low are set on high.

– Tao Te Ching, LXXXVI

(Image source: Jeffrey Kontur)

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The Nuin Center
5655 Bryant St
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
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