Learning how to keep life in balance

March's Year of Sagely LivingIt’s time for my March Year of Sagely Living update! I believe that my efforts were successful, overall. My true goal this month was two-fold. First, I wanted to pay close attention to the two hour time periods associated with each organ system on the Chinese medicine organ clock. Second, I wanted to create and maintain space for my family and myself amid the festering chaos of medical school.

Attempting to pay attention to the times associated with the organ clock was more difficult than it may sound. I found that I looked at the clock and really paid attention at the same times each day. This was usually around mealtimes, when I had a natural break in my work cycle.

Regardless, it was valuable to take a few minutes to really absorb the energy of those times. Interestingly, I noticed that my ability to clearly take in the energy of the “day time” organ systems became stronger as the sun became stronger. I also found that my ability to access the energy of each organ system was easier during the period associated with that organ system. I tested this by doing meditations on organ systems during other than their associated times.

I noticed how attempting to align my daily activities with the various organ system times yielded some appreciable benefit. For instance, eating breakfast closer to “Stomach time” (7-9am) definitely yielded less indigestion given the same meal than eating breakfast closer to “Heart time” (11am – 1pm) or even earlier during “Lung time” (3-5am).

I also noticed that the general cycle of the 12 organ systems and their associated time made a lot of sense and following this flow more often than not created a harmonious feeling within me. By the end of March (aside from some rocky times during Finals week) I had settled into the following pattern (taken and edited from my journal notes):

  1. Waking up and doing breathing exercises doing Lung time (3-5 am) considerably easier than any other time, yields greater benefit in energy through the day. I always found that taking a nice walk, alone and in a natural area, yielded a lot of intuitive insight and positive emotional breakthroughs.
  2. Going to the bathroom between 5 and 7am (Large Intestine time) seems easier, more complete and now that I do this I find that I have far fewer digestive problems overall – all things being equal. Maybe a funny thing to point out, but important from a medical standpoint.
  3. Eating as close as possible to 8 am (in the 7-9am period, Stomach time) seems to yield relatively few digestive problems through the day. You can see above for more explanation.
  4. Avoiding too much exercise during the 9-11am time frame (Spleen time) seems to enhance my digestion. I like to spend this time doing more “passive” work like reading, easy writing projects and hanging out in the back yard. When I have to go to a difficult class during this time, I invariably have indigestion.
  5. Heart time (11am-1pm) is especially well used doing work that connects firmly to my purpose. I find that if I do creative writing projects, formulas study and conscious business development during this time I get really good work done. Much harder to do anything else like eating, doing menial work, heavy physical activity, etc…
  6. 1-3pm is a great time for more menial or “have to” projects. I connected this with the Small Intestine‘s function as the fu organ of the Heart – it transmits the vision and purpose of the Heart which is best expressed through SACRIFICE. Perhaps most interestingly, I found this to be the best time for lunch. When I eat closer to noon, it tends to upset my digestion.
  7. 3-5pm was a little difficult to nail down. In my journal I have listed the following observations: good time for spiritual activity like prayer and devotional reading, best time for just sitting with family, excellent period for a daily review. In the end, I think that Bladder time is best for more “visioning” activities, taking a larger view of my life and embracing that aspect of daily living.
  8. Kidney time 5-7pm seems best suited for evening walks and deep relaxation. For instance, Qigong during Kidney time seems to be particularly fruitful – which is a surprise. I’ve always done my Qigong in the morning.
  9. 7-9pm, Pericardium time, is absolutely beautiful for sharing a meal with my family and really nourishing my connection with them. This was the best family time and I experienced no trouble with digestion as long as I ate by 9pm. After 9pm, I just wasn’t hungry.
  10. Triple burner time, from 9-11pm, is when I must go to bed. If I stay up much into Gallbladder time, I’m in trouble – when it gets to be about midnight, I’m usually up until 3 or so. I just can’t settle down. I think this makes a lot of sense given the mysterious Triple Burner network, the organ system of dreams, of in-betweens and of delving deeply into the Yin.
  11. I didn’t have much experience of either Gall Bladder or Liver time, although I did have a stretch of insomnia that would have me waking smack dab in the middle of the two (always right around 1:30am) needing desperately to go for a walk or eat something terribly bad for me. 🙂

All of this being said, I’m not entirely sure how I feel these two hour periods should be viewed and used. I can’t say that the experience was so profound that I would want to live my life aligning my activities closely with them. It’s also quite difficult for me to do as little work as the organ system cycle seems to demand. But it did remind me that I need to make sure to take time for myself and for my family. It also made me much more intense about continuing to wake up around 5am to do walking and breathing. SUCH a benefit – I can recommend it to absolutely everyone. But there was, for me, clear benefit in the exercise. Overall, I think a few basic lessons were learned by engaging in this habit during the month of March:

  1. The general progression is valuable to experience.
  2. Great alterations away from the basic progression usually yields feelings of dis-ease.
  3. For the purpose of understanding organ systems, spending time observing nature or human society during key periods is very instructive.
  4. I think that further research could be helpful, especially in terms of learning more about chrono-acupuncture.
  5. It may be that like everything, there are acceptable individual variations from the norm that are still supportive of health. However, straying far from the basics is probably never healthy.

The other major goal, making sure to leave weekends open for my family and myself, was the most wonderful part of March’s Year of Sagely Living activity.

I was very good at keeping this time open, even when I had a lot of very pressing work to do. I would frequently do work on Saturday mornings, but often it was in tandem with my partner. I can’t tell you what this did for my psyche. Even though my finals week was extremely difficult, I was able to weather it and did wonderfully well on my tests. I felt that I integrated a lot more of what I was learning and feel more open to the lessons of next term even though we only get a week off. I am going to continue this habit because it was so powerful.

I think that this is one of the most potent lessons we can teach our future (and current) patients – our culture asks us to be “on” ALL the time. We are told that if we aren’t willing to “go hard” we should “go home.” I do believe in the immense power of hard work and I believe that many people are working far below their capacity.

However, it is an absolute MUST to leave time to reconnect with the source of your personal power.

This means your friends and family, visioning your personal and professional life and simply having time to relax in your garden or go for leisurely walks. While these activities don’t pay much per hour and they can often be VERY hard to justify in a maelstrom of work commitments, they are what ultimately pays the greatest dividends.

Coming next, my commitment for the month of April. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.


About Eric Grey

Hi - I'm the founder of this site and the primary master of all functions here. When I'm not writing, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.

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