Recently I’ve been spending a bit of time in London. I was on a fertility and menstrual problems workshop the whole of last weekend, run by my Tui na teacher, Sarah Pritchard. I also paid a visit to Tate Britain to see the William Blake exhibition before it ends. It was a great show but very busy, which sort of spoils it a bit for me. It made me feel slightly suffocated, so I think I rushed it a bit. In fact, Tate did a study on this phenomenon and found that people on average spend only 8 seconds looking at a picture!
I find London exhausting these days. It is still exciting and vibrant and endlessly fun, but it’s also exhausting. It drains me of my energy. When I was younger I thought the complete opposite; London was like a magnet. I worked in the City and so spent a lot of my free time there too. I was like a moth being lured in by the lights. That wore off by the time I reached the age of thirty, then all I wanted was to work anywhere but the City. And as you know, I eventually escaped.
Yang of the City
I’m always surprised by the change of energy when I travel into London. By the time the train reaches Romford (or Barking, depending on how you approach the beast) I can feel the Qi of the City pulling at me, and by Stratford it’s buzzing. But it also makes me feel a bit anxious and I’m always relieved when I’m leaving. When I get off the train at Southend it always feels like there is a lot more space. The temperature feels like it drops a degree or two. Being at the mouth of the North Sea helps; it’s as if that open expanse of clean air rushes up the Thames Estuary and clears the atmosphere.
The energy of any city, not just London, is constantly in Yang mode, which goes against the seasonal grain somewhat. We are in the Yin part of year, the winter, a time when everything in nature should be doing less, conserving our energy so we can burst out in all our blooming glory in the Spring.
The Capitalist system that we live under influences every aspect of our lives; but it is entirely Yang energetically. It allows no time for rest, only growth and expansion. There is no time to rest: lunch is for wimps and sleep is for the dead are the mantras of the modern age. We eat cold foods in the winter when our digestive systems are crying out for warmth. We train in the gym late into the night when we should be tucked up in bed.
Yang without its other half, Yin, can only mean trouble.
Chinese medicine teaches us that balance is needed for health. It’s difficult though; it’s a beautiful sunny day today and there is a temptation to get outside and run or cycle. But it’s still pretty cold out there. In Chinese Medicine sweating in a cold environment is bad news. When the pores of the skin open it allows the cold into the body, which energetically stops the Qi from moving. This might mean pain in a joint or a muscle, or something more systemic like menstrual pain. If you do sweat in the cold weather, then make sure you don’t hang about in wet clothing. Just don’t get cold.
In Chinese Medical theory there is a particular type of Qi, called Wei Qi (or Defensive Qi) that needs nourishing. The Wei Qi a protective barrier against the outside evil forces, like the weather or diseases. Think of the Readybrek glow and you’ll get the idea. If your Defensive Qi is weaker than the Qi of a disease, then you are more likely to contract it. That’s why not everyone catches the flu when it’s going around.
So, what can you do to help you slow down?
In the Tate article above they recommend spending at least 10 minutes looking at each piece of art. They call it slow looking. But here’s something you can put into practice straight away. Next time you are at a Pelican crossing, press the button and wait for the green man before crossing. Even if there is no traffic, still wait for the green man. While you are waiting take a moment to ground yourself. Be mindful of your surroundings. You may feel frustration, even a little foolish. But remember that all you are feeling is an expression of the state of your Qi. Take a moment to enjoy a minute of calm.
Try it and let me know how it made you feel.