It is the reason in my practice I will very often ask if you have been feeling short of breath if someone is feeling great sadness. If someone reports an increase in fearful thoughts I’m going to inquire about back pain, knee pain or salt cravings. It is simply the odd way the medicine integrates through all aspects of life.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the phrase “Unfulfilled Desires.” In Chinese Medicine this emotion or concept is often the cause for a slowing down and chunking up of qi in the body. You can almost think of it as the inability to let something go and so the body holds it in place as time goes on and all of the bodily functions are supposed to be continuing without pause.
In women this comes up a lot right before the period. For instance a woman might suddenly feel disappointed about several aspects of her life and then two days later (after bleeding) feel thrilled about the state of her life.
This is a great chicken or egg circumstance. Does the woman get disappointed because the qi stops flowing and she feels irritable and stuck in life OR does she worry all month long on a low level that her life isn’t what she wants it to be and eventually the qi starts clumping up and creating PMS.
The acupuncturist/herbalist in me doesn’t care much. I’ve got points and needles for that stuckness and I want her to have smoother periods. But the healer in me doesn’t want her to be on herbs and acupuncture for the rest of her life because she hates her job, or her home, or her friends. I want the acupuncture and herbs to move the qi and allow her to see more clearly what these unfulfilled desires are.
In our society men are much more encouraged then women to pursue their desires. Women are encouraged to pursue some of their desires without society offering very feasible ways for women to get all their desires. So much of childrearing, family maintenance and household details are left in women’s hands; that the ideas of passion, career, hobbies, wellness, fitness and a social life are a joke to lots of women.
My assessment of most women is that they simply don’t know what they actually want, so their unfulfilled desires are a vague sea of questions, angst and worry.
Think about the sensation after a really great yoga class or a brisk walk outside when all the sudden life seems so simple, so obvious. It is easy in that moment to know what you want and how to get it. Compare that to the third day on the couch with a head cold when you can’t decide if you are well enough to go to work or even to trek across the room for an indecisive breakfast that you are not really hungry for at all. The difference between the two scenarios is qi flow. Is your energy stuck or moving?
So the next time you need to make a big decision don’t just sleep on it, exercise on it. Move the qi, make a list and then make the decision. Your body, mind and instincts will be sharper.
It is important to remember that unfulfilled desires don’t go away. There is still that longing or hunger. So instead of pushing it aside, face it head on and see what possibilities there are in your life at this moment. If you recently applied for a job, opportunity or school that you didn’t get into, there are lots of options. You can reapply next time around, you can apply elsewhere, you can change your focus to some other opportunity or you can grieve for the loss and see if the body slowly heals and seeks out something else. But you have to name the desire and give it the attention it needs. Our desires are like little plants in the garden of ourselves. Not all of them bloom and grow into full beings, sometimes we have to give them more attention, deadhead the waste to strengthen the fledgling plant beneath and sometimes we have to pull the dead ones up, compost them and replant something else.
One of the hardest things to treat is the unfulfilled desire for wellness in patients with chronic pain or illness. The desire for a healthy life is constantly unfulfilled and in return keeps that glue in the body that prevents it from allowing the qi to flow again. It is a perpetuating cycle.
Do your body a favor. Ask yourself if there is anything you are secretly or unknowingly wishing for while you go about your life. If there is, ask yourself how that desire is changing your body or your life? Is it preventing the smooth flow of qi in your body?
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