Hello Dear Ones,
I have not been writing as much as of late. The (Covid) pandemic has been challenging to weather – or I should say, holding space for my clients and friends and loved ones, is a lot. Overall I am doing quite well, still holding a good charge after doing a 90-day meditation retreat this past winter / spring. And if I start feeling run down, doing an hour or two of self care techniques gets me back on my feet fairly quickly!
In this post, I want to discuss another issue I have been encountering, and one which is actually exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Others have discussed this topic as well – not completely new – but my take might be fairly unique in that it blends Chinese Medicine concepts, nervous system knowledge and research and more.
[an edit after listening to Nkem Ndefo – she is an incredible speaker, find a podcast and listen if you get the chance, there is another more systemic pandemic going on right now: and that is the systemic oppression of colored people. And it turns out, this tangled web of stressors and marginalization and uncertainty about who is healthy vs potentially infected all adds to the silent pandemic I am describing in this post.]
So what is the Silent Pandemic? It has been going on far longer than seven months. It has to do with a silent barrage of challenges to the liver in the body. The liver has to do with anger, irritation and resentment in Chinese medicine (the negative manifestation of the Wood element), whereas the positive side of it is joy and happiness. Rejoicing!
What is wild is that there are so many areas of challenge to the liver nowadays. Environmental toxins – people who don’t eat exclusively organic food (pesticides, glycophospates, etc), the polarization of politics and opinions – not just in the U.S. but in Europe and South America – people’s tempers can be triggered just hearing a few seconds of news! Our blood pressure can start to rise if we hear the opposition views (fake news) being broadcast around us.
And in Chinese Medicine, the liver and the eyes are intimately connected. How many of us participate in too much screen time (I ask paradoxically as I am wondering if I have had too much screen time already today)? And now that Covid is forcing us onto Zoom calls and FaceTime, etc, we are getting even more screen time! The eyes and the liver are calling for a pause, for a break, for a rest.
So the Silent Pandemic is the way in which these patterns of harshness (toward the liver) continue and now are getting even worse. Look around at the news – people are losing their minds more and more, with distortions of anger erupting in violence and numbness (lack of empathy).
Oh and did I mention one of the main challenges to the liver which many people engage in? Pharmaceuticals. How many ads do we see for drugs with bizarre side effects? Guess what organ has to process those chemicals? Yup – the liver! No wonder anger is often right below the surface when people get stretched more, when there is more stress in their lives. If we don’t practice solid, conscious self care – caring for ourselves, then of course we are going to go off the deep end from time to time!
And just briefly, how many people are drinking more alcohol in response to the loneliness of the pandemic (Covid)? Yet another stressor on the liver. I am currently enjoying a 90-day “cleanse” or “fast” from alcohol, but I used to engage in a glass of wine from time to time. It is an easy habit to fall into, but does it lead to lasting happiness?
What can we do to benefit the liver? Fortunately, many things!
Get out in nature. There are negative ions (healthy rejuvenating particles in the air) in forests, near water falls, by the ocean (get to a beach! I sure need to!). Taking in healthy natural greenery is good for the liver. The Wood element in Chinese medicine has to do with fresh growth, the Green color and renewal and rebirth. Go find something natural and green to spend time with!
Drink warm healthy liquids (hot tea) and warm healthy foods. In Tibetan medicine, they talk about how the BEST medicine is drinking hot water. It benefits so many digestive organs to take in warm fluids and warm food – especially now that the weather is cooling off.
Engage in therapeutic counseling. Getting things off our chest – and even better, involve a somatic (body-oriented) modality like Somatic Experiencing or Craniosacral Therapy or EMDR. We need to lean into support during these times (and at all times really), otherwise it is really easy to fall back onto (regress) old patterns of self-isolation and self-pity. I offer Somatic Experiencing sessions – both in person and just as potent, long distance sessions, along with Craniosacral Therapy.
We can receive Visceral Manipulation. This bodywork modality evolved out of Osteopathy and works with the visceral organs. There is a liver-specific adjustment which is really beneficial (especially in the spring and fall – that would be now). It is a potent process, so be ready for feelings of rawness or more-easily-speaking-your-less-than-comfortable truth to emerge! I have also been trained in Visceral Manipulation and love offering treatments.
In the same light as above, you can get a Mayan Abdominal Massage. These are also very potent, getting deep into the fascial attachments of the viscera and opening tight, rigid, adhered areas. Very healing, very powerful (again I’d recommend some down time scheduled in afterward).
Finally (last one I swear), you can get rejuvenating Shiatsu (Asian Bodywork). This works with the meridians and the organs to balance the life force energy (Chi), which leads to feeling more centered, more grounded, more like yourself! I love giving and receiving Shiatsu! When it is done well, we have more spontaneity, more effortless ease and more joy. Just being who we are. There is also an abdominal form of Shiatsu called Masunaga which works with the organs (including the liver).
You can do Castor Oil packs on your liver. Obviously I recommend starting slowly and more gently. But these involve putting a castor oil soaked wool or gauze pad over you liver and then putting heat on that (a heating pad, a hot water bottle, etc). You can do 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 or 15. Obviously start with 3 or 5 and see how you react to that. You can always do more sessions of less time if you handle it well.
Do prostrations – some form of bowing or stretching practice can literally stretch the liver (and many other visceral organs) leading to a greater level of health and a better digestion.
Meditate. Or do yoga. Or do Qigong. Some form of contemplative practice allows our dust to settle, literally. If we can do a blend of the above – doing some yoga before meditating is very beneficial for our subtle energy channels (energy body). Find a good meditation and / or yoga and / or Qigong instructor and stick with it. At first, we might not think anything is happening, but it is like water dripping on a rock. Change will happen – it just might take time.
I would recommend (but speak to your doctor or licensed nutritionist before making major changes to your diet) drinking fresh-squeezed lemon juice in warm water first thing in the morning. When metabolized, lemon juice becomes alkaline (believe it or not!) and it also helps to clear the liver of old stale bile. Alkaline forming foods are very healthy for the body – acidic foods lead to more health problems.
Find something to do that does not involve screen time. This is more challenging now with Covid, for sure! But hopefully you can find a small pod of people to do stuff with. Or do something positive on Zoom – like a support group, like my Gentle Somatics class, etc. And then take time away from screens to rest and integrate!
Spoon your significant other. Holding your romantic partner with healthy social engagement can lead to healthy co-regulation and settling in the nervous system. This can be challenging however as a lot of us have attachment issues (early developmental challenges which make trust and intimacy more challenging). And these issues are being exacerbated with the isolation and extra time with family… So work on yourself, be kind to yourself, try to be gentle – especially now, as stress and uncertainty are at unprecedented levels.
I would not recommend doing many cleanses – liver cleanse, or gall bladder cleanse, etc. Doing one or two per year is most likely beneficial. But rather than needing to get into this cycle of eating wantonly and then purging / cleansing, what if we try to incorporate more self care every day? Watching what we eat and drink daily? What would it take to get outside and walk one or two miles a day, or at least three or four days / week? Let us not disrupt the body’s natural rhythms of maintaining health and detoxification too often. (Of course, if you work with a qualified practitioner and they have a good reason for it – like if we are having the mercury amalgams replaced from our teeth, then obviously we might want to consider a heavy metal detox regimen!)
May we all be gentle and more nurturing to our livers!
Thank you for reading and I hope this has been an interesting and inspiring topic!