Creating a healthy centre
It makes sense. In Japanese arts of the way such as Aikido (the way of unifying spirit), Kyudo (the way of archery), Chado (the way of tea) et al., the master is said to move from hara; to hold the sword with their hara; to feel the impetus to act from hara… This centre within us is where living a balanced life begins…
So lets descend from our heads and take a moment to breathe into our belly: to feel the rise of the hara with our in-breath and its fall with our out-breath. Can you feel this energetic and physical centre within you? So many of us are top heavy – our head leads us in life and our body or feeling state is secondary. This is not the way of the balanced person. The balanced person knows their belly intimately; knows this centre, this balance point between heaven and earth and feels moved from this place: the head is only one part of the whole.
Last month, I partook in a fermentation workshop in Bellingen with Rosa Mauvra, who also has an article in this issue. She is far from alone as a practitioner who focuses on gut health as a precursor to general well-being. Science is also getting on board with this one and research is now receiving the press it deserves with more underway to look at the role of microbial communities on an array of imbalances including mental health. It makes sense on the level of TCM where we ‘digest’ both within the gut and within the brain that the two are intimately connected. If you are further inspired on the science front I would suggest looking at discussions on intestinal bacteria relating to the gut–brain axis and how this relates to learning, immunity and the central nervous system to name a few considerations. See specifically the link below by Dr Campbell-Mcbride – an advocate for gut health as a precursor for mental health: http://www.gaps.me/preview/?page_id=30
TCM is among other ancient traditional health systems which maintain that health imbalances, beyond digestive disturbances, can be sourced back to the gut. In a shiatsu treatment we often begin at the hara and return to the hara. Palpating the hara, although a diagnosis tool, is also a powerful means to gently encourage and promote the natural process of digestion, ki circulation and improve blood flow to the internal organs, which stimulates detoxification pathways and strengthens the immune system.
In TCM we know that the spleen is our source of post heaven chi and the organ we associate most deeply with nourishment, and it doesn’t take much scraping of the surface to see the Chinese have long been intimately aware of the benefits of microbes on health. Fermenting cabbage can be traced back in their culture thousands of years and those TCM herbs that belong to the tonic class are believed to promote probiotic growth.
“As is commonly assumed, but rarely acknowledged, good feeling, both toward oneself and others, as well as a sense of optimism and clarity, are affected by and dependent upon good digestion, with its consequent feelings of hardiness, contentment, and conviviality. The opposite, indigestion, induces a plethora of discomforts: bloating, heartburn, cramps, irritability, lethargy, and melancholy.”
Harriet Beinfield (L.Ac & co-author of Between Heaven and Earth)
So how heritages. In her workshop she states that ‘for every one of your cells there are 9 bacteria present’. An amazing reminder that we need to look do ferments really relate to gut health? Rosa is passionate about educating people on the staple nature of ferments in our diets that have existed for thousands of years across diverse cultural after these friends who have such influence on our health as we are in fact a living colony ourselves and not separate sterile entities. My own experience with ferments has been a journey of experiencing the benefits within my own body and reawakening the taste for these flavours for it wasn’t an instant love with some (such as kefir!) but rather an awakening recognition… This is the importance of taking simple steps on the path without having to study the entire journey first. My advise would be to experiment and find a few that work for you – there are not only an amazing array of ferments possible, but then each can be used in so many ways! Sauerkraut is a personal favourite. For a time there I was buying my organic sauerkraut and believing I was enriching my digestive process, only to realise that it had been pasteurized, and of course the heat kills many nutrients, enzymes and bacteria. What about sourdough and other ferments we cook? Yes, the heat will kill these aspects also, but there are still benefits from sourdough which include the pre-digestion of the grain by those microbes present, the rising action they have conferred to the bread and the sour flavour that nourishes the liver – one organ that is commonly compromised for people in this day and age of increasing environmental pollutants and toxins. And certainly of the 5 flavours, salty and sweet get far more attention than they require for balance followed at a distance by pungent for most and then tagging far behind are often the bitter and sour flavours.
Probiotics have their place, but whole foods are always the best choice where available (while probiotic supplements generally settle in the upper parts of the digestive system, fermented foods carry microbes to the end of the digestive system.) For a comprehensive education, hands on experience and an array of fermented food ideas I would whole-heartedly encourage those in NSW to attend one of Rosa’s workshops! See her article in this issue for more information.
Have a look at these two great links for more on the benefits of fermentation: