Stir, laugh, hum, and pray while you prepare your soup.
‘In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) we view the human being as a small working model of the universe. The same natural laws that govern the movements of the stars and plants, the weather and the seasons govern the human body and the human journey through life. All things are connected. We are a microcosm that is reflected by the vast macrocosm. The language of health in TCM is the language of weather and landscape: we talk about of Wind, Heat, Cold or dampness.’ Daverick Leggett
TCM places a strong emphasis on keeping your Stomach and Spleen (the organs which create the earth center and primary organs of digestion) vibrant and healthy. They form a Yin Yang partnership. Stomach, the yang organ is likened to a cauldron, a hollow vessel that receives and breaks down food into qi. The Spleen then transforms and transports this qi into all the vital substances and functions of the body. The Kidneys provide the fire and heat necessary to break down the food and liquids into soup. Chinese thought is that food is sacred because it is one of the most potent ways to build and maintain our life force, eat well.
Food for Thought
So how do we keep our inner cauldron bubbling away and nourishing us? We need to arrive at our meals and eat mindfully. The Spleen has various functions, such as the thinking process, learning and concentration. Just as we receive, assimilate and digest food we receive, assimilate and digest information. Be present at your meal, and engage in good company but avoid watching television, reading, emails, and texts to prevent splitting the Spleen’s Qi and weakening it.
Recommendations for Eating Well
The earth centre is our foundation. There are five elements in Chinese medicine and five seasons accompany them. Fire belongs to summer, Metal to autumn, Water to winter and Wood to spring. Between each change of the season our qi returns to the element of earth. All elements return to earth, for earth is the centre and the foundation of all. Western medicine is just beginning to understand the vital importance of digestive health and gut flora.
Time for Breakfast. Just as there are seasonal shifts with our qi cycle so there is a 24 our Qi cycle. In the clock (ref left) our qi is most concentrated in these organs during those times. Have breakfast between 7-9 am when the Stomach’s energy is at its peak.
Congee Is a Chinese creamy rice porridge. It is a fermented food that is “Food is Medicine”. It builds Qi and strengthens the digestive organs. The best time to have congee is during stomach time, between 7 -9am. Congee Recipe
Avoid heavy, big meals in the evening. The western approach of skipping breakfast and big dinners needs to change. Breakfast should be the main meal of the day. Food digested during Stomach time are particularly beneficial to that organ. Followed by a medium sized lunch and a light dinner. Eating large meals late at night strains the digestive system. Soups, broths and smaller portions are best for your evening meal.
Developing regular eating pattern. Irregular eating times and irregular quantities of food are detrimental to our digestive systems. Try to maintain breakfast at Stomach time of 7-8am, lunch in the middle of the day and an early dinner.
Appropriate fluid intake. One or two cups of warm tea can promote effective digestion. You could potentially ‘swamp’ the stomach if you have more than that, and especially if its chilled. Flooding and chilling the stomach not only weakens the digestive organs but will eventually severely damage the digestive fire.
Enjoyment of eating. It is also important to remember that our bodies are designed to enjoy the food we eat. Don’t eat when you are stressed. Eating should be a joyful time. Healing our relationship with food is even more important than what we eat.
Positive Attitude. Avoid labeling foods as good or bad. Some foods are good for us even if we don’t enjoy them and we often suffer guilt and shame when eating foods that are bad for us. Its important to embrace the food lovingly once you have decided to eat it. Eating certain comfort foods should be seen as a treat for our inner child but with boundaries so that we avoid indulging too often. The 80-20 rule is a good one to follow. Keep within the health guidelines. 80% stick by the rules and 20% indulge, this roughly translates to one meal a week. This will help avoid feelings of deprivation and binge eating.
Chew Well. ‘The stomach has no teeth’. Digestion begins in the mouth, and well chewed food lessons the work of the digestive organs. This increases the extraction of nutrients as well as warming our food.
Food is sacred, it nourishes our bodies and life force. You can add a little love and mindful intention into your kitchen as well as your cooking by following some of these tips.
Stirring the Pot. Prepare your food with feel good vibrations. Its not just soup you’re cooking, but ‘Love’ or ‘Healing’ soup. Cook from the heart and with intention. You become the ‘healer who stirs the pot’ by placing high vibrations into the food you are cooking.
Pots Talk. Remove plastics that leach harmful toxins such as BPA’s and into your food. Avoid cooking in aluminium pots and teflon nonstick pans. Look out for lead in ceramics and be careful of copper pots. The safest pots to cook in are glass, stainless steel, and cast iron.
Detox you kitchen. Purge your kitchen of processed foods, fast foods and white sugar. Eat organic, free range foods. Avoid preservatives, additives, and other chemicals in your food.
Purify your space. Smudge with white sage or burn frankincense and myrrh. This cleanses the energetic space within your kitchen. Use essential oils clean the surfaces. Not only are you adding a delicious smell but its not harmful to you or the environment. In a 200-250 ml bottle of spring water, add 20 drops each of lemon, lavender, and peppermint. This blend is antiviral, anti fungal, antibacterial and disinfectant.
Grow something. Growing something you can eat is a very rewarding experience and a great tool and skill to teach children. From fresh green herbs on your kitchen window to a small vegie patch with chooks in a suburban back yard. Or if you don’t fancy yourself a green thumb you can try fermented products. Kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickled vegetables, vary in degree of difficulty and ferment cycles.
Our first nourishment comes from our mothers. Its with the sweetness of mother’s milk that our earth centre awakens. The earth is as much about food as it is about relationships; relationships with food, with those we love and with our bodies. Our sense of connection with other human beings is essential for both our health and our happiness. When we nurture a healthy center within our selves we also nurture healthy, loving community.
Bibliography and References
- Pie Chart by Jane Barthelemy
- Healing ourselves: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics. Daverick Leggett. Meridian Press. 1995. ISBN 978-0-9524640-0-4
- Recipes for self healing; Daverick Leggett. Meridian Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0-9524-640-2-0
- The art of fermentation; an in-depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world. Sandor Ellix Katz. Chelse Green. 2012. ISBN 978-1-60358-286-5
- Sacred Woman; A guide to healing the feminine body, mind and spirit. Queen Afua. The Random House Publishing Group. 2000. ISBN 978-0-345-43486-9