This week on a walk I saw a sign that made me pause and think. It read:
It's this year's tagline for Pelatonia, an annual bike race raising money for cancer research. It's motivational for those who are completing this amazingly challenging bike ride fundraiser.
But I was thinking simply about the three words and our culture.
I remember being in middle school and the track coaches, Mr. Price and Mr. Mann (seriously, does it get any better than those two names? Can you picture the scowling faces and beige polyester shorts with the two snaps at the waistband?!). They would always yell at us after practice:
"If it don't hurt, it don't help!"
There's a good message to send hormonally challenged kids whose brains still have 10 more years of development: ignore your internal messages and wisdom.
But seriously, these messages don't just come from coaches, academia, parents, or bosses. It's simply part of our lifestyle. We're simply an intense bunch. We're a culture that is geared to always giving 110%.
We're on fire! Burning it up!
Fire in eastern theory is about blossoming, celebrating, joyfulness, expression! It is about completing, getting to the finish line, accomplishment. This is yang energy! But what does imbalance look like in a person?
SIGNS OF IMBALANCED FIRE IN A PERSON
1. No Recipe Needed. A recipe is more of a guideline. "I don't have time to read through the instructions! I am an artist!" is their attitude. They generally don't have the ingredients because they don't plan.
2. Move Fast. To everything! Even when you have time. If you speedwalk through the office or slam down your meals, rush through grocery shopping, or find your mind way ahead of your body forgetting why you're standing in a room.
3. "Do It!" Did an idea about painting come into your head? A Fire personality will head down to the scary corner of the basement, grab old paint cans, stiff brushes, and semi-hard rollers. "I can get that room done in an hour! I have time before the party!" Who cares about spackling, sanding, tape, a dropcloth!
4. Impatience. Fire imbalance feels like not having enough time to listen to someone, to wait in line, to slow down while driving. Life is urgent. Rest comes later, always.
These are all key signs of an overabundance of the Fire Element. Not unusual for many of us. But if our Fire symptoms aren't balanced out they can become health issues. Here are the health signs to look for:
1. High blood pressure - it may be erratic high blood pressure or consistent depending on what's happening and how long it's been happening.
2. Dryness - Dry skin, eyes, throat, tissues. Generally, dryness anywhere is an indication of Fire imbalance.
3. Inflammation - the body's reaction to what it believes is injury or infection.
4. Anxiety - anything between anxiousness and panic attacks is a Fire imbalance.
5. Poor circulation - this is the Heart Organ System so anything related to the heart is affected. Angina, varicose veins, spider veins, chest pain, hormonal imbalances, irregular heart rate are some of the issues involved with Fire imbalance.
What balances Fire?
What would be Water things to do to balance Fire? Glad you asked.
1. Get In Water - Literally. Find a body of water to cool down in. And I don't mean temperature-wise, always. I mean to feel your mind cool from its racing, your emotions settle from their energetic whirling, your body to float in. Water is great - especially a natural body of water - to drop into. Get your mind involved by sensing how water seeks the lowest level. Feel how water is simply held and allow yourself to be held.
2. Drop your mind to your feet - Sense your feet in your shoes. If you can pay attention to how your feet feel in your shoes or barefoot as you move through your day, it will help. Fire energy rises. Water energy drops.
3. Belly breathing - if feeling your feet isn't working, feel and internally watch your belly rise and fall with each breath. That helps root the mind and the emotions will settle.
4. Qigong and Taiji - When you're practicing, don't just go through the movements without setting an intention to help your health. Start by sensing how you connect to the earth, how you flow like water, how you are easily transitioning through. This is deeply helpful to taming your internal fire.
5. Eat Cooling Foods - Look, simply eating cooling foods is not going to do everything. You have to disengage your mind and heart as you ingest. Do NOTHING extra at mealtime. Simply and slowly: smell the food, place food into your mouth, feel it, taste it, chew, swallow, pause. Have a little internal smile grateful for the meal. Slowing down is key to reducing fire. Cooling foods does help. Avoid: overeating, spicy, hot, fried (deep or otherwise), spicy, chocolate, meat. Enjoy: Leafy greens, grains, vegetables, quinoa, amaranth, tofu, beans, eggs, flax, berries, and apples are good choices.
6. STOP GIVING 100% - You have to stop. You have to. Giving 100% leaves you empty. Burning fumes. Scorched. Dried up.
Giving 100% leaves you with nothing. Think about it. Even if a somewhat challenging situation arises, you won't have the fuel to move through with the presence and awareness you want in your life. Struggling through with no reserves means cultivates drama, impatience, frustration, dis-ease. And eventually, illness because it just becomes the normal way of living.
No one or two-week vacation can pull you out of that.
What does pull you out is the famous 70% rule of Taiji and Qigong. That we must offer 70% of our ability toward a task. Why?
Because 70% offers a thoughtful, centered, present you. It's thoughtful, centered, present. Seventy percent has time to listen, time to wonder, to bring unique awareness, creativity. Offering 70% brings quality. There's enough time to see the possible pitfalls. There's time to see where simple changes bring precision that would have been lost.
This takes work. It's mentally reminding yourself every day that your 70% is EXCELLENT.
70% is not only enough to offer, its rewards continue. Because you have a reserve of 30%, you are able to move through unexpected events that surprise us in life. Without that cushion of 30%, you'd end up burned.
And, circling back to our peloton fundraiser bike race, do you know what a peloton is? A peloton is a group of cyclists who ride close to each other. Why? To conserve energy by sharing close space to reduce drag. They're making sure they don't give 100% so they can make it to the end. This allows them to save what they need - or might need - for the road ahead.
If you're interested in beginning a practice to conserve your own energy and ease your Fire, check out my offerings.
Sometimes it helps to be reminded that you're not alone on this path to being fully present in your life. Stay connected with simple practices, reminders and humor that come in my monthly newsletter.
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