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Gratitude, Grief, and the Art of Acupuncture

Thanksgiving is, as the name implies, a time to give thanks. I encourage you to use the whole month of November as an opportunity to express and feel gratitude and see how it can lift your spirit and make you feel better and more connected to others and your self. One way to do this is to start a gratitude journal, every night before bed write down five things that you are grateful for. Or everyday go out of your way to express gratitude to someone.

“Gratitude is essentially the recognition of the unearned increments of value

in one’s experience. Gratitude is a feeling that spontaneously emerges from

within. However, it is not simply an emotional response; it is also a choice we

make. We can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be ungrateful – to

take our gifts and blessings for granted. As a choice, gratitude is an attitude or


Arrien, Angeles. “Living in Gratitutde: A Journey That Will Change Your Life.”

As it is still the season of Fall, the emotion of gratitude and the spirit of Thanksgiving holds a very important role this time of the year. Thanksgiving is obviously not a holiday that traditionally or culturally relates to Acupuncture (since it is an American holiday and Acupuncture has it’s roots in China). But, according to the theory of the Five Elements, one of the philosophies behind Acupuncture, the Fall season relates to the emotion of grief. This is called the system of correspondences. In Chinese medicine, things that have similar properties are grouped together in order to have a better understanding of a single thing. Grief is often described as a downward and inward feeling. In this time of year, we can see outside the leaves dying and falling off the trees. This brings about a feeling of grief, the loss of something. This is an energy change, from bright green, flourishing leaves, to leaves being let go of and nourishing the earth. We can start feeling this energy change inside us as well. Summer time is very energetic, with people traveling, playing sports, and being very busy and active. As Fall arrives, the weather changes, it starts to get cooler and darker earlier, so it is natural for us to pick up on those cues from nature and settle down, not be so busy, follow more of a routine, go to bed earlier, wear warmer clothes. Each season is also related to a physical part of the body. The Fall is related to the Lungs and the Large Intestine. When one feels grief, it is often accompanied by a sensation of not being able to catch your breath, a tightness of your chest and Lungs. As the trees, let go of their leaves, the Large Intestine is responsible for letting go of what we do not need through bowel movements. Therefore, some common ailments that can occur around this time of year relate to the Lungs and Large Intestine, such as, constipation, asthma, catching a cold/flu, a lingering cough, depression, feeling an overwhelming sense of grief, and tension related pain. So how do we counter the feeling of grief, especially this time of the year? We do this by experiencing gratitude. Gratitude is a counter emotion to grief. See the leaves changing colors and feel grateful for their beauty. See the leaves falling from the trees and feel grateful that they are nourishing the earth. See grief in your own life over the loss of something or someone and feel grateful that you were able to have that experience in the first place. And feel grateful for the things you have now and the people in your life now.

“Gratitude is the most amazing emotion. There is so much grief in the world today.

It is a part of the unchanging human dilemma to lose the people or things that they

love. It is a natural human desire to attach to others and possessions. But we truly

own nothing and take nothing with us when we go. By experiencing gratitude for

what you had and what you have now, you get back into the present moment and

are left with the beauty of the experiences, the trace memories of the richness of

being alive. It is much better to appreciate what you’ve been given while you are still

here. Gratitude resets the autonomic nervous system with the inspiration of the first

breath and helps let go of so much of our suffering with the expiration of the outbreath. Gratitude brings down the light of the divine so that it can illuminate your soul and

shine through your face. It helps you live in that moment between breaths when

anything is possible and you can become who you are meant to be. This is the beauty

of you.”

Bridges, Lillian “Face Reading in Chinese Medicine” 294-296

So take a deep breath, and feel through that inspiration the crisp fall air, and then feel through the expiration the release of tension and old stagnant air. Conscious breathing and meditation triggers your body to relax and feel at ease. Acupuncture provides a stronger stimulation that triggers your body to work in harmony and can prevent and treat the common ailments of this time of year, such as, constipation, asthma, catching a cold/flu, a lingering cough, depression, feeling an overwhelming sense of grief, and tension related pain.

Thank you for reading my post. I hope it inspires you to choose gratitude.

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving,

Kearney DeFillipo, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

Red Panda Acupuncture LLC

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