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The Ant ... The Grasshopper ... and Oriental Medicine

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Ahh ... Summer—the Season of Luxurious Growth!

But while luxuriating in the warmth and fecundity of Summer’s intoxication, we run the risk of getting lulled into an idyllic sense of laisse faire, forgetting to prepare for the next round of Autumn and Winter.

This dichotomy of sensibilities is quite human; so much so that Aesop took the time to tell us a little story about it back in the days of Ancient Greece when he wrote The Ant and The Grasshopper.

The Silk Road integrated ancient Indian, Persian, Arabian, and Hellenic cultures, enabling cultural exchange between Western and Oriental civilizations. So it’s not surprising to find the contrasting awarenesses of Yin and Yang conveying the practical wisdom of Ant and Grasshopper.

Yin and Yang: Winter and Summer: Ant and Grasshopper

Ancient Chinese doctors told people then, what we tell people at BIOM today: Become aware of seasonal energy and be mindful of how it affects your health.

It’s so easy to relax into the easy-going feeling of Summer because there is so much Yang, creative, supportive energy available to us from Nature.

Let’s see how Aesop saw this perennial dynamic playing out between the Ant and the Grasshopper a few thousand years ago in Greece ...

The Ant and The Grasshopper

In a field one Summer’s, day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

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The concept of Yin and Yang informs us of the contrasting nature of everything that exists—including ourselves.

Each of us is part Ant and part Grasshopper. In Summer our Inner Grasshopper tells us to relax, take it easy; Don’t worry ... be happy!; while our Inner Ant is telling us that we need to stay balanced, so while enjoying these airy days of Summer were also building up our supply of Chi so it’s there to fuel our Immune Systems when Autumn and Winter return.

It’s the same process one goes through in storing fuel, like wood or propane, prior to the onset of the cold weather. This is ANT preparation. On the other hand, the reliance on electricity plays to our unconcerned GRASSHOPPER nature, as we assume it will always be there when we need it; which it is ... until a storm comes and knocks the power out.

“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

It’s so unwittingly easy to get used to the bonanza of SOLAR ENERGY that’s the essence of Summer. It seems like its ease will flow on forever; the warmth, the juicy, tasty fruit ... while the Grasshopper-mind blocks out the reality of mosquitos and disregards that errant leaf that falls early, laden with indications of changes to come.

Without a cultivated awareness of the Cycle of the Seasons, it’s easy to spend our energy freely, without any thought of the changes waiting on the upcoming pages of the Calendar.

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And while Summer may seem like a time of complete freedom, as the Grasshopper thought, the Ants knew better. They knew the abundance of Energy-Chi in Summer was Nature’s way of giving us time to repair, replenish and prepare for the return of the time of Yin ... of Emptiness ... the return of Winter: a time when we MUST consume energy to stay warm and HEALTHY. So if we don’t SAVE some of our Summer energy/Chi, we may find our selves out of energy come Winter. Health-wise this translates into a weak Immune System.

Ask yourself: “How much energy/Chi do I have in reserve.” And act according to your answer.

“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

The Ant-Grasshopper dichotomy becomes more discernible as we age, as it becomes apparent that more energy—Chi needs to be devoted to maintaining or reclaiming HEALTH.

When we’re young, in the Summer of our lives, we had/have more energy… the Yang phase of life. As we get older ... our Yin time ... we have relatively less energy, and need to be mindful of what we can do to preserve and supplement our Energy—our Life Force, our Chi—our HEALTH. This is the focus of Oriental Medicine.

“Why bother about Winter?” said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present.”

The insight Oriental Medicine gives us is the same that Aeosop gave the world when he told the tale of the Ant and the Grasshopper. Be mindful; anticipate and prepare for the challenges your body and mind will face, again and again, through the seasons of the year, and the seasons of your Life.

But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.

Summer is the time to rebuild the organ energy that was used earlier in the year, so you’ll have it again when the leaves fall and cold returns.

... When Winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the Summer. Then the Grasshopper knew ...

What we need to remember: When Autumn and Winter return, our IMMUNE SYSTEMS are on HIGH ALERT, and being on alert all the time is stressful. When a bacterial or viral intruder gets into the body, which is inevitable, energy RESERVES will be called upon to fight the foe, and then rebuild afterwards.

So get in touch with your Inner ANT today, and build the RESERVES you’ll need for the rest of the year.

Moral of the Story: It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

Oriental Medicine can help.


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The Ant and The Grasshopper

In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew:

It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

Related Links

Summer Health: BIOM Goes To The Black Sheep Gathering
Tips For Building House Chi
Staying Healthy In Summer
Staying Healthy in Autumn
Staying Healthy in Winter

Planting a Fall-Winter-Early-Spring Garden

NOW! is a good time to begin planting your Fall-Winter-early-Spring garden, so your seeds will have the benefit of plentiful late-Summer Sun to get a strong healthy start.

Our HUGELS are still in their ‘morphing’ phase and the soil too ‘rough’ for the gentle needs of seeds ...


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... so we’re focusing on a portion of our double-dug beds which have composted layers of last year’s maple leaves, and a heaping helping of leftovers from a couple of mules who live in the neighborhood ...

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... and because we just had a much needed and APPRECIATED soaking Summer rain, the seeds we just planted are making their move — UPWARD : )

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The cast of characters include: kale, mustard, turnips, parsnips, chard, onion and of course: FUKUOKA’s beloved White Clover

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But one of our hugels IS ready to go — the MUSHROOM HUGEL. We built it this past Spring and it’s designed to be a vegetable garden in its center ...

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...  while the windfall ALDER wood that makes up the platform of this raised bed will be the home of one hundred SHITAKE and OYSTER mushroom spawn plugs ...

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... we should get about five years of mushroom flushes, a few times a year, until the wood transforms into soil and the whole hugel becomes a mounded vegetable garden.

... in the meantime ... we DRILL ...

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... HAMMER ...

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... and WAIT ...

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... while continuing to work (somewhat patiently) on the rest of what Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching refers to as the Ten Thousand Things ...

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“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Related Links

Hugeling at BIOM
The Ant ... The Grasshopper ... and Oriental Medicine
Mid-Summer Checkup: Heat-Related Health Problems

Summer Health—Our Trip To The Black Sheep Gathering

Like some of us … he looks so important, … this snail … Issa

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Winter is a faded memory … What was Spring’s chill is now Summer’s warmth … shorts and sandals are sartorial de rigeur, and because there’s so much Yang energy in the air it seems like anything is ok to eat—especially if it’s barbecued.

It’s that Grasshoppery mindset that can get us into trouble.

Even though it’s generally warm out, evenings can still turn unexpectedly cool, and eating all the backyard delicacies that turn up in Summer can unbalance the organs and upset the digestive system. So it’s important to be aware that getting too chilled and eating foods your body has trouble digesting can weaken the Immune System and make you vulnerable to the bacteria and viruses that weren’t a problem years ago, but that today are tending to remain active throughout the year.

Vigilance throughout the year—and throughout our lives—is important to maintain the SIMPLE JOY called HEALTH. How simple is Health? So simple we don’t notice it when we have it, and when we don’t have it, nothing else really matters.

Healthy Food Is The Best Prescription

In Summer, HEAT is the primary seasonal challenge the body has to contend with so it doesn’t get overheated. A major part of that process is to be mindful of what you eat because many Summer dishes tend to cause the body to heat-up.

Two notable dietary causes of Summer heat, to minimize or avoid eating, are spicy food and alcohol. Delicious, yes; but often detrimental to Summer health.

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Just as important as what not to eat, is to be mindful of what should be a regular part of your Summer diet. This would include drinking enough water to replace fluid lost from sweating. The right amount of fluid helps keep you cool, and prevents dehydration. The bountiful fruits of Summer provide the nutrients you need, along with some of the fluid you want to be replenishing. Think watermelon, plums, peaches, apricots ...

Eating nutritious food, in balanced dishes, is the best medicine you can take to prevent getting ill. It’s what your Immune System needs to do its job, and you want to be mindful of strengthing your Immune System in Summer, so it can replenish the energy it expended in Winter and Spring, and be ready for the heavy lifting again as the colds and flus of Autumn reappear.

Oftentimes, the solution to an ‘internal heat’ problem is as simple as a change in what you’re eating at Summer potlucks and barbecues. 

Summer Heat

Heat will be even more of a concern as we move deeper into the Summer. 

Heat can affect your body quite dramatically, causing heat surges or irritating heat discomfort in specific parts of your body—internally and externally.

It’s important to be conscious of the effects Summer heat has on your body. For example, overheating is often responsible for causing headaches and high blood pressure. 

To the extent we’re aware—or mindful—of what causes us to feel poorly, to that extent we’re in a position to make choices that lead us to either avoid or minimize the ill effect.

Pay Attention To How You’re Feeling

So as Summer days heat up, and your body needs to cool off—from the inside out, not just the superficial cooling that comes from air conditioning, or a dip in the pool—what can you do? 

Those of you who visit BIOM know that the process of becoming aware of how you’re feeling is always the starting point of the treatment. And it’s always surprising how, during the conversation about what’s going on, the seemingly insignificant things that cause stress get recalled.

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This part of the diagnostic process can be thought of as Mindfulness.

To the extent we’re aware—or mindful—of what causes us to feel poorly, to that extent were in a position to make choices that lead us to either avoid or minimize the ill effect.

Oriental Medicine addresses discomfort while gently nudging the body back towards balance so it can take care of itself naturally.

Summer health problems are often heat-related and acupuncture, combined with a customized medicinal herbal formula for clearing heat, helps address the discomfort while gently nudging the body back toward balance so it can take care of itself.

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Health Is The First Wealth: Heading To The Black Sheep Gathering

A wise friend of ours likes to point out that: a little bit of consciousness goes a long way. He generally makes mention of this to highlight how many simple, day-to-day, problems just would not happen if we made a different choice here and there, or thought a little bit more about the ones we do make. Or just paying a bit more attention to what’s going on around us—inside and out. 

Doing just that paid off for us during our recent trip to Eugene, Oregon to attend the Black Sheep Gathering.

(We’ll be posting an upcoming article about why we went, and what happened there.)

We stayed at The Nest in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood, a couple of blocks away from the fairgrounds where the gathering was held.

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Eugene is about 300 miles from BIOM, and on a beautiful Summer weekend it took about six hours of too-much-stress-interstate-highway-driving for us to arrive there; a significant portion of which was in carbon-monoxide-breathing-stop-n-go-traffic driving through the outskirts of Portland.

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Stress is a major underminer of the Immune System, and this stress was compounded by the heat of the Summer sun beating down on the car—with and without the car’s air-conditioner on—and the Chi-stagnating-stress that comes from being in a relatively cramped position in a car for hours at a time. So we were pretty energy-drained when we got to The Nest and had to begin making away-from-home food choices, which are very important choices because healthy food is the main way to replenish the energy drained by the stresses of travel.

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Applying a little bit of mindfulness in anticipation of travel stresses, and while they’re happening, plays a huge part regarding how much energy you’ll have while you’re away on your Summer adventures, and just as important, how much time it will take to recover when you get home.

Remembering our friend’s advice, that a little bit of consciousness goes a long way, combined with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s counsel to posterity that, “Health is the first wealth,” we were well aware that if we did not take care of ourselves we wouldn’t be able to do what we set out to do, which was to learn about fiber and enjoy ourselves; plus getting sick away from home is a compounding problem to be AVOIDED. 

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How We Dealt With The Stress of Summer Travel

Travel is travel, and as romantic and glamorous as it’s rumored to be, it has a cost, both in money and in the energy we need to stay healthy. Add the effects from the stresses of seasonal energy on top of that, and things don’t look as simple as the brochure or web page that got the whole thing rolling in the first place. 

Given that we were traveling in the Summer, as many of us will continue to do this season, here are some of the things we did to be vigilant in our understanding that Health is the first wealth and to protect our investment: 

• Drink Plenty of Water. We brought gallons of water with us and filled our water bottles along the way and drank plenty of water.

Your car needs water to keep from getting overheated. You can feel that when you’re driving in Summer traffic. Can you feel that in your body as you’re getting overheated? Simply drinking a little bit more often in hot weather can keep you from that dehydrated moment which too often becomes apparent only after a heat-related, chain reaction gets going in the body. 

• Take Chinese Medicinal Herbs. We used some of the water we drank to wash down our Chinese medicinal herb formulas. Given our individual constitutions we each brought along our traveling kit of herb formulas, and were very happy to have them. We felt the stresses mentioned above as they were building, and enjoyed the relief the herbs provided when we took them. 

• Do Chi Kung. Don’t think that Chi Kung is only something you do when you go to a class or during a special time of day. In fact, if you do Chi Kung regularly, it starts up spontaneously whenever you need it.

For example, while compressed in the car for some hours, what looks like a normal shifting-of-position becomes a Chi Kung release of stagnant energy; when getting out of the car at a rest stop, when the body has conditioned itself to Chi Kung, it naturally moves itself into the right position to get the ‘wrinkles’ out.

• Meridian Massage. In the West, more and more people enjoy the benefits of what’s commonly known as Swedish massage. Oriental Medicine also uses massage, but with a specific focus along the energy pathways leading to the organs. You may know of this system by its relatively popular Japanese name—Shiatsu; or by its relatively unknown Chinese name, Tui Na.

Wherever the body is most vulnerable, due to stress and energy imbalances, there tends to be discomfort or pain along the acupuncture meridian associated with that part of the body. For example, if you have a sore muscle, you instinctively know to massage it a bit to get the energy flowing again. After driving for 6 hours, we found out after about three hours, where our sore points were. Over the next days we massaged those acupuncture channels and points to make sure there were no crimps in our ‘energy hoses’. 

• Healthy Eating. Getting nutritious food is always a challenge when away from home for several days. In dealing with this situation, we let the a little bit of consciousness goes a long way reminder be our guide.

We brought a healthy amount of healthy food with us in a cooler to eat while traveling, and for breakfast and lunch while attending the Black Sheep Gathering. This way if we found good food we were interested in, we could enjoy that, and if we didn’t, we had delicious, reliable food with us.

We went out for dinner each night, and enjoyed ourselves, but were reminded that if we ate all of our meals out, we wouldn’t have gotten the amount of energy we needed from the food we ate.

While eating out at restaurants is fun, and the food often tasty, to make the profit they need, restaurants can’t give you the quality food you can buy on your own and bring with you. Once again: a little bit of consciousness goes a long way.

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If you want to know more about the BIOM approach to diet and nutrition, check out our online course: Healthy Eating the Five Element Way.

Hopefully our Summer travel experience will give you some tips for staying energized and healthy as you go about enjoying your Summer time.

And REMEMBER: A little bit of consciousness goes a long way.

Related Links

Staying Healthy in Summer
The Importance of Inspired Creativity
Olympic Peninsula Fiber Farm Tour
Tassajara Journey: A Late Summer Retreat
Autumn Beach Retreat

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IMPORTANT: All information on this Web site is provided for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of a local Oriental Medicine practitioner, biomedical doctor, experienced coach, or martial arts instructor.