Practicing Self-Cultivation: Why You Need to Do it and How to Do It
If someone gets sick or hurt there are many courses of treatment to take. There’s what your general practitioner or hospital doctors recommend: medication, physical therapy and much more.
While accidents occur and certain ailments are unavoidable, you can lead a life that does everything you can to prevent injury and illness, thereby avoiding costly medication and therapy.
What Is Self-Cultivation?
There isn’t a certain personality type that leads to health and longevity. It is important to learn how to pause, let go, be gentle and practice self-cultivation.
There is a great Daoist saying I heard about aging throughout life that describes aging as: birth to 60 is youth, 60 to 90 is middle age and 90 to 120 is old age. What this is essentially saying is that which is hard and firm will break sooner or later, whereas what is soft and pliable has longevity.
A common theme in classical Chinese medicine and philosophy mirrors this concept of softness, gentleness and yielding in one’s actions. Another great saying, I once came across was from a gentleman who is still living at 145 was, “The secret to longevity is patience.” You have to let go in order to truly have patience.
With self-cultivation being so important to our minds and bodies as we age, we can also receive benefits from it today, in the here and now.
Keep reading to learn different ways to practice self-cultivation that covers the mind and body that you can implement today.
How to Practice Self-Cultivation
Chinese Medicine goes beyond physical characteristics such as calories, minerals and nutritional content like carbohydrates, protein and more. Chinese Medicine realizes that each food has a special essence, a healing essence that works in the body at the energy level. That being said, it is important to eat whole and natural foods that nourish the body.
One important part of self-cultivation and eating is “Food Energetics.”
Mind Body Green describes food energetics in Chinese Medicine as the “Study of electromagnetic patterns of foods and how these vibrations effects the human body. Think of food energetics in terms of frequencies: imagine your body is a radio and each music station is a different food. When the foods you eat are appropriate for your body constitution, the music on the radio is crisp and clear. But when you eat foods that interfere with your body’s frequency, the interference disrupts the music and causes static. In other words, your body is unable to function to the best of its ability due to a particular food’s frequency disrupting the bodily resonance.”
You can practice and implement food energetics into your daily routine by eating seasonally, and cooking and eating mindfully.
I recommend trying to eat as many whole foods as possible; these choices will provide your body with nourishment and keep it functioning properly. You can read more about Superfoods here as well as reading about the benefits of adding spices to you meals here.
Have you ever thought of your body as a pond? Mind Body Green gave this interesting anecdote on movement and a pond:
Think of a flourishing pond: the moving water is teeming with fish and other life. Now imagine if that pond stagnated. The fish would slowly die off from lack of oxygen and clean water as the algae and pests accumulate. Toxins increase because there are no longer natural safeguards in place to maintain balance. The pond is analogous to the body. Exercise and proper breathing stimulates us, moving the stagnation and invigorating our bodies. In this health promoting environment, disease cannot take hold—so get up and move!
This is an interesting concept; we need to keep our bodies moving.
University Health Services from the University of California, Berkeley gave this list of Self-Care Self-Cultivation tips for exercising to prevent injury:
Stretch Slowly and Gently
Wear Proper Clothing
Pay Attention to Nutrition
Take Precautions in Warm Weather
Take Precautions in Cold Weather
You can read more about these tips here.
If moderate to advanced exercise seems like it is out of your abilities, don’t forget the value of walking. In a previous blog post, we toted the benefits of walking that include it being easy on the body, improves sleep and can benefit the mind. Interestingly enough, “Researchers at the University of Michigan found that walking has mental health benefits such as, ‘Decreased depression, improved well-being and mental health, and lower perceived stress.’ Walking around parks and neighborhoods will also allow you to see and enjoy nature’s best features.” You can read more about the benefits of walking here.
As we mentioned above, it is important to have patience, forgive and be aware of your surroundings. All of these elements of positive mental health can be contributed to mindfulness.
What is mindfulness? Psychology Today defines it as, “A state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.”
How can you find mindfulness? To some it may seem extremely easy, while others may have a hard time understanding the concept.
Another important piece of self-cultivation is meditation. “Formal mindfulness meditation involves the practice of observing your experiences as the emerge, non-judgmentally, and returning attention to the breath when the mind wanders away. The good news is, the research suggests that you only need brief exposure to these practices to gain the brain health benefits. This type of practice is linked to a number of brain health and mood improvements. Continuous practice has been linked to everything from increased physical and emotional pain resilience to increases in bio markers of immunity.”
If you’re wondering when you should meditate, Psychology Today recommends these four times and one time of the day to avoid:
When to Meditate:
First Thing in the Morning
When You’re Stressed
On Your Lunch Break
End of the Workday
When Not to Meditate:
Right Before Bed
You don’t have to wait until you are severely sick or injured to come in for an acupuncture treatment. It can also be a very beneficial piece of your self-cultivation practice.
Though pain may seem like the most obvious reason to come in for an acupuncture treatment, many people come in for check-ups and to make sure their body is healthy.
Some patients just come in for a single treatment when they are feeling a little off, or if want to prevent problems. We’ll often do a cluster of treatments (2 to 4) and then switch to bi-monthly or monthly tune ups as needed (the number of treatments will be determined during a visit or consultation).
Qi Gong is an ancient system using gentle intentional movements and breath to reduce stress, increase flexibility and improve health, all of which are important to self-cultivation.
In a direct translation, Qi Gong means “energy work.” Qi Gong dissolves the energy blockages and encourages the free flow of energy throughout your body’s meridian system, the invisible pathways through which Qi moves and that connect everything in your body.
Ongoing Qi Gong practice increases and balances your body’s Qi. Working directly on the body’s meridian system, focusing on the energy in the body, it stimulates and nourishes the internal organs, making the energetic communication between them more efficient. Also, by increasing the effectiveness of all body systems, Qi Gong helps conserve Qi.
We offer personal Qi Gong lessons; contact us today to schedule your own appointment.
Engaging in self-cultivation is so important because it not only benefits you right now, it also can have a positive impact on your future mind and body. When looking to start self-cultivation, it is okay to start slow; just make sure you start.
Focus on eating whole foods that will nourish the body, exercise and get moving (your exercise can be light to advanced), and practice mindfulness, meditation, acupuncture and Qi Gong.
About Green Lake Natural Health:
Green Lake Natural Health provides natural healing services and medicinal herb counseling to patients. The mission of Green Lake Natural Health is to provide customized care to patients to effectively treat their health concerns in a natural manner that restores harmony and healing in the body. Services include, but are not limited to, acupuncture, massage, medicinal herb counseling to treat conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain and more. Proudly serving the Seattle community since 2010.