How Listening Heals your Digestion

Solar Term 11 | July 6 – July 21

When people ask you about your happy place, what comes to mind?

Take a moment to visit it in your mind’s eye. What qualities does it bring up in you? My happy place is a spot by the Methow River in Washington State. What first comes to mind when I recall my happy place is the sound of the native grasses rustling in the wind with the river murmuring in the background. Out of the corner of my mind’s eye I see the grasses as they sway, the blue sky, white fluffy clouds, and the mountain peaks in the distance from the vantage point of lying on my back in the shade. This moment of presence brings me a sense of peace, of feeling complete, of being whole.

The quality of stillness of summer is in the shadow that is created from the bright light of the midday sun. We sit in the shadows of trees, umbrellas, and overhangs as respite from the greater heat and sun of July. Animals search out every bit of shade available, lazily swatting the flies away. The birds are tucked away deep in the trees, quiet after their morning song. It’s as if the whole world is stopping, forced by the heat and light to take a moment to lean back, close their eyes, take a deep breath, pause, and listen.

July is the first month of diminishing light. We are slowly heading towards winter. There is a hint of the drawing-in that occurs during winter when we sit in the shade in summer. There is a natural pause, a quiet, that arises. This is the natural time to listen.

Listening is digestion

Listening is an active process that is considered part of digestion in Eastern medicine. It requires taking in information, sorting it, and transforming it into something useful. The listening and sorting is the role of the Small Intestine.

The Small Intestine doesn’t have this kind of duty in Western thought. Using the systems framework of Eastern medicine, the energy of your internal organs manifests in your senses and your senses take in information which is then processed by the body/mind/spirit of the internal organs. Listening happens when your ears, mind, organ (Small Intestine), and the concentration of your spirit all work together as a system to take it all in.

Blocks to healing the Small Intestine

When you have a disease of the small intestine it manifests in some form of inability to sort food, information, and/or experiences which leads to a kind of, or actual, diarrhea. Clinically, I see this in people who are confused about their situation, their health, their life. I sit and listen as they try to untangle webs in their mind as they attempt to articulate to me what is going on. They talk, and talk, and talk so caught up in the confusion to notice that I am looking at their tongue, feeling their pulse, and their abdomen to confirm my diagnosis of an imbalance in the Small Intestine.

When you are in this situation it is hard to know which route to take to heal. Typically people will show up in my clinic with supplements, diets, and tests from many other practitioners because they cannot sort which route to take. They feel confused, lost, alone, and in the dark. This can lead to feelings of bitterness and betrayal, which also affect the Heart.

What are you listening to?

“Don’t listen with your ears, listen with your mind. No, don’t listen with your mind, but listen with your spirit. Listening stops with the ears, the mind stops with recognition, but spirit is empty and waits on all things. The way gathers in emptiness alone. Emptiness is the fasting of the mind.” – Zhuang Zi, (3rd century BC)

Both Eastern and Western philosophies believe that you need to orient to listening to your Heart, and the Heart of others.

“The ear is the road to the heart.” – Voltaire (1694-1788)

The function of the Small Intestine is listening to your Heart with clarity to know and communicate what is true and authentic. While you can use acupuncture and herbal medicine to direct the energy of the Small Intestine to the Heart, you can also practice this in your daily life. You can use this time of year to see if you can listen to your Heart and the Hearts of others:

  • Notice the natural pause in the day. Use the moment to sit in the shade and practice actively listening to the subtle sounds all around you. Observe the qualities of nature that you hear and how they align within.
  • Listen to someone with an open mind and heart who has a differing opinion. Can you detect if they are aligned with their own Heart? Are they speaking their truth?
  • Take the meditative quality of listening without judging to your own Heart. What is your truth about the situation? What is the felt sense when you are aligned with your truth? Can you effectively communicate your truth to others?

Let me know if you can use this Solar Term to listen.