Stress Relief and the Smooth Flow of Energy

My first conscious brush with stagnant energy occurred during my first semester in school to study Acupuncture. I was returning back to school for a master’s in Oriental medicine after having been away from the academic world for years (okay, maybe decades). I can remember thinking at the time, “How hard could this be?” Much to my surprise, it was incredibly hard. I had classes during the day and studied every night and weekends. I was working part time and my husband traveled for his business. My kids were still in grade school and junior high, and they weren’t happy with my return to school.

About two months into the semester, I began to get this funny feeling in my throat. It felt like a lump stuck somewhere below my Adam’s apple and above my sternum that made it hard for me to swallow and very uncomfortable to eat. After lots of antacids and a trip to my doctor, I ended up in the Chinese medicine teaching clinic at my school. Within the framework of Chinese medicine, my symptoms were easily diagnosed. I had something called Plum Pit Qi, which sounded exactly like what I was feeling–a plum pit was caught I my throat. I learned that Plum Pit Qi is a kind of stagnation of Qi (pronounced chee), or energy, and occurs as the result of a situation that is figuratively too difficult to swallow.

While the acupuncture and herbal treatments at the clinic were very effective, I also had to acknowledge that I had taken on too much. I had to either quit school or find a way to balance all the commitments I had taken on. After retooling my life somewhat, quitting my job, and studying when my kids were occupied or in bed, I managed to get through that first semester and ultimately, three years later, complete my master’s degree.

Perhaps what was most startling to me from this whole episode was how powerful the physical symptoms were from stress that was purely emotional. In Chinese medicine this phenomenon is related to the smooth flow of Qi, or energy, throughout the body. Qi can be described as life energy or the energy necessary for transformation to occur.

Every cell in our bodies make energy. One of the foundations of Chinese medicine is that the energy in our bodies move along pathways, and good health is dependent on the unobstructed flow of that energy throughout the pathways of the body. The smooth flow of Qi in our body is most closely related to the Liver, the symbolic organ system (not the actual Liver) associated with the element of wood. This may relate the hard wood found in trees, but the color associated with the Liver is green or blue/green, suggesting younger plants and their slow, steady growth upward toward the sun. If some obstacle (or stressor) inhibits that growth, then the plant will grow crooked and become deformed.

While the Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi, it also has a strong relationship to the smooth flow of emotions. When our emotional state is even, Qi will flow evenly throughout our body. However, during emotional upheaval or unrelenting stress, our Qi tends to stagnate. This stagnation is much like turning on the water to your garden hose and then bending it until the flow is cut off. This blockage of Qi can cause numerous physical symptoms, from my Plum Pit Qi, to insomnia, headaches, gynecological problems, and pain.

Ultimately, smooth emotions equal smooth Qi. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. We have all, at one time or another, become caught up in the way we think things should be and have trouble accepting what really is. For many of us this feeling is constant, and when the feeling becomes overwhelming, our Qi becomes bound up and begins to stagnate. This feeling can take the form of too many things to do and not enough time, a job we don’t like, people who annoy us, or anything that makes us unhappy, uncomfortable, frustrated, or angry. The end result may be overwhelming stress, anxiety, depression, or panic attacks.

On a daily basis, we see people attempting to move Qi, some more successfully than others. On any given weekend morning during the summer, we see thousands of people outside running, biking, and walking. They usually feel better after having exercised, because physical activity moves Qi. However, practitioners of Chinese medicine would caution that excessive exercise can be depleting.

Drinking a cup of coffee speeds things up and also moves Qi, too. However, coffee is a diuretic, and excess can also be depleting. Like coffee, chemical use/abuse is an attempt to move stagnant Qi and feel better, but the depleting effects of such practices are obvious.

Perhaps the most successful ways of dealing with stagnant Qi, and ultimately the emotions, are some of the Eastern practices, such as taiqi, qigong, or yoga. These combine gentle exercise with breathing techniques that allow us to even out emotions, nourish our bodies, and smooth Qi. Through proper breathing and quieting the mind, meditation is also an excellent way to calm the emotions and allow the Qi to move freely.

When these practices aren’t enough, or when stagnant Qi begins to manifest as illness, acupuncture can help bring relief. Many people believe that acupuncture is best used for relieving pain. However, it’s also very effective in treating stress-related disorders such as irritable bowel, headaches, PMS, depression, and insomnia.

Like the “Plum Pit” caught in my throat, many physical symptoms that make us uncomfortable are actually a barometer to our emotional health. Often, when we have ignored the obvious signs that we are doing too much or need to make an emotional change, this discomfort finally gets us to stop and take our lifestyle into account.

Endearing Christmas Story – The Plum Pudding Mystery

A series of delicious Christmas coincidences began in the year 1800 in Orleans, France. The famous Romantic poet, Emile Deschamps, was attending boarding school when a Frenchman recently returned from England, M. de Fortgibu, introduced him to an English taste treat unknown in France at that time — plum pudding. Deschamps was delighted.

Ten years later Deschamps was passing by a restaurant on Boulevard Poissoniere when he spied a beautiful plum pudding in the window. Remembering the wonderful dessert from before, he immediately went in and asked for a slice. Regrettably, the hostess informed him that another customer had just ordered the entire pudding. Seeing Deschamps’ look of disappointment, she went over to an elderly man in a colonel’s uniform at another table and said, “M. de Fortgibu, would you have the goodness to share your plum pudding with this gentleman?” The two Orleans friends became pleasurably reacquainted as they again shared their holiday treat.

Many years passed. Emile Deschamps was attending a dinner party one evening where plum pudding would be the featured dessert, and joked to the guests, “Then I know M. de Fortgibu will be there.” He regaled the party with the tale of his previous two experiences with plum pudding. The meal wended towards its conclusion, the dessert was brought forth, and the guests began to tease Deschamps about his missing acquaintance when the butler opened the door to the dining room. “M. de Fortgibu,” he announced.

Deschamps’ hair stood on end as in tottered his friend, now very old, looking blankly around the table. It turned out that the venerable colonel had been invited to another dinner party, in the same building, and had accidentally knocked on the wrong door. Deschamps exclaimed, “Three times in my life have I eaten plum pudding, and three times have I seen M. de Fortgibu! A fourth time I should feel capable of anything… or capable of nothing!”

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” – Miguel de Cervantes

This story is excerpted from the December 24 entry of Almanac of The Infamous, The Incredible, and The Ignored, by Juanita Rose Violini.

Almanac of The Infamous, The Incredible, and The Ignored is the new compendium of paranormal events and unsolved mysteries. 365 astonishing true tales will amaze, confound, and remind you just how mysterious this world of ours really is. A magical daily read, published by Weiser Books.

Survival Of The Fittest – ‘Entrepreneurial’ B-School

Today management education particularly in the Indian sub-continent is among the most happening industries. The competition flu is affecting anybody and everybody and b-schools are not exceptions. Everyday out of the blue, the MBA factories are conceiving and developing new strategies for survival, growth and dominance. Undoubtedly, its a age-old fact that recession or no recession, the Indian job market has always been bullish.

In the present fragile economy, it becomes more relevant for the management varsities to have the ‘locus of control’ on multiplication and not addition, viz. entrepreneurship in lieu of the conventional one-to-one students placements.

Its high time now that the B-schools should take initiatives towards grooming wealth creators rather than creating job seekers. They need to stop bragging and competing about the average salaries their students are commanding and start to teach and encourage them about the values of wealth creation and entrepreneurship. They should start celebrating their alumni of entrepreneurs and make them involved in the process of grooming new entrepreneurs of their students.

The decision to quit a stable job and start a new company needs a lot of courage and risk taking ability for which the students need to be inspired. Involving alumni entrepreneurs and other successful business personalities in the course curriculum and facilitating their interaction with students will help the students to find their role model and then they will begin to view entrepreneurship as a valuable career option.

Diversity in a class leads to exchange of whole lot of new ideas and this may help in developing independent thinkers who do not just want to work as employee managers but to be creative and develop something new. There is a need to create a separate academic department for entrepreneurship and introduce a number of relevant courses in that area. The potential students should be trained on hard and soft skills of entrepreneurship.

With the emergence of Venture Capitalists (VCs), government R & D institutions, op B-schools seek out the entrepreneurial spirit among the young students. Some of the top b-school graduates have started turning down plum posts and packages and are venturing out on their own.

The current economic crisis has also led students to think out-of-the-box by establishing start-up firms – a common phenomena in the western world. Many entrepreneurs feel that the time now is ripe to initiate new ventures as enthusiasts have the time to think about innovations and even evaluate the viability of it further.

The leading national b-schools are taking initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship amongst the students. Some of them are: -

o Asian School of Business Management Bhubaneswar is on the verge of launching an independent entrepreneurship cell with Government of India sponsorship.
o Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) set up by MDI, Gurgaon.
o Organizing training, workshops, conferences on entrepreneurship.
o Involving and networking with different channels for entrepreneurship development like NEN (National Entrepreneurship Network) and research organizations.
o Mentoring and providing helping hand to the aspiring students through faculty, research organizations, government agencies and alumni entrepreneurs.
o One of the most innovative ideas to attract students for taking the risk to start their own venture is having a deferred placement policy in the institutes. Since uncertainty discourages the students from taking risk and venturing on their own, this deferred placement policy helps the students to have two years in their hand to choose their desired path but can always come back if they fail to make a mark. XLRI Jamshedpur is one of the institutes providing such facility to students.
o IIMs and other prominent B-Schools have set up separate entrepreneurial centers for fostering and developing innovation-based entrepreneurship. These centers act as an incubator cell for start-up companies besides providing support and mentoring. These centers are already having quite a few start-up companies to their credit. Some of such centers are CIIE (Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship – set up by IIM Ahmedabad), NSRCEL (Nadathur S Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning – set up by IIM Bangalore).
o Some institutes have introduced innovative ideas to encourage entrepreneurship. IMT Ghaziabad has a students’ committee which collects funds and invests them on behalf of the contributing students. It then tracks the stock market and gives monthly update to the investors i.e., the students, thus explaining the working of the stock market to them and encouraging them to invest, take risk and earn their own money showing them ways towards entrepreneurship.

Book Review: Four to Score

Stephanie Plum was laid off from her job and ended up becoming a bounty hunter is desperation. In each of the fictional stories written about her, she sets out to capture someone who has sought help with bail money from her cousin Vinnie and then not appeared in Court when required to do so. Vinnie doesn’t want to lose the money that he lent and therefore gives Stephanie a deadline as to when she is to turn the offender into the police.

In this book, Stephanie is looking for “skippers” such as Maxine Nowicki, a waitress, who apparently stole the vehicle of her boyfriend and then seemed to disappear. Stephanie therefore has to gather as much information as possible about her life and habits so that she can find Maxine and turn her in. That involves meeting her boyfriend and mother as well as visiting the place where she is employed. Most of her job is just plain hard work but Stephanie is a real character who has an interesting group of individuals around her and that lives up the plot.

Her parents and her 73 year old grandmother Mazur live together in Trenton New Jersey. Stephanie’s mom and dad live a rather tradition and routine existence. Although Stephanie doesn’t want to live with them, she never seems to hesitate to show up a mealtimes or to stay in the bedroom of her youth when she needs safety. Her Grandma Mazur, on the other hand, is always looking for adventure and wants to accompany Stephanie when she is looking for a “Failure to Appear” individual.

Sometimes Stephanie invites Lulu who is an ex-hooker now working as a filing clerk in Vinnie’s office to join in a search. Lulu, however, easily becomes over-excited and Stephanie is always trying to calm her down so that she doesn’t use the gun that she carries.

Since high school, Stephanie has had an enemy named Joyce who now is also working for Vinnie so there is fierce competition between the two women.

Sally Sweet is a transvestite musician who can read messages that are written in code, so, in this Plum novel, he is frequently being called upon by Stephanie to help her look for the missing Maxine.

Two other key individuals in Stephanie’s life and work are men. Ranger was her first mentor as a bond enforcement officer. Everyone admires his work and the fact that he is like the wind, showing up and disappearing without notice. Joe Morelli is a police officer who has been a sexual interest of Stephanie’s since she was young.

“Four to Score” is written in a very interesting manner. Although it has murder, firebombs and mystery, there are times I laughed right out loud because of the humour. Each of the characters contribute to the plot through there sometimes “whacky” behaviours and comments. Stephanie’s ongoing first-person narrative throughout the book offers the reader a clear perspective of her “humanness”.

Top Medical Schools

Medical schools in America can be classified into two broad categories – those that concentrate on research and those with a focus on primary care. Each category has a sort of hierarchy as far as reputation is concerned. There is no clear-cut way of establishing a list that begins with the “best” and ends with the “worst,” but of course some are far more reputable than others.

Again, this does not mean that a student can simply select the “best” and apply for admission there. The higher a medical institution ranks in repute, the higher will be its requirements as far as the required GPA (Grade Point Average) for admission eligibility. An upper-bracket medical school will also have a far tougher version of the Medical School Admissions Test (MCAT). Other factors that decide eligibility for admission are the aspiring student?s state of residence and the manner in which the application essay has been written.

There are a number of advantages to studying at one of the top American medical schools. The name on the degree’s masthead has a lot to do with how easy or hard it will be to get future academic and professional breaks. Further, medical studies become a lot more comfortable with the right pedigree, and it is quite possible that a student from one of the high-ranking institutes will be awarded one of the plum residency slots at a practicing medical establishment.

At present, among the most reputable research-oriented medical schools in America, in a roughly descending order, include Harvard University, John Hopkins University, Duke University and University of California San Francisco. University of Washington, Oregon Health & Science University, Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and University of Minnesota Duluth rank among the most reputable in primary care.