In this blog there have been several times that I have mentioned how differences in cultural perspectives influence the lens through which we see the world, and this inevitably comes up when you have grown up in a Western culture and study a discipline born out of Eastern philosophy.
When I was going through clinical internships during graduate school for Chinese Medicine, there was an exchange between a patient and a practitioner that I was observing that sticks in my mind as a favorite example of this.
This question was met with a bit of a blank stare, so the practitioner continued by saying, "It is important to exercise the mind. Find a place where you can get quiet, perhaps a place where you can stare out at the ocean, and really empty the mind. It doesn't need to be long. Spend maybe just 10 minutes to clear the mind."
I wasn't quite sure what the patient thought of this as she sat there with a slightly confused look and nodded her head, but this interaction in the clinic was a good learning moment for me as well. Previously, exercising just the mind was not really something I had considered much.
To be fair, I believe that exercising the body is quite an effective way to clear the mind. Exercise helps to bring your body into the present moment, and certainly if the exercise is difficult enough to warrant your full attention, you won't be permitted to have a laundry list of to-do items cycling through your brain. And of course there are countless benefits to regular physical exercise, such as improved metabolism, energy, sleep and mood, as well as resistance to illness, just to name a few.
Chinese medicine also recognizes this correlation. Stress, for example, is referenced in Chinese Medicine speak as "Liver Qi Stagnation", and one of the best remedies for alleviating stagnant qi is to go for a brisk walk or engage in some kind of steady physical activity.
The growing popularity of meditation in the West also speaks to how the benefits of "exercising the brain" are being recognized. It seems especially important now in the incredibly connected, fast-paced and everything-needs-to-happen-now modern world we live in. And acupuncture, coincidentally, is a really helpful tool to that can help you do just that.
I like to say that the mental relaxation and buzz that comes from an acupuncture session, is similar to the benefits one gets from a deep meditation, without the hard work of letting go to get you there. Fortunately, the needles can help do that part for you.