Moxa / Moxie

tumblr_lxg858NYFA1r1iqgxo1_1280“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” This is what my acupuncturist said to me today, as she took my pulses and I gazed up at the mobile of geese made from branches turning ever so slightly in the moxa-scented room.

I openly admitted to her that I felt like I was having a bit of a pity-party. With only a short–and crowded–night’s sleep separating a full weekend with my girls from launching into a busy work, this morning felt like the hardest day yet since I stuck that first patch on my shoulder six days ago.

As she moved around the table, pressing gently here and there–tummy, forearm, the pad of my big toe, asking me where it felt tender–she encouraged the emotion, reminding me that it’s coming up and out for a reason now.

According to the Institute for Traditional Medicine:

Grief, sadness, and melancholy are associated with the lung. If one indulges in these emotional states, harm to the lung network will result and symptoms of emaciation, lack of energy, or dry skin may occur. The other way around, a low supply of lung qi can cause a gloomy state of mind. A particularly sad experience, moreover, may cause a person to adopt a pessimistic attitude toward life (which is really a state of dampened qi).

I’m keenly aware of tense when I say that smoking was a form for me of suppressing emotion. Managing. Avoiding. Dealing, we call it. But not really. Which comes first, the suppression or the sadness? It didn’t really matter, as tears streamed freely down the sides of my face onto the sheet below, and then she turned on a heat lamp near my cold feet and left the room for what seemed like a long time. I didn’t sleep, but I did offer the full weight of my body to the table. I focused on the geese, then closed my eyes and let my mind wander, let my breath sink me into a state of quiet, much-needed rest.

What a gift, to be supported. By her, by the table, by an hour in the middle of a busy work day. It is easy to get all wound up, to talk myself into a state of foregone failure. Referencing the past is not helpful, nor is looking ahead–an hour, a day, a month, a year. And so, what is left? A moment. And another. “You’re just not having fun right now,” she said, without a trace of judgment.

Later, we talked about the season. How the tips of the bare tree branches resemble the capillaries of the lungs. I told her that there have been times when my lungs, my inner terrain, has felt barren. Dried out, as if everything has come to a slow, grinding halt. “If a person is sad,” it is said in the Neijing, “her qi will dissipate.” It is remarkable how hungry the body is to breathe, how quick to restore.

At this point in the winter, it becomes difficult to imagine the trees full and green. When I’m sad, I think I will always be sad. When I’m agitated and irritable and crawling out of my own skin, I think, “I can’t deal!” But it’s never true. The seasons, like moods, will always change when left to their own devices.

Nowhere to run to, baby. Nowhere to hide. My acupuncturist didn’t say that, but she didn’t have to. The truth is naked when you stop dressing it up. At night, my dreams unearth unresolved conversations, and I wake up shaking my head. So many layers. I look at my worn reflection in the window as I write. It’s just you and me, kid.

Then it occurs to me that moxa sounds like moxie, and how we actually considered Moxie as a girl name when I was pregnant with Pearl. The thought makes me smile a little, especially because she was conceived about six weeks after I quit smoking in 2005. This makes me wonder what miracles will come with spring.

I think I’d like to find out.

2 thoughts on “Moxa / Moxie

  1. dawn says:

    Dear Jena,
    You are the miracle, and you are here already! What a beautiful and moving you, what a sweet and smart and sound and so-loving you!
    This part is hard. It will get easier. Just go 1 day and we can revisit all questions tomorrow. After sleep.


  2. Meg Casey says:

    Oh dear Jena…Yes. I just had a wonderful conversation about smoking and grief today in clinic. Its in the air. This poem by Lucille Clifton reminds me of the lungs (which is also associated with the autumn). The lesson of the falling leaves. The leaves believe such letting go is love, such love is faith, such faith is grace, such grace is god. I agree with the leaves.
    much love to you.



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