I like to eat popcorn
before bed at night...every night. I'm defended my position for
years, so I'm ready for your attacks. No, I don't think it's bad
for me. I air pop organic, non-GMO corn and drizzle on melted
grass-fed organic butter. Most deliciously, I sprinkle sea salt all
over the top.
Let me stop lying. It's more like I pour on the butter and the
salt every one-inch tall increment of popcorn as it falls into the
bowl. That's impressive, and it's a skill I've honed over several
years. You have to stand at the ready, slowly spinning the bowl
under the air popper with your left hand while gently drizzling on
the butter from your right hand. Even coverage. Every time.
Now I'll begin to unfold
the secrets of my popcorn affair. Is it enough that my bedtime
snack is free from pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and
genetic modification? We all know I'm not making toxic microwave
popcorn. Sure, it clears the "no bad things" screening fairly
easily, but, as I always ask when someone proudly shows me a "100
calorie" pack of cookies, "What is actually in there
that's good for you?"
Over the past couple of years here at NUHS in the AOM program,
I've horrified more than a couple of peers by describing my
nighttime ritual. Although we naturally-minded medical people are
generally all in agreement that whole-fat butter is better for your
body than any margarine-like alternative, I've still heard the "too
much fat for your liver to clean" argument against my nightly
Several months ago, I
decided to give it a try. Who wants a Liver or Gall Bladder channel
obstructed by phlegm? Not me. So I cut down my popcorn to once
every week or two. It was rough. It was sad. I felt incomplete in
some way when laying down for bed at night. My kidneys cried me to
sleep, begging for the tonification that salt provides my deficient
little nephron bodies. They went hungry, as did I.
After a few weeks of my new deprivation lifestyle, I realized
something shocking -- I wasn't sleeping well! I've always been a
good sleeper, falling right to sleep each night and sleeping
straight through until the morning. Nine hours or so was the
glorious norm for me. Not anymore. Suddenly it was a struggle to
fall asleep and to stay asleep. Transient insomnia? Definitely.
Chronic insomnia? I didn't want to head down that road.
Luckily, I happened to be taking Eric Baker's "Nutrition and
Food Therapy of Oriental Medicine" course at this very time. I
glanced down at my handout during class, and what did I see? Salty
(a flavor in TCM, but most specifically manifested in actual SALT)
collects the Shen. The Shen in TCM is basically the spirit or mind
of the person.
I had been
neatly collecting my overscheduled, chaotic Shen before bed each
night by some sort of inexplicable subconscious desire to put my
mental pieces back together in order to sleep well. Now what was I
doing? I was trying to fall asleep and stay asleep while my Shen
gallivanted around my body and my life, scattered in tiny pieces
into all of my hats -- mother, wife, student, professor, friend,
sister, etc. No wonder I was failing every night.
Upon making the core connection between my salt, my shen, and my
sleep, I promptly began my nightly (or nearly nightly) ritual of
devouring a bowl of salty, buttery popcorn. What do you think
happened? Let's just say I sleep nicely once again. My body was
speaking to me, and I needed to listen. Pop on, popcorn!
Over the past four weeks in my "Nutrition and Food Therapy of
Oriental Medicine" course, I've been frustrated and slightly
puzzled over the subject matter. I'm usually more a
go-with-the-flow student in class; I'm sure the instructor knows
what we need to cover and how to cover it. This time around, I
still think he knows what we need to cover and how to lay it out,
but I'm not as easy going about the whole thing for some
Maybe it's because it's springtime, so my Liver wind is swirling
and I'm irritable. Perhaps I'm overly critical because dietetics is
my personal favorite element of oriental medicine. Maybe I'm just a
jerk. I don't know. I want to study therapeutic properties of
foods, and I want to right now!
Let me start by saying how much I like this professor and every
class I've had with him to date. The theory behind where we stick
these needles and which herbal formulas we recommend is absolutely
mind blowing. He taught me two years ago that winter has a color
and a flavor -- black and salty, for the record. Yet each week, we
seem to review the basics -- flavors and temperatures of
substances. The course title indicates that the focus of the
classwork will be nutrition and food therapy within the framework
of oriental medicine, so I keep wanting more -- more detail, more
examples, more ideas of how to alter a person's diet in order to
As we approach the famed Week Five Quiz that now makes an
appearance in most classes, I'm starting to second-guess myself.
Have we been just reviewing the basics of five-phase
theory, or did the professor slip pages of new detail into the
lectures when I wasn't looking? I'm sure he worked new information
into the framework so smoothly that my associate learning didn't
even know what was happening.
My frustration with this class is that I love the topic so much
that I can't reach a satiation point. I will never have enough
detail about food therapy to be content. I want more, I want it
now, and I want to share it with everyone I know...and some people
I don't even know yet.
Once again, springtime has
duped me. I'm irritable, I'm impatient, and my Liver is out of
control. Feel my pulse, second position on the left wrist. Can you
As I do from time to time, I realize now it's time to reread the
Dao de Jing, or the Tao Te Ching. Same book. Oh,
pinyin, you are a beast that cannot be pinned down. The point is
that this book, this short, easy to read, little book, can save
your sanity. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, overstressed, over Livery
in any way, I know it's time to pick it up.
Look at this thing. Lao Tzu, you genius!
"Those who know do not
Those who speak do not know."
I, and just about everyone else, could learn a little something
from that eloquent one-liner (two-liner?).
"Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion, you ruin what was almost
I don't even like poetry, but this stuff is literally
So, why I am frustrated in
Nutrition class? Why do I want to rush it? Why am I desperately
grasping at the next piece of information? It's that "forcing a
project to completion" part, that part I love for personal reasons.
My procrastination has been vindicated!
As a professor, I often wait until the deadline to return
students' papers; as a student, I expect my professors to grade my
paper today! Actually, I don't think Lao Tzu would like that
• So What Is Chinese Medicine?
• Jabbing Nerves with Needles
• Mission in Nicaragua
To read older blog posts, scroll to the bottom and click the "Older Posts" button.