I’ve found myself quitting a lot this past year: coffee, a job, wheat, alcohol, toxic relationships, over-scheduling, over-doing.
Quitting can involve anything from coffee, to alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, junk food or even a job, using a credit card to buy things out of your budget, negative self-talk, or a toxic relationship.
It seems that the more I quit, the more space is opened in my life for creativity.
I love making art, and truth be told, I’ve been creatively blocked for years artistically. I now see my creative block was because I had not given myself the space, the time, the non-doing, to allow creativity to flow. Quitting a variety of items, and people, has freed up so much room in my life.
We may know that we “should” quit for one reason or another, but it doesn’t mean that choose we do anything about it… tuntil we encounter the last straw. This tends to occur during or after a burnout phase – where we have reached the point of no return. The point where we cannot take on anything more than what we have – in our bodies, our minds, our souls, and our spirit.
When this happens, the clouds of “should” and “do” dissipate and a moment of clarity brings forth the action that must occur in order to keep health and sanity. There is no other option but to quit.
We live in a world where decisions and choices are made more difficult by the flood of choices and decisions to make on a daily basis. Add to this the option to base our decision on others’ experiences (through sites such as Yelp, social media polling, etc.) and we can be left decision-paralyzed. We can crowd-source almost anything we do in our lives. It brings me comfort that the seemingly hard decisions aren’t always that hard to make thanks to the last straw. Sometimes though, we are left between a rock and a hard place. What then?
In TCM, having the resolve to make and follow through with plans is related to the Liver and Gallbladder. The Liver is the General or Architect of the body: planning, organizing and telling the other parts of the body how to assemble. The Gallbladder is the decision-maker.
Have trouble making decisions? Perhaps you need some more help with your Gallbladder! Have trouble following through, or have your plans waffle and fall apart? Perhaps you need to support your Liver some more!
Sometimes these decisions and choices are made for us by way of allergic reactions or adverse reactions, sometimes these choices and decisions are easy to see and make by way of a person’s response or reaction. I’ve consistently had adverse reactions to regular intake of wheat, dairy and/or alcohol at various times in my life. At a certain point, it is not worth exposing my body to these items and suffering the consequences.
At what point is it no longer worth making myself ill? Spending a whole day in bed with stomach pains, running to and from the bathroom for hours, being foggy-headed from one beer with dinner the night before? What is the risk/benefit cutoff point? Unnerving stomach upset and dread upon waking to go to work? Headaches after spending time with someone? Exhaustion from living a “full life”? For me it may be different than you, but only I can determine if something is working or not – by listening to my body without expectations or “shoulds” (I should be able to have pizza because I love it; I should be able to have a glass of wine with dinner because it helps me unwind; I should be friends with this person because I need a friend; I should keep my job because I need to pay the bills; I should, I should, I should…).
What if the decision or choice isn’t so clear-cut? My best advice is to listen deeply to your self. Weigh out your options in as much detail as possible: how does this current thing make you feel? Go as deep as you can – body, mind, soul. What will happen if you keep doing what you are doing? What would happen if you quit? Now, imagine your life without this, and fill it with something that you truly want to be doing instead: how does this new thing make you feel: body, mind and soul? The deeper you dig, the more likely you’ll find your gold: your decision.
What are you gaining from quitting?
Instead of coffee, I’ve resumed my old morning tea habit: brewing loose leaf Assam or green tea in the morning. I’ve gained the ability to have a calm, enjoyable morning and day without adverse physical reactions. Instead of wheat, I’m eating more starchy vegetables and rice and gained the loss of stomach pain and bloat. Instead of alcohol, I’m having flavored seltzer, or seltzer mixed with various herbal tinctures/elixirs/syrups/etc; I’ve gained a clearer mind and more energized body. Instead of a terrible job, I found a great job working around and for great people. Instead of toxic friendships, I’m filling my life with only the people who I feel bring me to a place of more love, communication, support and sharing; I’ve gained the ability to relax and be myself without feeling beaten down over it. Instead of over-scheduling and over-doing it, I’m scheduling in “do nothing” time, so that I cannot “forget” to take time to rest, practice self-care, and provide myself time and space to do what my heart desires. I have ultimately gained a more healthier and happier me. What’s not to love about that?
How do you support your Liver and Gallbladder, and ultimately your inner-General or Architect? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Walk, move, dance, sing, go on a hike, spend time outside – what is your body, your soul, asking you to do?
- Eat plenty of lightly cooked greens, whole grains, lean protein
- Avoid dairy and Liver-stagnating foods like nuts, nut-butters, and avocados; alcohol, caffeine, chocolate. Also avoid raw foods and juices, especially from the Fall through late Spring.
- Drink teas that are beneficial to the Liver: here is one of my favorites, you can also find many “detox” teas on the market. Mint is a great Liver Qi mover too!
- If you suffer from “waffling” – with decisions, plans, etc – you might want to see if Wen Dan San is appropriate for you by speaking with an herbalist. Wen Dan San’s English name is: Warm the Gallbladder formula. The Gallbladder likes to be warm, if you suffer from waffling or speaking up for what you want, you might have a cold Gallbladder.
- If you suffer from feelings of being stuck, speaking with an herbalist to determine if Bupleurum Liver Cleanse (Planetary Herbals version of Xia Yao Wan, aka Free and Easy Wanderer) may be appropriate for you.
- Take Triphala, twice a day, every day! Take bitters before meals! If you can’t digest what you are eating, how can you digest your life?
- Create! Start a painting, make a needlepoint, rearrange your furniture, paint your toenails, try some new makeup, dance to new music, cook something new, explore a different neighborhood, do your hair differently from what you normally do, try some new outfits, make a new playlist for a long walk.
- Massage your belly: start with both of your hands over your liver (under your ribs, on the right side of your body), and slowly massage in a clockwise circle around the belly button. My favorite is to do this with St. John’s Wort oil, or in the bath with some luxurious body wash. After you’ve circled your belly button several times, take your fingers and bend them into a rake-like pattern. Then, move your fingers up and down, from your pubic bone up to your suprasternal notch for about thirty seconds. Then, tap two inches below your belly button with your fingertips. When you do this daily, you will feel the heat move from one area of your belly to another. This helps to move Heat to areas that are Cold, thus creating greater balance in the body.
- If you are still having troubles with decision-paralysis, or following through on your plans, create a step-by-step plan of what you need to do to accomplish this thing. Breaking tasks down to manageable portions allows us to see and make progress that much easier. You wouldn’t try to eat a whole plate of food in one bite, why would you try to accomplish a whole new thing (like quitting coffee) all at once? Start with something do-able, and keep at it.
- Sometimes, no matter what we do, all we can do is listen to our hearts and take the leap and go for it.
Taking the leap, moving on and quitting can be easy, or it can be hard.
What I can say, easy or hard, is that quitting has made me more present and aware of myself. It’s brought up habits, fears and anxieties, truths that I otherwise would have kept a blind eye to; and has allowed me to see what I need to thrive.
It’s been quite the ride – bumps, stumbles, breakdowns, and all.