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Body Rhythm Cycles Around the Clock

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 242 - November 2017

Chaos and Uncertainty

As the sun routinely transits the sky from dawn to dusk and the seasons follow one another through cycles of spring, summer, autumn, winter so does every living thing have an internal ebb and flow of energy–even if they are not aware of it. There are man-made routines we are aware of - I enjoy my daily routines - breakfast, shower, meditation (if time!), caring for my grandkids, seeing patients - it’s this regular rhythm that keeps me feeling grounded and content. There are also deeper rhythms - cycles of energy that ebb and flow - internal tides that we may be unaware of but which are there to support and energize us nonetheless.

As I switch on my TV to catch up with the evening news and view pictures of refugees from the war torn Middle East pouring into Western Europe, I contrast my stable life of routines with that of these deeply traumatised men women and children, sometimes emerging from rubble, sometimes drowning - always in chaos and uncertainty. And yet, even though we may never experience our lives shattering in the same way as those poor souls in flight, most of us have had some experience of dealing with uncertain times and the loss of our tried and trusted routines. Facing financial upheavals, divorce, accidents - all of these events can pull the rug out from under us leaving us feeling lost and confused.

Vicki McKenna 242

All those of us who have experienced times of instability will confirm that when our routines are no longer there to support and ground us through the day we can feel off balance. Whether you are a refugee fleeing your country or a person who has experienced a severe personal trauma, to no longer have a regular rhythm and pattern to the day can result in a deep sense of loss and grief - everything feels up in the air. Conversely re-establishing routines, aligning ourselves again with a regular pattern to our day can be the first step towards healing when your life has been blown apart.

Modern scientific research shows that we all have an internal body clock that plots amongst other things when we have peak activity and when we sleep. Daoism thousands of years ago came to a similar conclusion and  tells us that Chi flows in a 24 hour cycle through the organs and the 12 meridians spending two hours of peak activity in each organ and the meridian pathway associated with that organ. This is also known as the Law of Midday Midnight. If our lives have been disrupted, our routines blown apart, by creating a routine that aligns us with each two hour phase we will be able to go with the flow of life’s energy and re-establish harmony and balance in keeping with this natural law of Midday Midnight.

24 Hours of Harmony

When we align our activities with each two hour period we can create routines that will impact positively on our lives. Let us look more closely at how this works….

  • 7.00 to 9.00am is Stomach Time: The Stomach is the organ associated with the Earth Element and thus is associated with nurturing and nourishment. Breakfast is perhaps the most important meal of the day and this is the best time to nourish ourselves with good wholesome food. Take your time, nurture yourself - eat foods that are kind to your body;
  • 9.00 to 11am is Spleen Time: The Spleen is the organ associated in the 5 Element theory with distributing the proceeds of digestion to nourish the cells in the body. This then is a good time to feel energized enough to tackle tasks – particularly those requiring concentration;
  • 11am to 1pm is Heart Time: The Heart is associated with the Fire Element–it is the organ that enables us to feel joyful and  loving. This is the time to focus on finishing morning  tasks joyfully - if possibly playfully;
  • 1 to 3pm is Small Intestine Time: The Small Intestines sort the pure from the impure in 5 Element Theory. This is the time to have lunch quietly – take a break so that your body and mind can not only sort the proceeds of your lunch but also sift through the hours past and those to come. Very few of us can take a two hour lunch break but even half an hour will help us feel more sorted!
  • 3 to 5pm is Bladder Time: The Bladder regularly eliminates the waste of the day. This is not the time for the harder more energetic tasks worked on earlier in  the day –now is the time to  apply ourselves to the  more mundane, regular tasks that close the working day;
  • 5 to 7pm  is Kidney Time: The Kidneys give us our ability to adapt and go with the flow. Now we wind down from work and flow in a restful way towards the evening activities;
  • 7 to 9pm is Circulation Sex Time: An aspect of the Fire Element this is regarded as a function rather than an organ. A time to be playful, sociable, to make love, to unwind. Eat lightly now in preparation for the night ahead - no overloading of organs!
  • 9 to 11pm is Triple Heater Time: The Triple Heater is another function rather than an organ and its task is to ensure we have a balanced body temperature as we go into the cool of the night. This then is a time to calm down mentally, relax, prepare for bed;
  • 11pm to 1am is Gall Bladder Time: The Gall Bladder gives us the ability to make decisions and for this to work well we need to be asleep. Sleep not only gives the Gall Bladder a rest - it also provides us with the space to dream and in dreaming we are connecting with our decision making abilities. In this way when we awake we will know more clearly what direction we need to take next;
  • 1 to 3am is Liver Time: The Liver has the fantastic ability to regenerate and this is the time when you need to sleep so that it may do its regenerative work. If you give yourself time to deeply sleep you will allow your Liver to cleanse, detox and regenerate;
  • 3 to 5am is Lung Time: Traditionally this peak time for the Lungs is a time to be inspired, a time to greet the day practising deep breathing, meditating , Chi Gung. Not many of us will be up at this time – particularly in northern climes in the winter where we might want to hibernate till at least 7am! If that’s the case try to include this time into the time associated with the other Metal element organ - the Colon. 
  • 5 to 7am is Colon Time: This is the time to defecate on a physical level and let go of the night - feel  cleansed, renewed, refreshed mentally and physically  to embrace the day ahead.

Try aligning your activities as much as you can with the natural Law of Midday Midnight as described above. Particularly refer to this Law if your life has been disrupted and stressful. You may find that by following these routines round the clock you feel more in tune, in harmony with body, mind and spirit.


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About Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna BA Lic Ac trained at The College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Leamington Spa with Professor Worsley from 1981 gaining her Lic Ac. in 1984 and has been practising acupuncture in Scotland since then. Her book A Balanced Way Of Living; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with Post Polio Syndrome is available from 


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