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The Discomforts of Life

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 168 - March 2010

When it gets dark enough you can see the stars
Lee Salk (Child Psychologist and Author)

Keeping Safe

It was an exciting time in the run up to my daughter's wedding this summer. We were busy arranging the wedding venue and the catering, ordering the flowers, inviting the guests, booking a celidh band for the reception and addressing the hundred and one other tasks that are involved in such an event. And then, just three weeks before the ceremony the bride to be slipped in a muddy field and broke her leg.

Now in the scheme of things this is not a major disaster – no way can this be compared with war, disease, pestilence or losing your job, but it was certainly a challenge and reminded us that "life is what happens when you are busy making other plans!" And as much as we try to make life easy and delightful, it seems often to be hard and uncomfortable.

In our relatively wealthy and comfortable society we seek to maintain the staus quo and keep ourselves protected and safe. We avoid discomfort and strain to make our lives as pleasurable as possible. Sometimes this impulse to avoid life's more challenging times can be counterproductive. For example we avoid letting our children experience the challenges, thrills and spills of playing outside for fear of all the dangers we imagine lurk there. As a result, we have reared a generation addicted to the sterile world of indoor computer games. And our attitude of avoidance can be seen when it comes to sickness too. Nobody wants to feel unwell, and allopathic medicine has much to offer, but for example, its tendency towards over use of vaccination suggests that it has lost touch with the traditional idea that illness can be an opportunity to build strength and wholeness –physically, mentally, emotionally. Instead, modern medicine focuses on annihilating disease and ironically, the more it attempts to do this the weaker we become.

There are difficulties and challenges in the rough and tumble of life, but rather than avoid them, we can use them as opportunities to connect with our inner energy field and so enhance our vitality and well being in body, mind and spirit.

Connecting With the Inner Energy Field

My immediate reaction when my daughter ended up with a leg encased in plaster up to her knee just before her wedding day was to feel disappointed for her, but as a Daoist I understood that she could view this accident either as a crisis and so feel weakened by it, or as an opportunity to accept her pain – physically and emotionally, and through it, in this moment, come to connect with her inner energy field – the still and calm centre of our being that sustains and nourishes.

Just as you accept that when a limb breaks it must be immobilized so that it connects, albeit unconsciously, with the inner energy field where healing and strengthening can take place, similarly when we feel broken and weakened by life's trials, rather than denying or analysing these testing times, we need to see them, consciously as opportunities to choose to be still and yield to our painful feelings, relax and connect in this moment with the vibrant field of Chi that unites us all – our inner energy field. This is the calm, peaceful life force that is at the core of our being. By aligning with it you will feel the field growing in strength, feel yourself healing in body, mind and spirit.

Three days before her wedding day, Sarah's broken leg had mended enough for her Orthopaedic Consultant to agree to an earlier than scheduled removal of the cast, and with a little help from her dad and a cheering congregation of family and friends, she made it up the aisle! And she was a serene bride, as she had used this uncomfortable and trying time to acknowledge her feelings of disappointment and frustration, yield to her circumstances and connect with the peace and strength and healing of her inner energy field.

Aligning with the Field

When you perceive life as stressful and uncomfortable, remember that through hard times and painful feelings comes the opportunity to connect with your life force – when it gets dark enough you can see the stars. Then practise this exercise;
  • Sit quietly and feel the breath going in and out at your nostrils. Feel in your body for areas of tension and consciously relax them. Become aware of how you feel emotionally. Are you feeling anxious, sad, angry? Allow these feelings to surface and open towards them. Do not analyse them or seek for meanings behind them; just accept them without judgement or resistance;
  • Gently feel rooted in the Dan Tien – the energy centre just below the naval. Be aware of your feelings and bodily sensations, relax and remind yourself that they are simply transient energy forms. Choose to identify instead with the core of your being – your inner energy field;
  • With closed eyes now feel the core of your inner energy field at the Dan Tien as a warm fluid that spills out circulating all over your body. Allow it to radiate down your legs to your toes, up your torso, across your back and shoulders and down your arms to your fingertips. Enjoy the feeling as a warm vibrating intense sea of energy and life force. Maintain this for ten minutes, feeling yourself soaking in a blissful, vitalizing sea of Chi. By choosing to train your mind to connect with it rather than dwelling on your discomforts, you strengthen your inner energy field so that your light radiates brightly into the world.


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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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