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Will Power and the Kidneys

by Dr. Amber Hincks LAc

Those first signs of Spring are starting to appear, but we are still in the depths of Winter.  As I write this, it is DÀ HÁN, “Major Cold,” the last of the 24 terms of the Chinese Solar Calendar.  The new year is coming soon and it is important not to rush things, instead allowing the cycle to finish and reflecting on the teachings of the past year.  Winter is a time of storage, self care, consolidating our energy as the seed of future growth.  What seeds are you planting?

Perhaps you have set some goals for the year ahead and have even started on them.  Wonderful!  And yet, there will likely be times when it becomes difficult to maintain these new routines, make the healthiest choices, or have the necessary conversations.  Whatever it is, positive changes often require will power.  

Will Power and the Kidneys, Amber Hincks Acupuncture in Beaverton, ORThe Chinese medicine concept of will power, Zhi, is associated with the Kidneys, which belong to the water element.  The water element is also correlated with the Winter season, surely a season that can test our tenacity.  Will power is our ability to follow through on the things that matter to us.  In Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys are a source of health and longevity, but their energy is finite.  We must choose how we want to expend our energy and how to invest in the things we love.  In this way, our vital force is preserved and can even grow.  

How do we balance a sense of ease and comfort, with the grit and tenacity required to achieve our goals?  Where is the Wú Wéi, “effortless action,” that finds us in this delicate flow?  Well, as David Goggins puts it, “there are no hacks, bro.”  Easy is on the other side of hard.

Amber Hincks offers Acupuncture in Beaverton, ORWhat I mean is, if we keep on choosing the easy path, things inevitably start to feel harder and more out of reach.  Instead, if we do the things that we have been putting off, the things that are important, we learn just how capable we are.  Does it get easier?  Maybe, maybe not, but regardless, you will know that you can do it.  And there is joy in the knowing, along with all the rewards that come with each accomplishment, be it better health, more restful sleep, loving relationships.

Let’s circle back to David Goggins, author of Never Finished.  He was a guest on a recent Huberman Lab episode - “How to Build Immense Inner Strength.”  And in this discussion, Dr. Huberman brought up that there is an area of the brain, the anterior mid-cingulate cortex, associated with will power.  This area of the brain grows when we do something that we do not want to do.  When scientists stimulated this area of the brain, subjects felt a sense of impending struggle, but they also felt ready to take it on.  

The Kidneys are associated with the brain (and bones).  Strong Kidney Qi supports healthy aging and ongoing physical and cognitive strength - longevity.  I personally do a lot of thinking about the ways I can keep myself and others healthy for a long time.  But it was still hard for me to sit down and write this blog on a Sunday afternoon.  In fact, I put it off for 2 weeks.  But now that I have done it, I can share it with you.  A little part of my brain just flexed, and perhaps my Kidneys did too.  

By needling specific points, acupuncture can amplify the Kidneys' power and therefore provide clarity around life changes or goals. Through acupuncture, herbs, and dietary education, Chinese Medicine naturally supports the Kidneys, provides balance to the overall yin and yang of the body, and cultivates essential Zhi, will power.  

*Examples of foods that nourish the Kidneys: cloves, ginger, cinnamon bark, quinoa, chicken, lamb, trout, salmon, millet, barley, most types of beans, & spirulina