ACH Blog

The Spirit of Approaching Winter

Isobel Cosgrove - Sunday, November 01, 2020

Hallow’een has just been celebrated. This is the moment in the year, according to Chinese medical beliefs, when the heavens reach down to touch the earth. Physically, there are mists, so that clouds, which are usually way out of reach, are swirling around us as we walk. This is when we can feel more in touch with “Spirit”, more in touch with our internal world, with our essence.

gourds piled up on board

The harvest has been picked and stored for use in Winter months. As the leaves fall in the Autumn winds and rain, the shapes of the trees emerge from their Spring and Summer foliage. Eventually we can see each unique form, its trunk and branches, the essence of each tree.

And as we find what lies beneath the greenery of the year, we can contact the spirit of each tree, bush and perennial unadorned, laid bare.

leafless trees

So where are we in this process of the year turning? The hour has gone back as British Summertime ends. It is dark by 5 o’clock, the evenings are longer, the days shorter. We have to change how we live without the long sunny days. We need to contain and carefully measure our output to honour the slower pacing of oncoming Winter, and the quieter energy levels which it brings with it. Winter is about stripping back, like the trees, to the bare essentials.

The end of Autumn, and the beginning of Winter, is an ending. It is the death of the reproductive year. Seeding, sprouting, blossoming, ripening and gathering in have all ended. What is next? The energy of the tree descends to its lower trunk and into its roots. It enters a period of rest and recovery from the work of the year’s growth. Northern animals follow a similar path, gathering food for the Winter, and then hunkering down for a period of hibernation or much less activity. Like trees they enter into a different rhythm in the later days of Autumn. Their life is more internal, often underground, darker, quieter, less active and engaged with the outside world.

brown squirrel on green grass during daytime

For us all the wind is blowing, the rain falling, the mists hanging in the valleys and over the green spaces. We need to quieten down, like the natural world, as we prepare for the arrival of Winter at the end of this year. We can find ways to be more in touch with our internal world. We can engage less with outside demands and stimulation. Instead we can connect with the spirit of who we are, our essential natures. We can write, play music, paint, draw, cook, reflect on the last 12 months, and start visioning what we want to bring into our lives in the next year.

 Read More

Going back into Work and School

Isobel Cosgrove - Friday, September 25, 2020

So has it really only been 6 months since Lockdown? Some days it feels like 6 years. Did I really write 10 blogs, and here I am writing another! Yet another transition, and so much change for us all to negotiate. How are the young children managing being back at school? Those who are shy have had some wobbles. And those of us who are older have had wobbles too, finding ourselves with others we have not seen for a while. It is tricky managing face to face contact, after so much self isolation for those who are more vulnerable. 

four children standing on dirt during daytime

And recently it has been Autumn Equinox, although that is hard to believe, as I have lunch at Cricks Corner, my local neighbourhood cafe. This has been a lifeline for me since it reopened at the end of May. I have sat in the sun, on the benches outside, surrounded by plants or young trees, for the whole summer (at a social distance). Tom, Hunter, Elena, Henry and Lauren have made my cortados, sold me eggs, fruit and flowers, and made me laugh (and sometimes cry) through the long, warm days. Thank you to you all. It has made all the difference to the time without friends, colleagues and family who live out of London. 


So at this turning point in the year, as the sun moves into the Southern Hemisphere, and the days shorten, how will we continue to nourish ourselves? Making new connections at school, college, and work will definitely help, if we get the support there that we need. That depends upon teachers, lecturers, tutors and managers all understanding that going back to study and work is a challenge. It brings big gifts, and it also asks us to manage yet another big change in a relatively short period of time. 

I was working with colleagues this morning, and we all agreed that during a time of change, writing a personal, reflective journal will help us to have more contact with ourselves. And when we have that, there is a better chance that we will have more nourishing contact with others around us. We were all managing relative degrees of isolation, and time away from work and family. So sitting for half an hour a day with a journal helped us collect our thoughts, feelings and experiences. We could then face going back to the clinic, or to a meeting, or to meet a friend, with more inside of us. We could take that self knowledge and understanding into the next event, and this gave us a feeling of being a little more substantial, steady and centred. 

people sitting on chair in front of table while holding pens during daytime

Moving from inside to outside is often a big ask. Let's all get the support we need to make the move manageable and enjoyable. Then going back to school, college and work can be much more of a pleasure. 

 Read More

Coming out of Lockdown

Isobel Cosgrove - Tuesday, July 07, 2020

This week, I feel a little like a bear coming out of hibernation, after a long winter of staying inside. Where do I go for food? How do I meet with mates? And where and how is safe to play? 

black bear near trees

There is so much uncertainty within most aspects of our lives. Will there be a second wave? And how do I do social distancing with 1 metre instead of 2 metres apart? There also seem to be so many decisions to be made. When will I go back to working in the clinic? How many people can I see in a morning? How will it be to work wearing masks? These are all questions that I have been asking myself in preparation for the movement from digital treatment and supervision back into face to face contact. 

However, coupled with this is the joy of being able to see family and some close friends; of sitting together in gardens, in the park together, having picnics. It feels so very different being able to connect in person, instead of on screen.

people on green field

At home, I am now eating my courgettes I planted this March, picking peas and broad beans that are ready to eat and add to

dishes. The broccoli and kale are still growing though, as they are harvested later in the year, and we have to watch for bugs and caterpillars, which are getting in first if we don’t keep a close eye on them. 

green and black caterpillar on green leaf

As we move into July, Summer energy is in full swing. Gardens are in bloom, with roses, hydrangeas and lilies opening everywhere. Because of recent warmth we have enjoyed, rowan trees have their orange berries appearing, and there are early signs of blackberries, indicating that late summer is slowly edging into view. There will be more about this transition next time. For the moment, enjoy the long days, beautiful sunsets, and early dawns with birdsong. 

 Read More

Mid Life Transitions

Isobel Cosgrove - Tuesday, June 30, 2020

I am doing a Webinar, “40 years of Treating Menopause” this week, and I have been reflecting on all of the life transitions we go through.

So many school leavers have been unable to do a proper ending with friends, teachers and mentors this year. This is a big loss for each student, as acknowledging this ending facilitates the process of moving on into work or college. In a similar way, those who are graduating from University or college this Summer are doing so without the familiar rituals which have marked the end of higher education. There has been a loss of closure.

group of fresh graduates students throwing their academic hat in the air

After graduation, we begin to form our adult lives, both professional and personal, between the early 20’s and early 40’s. In Chinese Medicine it is understood that the period from 42 to 49 is a time when we can make some lifestyle changes. In the West we now call this time Peri Menopause. Chinese doctors have long understood that to transition through a healthy Menopause we can prepare by making sure that we start paying more attention to eating well in our 40’s. Instead of coming home late, and having a main meal at 9 in the evening, we can eat protein early in the day [as it takes 6 hours to fully digest protein] and have a lighter meal earlier in the evening.

cooked dish

To avoid menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and insomnia, daytime hot flushes and dryness, anxiety and low moods, we need to find a different rhythm to our working days, taking short breaks, drinking more water, avoiding intense exercise so that we can wind down slowly before bed. And perhaps most important, we must challenge and put aside the negative cultural messages we hear in the West, that maturity and reaching Mid Life is inevitably accompanied by physical decline. We are told that “ 50 is the new 30”, and encouraged to “stay young” by continuing to do intense exercise regimes in gyms, stay up late, drinking or clubbing or both, eat as we have always eaten: to ignore the changes in our hormones, and in our lives and bodies in general as we enter the Mid Life phase.

bird drinking water

These messages undermine the work we all have to do to make the transition from Peri Menopause into Menopause, and into the mature time in our lives. Moving from youth into maturity brings many opportunities and gifts. Transitioning from a predominantly Yang stage of life, which usually is career and action oriented, into a more Yin phase, offers us the chance to have a deeper relationship with ourselves, and then with others.

Life can move at a different pace, we can go through our days more gently, having more time for reflection, for creativity and for contact with those we love and care for. We can move into the next stage of our lives as Second adults, who support and nurture the growing alpha adults of the next generation.

 Read More

Transition Out Of Lockdown

Isobel Cosgrove - Wednesday, June 17, 2020
What can we all take out of this period of lockdown, which is valuable and relatively new for us in the next stage of our lives?

For myself I have been fortunate to have an extended family, husband, daughters and grand daughters, who have all, in their different ways, helped me to expand my online skills and the platforms I use. For example, since March, I have been working on Zoom with clients who want some time with me as a practitioner. Through acting as a practitioner online, I have been able to help patients in many different ways. I have also used twitter to widen the readership of my blogs and my digital presence. I hope I will take all these attributes forward into the next part of all of my life. To further the therapeutic connection, I will also be doing a webinar on Menopause later this month.

Flowers, Flower, Tulips, Menopause

Colleagues I know have designed new websites, and updated existing ones. They are also offering Tai Chi classes, yoga groups and meditation online. I have personally gained a great deal from spending some time each morning doing Qi Gong exercises, followed by a meditation before bed. Both have given me a sense of somatic awareness which I want to continue to develop as I get older. I need all the help I can get to take care of myself in the later years of my life. These professions have offered many different forms of support for health and wellbeing to people of all ages, which can be taken forward into the future.

The other highlight from lockdown is that I now know many more of my neighbours. We had a socially distant cello recital in early Spring, when we stood under umbrellas in the rain and heard part of Beethoven’s 9th. Later we had a gathering when we all brought drinks outside, still maintaining social distance, and exchanged greetings, news and names, while children rode around on bikes. Since then artists of all ages have given us wonderful foxes, fish, birds and uplifting messages as chalk drawings on the pavements. And more recently, Bramshill Forest, a big and very beautiful wall mural, has appeared, and is the collective expression of an enlivened community spirit in the street. Connections with neighbours are more alive and well now than I have found them in the last 10 years, and I very much hope they will continue.


So what will you take into late Summer and Autumn this year? How will your life be impacted after this time spent differently, increasingly at home? What opportunities have we been given to change how we live and work? And how can we continue to grow and develop our new skills, contacts, connections and perspectives? 

 Read More