Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Manliness & Mumbelty Peg

Seems like an odd subject for an acupuncture blog post, doesn’t it? Like many of my great unexpected pleasures in life these days, this began as an internet search for one thing and led to something completely different. My family and I were trying to figure out the name of the game you play with a knife and your five fingers; the object of which is to not stab yourself. I insisted it was called Mumbelty Peg, my husband Jeff, said “no, that’s the game where you flip a knife up in the air and try to stab it into the ground”. While searching we got completely sidetracked by a blog entitled:

I’m obviously not a man and can’t really tell you what it’s like, but I can tell you what I observe. I see many men in and outside the clinic who feel bored, restless, depressed, under-appreciated, and angry. The author posits that men today are unhappy because they’re wired for a life that involves fighting to survive and struggling to get a mate. Our modern existence fails to provide men with many of the primal stimuli they need to thrive. So what do modern men need to feel more manly and at home with themselves? According to the author, five things: physicality, challenge, legacy, the opportunity to provide, and nature. I have to say, I think he's right. Read on.

Why should men need physicality? First of all, NEWS FLASH: sitting is bad for you. Much of the low back pain and hip pain that I see is due to too much sitting everyday and not enough standing, walking, squatting, and bending. Sitting leads to Liver Qi Stagnation in Chinese medical terms. That's short for “everything gets gummed up and doesn’t function well”. If you’re sitting still and not moving your Qi isn’t moving. Stagnant Qi leads to stress, poor digestion, irritability, depression, stiffness, and pain. Men of earth: get out of your chairs, go for a walk or play some frisbee!

The author encourages men to challenge themselves. Primitive man strove to be better than the rest of the men in the tribe so he could secure the best food, shelter, status and a mate. Let’s face it, it’s easy to live a life of convenience in 2014. The author says this is a trap. Without challenge, life becomes meaningless, men become soft, and full self-actualization cannot occur. For example, one of my friends has a job that pays handsomely, includes 5 weeks of vacation, great health insurance and yet he’s unhappy: he’s bored out of his mind. He can get the work done that he needs to do in 3 hours and spends the rest of his days casting around for some way to add value to his company. He feels guilty for not doing more but gets chastised by his bosses for “creating projects”. I can't help thinking he would be happier working for himself even while making less money.

Throughout his existence men have been expendable. Countless men have been killed during wars throughout the centuries. “Women and children first!” is the old refrain. Men instinctually want to have something of them that lives on, something they can pass down to future generations. Obviously, procreating is one way to have a part of yourself live on, but another is to create something for the world. Another of my friends is a software engineer. He spent six months of his life working 12 hours a day on a piece of software only to have management scrap it. I sense his deep frustration. He loves what he does, but wishes it would LAST longer. He told me once that he wishes he had become a carpenter, like his father: at least a chair gets used for years and years before it gets discarded.  

The Opportunity to Provide
So, I have to admit, this is not what I was expecting. I thought the blogger was going to talk about how men feel a need to provide for their families and others for whom they feel responsible. He takes it in a different direction though: he says men have an innate need to look ahead, to plan, to prepare, to strategize. He calls these three “The Provider Switch”. What in men’s modern life allows them to activate this switch? Video games. Studies of men’s and women’s brains have suggested that men get a bigger burst of dopamine when they win video games. Researchers have concluded this may be why males tend to become more addicted to video games than females. The author encourages men use these innate skills in a more productive way by creating a budget for himself, setting and tracking goals, learning survival skills, and becoming more involved as a mentor to others.
There have been many, many books and articles written on our disconnect from nature. he mental and physical benefits of getting outside are legion. Being out in nature improves mood and immunity. Exercising in nature has been proven to feel more energizing. “In a study done in Japan, researchers found that after a 20 minute walk in the forest, participants had lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than those who spent time in the city instead.” In the most famous text on Chinese medicine, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, written approximately 2500 years ago, it is noted that people would live much longer and healthier lives were they not so out of balance with nature. “The ancient people who knew the Dao, had a proper way to live.  They followed the pattern of Yin and Yang, remained in harmony with numerical symbols, ate and drank with moderation and lived their daily life in a regular pattern with neither excess nor abuse. In this way, their spirits and bodies remained in perfect harmony with each other, they could live their natural life for over 100 years.” (See the full chapter from the Yellow Emperor’s Classic here:

Frankly, I can see how adopting these “Switches of Manliness” would be great way to enhance one’s life irrespective of your sex, gender or need for manliness. If you’re a male, I encourage you to give it a read. If you have a bored, restless, depressed, angry male in your life, I encourage you to give it a read. Then take that fellow (or yourself) outside for a game of HORSE around the basketball hoop, for starters. (Physicality: check! Challenge: check! Nature: check!) And if you know the name of the five finger and knife game, do let me know, it’s still a topic of hot debate at my house!

The Cure for the Modern Male Malaise: The 5 Switches of Manliness

The Yellow Emperor's Yellow Classic

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