September 18, 2013 | Posted in Concepts in Anthroposophic Medicine, Digestion / Liver, Glands / Endocrine, Living Earth, Mind / Mood, Nutrition, Pediatrics, Women's Health

Human life and health are embedded in polarities: light and dark, hot and cold, male and female, up and down, softening and hardening, contracting and expanding, linear and round, sickness and health, young and old, reflective and noisy, self and other, give and take.
These differences are the basis for the challenges and satisfactions we experience in life. Life would be simpler if everyone were like me, right? ‘Why can’t a woman think like a man?’ the playwright asks.


It is through rhythm that living beings navigate a path of balance between the extremes of polarities.

Rhythm allows living beings to go through processes such as growth and change, that require taking part in both aspects of a polarity.

For example, we must eat, but we cannot eat 30 meals in one day, then nothing for the next nine days. We need a rhythm of eating, and not eating.

The sleep that regenerates us is needed for consciousness the next day. We can’t sleep for a month, and not sleep for the next two months. The alternations are patterned, and in this way, balance is maintained and we are able to have very different experiences.

Machines, by contrast, are either on or off, usually independent of environment and time. They can be filled with gas all at once, and run till there is no more.

In health, the polarity of softening (inflammation) and hardening (sclerosis) occurs throughout the lifetime, and we see it within the physical body structure. The bones are hard, and the blood vessels are supple when we are in our prime.

As we age, the processes can reverse in the tissues, and the bones become soft (osteoporosis) and the blood vessels hardened (arteriosclerosis). See Bone strength,  Arteriosclerosis,  Aging

A fever often accompanies inflammation, the softening process. The hardening process, by contrast, does not induce fever. There are some chronic inflammations which are part of the process of sclerosis which do not induce fever. See Fever.

At the point in which a rhythm shifts to another stage, there can be a change, including a change in consciousness.

For example, the heart does not work like a pump, which never stops. The heart pauses, for a split second, between systole and diastole. See Heart. At this point, change takes place in the refined spiral movement of blood in the heart.

In the liver’s cycle of digesting (3 am to 3 pm, approx) and healing – housecleaning (3 pm – 3 am), it is a sign the liver needs support if our consciousness is different from what it should be at that time of day or night. For example, being awake at 3 am (when we should be asleep) and being sleepy at 3 pm (when we should be awake), are indicators liver support may be needed.  As a result of this cycle, the hours of sleep before midnight are the most restorative. So for an adult, eight hours sleep beginning at 9 pm is more valuable than eight hours beginning at midnight.  See Digestion.

Illness can happen when we are stuck in one side of a polarity or the other. Most of the symptoms listed in the site are based on a one-sidedness in the physical body’s function, that is in need of balancing.

The rhythmic system mediates between the nerve-sense aspect of the human being, and the metabolic-limb aspect. The mediator can reach both, and is the avenue for helping heal imbalances.  See Rhythmic system.

An anthroposophic medical practitioner seeks to understand the role of rhythm in a patient’s sleep, digestion, glandular function, and overall lifestyle.  Symptoms may result from an imbalance between polarities such as expansion and contraction, inhalation and exhalation, hardening and softening.  These may be addressed with remedies and with therapies, used in a rhythmic way.    See Art therapy, Painting therapy, Rhythmical massage therapy, Baths, Eurythmy therapy, Speech formation, Music therapy.  See individual symptom by name for remedies to consider.

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