Greetings Dear Readers,
Spring is here, the daffodils are popping up and so is Liver Yang. Liver what? In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) speak, Spring, which corresponds with the liver organ system, is a Yang season. In the ebb and flow of the year, spring and summer are yang while fall and winter are yin. Yang means warmer, faster, brighter, lighter than yin which is slower, darker, colder and heavier. This means in spring, we enjoy warmer weather, a longer period of daylight, are more physically active, eat lighter and dress lighter than in Yin season such as fall and winter.
Spring is the time of Wood according to the 5 element system. Wood is associated with the Liver and Gall Bladder organ systems. Wood energy is likened to the fresh young seedling vigorously pushing up through the soil in spring and bursting into life in bright green colour. This sense of forceful movement of the seed pushing through the earth is the essence of Wood energy and is a sign of health in the Wood element. One very famous and ever-popular herbal formula for the Liver system is called “Free and Easy Wanderer” (Xiao Yao in Chinese), a name which eloquently expresses the ideal of Wood energy.
When there are too many obstacles in the way of this life force, the Wood energy becomes stagnant. Liver Qi stagnation – a very common complaint in the modern world – has symptoms such as depression, eye problems, anger, hypochondrial pain or tension, neck and shoulder tension, temporal headaches, poor circulation leading to cold hands and feet, constipation and various other issues.
Many of these aforementioned Liver complaints worsen in the spring. Fasting from solid food for a day or so is a very effective and ancient way to help the liver cleanse itself and encourage the smooth flow of Qi. Not surprisingly, spring is also the time when many cultures do a liver cleanse. Several spiritual traditions do some type of fasting purification in spring (Buddhists have Nyungne and Christians have Lent). Interestingly, fasting not only helps with physical toxins in the body but also the emotional toxins in the liver such as anger. Many who have had experience with fasting can speak to the feeling of calmness, clarity and lightness of one’s being on all levels that allows one to rise above many daily irritations.
The health of the Liver and the energy of Wood is kept in balance through movement. On a gross level movement can mean physical exercise and on more subtle levels it can mean making sure the Qi (or energy) is flowing properly through the channels of the body. The liver governs the smooth flow of Qi. When the Qi stagnates, often the liver is responsible.
On a mental and spiritual level the Wood element has to do with assertiveness, the balanced point between the extremes of passivity and aggression. It means taking a step forward, at the right time, and in consideration of others, to assert one’s will in life. Wood takes the energetic reserves of Water that have been conserved over the winter season and uses them to plan and execute one’s projects and plans for the new season. An excess of liver energy can produce aggression, irritability and resentment in the individual while a deficiency of liver energy can produce a lack of forward movement as seen in people who frequently procrastinate, can’t plan their lives or tend to start many projects without completing them.
Ways to balance the Wood element:
1. Wood energy is trees, green grass and all growing plants. Be outside more. Enjoy the gardens, greenery, and the wind (as long as it doesn’t bother you). Wind is connected with the Wood element and this practice will move the Qi that has gotten stagnant over the winter.
2. Be active. Simple, gentle, flowing exercise like the way a bear stretches upon coming out of hibernation is excellent. Yoga stretching is particularly indicated for spring.
3. The diet in spring should be light. This means less oily, fried or heavy foods and more young fresh green foods like sprouts, parsley, asparagus and baby lettuce.
1. Think about the suffering of others and how pretty well all of us have some level of discontent or dissatisfaction in at least one area of our lives. Use this thought to slow down and become more tolerant and patient of those around you. The world needs more kind people.
2. Think of at least one project or task that you have procrastinated on and complete it today.
3. Do a spring cleaning and give away a few things that you no longer need to neighbors, friends or a charity.
1. The Liver system relates closely to the eyes and sense of sight, as well as our inner sight (insight). Recall a time when you had a very clear vision of the life you wanted. Close your eyes, sit quiet and try to be in that mental space again. Visualize or “see” with the mind’s eye what you hope to be/do/have in life. Daydream in full colour. Create wonderful things in your imagination. You are a powerful creative force in your life. Your visions eventually become your reality.
2. Read books by SARK or The Artist’s Way to move through stuckness and harness your creative flow.
1. Spring energy is about the return of the life force. The Liver system is about the bounty of the vital force that gives new life to many things. The centuries-old wisdom of the Nei Jing speaks about using this time to keep your heart gentle and generous.
How’s your Wood energy? Love to hear your comments and questions.