Spring – the period of beginning and development of life.
It's time to celebrate and dance as Spring season is starting. This is the best season of the year for many people, including me. What does spring mean for us? New energy, rebirth, detox, sunshine, fresh flowers, different smile on the face, opening doors, windows and hearts, letting in new people in our world, new hobbies and activities...and of course, falling in love, every single day, with all what comes along. I love this time of the year.
There I would like to take you through the teachings of Chinese and Western medicine how to live life in Spring, and have healthy relationship with yourself, your physical body and emotions, friends and enemies, family and Nature.
Chinese Medicine was founded on the metaphorical model called Five Elements/Five Phases that are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Five Phases represents the basic constituents of all creation, the essential “building blocks” of Nature. Moreover, they represent the natural cycles and transformations common to all life, as our life passes through repeating phases of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal, each of them assigned to different time of the year.
According Chinese Medicine the Wood Phase corresponds with Spring. Spring is the time of sprouting when everything in the world begins to grow, sending out shoots and buds. Countless new forms are being created from the energies that had been stored in winter. Our impulse to move into action can be compared with the energy of spring – unstoppable, growing, and blossoming.
Human embodies many qualities of Wood - spontaneity, assertiveness, creativity. If our Wood is healthy these qualities manifest fully, the energy flows freely, our muscles, joins, tendons and ligaments are strong and flexible. Our emotions and feelings are expressed freely, in appropriate and safe way.
The organs associated with Wood is Liver and Gallbladder
“Liver holds the office of general and is the issuer of strategies and planning”. Nei Jing.
Our ability to organize thoughts, to plan and to make clear decisions depends on healthy functioning of Liver. Liver nourishes the eyes and our “third eye” making us able to see what is going on around, to foresee the future and feel what is true without conscious reasoning.
Healthy Liver ensures smooth flow of our emotions. Emotionally stagnant situations, everyday stress or insufficient physical movements effect Liver energy and then, the anger, key emotion of Liver may burst eventually, effecting the relationships with inner- self and people around you. Other emotions like frustration, resentment, irritation and finally depression also manifest due to disharmony of Liver energy.
Another function of Liver is to store Ethereal soul, Hun. Ancient books of Chinese Medicine say that Hun enters the body 3 days after birth and it is imparted by father. And after death the Hun returns to Heaven. The Hun provides the movement to the psyche in many ways: movement of the soul out of the body as in dreaming, movement towards the others in human relationships and movement in terms of plans, vision, inspiration and creativity. Excessive movement of the Hun may cause manic behaviour and mental illness while the lacking movement of the Hun causes lack of vision and imagination. Interesting to note that artistic inspiration comes from the Hun: the incidence of bipolar diseases or psychic energy that makes artists “mad” reflects the lack or excess movement of the Hun.
Hun’s ascending movement supports Heart function of irrational thinking and have big impact on our mental activities, intuition, and inspiration. In classical book The "Five-Channel Righteousness” (Tang dynasty), says: "Knowledge is dependent on the sharpness of the Hun”.
Many authors have indicated that Pre-frontal cortex, the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the human brain, is responsible for executive functions including mediating conflicting thoughts, making choices between right and wrong or good and bad, predicting future events, and governing social control, such as suppressing emotional and sexual urges. Pre-frontal cortex is also involved in the so-called moral or social emotions, such as shame, guilt and disgust. From a Chinese Medicine perspective all these functions of the Pre-frontal cortex are functions of the Hun. There are few acupuncture points on the forehead, like DU24, Courtyard of Spirit or GB13, Root of Spirit, we needle to benefit the brain and calm the spirit, especially when treating mania disorders. The head and the brain were considered among pre-Inner Classic and later Daoist traditions to be the seat of spirit, and DU, Governing meridian anterior pathways enters the Heart, which is understood to be the residence of Spirit. Heart stores Shen, Mind which has direct control over Hun.
The Gall Bladder occupies the position of an important an upright Official who excels through his decisions and judgment”-Nei Jing.
With the spring upcoming we all makes long lists of different plans and dreams we want to achieve, even making the deadlines for ourselves. However, soon becomes clear that it is too difficult even to take any actions to try to make our dreams come true, no inspiration or lack of carriage keeps our hands tied. And, without any obvious reasons, after years of planning to change something in our lives, we are at the same place with the same problems, hard-to-break habits and behavioural patterns. That is than, on the first place comes our Gall Bladder – decision maker, the Yang organ and the sister of the Liver, Yin organ.
The bile, produced by Gall Bladder is a clear substance, in contrast to other five Yang organs that pass and excrete less clear substances. This purity is vital and critical indeed for sound decision – making. Liver – Gall Bladder are internally – externally connected, Liver excretes bile and other enzymes. Poor digestion, weak Gall Bladder and stagnant energy flow of Liver prevent making plans, clog our brains and diminish our courage to make the decisions and take the actions every minute of our lives at a conscious and subconscious levels. And, the healthier is our Gall Bladder the clearer are our thoughts and visions, the more achievable plans are made and the easier become to fulfil them successfully.
When it comes to judging and evaluating the opinions and truths of other people we encounter every day, the Gall Bladder, “Official of Judgment” alone is able to bring a wonderful power of judgement to our body, mind and spirit and guide us to the truth.
As regards the Spirit, all ancient wisdom affirms that there is a Divine Plan, destiny, higher purpose for every one of us, leading to the spiritual goal of what has been called enlightenment. And, as in every other realm, we have choices and decisions to make. Which spiritual practice is right for us? Which teacher to follow? How will other choices that we make help and support us on our spiritual path? The Gall Bladder Official is pivotal in making such decisions.
Is your Liver and Gall Bladder well-nourished and healthy?
Healthy Liver energy is like a tiger, manifesting through dynamic and graceful body movement and flexible joints. Eyesight is acute, hair shiny, nails are strong. The body rhythms are easy and regular and there is a delight in the rhythms of music and dance.
Emotionally we are able to express and process our feelings without tending to store unresolved emotions for too long. With a strong Liver energy we are able to say “Yes” to all the challenges we encounter every day. We have right skills and courage to risk and progress. We are able to see a “big picture” and trust the “inner voice”. We go through the life with audacity and grace, with the flow, not against it.
The Guidelines to grow in Spring and make our Wood element – Liver/Gall Bladder strong and balanced
- Exercising and stretching are essential to bring Qi into the muscles and tendons and prevent Liver Qi stagnation. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong support and develop the coordinating function of Liver and help to open and strengthen the joints. On emotional level, all Martial Arts help to channel unexpressed and disruptive energy into purposeful expression, thus teaching assertiveness and helping to control anger.
- The same like being active, the good quality of rest and relaxation of body and mind are essential to keep Liver and Gall Bladder healthy and nourished. As they both rejuvenate at night time, good quality of sleep has primary effect on our energy levels and emotional stability.
Recommended Spring foods:
- mildly warming foods with upbearing movements, such as fennel, rice, buckwheat, acrid flavours –garlic, paprika and ginger in order to clear accumulated dampness left over from the cold winter months when we consume more fatty and sweet foods.
- to cleanse and detox Liver and Gall Bladder is the key to good digestion and clear mind. Sour foods in particular tomato, grapefruits, blueberries, tangerines, rhubarbs, yogurt, and vinegar stimulate the tissues to contract and release the toxins, and stimulate Gall Bladder to excrete bile to breakdown the fats. Moreover, sour foods sooth “heated” temperaments by cooling emotional heat in Liver.
- the foods from wood phase, green in colour with neutral, cool or warm energy: green tea, spinach, celery and sprouts.
Avoid: Saturated fats and over processed foods, they congest Liver functions and block Liver energy. Overeating or “comfort eating” suppresses our emotions, makes our head foggy, and keeps us “stuck” in one place.
"I sowed the seeds of love,
It was all in the spring,
In April, May, and June, likwise,
When small birds they do sing"
Fleetwood Habergham, The Seeds of Love, 1690