In The Woods
We are now gleefully spreading our wings into the Wood Element: Spring.
I know, I know, we’ve had a little Winter revisit, this usually happens on the cross over, just a little reminder to not rush on in as we are want to do, especially with the coming Sun and warmth.
In terms of planets and movements, we are seasonally speaking already in Spring.
Spring began on August 6th, weird I understand, but this day is actually the mid point between the Winter solstice and the Spring equinox (in the southern hemisphere).
But enough of the astrology lesson lets get into understanding what Spring is from a Chinese Medicine perspective.
We are now in a time of rebirth – a new beginning – the days slowly become longer, we can rise earlier and be more active as our energies start to stir from the dust of Winter.
You can see all around you signs of this happening.
The Wind, the Ocean, the greenery pushing outwards, the bounce in the steps of all the sun rise watchers.
Our Yang reawakens. Perhaps you can feel it in your body. Like you’ve had a few too many coffees. That feeling of take off, just underlying the surface that makes you want to tackle some really big and difficult task.
Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling, like I’m growing out of my skin.
Spring heralds a time for contacting your true nature, self awareness and expression.
During the depths of Winter, our energies want to move inwards, to hibernate, an energetic death as one could say, and having been re-birthed, burst forth from the Earth refreshed and renewed, much like after a really really really good sleep!
So if you feel to yell and shout, throw paint at the walls and run a mile, I give you permission to unabashedly do so.
These days our poor Liver’s cop it.
Our eating habits, distant and imported chemically treated foods, toxins and pollution all affect the processes of the Liver.
The Livers’ job is to maintain the smooth flow of Qi and Blood throughout our entire system. When we achieve this harmonious flow we feel neither stress or tension.
Have you ever met those amazing people who are as cool as a cucumber, have great judgement, are good leaders and decision makers? Those people probably have excellent Livers. Their Liver’s are delivering a smooth current of Qi and Blood around their system, like oil is to an engine, everything purrs.
When we don’t have flow we become stagnant, resulting in heat, frustration, anxiety and depression just to name a few.
Explosive personalities, impatience, frustration, resentment, stubbornness or aggression are all signs of an impeded Liver and sadly if these emotions are pent up and repressed, depression ensues.
Under its ruling are the tendons and the eyes. Maintaining the smooth flow of Qi and Blood and also body fluids, the Liver ensures that the tendons are ‘moistened’ and flexible and the eyes see clearly.
Brittle and inflamed tendons and inflexibiltiy are a sign that the body fluids are not present. Irritated, swollen, excessive tears, inflammation, night blindness and out of focus eyes mirror the condition of the Liver.
Storing and purifying the blood at night, the Liver is most active between the hours of 1am and 3am. At this time of deep rest (except if you’re out partying;) a large portion of the blood resides in the Liver where it is processed and cleaned. If we have a stagnant Liver however, the Blood doesn’t get that good old filtering and sometimes this can lead to leaching toxins via the skin. Acne, eczema, boils and allergies are signs of inadequately cleaned Blood. Irregular overabundant or scant menstruation are also signs that there are storage issues going on.
All of these signs are markers for the health of our system. Chinese Medicine works from understanding connections within Nature. If one system is affected it can throw out other systems with it.
There are many indicators, the ones mentioned above are just some of the symptoms we can experience if our Liver or Gall Bladder is a little troubled. We may experience these more during Spring as we shed off the snow of Winter and readjust to the new season.
The Spring time poster child is usually the scene of a ragged, skinny and ultimately hungry bear appear from a dark cave after hibernation.
Thankfully, Humans take a different route in Winter.
More sleeping and by far the most rewarding, eating more than we normally would.
That’s not to say that we are any less pent up and frustrated as we awaken, opening up our proverbial petals to the Sun as the shortness of the days wear away.
Our Winter stores now need to be used up. Spring is now the time for ‘less is more’.
The best time for detoxing and cleansing.
Spring, the first season of the year, represents Youth.
The Liver and the Gallbladder come under the Wood Element and after being able to eat more during the Water period of Winter, we should feel like we want to eat less.
This is the time of year our diet should be the lightest and contain foods that emphasise Yang, ascending and expansive qualities, like Spring.
Young plants, fresh greens, sprouts, and immature wheat.
Sweet and pungent flavours are expansive and rising and can help to create a personal Spring within us.
Pungent herbs like mint, basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill and bay leaf are perfect for the coming months. Complex carbohydrates such as grains, legumes and seeds have a sweet flavour which increases when sprouted.
Young beets, carrots and other sweet starchy vegetables lightly cooked are excellent foods for the Wood period.
During these months meals should be kept simple, leaning more towards raw and sprouted foods. These help to keep the body cool as our energies rise as well as aid in cleansing after Winter feasting on heavier and denser foods.
“Spring, the first season of the year, represents Youth. Raw foods are said to remind our body of more youthful stages of our development, as far back as our ancient ancestors whom were more physically active, making their body temperatures higher and found a cooling effect by the use of raw foods.”
It is said that “all the stages of our evolution are still encoded within us, going back through the layers of our evolution to more primal biological states is necessary if renewal is to be complete.” – Healing with Whole Foods; Paul Pitchford
There are limitations to the amount of raw food each individual can consume. Its wise to follow what you body needs. Some may find that raw foods are heavy and difficult to digest. If in fact you don’t find raw food agreeable, it is best to prepare lightly cooked meals. Cooking for shorter periods of time, using high temperatures to steam or simmer with minimal oil.
Some great things to try as we spring along is apple cider vinegar with honey in warm water, just one teaspoon of each in a cup. Or mint and honey tea.
Plants and herbs to encourage our Liver out of stagnancy are pungent foods like the ones mentioned above but also the onion family, mustard greens, turmeric, fennel, black pepper, horseradish, lemon balm, angelica root, beetroot, rice, strawberries, peaches, cherries, cabbage, turnip root, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts should get you started.
Adding sour and bitter flavours will help to coax your Liver out of the depths also.
The Maze of Patterns
There are an intricate number of patterns that can be seen to denote what is happening in our delicate systems.
Everything vies for your homeostasis.
Each system picking up slack or relaxing off in order to keep everything in balance.
If we constantly aid imbalance with unhealthy lifestyles, we begin to throw ourselves off the proverbial see-saw.
More often than not, if you stop and hear those tiny moments, you’ll already know what you need to get yourself back on track.
So let’s bounce into Spring with a change in diet, a good cleanse and some brisk early morning walks!
You’ll be happier and healthier for it!