Embodying Spring - Part Two
Last week, I wrote a post giving a brief tutorial in how Traditional Chinese Medicine describes spring within a larger seasonal cycle of relationships.
Since TCM theorizes that these seasonal rhythms are also manifest in the human body - as we are inextricably bound to nature - knowing how to be in harmony with these changes will allow us to navigate them with ease.
For example, take a moment to reflect on whether you notice anything in yourself - your body, your emotions, your behavior, your cravings - at this time of the year. Typical things might include fatigue, restlessness, heightened mood, irritability, colds or flu, feelings of overwhelm, creativity, excitement, arousal.
If you remember the elemental associations from the last post, we can see some parallels between our bodies and what's happening in nature:
Spring = upward and outward rising energy, exemplified in green shoots or tree sap. This is one of the strongest elemental energies, and how that might manifest in our body would be in the form of bursts of energy, creativity, 'spring cleaning' jags, etc. If the well (again referring to the season of Water, or Winter before Spring) was not adequately replenished, we might also feel fatigue, or be more susceptible to illness.
So, what can we do?
For the body:
Adopt the 'wu chi' position. This is a stance in qigong or martial arts, in which you stand in a relaxed, yet stable position - feet shoulder width apart, with an awareness of the 'bubbling well' point on the bottom of the feet strongly connected into the earth. With the knees slightly bent, and the pelvis relaxed and loose, you can immediately feel a sense of grounding, and yet also a readiness for whatever may come. As a further mediation, you can also try visualizing roots digging into the earth from your feet... both deep and wide. Tree energy is upward and outward, but needs strong roots in order to maintain balance.
Take full breaths. 'Metal', as described in the last post, is the 'controlling' element of Wood. Metal is associated with the Lungs, and so taking deep breaths into the body will also help balance that upward rising energy ... which can sometimes manifest as frustration, irritability, neck and shoulder tension and headaches.
Rotate and scrunch shoulders, as well as slowly turn the head from side to side. Again, this is to release that strong energy in the upper body.
Stretch. Wood or Tree energy is manifested in the ligaments and tendons, and as you can imagine, is about being flexible like a tree.. able to bend without breaking. Stretching feels particularly good after the contraction of winter, and side stretching helps to activate the liver and gall bladder, which are most active at this time of year.
Hara massage. The 'hara', or abdomen, is an area that affected by stress and tension, though in our culture, we rarely think to massage is. It can be tender and uncomfortable at first, but hara massage can create a great sense of relaxation and centeredness, as well as improve digestion. Doing this while lying in bed at night, with the knees bent will make it more comfortable, and paying special attention to the area just below the rib cage (left side - stomach, right side, liver/gall bladder) can bring immediate effects.
Eat sour fresh foods. Sour is the associated taste for spring, as naturally sour food stimulate and support liver and gall bladder activity as they take on the work of cleansing from the excesses of winter. Also, fresh, spring greens and sprouts are appropriate for the diet at this time.
For the mind:
Make lists. Metal, the controlling element, can be seen in the form as 'pruning shears' for the overwhelm of spring growth. I know, for me, when the warm weather hits, I immediately want to run out and take on the world, leaving me to collapse in an armchair about 10 minutes later just thinking of all there is to do. Having a plan of action, and directing the energy can help keep it all from reaching overwhelm status. And likewise...
Spring cleaning.. also a means of pruning, and releasing what is no longer needed in order to start fresh. I stated that the lungs are the organ of Metal, but so is the Large Intestine, with its function of elimination. Open the windows, sweep out the dust, and let the sunshine in!
For the soul:
Draw from your Source. The 'nourishing' element of Wood is Water... which can be seen as feeding the roots and seeds under the ground throughout the Winter in order to ready them for Spring. I also think of Water as a metaphor for Source, like a well. When the well is filled, it can feed and nourish creativity and inspiration, which are Wood traits. When you feel wrung out and overextended from spring activity, return to the source that replenishes you, whatever that may be: a walk in the woods, a meditation pillow, a spiritual practice, a favorite book... some place or activity to sink your roots into.
Well, I hope this helps...! Feel free to share comments and further suggestions below!