Embodying Spring - Part One
(Based on a presentation I gave at the LHHC's Spring Symposium, 2/26/12)
Our bodies, being a part of nature, whether we care to admit it or not, are attuned to the rhythms of the seasons.
They respond to the changing energies of the earth - with little respect for the calendar, or agendas of man and groundhogs.
If you've ever maintained a garden, you know that there are appropriate activities for certain times of the year. You plant bulbs in the fall because they need the cold, stagnant period to sprout in the spring, and you plan water usage carefully during dry spells.
It's no different with our bodies. And when you can get a sense of the seasonal appropriateness of what your body is doing and why, you can apply the right kind of nourishment and activities to stay healthy.
How TCM describes it.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the energies that govern the universe are described in terms of yin and yang - a 'classification of duality' and an observation of how everything in nature moves between one relative extreme (is that a contradiction?) to another: day into night, back into day, etc.
To further differentiate the cycle, this duality is broken down into 'five transformations' - each with an associated season and 'element', as well as organs, emotions, directions in which the energy moves, and more. It is believed that the characteristics of these seasons are reflected in the human body.
Looking closer at Wood.
The 'element' associated with Spring is Wood, or Tree ('mu' to be exact). Makes sense, right? The color is green, the organs are Liver/Gall Bladder (think spring cleansing), the structure part of the body is ligaments and tendons (think of the flexibility of a green branch), the direction of energy is upward and outward, the emotion is anger (frustration, irritability), the vocal sound is shouting, and the taste is sour.
I also like to bring in the qualities of Creativity, Inspiration, Flexibility, Tenacity, and Ease of Transition. If you can picture the burst of energy needed for a tiny little seed to break free of its casing and make its way upward through frozen ground to the sun, you can get a feel for that energy in your own body.
But wait, there's more! The Shen/Ko Cycle.
These transformations are not static... they are indicative of relationships. And the health of relationships is based on harmony and balance. There are two main cycles of relationship between these five phases: the Shen, or nourishing cycle, and the Ko, or controlling cycle.
In the Shen cycle, one element 'nourishes' the next... if it is healthy, the next element will also be healthy. If it is weak, and fails to nourish, the next element will also be lacking. Conversely, the element in the Ko position is intended to keep the controlled element from getting too strong, but without controlling too much.
So, let's look at Spring again, in relationship to the Nourishing element of Water (winter) and the Controlling element of Metal (autumn).
Water: The season of Water is Winter, the organs are the Bladder and Kidneys, and the energy is downward. The physical structure is the bones. So you can see, we're talking about depth... the tendency of water is to sink to the lowest point, the deepest structure. And the activity of winter is conducive to stillness, contemplation, and the replenishment of resources. The metaphorical well, as it were. You can see how Water, when tended to properly, can nourish the roots and provide enough energy for the exuberance of spring. But when the well is dry, it can be lead to depletion (think of kidneys and adrenal fatigue) and the transition into rising energy of spring can be fraught with fatigue and illness.
Metal: The element of Autumn, of the Lungs and Large Intestines, and with a direction of inward and downward, Metal has the quality of clarity, of precision and control... of editing and pruning, like garden shears. It's a natural balance to the rush of rising spring energy... keeping it in check, and balancing the potential overwhelm. Sprouts pop up everywhere, and containing the energy is necessary to focus on the plants that will grow to completion, but too much pruning will have the opposite effect.
So, what do we do with this information? How do we put it into practical application?
Tune in tomorrow....! (Did I say tomorrow? I meant, next week!)