The Up-and-Out Force of Spring
Planning a spring vacation to a colder climate will give you a real sense of the vitality of spring. In places where winter displays frozen ground and the trees all stand bare against a colorless landscape, the new sprouts of bright green — the first leaves of spring — are truly a sight to behold. An unparalleled enthusiasm will be kindled when blossoms dress the trees in colorful attire.
That same vitality and enthusiasm also exists within us. A child bursting forth into existence is no different than the first crocus or hyacinth breaking through the cold ground. Creative expression — through painting, dance or other forms — is another way we see this “spring” energy manifested. If you’re in a city with good art museums, perhaps think of treating your creative side to some inspiration.
In Chinese medical theory, there are five elements, each relating to different seasons, biological organs, tastes, emotions, expressions of movement, and so on. Wood relates to springtime, to the liver and gallbladder organs, to the taste of sour, and to the emotion of anger. It corresponds to the movement of up and out. The energy expresses itself without holding back.
How comfortable are you with the action of wood, with the up-and-out force? It may excite you to think of bursting forth, or you may feel a bit intimidated. Without ascribing values such as good or bad, we notice what actions come naturally and which ones are challenging for us to experience. We ideally contain all five emotions and movements of energy, with the energy and emotion of wood being one. All five together, in harmony, allow us to live a balanced life, able to express all emotions and movements without restriction and without being overbearing.
The liver controls the sinews, and is in charge of the smooth flow of chi. With what agility do we walk — physically, emotionally and spiritually — through life? Can we change course easily or do we sputter and stammer through life’s changing path? Free flow occurs when we do not get stuck or stagnant.
The liver is in charge of planning and visioning. Our eyes physically and spiritually delight in all that we see as possible. How easy is it for you to see what needs to be done and how to do it? How are you at planning your next day, let alone your life’s course?
When the liver and gallbladder are well and at peace, you can decide clearly what is right and what is wrong. This can relate to something as simple as what to eat for dinner — as well as more complicated issues such as who to spend your summer vacation with, or how to best invest your company’s money.
If you have found yourself concerned about being able to manifest the strengths of the wood element, perhaps your liver and gallbladder could use some help. Here are some simple first steps to help you in that direction, particularly if you travel this spring:
According to Chinese medicine each organ has a corresponding two-hour period of time. The gallbladder and liver relate to 11 p.m.-3 a.m. Staying up late puts undue stress on these organs and all their functions. If you travel away from our local time zone, this is even more important. Getting in rhythm with the local time will help you avoid jet lag.
• Get daily exercise.
But don’t overdo it; a moderate amount is just fine. Exercise helps move the chi and works the sinews. Walk around the city or country where you’re staying. This will introduce you to your local surroundings and get your body moving.
• Get out into nature.
Soak the vibrant green into your eyes. The liver opens to the eyes. Let the blue skies calm your senses. Green is the color associated with the liver and the gallbladder. Blue is the color of the kidney and the bladder, which are the parents of the liver and gallbladder in the cycle of five elements.
Wood’s up-and-out energy movement is epitomized by shouting. Think of this exercise as more about asserting yourself than about expressing anger. Do not strain and do not direct your shouts at anyone; rather, just use shouts as a release and as expressions of energy.
• Start your day with a warm drink of lemon and water.
Sour is the taste associated with liver and gallbladder. Starting your day with this lemon-and-water drink, instead of depleting your body with caffeine, will both strengthen your liver and clean out your system before any other drink or food comes in.
Also partake of local cuisines that are rooted in the taste of sour, such as lemon or vinegar. Many Mediterranean dishes contain lemon and many restaurants will serve lemon with water. Eastern Europe and Germany may offer you some great sauerkraut. Japan often uses ponzu and other vinegar-based sauces. Koreans will delight if you ask to try their local kimchi.
• Do a liver cleanse at least once a year, and maybe more often.
The need to clean out, particularly the liver, is acknowledged across many cultures. Since the liver is in charge of so much of our detoxification process, it is important to help it to stay as clear as possible so it can accomplish its job. Cleansing the liver lets it do its job better, which in turn helps all of the other organs. This is especially true after a trip; while traveling, you may have eaten too much dairy and sweets, which tend to create dampness and weigh down the functions of the liver.
By keeping the liver and gallbladder happy, you are that much more able to express your uniqueness. This is your gift to the world. Without restraint, allow yourself to come forth, to play out your own creative role in the dance of life.
Judy Pruzinsky, L.Ac., practices Classical Five Element Acupuncture and Herbology, teaches Wu-style Chi Gung, and is on staff at Five Branches Institute. She has offices in Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz and can be reached at 650-576-9749 or 831-426-5717 or JudyPruzinsky.com.