I've just returned to Southern California after a trip to NYC, where spring is really happening after a few "false starts". March and April -early spring- are often marked by a roller coaster of weather patterns, and it's been the case on both coasts this year. We are in the Taoist wood element in springtime, and nothing is more representative of that energy than the trees. The last day I was in the city, I wrote, "The trees. They've been speaking to me the whole time I've been here, reminding me of deep roots, belonging and holding connection with heaven and earth simultaneously. The trees are so different in the effervescence of Southern California, and I'm continually reminded here of my own roots. Something in their leafless branches reaching skyward, knowing that in another week or two, new life will burst forth from them and a new cycle will be made visible. My heart is full, a mix of some slight sadness and a deep and abiding love of life."
The 5 Elements: The Wood or Liver Element
Spring is upon us. We’ve been feeling it for weeks, a stirring in nature, the light rising, a shedding of the deep interior energies of winter. Spring marks a miraculous bursting of energy from the still, dark regions of the underground. In Eastern medicine, spring carries with it the energy of wood. Sap, which is nature’s lifeblood, courses through the trees; new life pushes its way up from the depths of the earth into the soft sun of March and April, and we are surrounded by a bright sense of renewal and creativity.
The wood element (or Hun) is associated with the organ matrix of the gall bladder and liver. Hun is connected with the color green, its flavor is sour, its direction lies in the east, the dawning of new life. Just as tree branches reach towards the clouds, so wood is the bridge between Heaven and Earth, Spirit and Body. Its associated chakra is the Third Eye, and its associated planetary counterpart is Jupiter. Wood is represented by the mythical dragon, the most mystical of all beasts.
The hours for gall bladder are 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.; liver is 1 to 3 a.m. Liver is governed by the Hun, our ethereal soul, (or literally translated, “cloud-soul”). The Chinese text of The Golden Flower states “In the daytime the Hun is in the eyes and at night in the liver. When it is in the eyes we can see. When it is in the Liver we dream.” The Hun gives us visionary inspiration during our waking hours, and in dreams takes us into the mystical realms. It sharpens our intuition and enhances creativity. The liver in its healthiest manifestation governs the will, vision, social justice, focused direction and self-responsibility. It gives us a grounded sense of clarity and hope, and the power to dream. It’s interesting to note that in Chinese the acupuncture point Liver 14 is called “The Gate of Hope”. An unbalanced liver connects to depression, hormonal distress, insomnia, nocturnal anxiety and uncontrolled bursts of anger or irritability. Physical issues may include sinus and eye problems, brittle nails, migraines, rashes and painful menses. Liver energy is freed by chanting, pranayama or qi gong breathing; creative outlets like journaling or painting; and telling our emotional truth. Good liver exercise includes dancing, swimming and walking as well as more aggressive exercise like martial arts or boxing. In addition, we can nourish and assist liver healing with foods and herbs that enhance the wood element. Keep in mind that fried foods and excess meat and dairy place a very heavy burden on the liver.
Grain: buckwheat, oats, rye
Vegetables: broccoli, parsley, lettuce, kale, collard greens, carrots, alfalfa, beets, leeks, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, artichokes, cucumbers, celery, endive, radicchio, escarole, watercress
Beans and Pulses: mung, Lima, green lentils
Fruits: limes, lemons, grapefruit, green apple, sour cherry, avocado, plums, quince
Herbs: Milk thistle, dandelion, chelidonium, gynostemma leaf, spirulina, turmeric
Chinese Tonic Foods: Reishi mushrooms, Lycium berries (Goji), Schizandra berries.
Spring is a perfect time to cleanse the body-mind, to weed our personal garden. What needs shedding in your life this spring?