The Spring Season and Our Bodies
To the Chinese, and to any earth-loving people, nature plays an integral role in the changing seasons and the seasons of our lives. In Chinese medicine, the cycle of seasons correlates to five elements–water, fire, wood, metal, and earth. Just as nature goes through its natural processes of change, so do we instinctively cycle through seasons within ourselves. In Spring, we are the Wood element.
Here is what that means for the Spring season and our bodies:
We, The Trees
First, consider this analogy from “Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements,” by Dianne M. Connelley, PH.D.: “A pure and simple tree is closest to the concept of Wood. During its life, a tree grows. It is a rooted, growing creature reaching out and upward and down and inward simultaneously. It is flexible, bending, yielding to the wind, yet strong and durable, containing the flow of its own life cycle. The description of the tree is also a description of a person. When the human being is flourishing just like the tree in the Woods, the Energy is wholesome and clear. The human being is growing and rooted, flexible and strong, carrying the seeds of new life and going through a cycle from season to season.”
What if the tree–that is the person—is not well-rooted and gets pushed over easily? What if the tree is no longer growing or receiving enough sunlight or nourishment? This could all manifest itself physically, as in being off-balance, dizzy, cramping, or in pain. Or, it could manifest emotionally, as well, in the suppression of anger, frustration, or irritability.
The Wood Element: Liver and Gallbladder
In Traditional Chinese medicine, the Wood element encompasses the liver and gallbladder. The Chinese think about organs as functions operating on all levels of body, mind, and spirit and assign them a far less scientific role than we would normally think Western-wise. With that in mind, the liver acts as a military leader that excels in strategic planning. It is the grand architect of our vision for the future and knows the directions we must take to achieve harmony. The liver’s sidekick is the gallbladder, which excels at making decisions and judging wisely. This makes sense since planning usually requires sound decisions. An inability to make decisions may point to an imbalance in the gallbladder. Some symptoms that relate to an imbalanced liver or gallbladder energy may be irregular menstrual cycles, depression/anxiety, migraines/headaches, tinnitus, or tight muscles.
Time and Taste
Chinese medicine also teaches a natural law called the Law of Midday-Midnight, otherwise known as the Body Clock. There is a time of day that corresponds to each organ (within the Wood element) functioning at its peak energy. For example, the gallbladder time is 11 pm to 1 am, and for the liver, it is 1 am to 3 am. If there is a time of day that a patient feels best or worst (say if they cannot fall asleep until 1 AM or awakens frequently between 1 and 3 am), this may signify an imbalance in the liver meridian.
Flavors also affect our functioning. This is where cravings come into play. If you love the taste of vinegary/sour things, this may indicate a Wood imbalance that you are trying to right. Often our body-mind has a natural sense of what it needs so we listen and feed into that even though we can’t pinpoint exactly why we are craving a particular taste. The liver and gallbladder are prone to emotional and/or physical stagnations, so craving sour is seen by the body to resolve the “stuckness.”
Seeing and Feeling
The Wood element within us governs our sense of vision, the emotion of anger, and the sound of shouting. The eyes are the sense organ for the Wood element. In this case, if you suffer from any eye disorders, we might look at the liver and gallbladder to see if the energy there has lost its balance. Since these two organs are associated with planning, decision making, and judgment, it makes sense that vision is connected, as well. “Even on the simplest level, it takes vision and sight to make plans and decide.”
When vision is stifled, we feel anger, the emotion associated with the Wood element. Excess anger could mean a sense of feeling “stuck.” Anger can also present as irritability or being on edge with others, or yourself. There is also a sound that corresponds to each element. For Wood, this is shouting. Considering that anger and shouting usually go hand in hand, this isn’t surprising. Shouting can also show up as an ever-present subtle tone in a person’s voice, or can also be aggressive and forceful in nature. The Chinese view this sound as a symptom, a cry for help as real as a broken arm.
To help unblock stuck energy, acupuncturists choose from hundreds of acupuncture points, each with its own special quality. Acupuncture points are also uniquely appropriate to each patient and vary from treatment to treatment.
All in all, the Wood element represents growth. This is so evident during the season of Spring when nature reinvents itself. We, too, can see people and situations with fresh eyes. As things begin to bud and blossom outside, have fresh hope and allow yourself to grow and create within, as well. Let’s begin again.