One thing I appreciate about winter is that it often forces us to slow down, be still and take it easy especially if temperatures are frigid and we literally can’t leave our home because of a snowstorm (although in the DMV this might equate to only a few inches of snow). The downside is that I hate the cold and tend to get the winter blues. For the first time in quite a long time, however, I moved to a place where winter isn’t really winter. Here in Southwest Florida, temperatures range in the 70’s to upwards 80’s with lows at night rarely going below 50. For me, it’s paradise and I couldn’t be happier being able to ride a beach cruiser in flip flops in February or lay out at the beach (and actually swim in the ocean) in March.
With that said, coming from a place where we have a direct experience of all seasons, it’s definitely more challenging to have a distinct sense of the seasons. One of the things I learned early in my formal training of Chinese medicine is that there is a continuous, cyclical nature of life that is represented by the five elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, Spring is reflective of the Wood element. It’s a time of rebirth, sudden growth and rapid expansion. Grass begins to grow, leaves form on trees, flowers bud, birds chirp and life begins to emerge. We too may experience growth in our lives, feel more motivated, more inspired and become filled with a renewed sense of energy in which to put our thoughts and ideas into action.
Yesterday was the Spring equinox, the first day of Spring, where day and night are equal. As we enter into Spring, even if we live in a place that feels like summer all the time, it’s important to be aware of the Wood element within ourselves and make sure it is nourished and tended. This allows us to not only be in harmony with the world around us, but also in harmony within ourselves. When we integrate ourselves into the natural rhythms of the universe and live according to these natural cycles and laws, we find our way to long, healthy lives.
The Wood element governs the Liver and Gallbladder organ systems. In Chinese energetic physiology, organ systems are named for specific body organs but are reflective of much more than the individual organs themselves, including the meridians associated with them. These organ systems function on the level of our body, mind and spirit. The Liver governs the muscles, ligaments and tendons and manifests in the eyes. It corresponds with the emotion of anger and the sound of shouting. The Gallbladder stores bile, is a quick moving energy and governs decision-making. In health/balance the Wood element grants us the gifts of vision, creativity and clarity.
If you are experiencing an imbalance or weakness in this element, you may suffer from muscle weakness, poor flexibility or spinal problems. Impediments to your quickly growing forces can result in anger or frustration. Physically you might feel as though you have something stuck in your throat or experience some feeling of bodily distension. You may have nausea, hiccups, pain or even experience premenstrual symptoms. When out of balance these energies become stagnant and depression may arise through the experience of feeling stuck and being unable to reach your goals. At these times, activating the Liver and Gallbladder meridians ensure that Qi flows smoothly and evenly throughout the body. It grants you the ability to see and have a plan for your own future, reestablishing a smooth path to your future goals.
What is your experience of Spring? Do you feel like your Wood element is out of balance or needs some support? Read below for some ways to nourish this element in your life, spring into action and emerge fortified.
Clarity and Creativity Activity: One of my favorite things to do from time to time is to create a vision board. Many of you may have heard of vision boards or have already created one for yourself. It’s an excellent way to sort out what it is you really want in life and what that looks like exactly. I recently made one for the upcoming year and now have all three posters hanging on my bedroom wall. For more information on vision boards go to Jack Canfield’s blog.
Essential oils and acupuncture points: Some of my favorite essential oils belong to the citrus family. Grapefruit oil is uplifting and energizing and is known for it’s antibacterial, antiviral and lymphatic properties assisting in the body’s detoxification mechanisms. It invokes a sense of clarity, and due to its main chemical component, limonine, can help uplift one’s mood. For more uses and benefits on grapefruit oil visit doTERRA. You can also try their Motivate Encouraging blend which also has citrus oils and use either essential oil to apply on the acupuncture points below:
LR 3 – Supreme Surge Forward
Location: On top of the foot, in the webbing between the big toe and second toe.
Benefits: Calms the mind and spirit, imparts courage and clarity. Relieves headaches, foot cramps, tired eyes, allergies and hangovers and is an excellent decongestant point for clearing the head.
GB 41 – Foot Above Tears
Location: On top of the foot, one inch above the webbing of the fourth and fifth toes, in the groove between the bones.
Benefits: Helps clarity, indecision, depression, premenstrual tension. Relieves hip pain, shoulder tension, arthritic pains that move all over the body, headaches, water retention and sciatica.
Diet: Lemons are cool in nature and sour in taste. They help to regenerate body fluids, quench thirst and benefit the Liver. To help benefit your liver, squeeze half an organic lemon in warm water and drink every morning.
Move: Run, dance, take a yoga class, stretch! My yoga instructor has a beautiful Vinyasa flow called Twist Into Clarity. The twisting practice really squeezes the organs and helps to squeeze everything out of our bodies and our minds.
Meditation Affirmation: I am the season of Spring. A tree in the spring reflects my nature. I am rooted and strong, yet flexible. Like bamboo, I bend with the changing winds and yet I am not blown over by them. I am directed in my actions, yet not rigid and open to new ideas, possibilities and growth. I have the capacity for creativity, navigating challenges and new hope.