The first signs of Spring are finally here! And not a moment too soon. These past few months with its repeated cycles of tiers, restrictions and lockdowns, have for many of us been brutal. Our coping mechanisms during the first lockdown were at least shored up by the sunshine, the warmth, and the longer daylight hours of 2020’s Spring and Summer seasons. During this last Winter the outlook for our mental, and physical wellbeing felt, at times, nothing but bleak.
But as we bear witness once more to the rising Yang of Spring, bringing forth new life and new growth, we also begin to feel that energetic shift within ourselves. With renewed energy comes renewed hope. Two Yin seasons of Autumn – with her endings and conclusions – and Winter – with her rest and recuperation – are now behind us, and there is something deeply reassuring to be found in Spring’s testament: no matter what hardships we have faced within and without, the cycle of nature always reminds us that nothing ever stays the same.
For the Chinese, the Lunar New Year in February marks the onset of Spring – a good month before the Spring Equinox in the West. Spring is associated with the element of Wood; the first element and considered to be ‘young’ Yang. Our bodies are regarded in Chinese Medicine as a microcosm of the universe’s macrocosm, and we see that the organ associated with Spring and Wood is the Liver.
Liver is a Yin organ, with its Yang partner being the Gallbladder. Its energetic, Jue Yin partner, is the Pericardium. As is the way with all the body’s Primary Yin meridians the energy ascends, rising from the earth. Liver’s ascending energy, its Qi, is analogous with the seeds in the earth and the huge amounts of energy they expend to germinate and then force themselves up through the still hard and cold ground. With all that raw energy flying around, it’s no surprise that the enhanced nutritional benefits of consuming sprouted seeds have been well documented.
Liver also houses the blood (and, it is believed, the soul). It performs a vital role, along with the Gallbladder, in ensuring the free flow of Qi throughout our bodies, as well as the other fundamental substances that nourish, feed, and moisten, including the blood. Accordingly, while its energy ascends, it also assists in moving the ascending and descending Qi of all the organs, particularly the Stomach, Spleen and Lung. The Liver opens into the eyes, with Liver blood again ascending upwards to nourish all three eyes – the two eyes with which we see on this plane, and the Third Eye with which we may perceive all that is unseen.
The climatic condition associated with Spring is, of course, Wind. For many of us, that shift in energy we feel as the end of one season starts to meld into the beginning of another can bring with it, uncomfortable sensations. Liver’s ascending energy can feel overwhelming and Liver Wind that rises too quickly within us can bring on nausea, dizziness, headaches, tingling in the limbs, as well as spasm, numbness, and even loss of balance. After all, the Liver governs the ligaments, tendons and sinews, the nails and connective tissue.
When Liver Qi is flowing as it should, then all seven human emotions – anger, joy, melancholy, grief, anxiety, fear, terror – can be experienced in their proper time and context. Anger, the emotion primarily associated with the Liver, is necessary and has its just time and place in our lives. When appropriately expressed, anger serves as a red flag against injustice, as well as inappropriate, and injurious behaviours from others – whether individuals or institutions.
But if anger is allowed to stagnate and is denied a measured and timely outlet, in TCM it eventually becomes Liver Fire that will blaze and blaze unabated. It will burn and rage and be continually stoked. Indeed, if unbalanced, the ascending Liver Qi, which in keeping with Spring is inherently forceful, can rise in excess and be prone to overheating. Within ourselves, we can find that we become irritable, frustrated, and too quick to anger. If Liver energy is deficient, then fear results in a way that renders the individual unable and unwilling to stand in their strength – to speak up and speak out. Instead, they turn away and refuse to look.
“When faced with something exasperating, one should calmly consider which is more important, anger or health.” ~ Cao Tong, Qing Dynasty
In Spring, we are invited to embrace activity, particularly the type that lengthens and stretches us so that we can be flexible like the Willow. Think Yoga, Tai Chi and Martial Arts. Tree Pose. Rising early and taking in the morning air with brisk walks. Soak up the energy of new life as it emerges all around us in nature. Listen with joy and a renewed sense of wonder to the vibrant and ever-increasing chatter of the birds as they busy themselves searching for mates and creating new homes.
We are encouraged to express our emotions and our thoughts and to embrace forgiveness; holding grudges damages us from the inside out. We are asked to spring clean within and without. Detoxify ourselves with raw foods; the taste associated with Spring is ‘sour’. Think nettles, mustard greens, wheatgrass, apple cider vinegar, grapefruit, lemon, sorrel and include those magical, nourishing powerhouses – sprouters like alfalfa, mung bean, and cress. Green tea and Matcha. Clear our homes of clutter and detritus so the energy can flow freely and without snagging on anything.
Spring is the time for creativity, inspiration, and planning. It is the time where we can step forward with decisiveness and purposefulness, with no small measure of flexibility and flow in order to breathe life and growth into all that we have manifested.
Massage and acupuncture at LI4 (not during pregnancy); LIV1; LIV3; GB40; GB41