Every season the energy of nature changes. In spring the energy of nature wakes up and grows whereas in winter nature slows down and hibernates. In Chinese Medicine theory the energy of the human body changes in accordance with the season. What happens outside of us also happens within us. In winter we, like nature around us, slow down and move inward. In spring we feel more frisky and energetic. The ancient Chinese observed the changing nature of the seasons recommend we too change our behavior each season. Living according to the seasons therefore keeps our bodies in harmony with our environment – and helps us live healthier lives.
Springtime is upon us and the world is waking up from its winter slumber. Our bodies too are feeling the shift in energy. This time of year there is a lot of outward expansive energy as plants push their way out of the earth and flowers begin to bloom. Animals and insects are starting to wake up and people begin to open the windows and yearn to be outdoors.
The Huang Di Nei Jing is a text written thousands of years ago in China. It explains the fundamentals of Chinese Medical theory. Chapter two discusses the changes of the seasons and gives advice on how to live harmoniously with nature.
“The three months of the spring season bring about the revitalization of all things in nature. It is the time of birth. This is when heaven and earth are reborn. During this season it is advisable to retire early. Arise early also and go walking in order to absorb the fresh, invigorating energy. Since this is the season in which the universal energy begins anew and rejuvenates, one should attempt to correspond to it directly by being open and unsuppressed, both physically and emotionally.
On the physical level it is good to exercise more frequently and wear loose-fitting clothing. This is the time to do stretching exercises to loosen up the tendons and muscles. Emotionally, it is good to develop equanimity. This is because spring is the season of the liver, and indulgence in anger, frustration, depression, sadness, or any excess emotion can injure the liver. Furthermore, violating the natural order of spring will cause cold disease, illness inflicted by atmospheric cold, during summer.” (1)
This passage explains the energy of spring. In winter time the energy of the earth is inward. Winter is about sleeping, bears hibernate, long nights mean lots of rest. As Spring begins we see this “spreading” of energy. Daffodils and cherry blossoms begin to bloom. Plants being to push themselves out of the ground. The sky (heaven) warms the earth and plants break through the soil. (Did I mention that already? Well It’s the perfect image of spring energy).
In spring the days are getting longer, you can rise earlier, but still go to sleep fairly early. The spring energy is energizing so get more exercise! Because there is more energy than there was in the winter now is the time to use it, get up and be active in the spring.
Spring is the time to plant seeds. Literally but also figuratively – What do you want to accomplish this year? How can you plant the seeds of a successful year? Now is the time to focus on what you want and begin taking steps to get there.
“Violating the natural order of spring will cause cold disease, illness inflicted by atmospheric cold, during summer.” The Liver in Chinese medicine is responsible for the “free and easy flow” of energy in our bodies. In nature it is the same, the Liver energy is the powerful energy that allows plants to push out of the ground, empowers flower blossoms to open and wakes nature up from its long winter nap. (I’m noticing a trend in my analogy here, but it’s true.) Not living harmoniously in spring can cause problems in summer. If a farmer does not plant her seeds in spring she will not have anything growing in summer. Hence living well now will prepare you for a healthy future.
So, in Spring it’s best to…
- Go to sleep at a reasonable hour at night
- Wake up earlier in the morning
- Get more exercise
- Focus on life, now is the time to plant seeds literally and figuratively for the coming year
- Be generous and good hearted towards others
To learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine check out these previous blog posts:
- Ni, Maoshing. The Yellow emperor’s Classic of Medicine. 1995. Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boston, MA.
Photo credit: Univerisity of Maine http://umaine.edu/publications/2540e/