When we think of spring, what comes to mind? New life bursts forth; days get longer; temperatures rise.
We have within us this same spring quality. In Chinese medicine this is known as the "wood element," and it's governed by the liver and gallbladder. Just like the energy of a new plant pushing up through the soil, wood has an upward and outward movement. Its nature is creative and self-expressive, with the potential for reproduction and growth.
If wood's energy becomes excessive, you might have pounding headaches, hypertension, hot-headedness and anger. If this energy is deficient or thwarted, you might feel frustrated or resentful, cramped both on a physical as well as emotional level.
The liver is known as the organ related to planning. With plans, your vision can be carried out, and hope can drive you forward. When you are strong in this aspect you can feel confident regardless of setbacks in your path. The gallbladder is known as the organ of decision-making and judgment. When you stop and think of all the decisions being made second by second, you see the enormity of this task: when to release hormones, how fast to pump the heart, how to move the leg, when to start the menstrual cycle, whether you want a second helping of vegetables. That's a lot of work!
The liver meridian starts at the big toe, goes up the inside of the leg, around the genitals, up the chest, through the organs of liver, gallbladder and stomach, through the shoulders and neck, through the nasal passages, into the eyes, and ends at the crown of the head. The gallbladder starts at the side of the eyes travels over the head, through the shoulder region, down the side of the torso and hip, down the outside of the leg and finishes at the fourth toe. These two meridians cover much territory. Disorders can occur anywhere along their pathways. Head and eyes, neck and shoulder, digestive and reproductive organs, and legs are very much influenced by the health of these organs and the smooth flow of their chi.
The liver stores the blood; the gallbladder stores bile. They are the chief organs of detoxification of drugs, alcohol, toxic chemicals, pollutants, even metabolic waste from poor digestion. After the more dormant winter months, when we tend to eat heavier foods that are richer in fats, spring is the perfect time to "clean house." Eating lighter will help you unload toxic burden.
The taste associated with the wood element is sour. A good way to start the day is with fresh lemon squeezed into a cup of warm water. As temperatures warm and the energizing wood energy called yang takes a more dominant role, we are more able to digest raw foods. If you have a compromised digestive tract, you may need to slowly introduce uncooked foods into your diet.
Wood is all about activity. The way to keep this element happy is by exercising. Don't let a little rain stop you. Get out daily, go for a walk, practice chi gung, move your whole body. Wood governs tendons and ligaments. To prevent injury and tears, to help with cramping, and to prevent movement from being jerky or clumsy you should support your liver and gallbladder.
The time of day associated with wood is from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. It is very important to sleep deeply during this time. People often talk about getting their "second wind" around midnight. Staying up late really pushes your planner and your decision-maker beyond their comfort levels. When wood gets too wound up, it might excessively plan and become inflexible, overly judgmental, even aggressive in behavior. On the other hand, an exhausted liver or gallbladder could appear as indecisive, aimless, resigned or hopeless.
Use the force of spring - the time of renewal - to help you break through old patterns that might be limiting your chance for a more vibrant life. Make a decision to move forward with enthusiasm and purpose. Dare to make your dreams become reality.