Quince – my new favourite.
Quince – my new favourite.
The apple trees in my garden are blossoming now.
Apple is my favourite blossom.
After a time of withdrawal and rest in Winter, we enter Spring – a time of new growth. In Spring, seedlings push up through the earth demonstrating the power of the Wood Element, its Yang energy giving us the vision, drive and initiative to change and grow.
The Wood Element corresponds to the colour green, the taste is sour, the sound is shouting and the emotion is anger. Anger is often seen as a “negative” emotion, but the energy of anger is necessary to bring about change, it forces the Qi to rise, pushing us into activity.
Anger or frustration become a problem when they turn into either depression/apathy or rage, both of these extremes shut down the possibility of finding an alternative way to proceed. Here we may slip into chronic patterns of overactive or underactive Qi. “Balanced Wood, however, usually manifests with the ability to express frustration, assert one’s needs, consider alternative plans, go to higher ends, and not move too strongly towards rage or apathy.” (Hicks, Hicks & Mole, Five Element Acupuncture)
The Liver and Gall Bladder meridians sit in the Wood Element. The Liver produces bile which is then stored and secreted by the Gall Bladder; they are dependent on each other. The Liver has the function of a military leader who excels in strategic planning; the Gall Bladder occupies the position of an important and upright official who excels through his decisions and judgements. (Nei Jing) Any disruption to the flow of the Liver will affect how the Gall Bladder secretes bile. In terms of our activity in the world the Wood Element organs influence our ability to make decisions and will lead us towards either rash decisions or timidity and indecision. As discussed above we need the ability to see alternatives paths of action in order to maintain flexibility.
The archetype of the Wood Element is The Pioneer. “Metamorphosis is the organising principle for the Pioneer…Inexorably drawn to travel roads not yet mapped, she treks wild mountain ridges, explores star-clustered heavens in an astronaut’s suit, launches a business from scratch, or embarks upon research in yet unrecognised fields.” (Beinfield & Korngold, Between Heaven & Earth) The Pioneer reflects the drive inherent in the Wood Element.
Nutrition for the Wood Element includes eating liver and other vitamin A rich foods such as yellow and green vegetables, leafy greens, green pepper, carrots. It is good to reduce or avoid fatty foods and alcohol – things that the liver has to work hard to process.
Spring is a great time for a cleanse. You could drink green smoothies or green soups. Get up and get active again, shift the sluggishness of Winter hibernation and move into an energetic Spring.
As we enter Winter life slows down and nature rests. Animals go into hibernation and seeds lie dormant, but beneath the surface is hidden activity that will bring renewal in Spring. In Winter, if we live according to the seasons, we should go to bed early and reduce our activity. By slowing down we preserve and conserve our Qi so that it is there when we become active again in Spring.
Winter brings us into the Water Element, the most Yin of all the Elements. This is the realm of the personal and collective unconscious. “It is the primeval ooze out of which form materialises as life. It links our past and future, ancestor and descendant, and is the source of our inherited intelligence.”(Beinfield & Korngold, Between Heaven & Earth) Water is also the most prevalent Element in the human body.
The Water Element corresponds to the colour blue, the taste is salty, the sound is groaning and the emotion is fear. While fear is mostly seen as a negative emotion it’s positive side is the caution and also the motivation that allows our survival. Fear protects us from predators by keeping us aware and our fear of not being able to survive drives us to work and find ways to support ourselves. Out of balance we may suppress our fears or become overly fearful.
The Kidney and Bladder meridians belong to the Water Element. The Kidney meridian holds our essence or Jing, the source of reproduction, development and maturation. Jing enables conception and growth to maturity. It declines as we age. The Kidneys sort fluids into clean and turbid, the clear part is sent upwards to the Lungs, while the impure goes to the Bladder and is excreted.
The archetype for the Water Element is the Philosopher. The Philosopher is on a search for truth and meaning, looking underneath the surface for hidden gems, dispelling ignorance. The Philosopher is able to see what is possible and so may be disappointed with what is. “The Philosopher yearns for meaning that transcends the rudderless meandering of human affairs.”(Beinfield & Korngold, Between Heaven & Earth)
Nutrition for the Water Element includes salty, purple,black and blue foods. Vegies such as kale, mushrooms and seaweed; buckwheat; aduki, black and kidney beans; black sesame seeds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds; pomegranate, blueberry and mulberry to name a few.
This Winter try to find some time for sitting by the fire, going to bed early and just slowing down a little. This will enable the Qi to be ready for the Spring.
Autumn is the time of withering and decomposition, the life cycle is completed here. Leaves fall, decompose and return to the earth, rotting down to fertilise the soil for crops the following year. In Autumn we gather what we have grown, putting food aside for the coming Winter. As we move into Autumn we enter the Metal Element.
The Metal Element corresponds to the colour white, the taste is pungent, the sound is weeping, the emotion is grief and also letting go. If grief becomes stuck we may end up in a joyless, even anxious state. Too much control may need to be balanced with a little passion and spontaneity.
The Lung and Large Intestine meridians belong to the Metal Element. These organs take in and let go – the Lung sucks in Qi and pushes it down through the body spreading nutrients, and on each out breath there is a release of toxins. The Large Intestine lets go of waste from the body it is known as the “drainer of the dregs” extracting any remaining nourishment and then excreting the waste.
The Chinese character for the Metal Element “…suggests something small in quantity, but of great value, buried deep within the earth.” (Hicks, Hicks & Mole, Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture) If we look at the action of breathing as inspiration – breathing in spirit we can have a different view of this element. It is here that we may be able to uncover our own “nugget of gold,” our inspiration.
The archetype for Autumn is the Alchemist whose guiding principle is transmutation. The Alchemist “seeks the perfection of form and function. Through his power of discernment, he distills what is good and pure from what is coarse and primitive… providing the structure that enables people to apply the metaphysical to the mundane.” (Beinfield and Korngold, Between Heaven & Earth)
Nutirition for the Metal Element includes vitamin c rich foods for the Lung meridian and yoghurt, buttermilk, honey and carbohydrates for the Large Intestine meridian. Pungent foods such as garlic, cinnamon and ginger can move energy in the lungs when “invaded”and can produce sweating to shift any pathogens present.
Autumn is also a good time for any sort of breathwork – getting the energy of the lungs moving, taking in a deep breath of spirit and perhaps finding that nugget of gold.
After the peak of Summer and before Autumn sets in there is a space where time seems to stand still, a sort of suspension where crops ripen for harvest and we can savour the fruits of our labour. This is Late Summer and here we move into the Earth Element.
“Earth is the pivot for all the other elements…it is a place of stability within the body, mind and spirit. From this stable anchor, change and growth can take place.”(Hicks, Hicks & Mole, Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture)
The Earth Element corresponds to the colour yellow, the taste is sweet, the the sound is singing, the emotion is sympathy and it’s flip side is worry, over-thinking or obsessive rumination.
The Stomach and Spleen meridians sit in the Earth Element. The stomach receives and ripens food and fluids. Food begins to decompose in the stomach and sends part of this to the spleen for transformation into Qi and blood. The rest is sent to the small intestine for further sorting. An imbalanced Earth Element can result in digestive issues, nausea, or feeling heavy, tired and listless. Nutrition for the Earth Element includes vitamin B as found in wheat germ, whole grains, liver, tripe and brewers yeast. We should chew food well and avoid sugars and sweets.
The archetype is the Peacemaker, the guiding principle here is Unification. “Through her power to establish and sustain relationships, she nurtures and promotes our connectedness with each other and our world…negotiating peace for its own sake, she tirelessly serves humanity as the great balancer and equaliser, the preserver of families and societies. ” (Beinfield and Korngold, Between Heaven and Earth)
Let yourself be sustained be the energy of the earth and sustain each other through acceptance and support.
It’s Summer and this means we have moved into the Fire Element. In Chinese medicine all elements have a sound, a taste, an emotion, a season and a colour. The Fire Element colour is red, the taste is bitter, the sound is laughter, the emotion is joy and of course the season is Summer.
The Heart and Small Intestine meridians sit here in Fire, which is the most Yang and expansive time of year. I’m sure we’ve all noticed more people out and about, as the weather warms up we begin to socialise more, chat with friends – all indicators of the emotion that relates to the Fire Element, Joy. When the Fire Element is in balance we feel able to reach out and be nourished by others, when the Fire Element is out of balance we feel like we can’t reach out to others and we may move into isolation and loneliness.
The heart governs every other organ in the body, it is the emperor and if it is well and balanced then all the other officials do their job effectively. Our spirit sits in the heart and when our heart is healthy the spirit can rest peacefully within it.
The small intestine sorts food for absorption or elimination, nutrients move into the blood and waste into the large intestine. Food nourishes our mind and spirit and a well nourished being is able to sort the pure from the impure not only in terms of food, but also in terms of decision making and relationships. It can help with fuzzy thinking and moving between closeness and distance in our relationships.
The archetype that relates to fire is the Wizard, who through the organising principle “seeks to imbue the mundane with the extraordinary, merging human aspirations with divine purpose. Just as the Fire of love unites male and female to form new life, so the Wizard wields a miraculous power to overcome separation by welding divergent elements into one.”(Beinfield & Korngold, Between Heaven and Earth)
So let’s warm our spirit in the sun and nourish it by having joyous times with our friends and family.