Two important changes are in store for April 1st for me. It is the beginning of Spring term for my grad program. Winter term is always the most difficult one of the year, so to start Spring term means I made it through the hard part… here’s to a new start and forward motion. » Read the rest of this entry «
Most everyone in Minnesota is floating on cloud nine about the early spring we are having. It is seriously beautiful, 50 some degrees, bulbs poking through the soil, buds on the trees and so on. Personally, I am still hoping for a monster snow storm, since I loooove snow and we had only one blizzard this winter – and it was in December! How unsatisfying…
We have late springs, so why not have an early spring? I guess I gotta accept it is here. I’ve already talked about Wood, the Chinese element of spring, in an emotional, symbolic and philosophical perspective in the past. The funny thing is I published that entry on May 19th, and now it is March 16th. Did I say spring was early?!
The Liver and Gallbladder represent the element of Wood in the body (these nouns are capitalized to remind us of their symbolic, not literal, meanings). Here is a brief list of qualities associated with these organs. See if you can recognize the thread of Wood qualities like growth, healthy ego and self-esteem, the creative spark among them.
The Liver, a Yin organ:
- Rules smooth flow – “The Liver is exquisitely sensitive to boundaries and demarcations and maintains the smoothness and harmony of movement throughout the body” (Kaptchuk, 81).
- Stores the Blood – Menstrual cycles can be influenced by the liver.
- Controls the tendons, ligaments and nails – A healthful circulation of blood ensures that the connective tissue and skeletal muscles remain supple without excessive spams or tightness.
- Opens to the eyes.
- Absorbs what can’t be digested - Blood flows through and is filtered through the liver, so everything excess in the blood could be absorbed by the liver through the detoxification process.
The Gallbladder, a Yang organ
- Makes and stores bile – Bile is the body’s natural lubricant of the bowels; in this way the Gallbladder may affect digestion.
The Yin organs store fluids or energy, and their function is to transform and regulate the activity of that particular organ. Chinese medicine puts more emphasis on the Yin organs than the Yang organs. The Yin organs are often deeper in the body while the Yang organs are closer to the bodies surface.
On the other hand, Yang organs are more active in getting our body the energy it needs to be active in the world. They tend to act to break down and absorb food, and transport and excrete wastes.
Organ pairs, and associated season:
- Liver and Gallbladder – Spring – Wood
- Heart and Small Intestine – Summer – Fire
- Spleen and Stomach – Late summer – Earth
- Lungs and Large Intestine – Fall – Metal
- Kidney and Bladder – Winter – Water
For the second time on this blog, I have to state how much I love Iona Teeguarden’s The Joy of Feeling. This entry is drawn from her writings.
What energies and activities do we associate with spring? First and foremost, we see that THINGS ARE GROWING! This is very exciting, and I think it sets the mood for spring. No longer are seeds simple potential-packets, nor are the trees and other perennials satisfied to energetically chill out in their roots. No sir, now is the time for living things to actuate.
Hun is aspect of the psyche (as well as an aspect of nature herself) that is associated with spring. Hun could be described as the forces “which allow us to carry out our functions and responsibilities.” The tree is the symbol of Hun, wood the substance. Teeguarden explains that the tree is a symbol for self-actualization, and that “the psychic activity of Hun is like the force that causes a little seed to sprout, to push its way through obstructions of the dark soil, to finally emerge into the light, growing towards the life-giving rays of the sun.”
The website Renew 5 (http://renew5.org/index.php?page=the-five-elements explains beautifully the aspects of Hun and Spring; here is an excerpt:
“[On an individual level] Spring is a time to articulate vision both long and short term; a time to be strategic with plans for the future, and to take specific actions right now. This is an excellent time to be creative and filled with determination. [On an organizational level] Spring is a time to mobilize resources; to set the vision for the year ahead and to do fiscal planning. It is time for teams to set plans in motion; a time of movement, of creation. Tough decisions need to be made in order to ensure success in the year to come.”
If you are new to Chinese Medical philosophy, it may seem strange to include wood as a basic element, along with water, fire, earth and metal. Most of us are used to the ancient Greek humoral theory, there are four elements: fire, air, water and earth. These four elements are present among some Native American peoples, and associated with the four seasons and for directions. In contrast, Aryuveda has three elements of fire, water and earth. The five elements are related to each other both in the shape of a star and a clock-wise circle.
As you can see, Hun and the element of wood is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder. The feelings and qualities of the wood element are those which help us actualize and direct ourselves outward: inspiration, planning tasks and carrying them out to their end, assertiveness, using verbal communication positively, developing responsibility and being efficiently organized. On the road to becoming the the person we want to be and taking up our space in the world, we are bound to experience either too little or too much of the Hun energy. Teeguarden describe the difference between the deficient feelings of powerlessness and the excess feelings of aggressiveness: “One extreme is being unable to express oneself or take charge; the opposite extreme is a tendency towards over-control, or an egotistical desire to demonstrate power over others (p. 73).”
No matter where we find ourselves on the spectrum, we would be well off to strive for a middle ground of asserting ourselves without force. For me, this takes place in the daily tasks on my to-do list. I tend to try to accomplish as much as possible one day, then the next day or two (or three!) I have low energy and can’t seem to get anything done. There is nothing wrong with taking impromptu time off from the daily grind, but I wish I had more energy during those days off to really enjoy them, rather than be frustrated because I am falling behind. At this point, I may become angry with myself, placing blame and beating myself up for “not doing enough”. The cycle starts again when I overcompensate by busily take care of stuff all day long, trying to control everything in sight, and becoming angry with myself when I can’t control it enough.
How do you think one could reach middle ground when in this cycle? I have found that being more regular and steady with my activities has helped; I try to do a little of my “have-tos”everyday rather than a lot one day and nothing the next. Also, I have learned to recognize the difference between motivation and the desire to control my surroundings (which usually stems from being frustrated or angry with myself). Now I know that when I am motivated to do something, it is more enjoyable and I do it better and more complete. The more I act on motivation and inspiration the more it comes to me; and the less I try to make myself do things, the less room there is to feel inspired.
It is normal to feel angry when we are not being the self we want to be. It is difficult to not become frustrated when restrictions get between us and what we think should be (p. 74). When we get to this point, we must remember to be self-assertive enough to channel frustration into creative ways to actualize our potential.
Teeguarden, Iona. The Joy of Feeling