Category Archives for "Living in the Tao of Seasons"

The Winds of Change

Swirling, tossing, moving … the winds blow around us and all is change (whether we resist it or not).  Laying bare things we may have buried under other things, changing locations, clearing out – this is the energy of the Spring, the element of Wood in Chinese medicine.  The color is green, the movement is yang, the climate is WIND!

Seeds are sprouting, plants are growing, blossoms are heralding the season after a winter of dormancy. There is a distinct energy shift with humans as the days lengthen and become warmer.   An excitement of movement after the stillness of winter.

Maybe your winter wasn’t still, maybe you were operating the typical American 24/7 schedule.  Here is where the shift from winter to spring could be problematic.  Your body may feel stiff, your muscles tight, allergies worse, chronic symptoms flaring up – perhaps you are experiencing an inflexibility of spirit as well.  “I’m tired”, “I feel old”, “I just want to take a nap”, “I just can’t see things changing”.

Or you may be experiencing frustration and anger – every day situations become charged with these emotions.  I notice, in early Spring, cars at intersections honking much quicker than before.  There is this impatience to move RIGHT NOW! when the light changes.  It’s the energy of dormancy awakening –we’ve been cooped up too long (cabin fever) and now it’s time to move.  “Things to do, places to go people to meet, and worlds to conquer” seems to be the ongoing mantra.

All these reactions to the seasons are natural, cyclical, and completely human – a factor we tend to forget as we adjust to schedules, work, family commitments.  As we look around us, at the world of nature, whether we live in the country or the city – we observe climate, energy, movement, change.  It has to affect us, even if we live in a gated high rise and never go outside.  We are on this planet.  And when we live in the presently-occurring season, truly observing and experiencing the cycles of each season, we live in the Tao.

To live in the Tao: what does that mean?  Loosely interpreted as The Way or The Path, the Chinese character has two parts: The head, with feathers connecting to heaven and the feet, which symbolizes to move forward.  Inspiration from above moves us to walk the path here on earth. When we are truly living in the Tao, we are in unity and clarity – there is no disconnect between our intentions and our actions.

To live in the Tao of the seasons will affect everything we do, on all levels.  First, there are climate seasons.  In Chinese Medicine, we distinguish five of them, late summer harvest time being the fifth.  During the winter, we retreat inside and hibernate. Spring comes and we move outside.  In summer, we connect with others. During the late summer harvest, we indulge our senses with the bounty of fruits and vegetables available everywhere.  Autumn arrives and we begin to pull back, plans to start a new academic year perhaps, but with a sense of preparation for the winter ahead.

There are seasons to our lives – times when we need to retreat from activity, to rest and repair.  Times when we are all fired up about new projects and goals.  Times when we relish our relationships and enjoy the connection.  Times when we gather in, winnow and appreciate what we have as we budget our time, finances, energy.  Times when we gather in the fruits of our labors and enjoy.

Even if we prefer one season – earth’s climate at the time or our personal world’s presentation – everything changes, cycling from one phase to another.  When we align ourselves with the world at large – the earth’s seasons – by observation (what’s going around us, what’s happening within us), acceptance (leaving resistance behind) and integration (riding that energy as we live our lives, just as we would ride a wave in the ocean to shore), our lives are smoother, less fraught with angst.  Observation, acceptance and integration of the seasons is a powerful metaphor for living life.  It is the way of living in the Tao of the seasons.

So how do we do that, on a day to day basis? Right now, we are in Spring.  In Chinese medicine, there are colors, emotions, sounds, organ systems, energies to each season. Spring is wood – think of a supple yet strong tree able to withstand the rigors of a strong wind.  The climate is wind.  The color for Spring is green, the emotion is anger – or the flip side is a benevolent sense of justice.  The sound is a shout. You may notice yourself and those around you punctuating words, emphasizing syllables, a bit more than in other seasons.  You may notice yourself shouting as well!  The organs connected with Spring are the Liver and the Gallbladder.  The spirit of the Liver is The Hun, the dreamer, the one who sees the big picture.  The Gallbladder gathers the forces needed, choosing, deciding what is needed to  implement vision into form.

Each season has these – and more – delineations.  These come from thousands of years of observing nature, as the Taoists did.  By looking at the world as a macrocosm and the body as a microcosm of that world, they came to note their observations and created this paradigm.  This is one reason why Chinese medicine is so powerful – its history is over 8,000 years old (recorded anyway) and comes from the Great Teacher – Nature.

1 The Excitement of Spring Cleaning

Are you thinking that your life would have to be incredibly dull if spring cleaning served as a source of excitement?  Or are you the type who can’t wait to de-clutter, lining up the garbage bags (throw out / give away) and filling them up with glee?  Or maybe someone in between?

As I was hauling out my own junk the other day, during that incredibly beautiful spring/ summer weather we had here in the Northeast US, my moods vacillated.  Sorting and purging, I envied all the lucky people having just plain fun on this gorgeous day, as pity-party violins boo-hoo’d in the background.  Later on, seeing the success of my work, I was encouraged and excited to continue, imaging the aesthetic possibility of the torn apart area.  Even later, I was exhausted, and feeling that I would NEVER finish this, and then so what, it will all get messed up again, so why bother?

An undercurrent of emotions, from happy to nostalgic, to sad, to angry, to disappointed kept running ….. an incredible gamut of feelings.  This was big time DRAMA – Shakespearean tragedies and  comedies mere soap operas compared with this theatre.

Initially, I was condescending towards this play, scolding myself with such lines as:  ‘Oh,come on, it’s just cleaning a small room’ or ‘Get off it, there’s real suffering out there and this is not it’.  But after a while, I thought – just experience the feeling fully, and then – fully – let it go.

And all of this high drama was brought on by these things – the stuff of lifethat was overfilling my house.  There were old toys, and I would recall the joy of watching my children play with them.  There were unfinished projects, and I would experience regret and loser overwhelm for not having completed them.  Clothes that didn’t fit me or my life, or the family’s, recalled events that were happy, sad, nostalgic –  as fitting.  Gifts from old relationships, no longer viable.  These objects all carried energetic resonances– they took up space, they triggered an emotional connection, and ultimately they crowded out clarity by clutter.

I would pick up a certain item, no longer useful, and decide its fate.  Hmmmm.  Do I give this away to someone I know who could use it well?  Who would best appreciate it?  Donate to Goodwill?  Throw out?  Throw out??!Looking it over, turning it around in my hands, seeing if something – anything – could be salvaged from this object.  A sigh, as it’s tossed into the garbage bag.

Pretty much all these things represented certain stages of my life, and saying a permanent goodbye to them was like leaving old friends forever.  It’s hard to let go.

Since I had a lot of mess, I had a lot of opportunity to wonder about the very notion of spring cleaning.  Why am I doing this anyway?  For one, pragmatism – the room was practically a dangerous war zone, strewn with junk.  (Perhaps I’m being a little dramatic, but you get the picture.)  For another, it was aesthetically unpleasing.  It’s a beautiful room – with many windows, but not one that we put to good use, more or less a walkway through to the tiny laundry room just off it.  It was bad feng shui – the ancient Chinese body of knowledge used to balance the energies of any given space to ensure health and good fortune for those inhabiting it.

All the clutter was limiting, tying me down to these things as I allowed myself to get drawn into their drama – the emotional pull of each item, if it held that, or the disappointment with myself for allowing such a mess, the exasperation, the boredom.  But if I could hold onto my vision, let go of the emotions, the promise of possibility was truly exhilarating. It was old stuff, and it was time for a new, clean slate.  Out with the old, in with the new.  Move on dot org!!!

Safety, improving appearance, moving energy, peace of mind, creating possibility, FREEDOM!  All achievable by clearing out junk!  Wouldn’t life be great if we could do that in all areas?

Why stop with just the physical since it ultimately completely lifted my moods, and opened space for creating a beautiful, useful part of my home?  Why not extend the spring cleaning to my body, mind and spirit?

In Chinese medicine, spring is connected with the element of Wood.  Think of a tree, firmly rooted in the ground, branches touching the sky.  The color is (naturally) green, and the emotion is anger.  Out of balance, it’s the type of emotion that loses it at an intersection, road rage with little provocation.  In its integrity, the emotion becomes a benevolent sense of justice that sees the picture as it could be and works persistently to achieve that vision.  The wood energy is truly the visionary – that little dandelion sprout that somehow manages to grow this way and that way through the miniscule cracks in the pavement, seeing the goal of being a plant (OK, not to anthropromorphize DandyLion, but it is imprinted in its DNA!).  The tiny sprout “sees” the possibility of becoming a plant, it “envisions” the sun, and one day, the tiny sprout arrives!  Yellow and green and busting out of the road!  I did it!

Cleaning out the sun room is not so different from cleaning out my body, my emotions, my spirit life.  The tools change, but the process is still the same.  Letting go, clearing out, supporting the process the entire time.  Stopping to rest.  Checking in with my vision, whether it’s the clean room, emotional freedom, peace of mind and spirit.

Over the next postings, I will describe some tools that will help you spring clean your life.

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