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.