I have been sighing a lot lately.
Any acupuncturist worth their salt who heard that now would say, “of course you are; it’s that time of year, the beginning of Spring!”.
One of the hallmarks of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a connection to the planet’s rhythms. This season of the year – the approaching Spring – is a time that is associated with Wood.
Like the other four elements at the heart of earthly function, Wood has distinctive characteristics. The kind of Wood we want to cultivate in our lives is like a young green sapling: flexible and able to take the weight of the snow or the sun’s heat on its branches and retain its form. Wood bends and adapts to changes in the wind. When it becomes stiff or brittle, though, it loses composure, becomes dysfunctional, and can snap.
Physiologically, in Traditional East Asian Medicine, we associate Wood with the Liver. The diaphragm and the muscles between the ribs fall on the channels along which the Liver’s energy travels. This is where the sighing comes in: deep, expansive breaths to open those parts of us that have been so tight in the cold of the winter – just like the daffodils soon to unfurl around us around.
I think my increased sighing now also has something to do with this particular season and the anniversary it represents. Three years ago, New Yorkers were told to shelter in place because of Coronavirus, and here at Yinova, we realized that we would have to close our doors. As a “hands-on” practice, we needed to respond quickly – for our patients, the business, and everyone that makes up this community. Fortunately, we were able to redirect the skills of an extraordinary group of people – a veritable brain trust of insight and experience – and pivot to a virtual practice, almost overnight.
The co-incidence between Wood, this season (with its promise of renewal and growth), and this anniversary is profound and affects us all. The Wood element is about being responsive. Each of our paths has been unique during the pandemic, though being adaptive and flexible like that sapling to seemingly endless changes in the wind is something we’ve all had in common. To look at it another way, the [Wood] Liver is associated with the General in the Confucian hierarchy of organs in the body. We hope for the General to possess awareness, a synthesis of information, and the ability to plan. This Spring – and the last three years – have challenged us with all of these.
The Spring is full of mystery and promise. Since March 2020, though, we’ve been asked to respond to more things than we ever could’ve imagined. How we live and work, variants, vaccines, and other personal and public health concerns have at times felt like an endless “what’s next?”. This is how mystery can tip into uncertainty and lose the wonder. It is all on the same continuum. Yet now is that earthly time of renewal when the world helps us gently begin to move forward.
So how do we emerge from this literal and figurative Winter with a vision for brighter days that will endure? The idea of a return to normal is closer than ever, though still a little challenging to get our heads wrapped around.
Remember all that sighing we’ve been doing? Well, now, just take a moment and with the knowledge of why we do it – and a bit of intention – take a nice, deep, full expansive breath and open up.
That can mean so many things: walks, Spring cleaning, dietary changes to match the season, and more! My good friend and colleague here at Yinova, Veronica Yang, has a great blog post with tips on exercise, diet, lifestyle adjustments, and managing emotional shifts in the Spring.
For more information on the 5 Elements, here is a piece that Yinova founder Jill Blakeway wrote on finding which resonates with you, and here is another article that I wrote about how children and the elements align.
As always, the promise is in integrating our Wood with the other elements:
- The communion of Fire
- The transformation of Earth
- The clarity of Metal
- And the fortitude of Water
There are different thoughts on where the cycle of the 5 Elements begins. However, with warmth and color coming our way, this seems like a good time to start.