Happy Spring to everyone!  Spring is an exciting time of year, one of stretching out and awakening after the inward contraction of winter's cold and leaping into the vivacious growth that this time of year promises as warmth sprinkles vitality onto the Earth, causing plants to burst from the ground and buds to bustle on trees!

In Chinese Medicine, the season of Spring correlates to the Liver/Gallbladder and the Element of Wood.  Thus, the Liver/Gallbladder is the system in the body that is getting the most energy and by understanding what their functions are we can harmonize with their actions, strengthening them and, ultimately, resonate with the spirit of the season which is traditionally viewed as one of the ways to optimize health in Chinese Medicine.

As Spring is the "growing season" our own growth is encouraged.  Spring is a time to shoot up for the stars and Sun, just like our plant brethren, setting goals as high and lofty.  It's a time to challenge our limits and our inhibitions as there's quite literally a huge surging of energy all around us that we can partake in, making it a favourable time of year to push forward through things that have been potentially blocking our growth, using the help of the Spring at hand.  It's a great opportunity to travel roads least traveled and try something you've never done or always wanted to do but felt inhibited about. The energy of the Wood Element dominant in Springtime gives us that upward thrust of energy. The key is to become aware of it, latch onto it and use its momentum to go after endeavours; set goals and run to them.  The archetype for the Wood Element is the Pioneer, which calls to mind an individual who is setting new trends of development, always pushing forward passionately into unknowns.  When someone says 'Take Care!' as a farewell, next time echo the words of my friend Conrad who often substitutes instead 'Take Risks!'

"Action compels the Pioneer. She vanquishes resistance
with the thrust of a warrior's determination." 
from Between Heaven and Earth

Spring is the perfect time to detoxify the mind-body-soul because the Liver/Gallbladder complex is so invested in this energetic.  Thus, setting an intention to detoxify in any or all of these realms resonates with the spirit of the season. This is why many people are initiating cleansing diets, such as the Master Cleanse or Wild Rose, to amplify what is already going on internally.  Spring is a great time to give up addictions that may be keeping us attached to behaviour patterns we feel we've outgrown.  The key is to drop and run, not setting a foot back in the sewer we came from.  The upward movement of Spring, raising the sap in trees and our own qi and blood, gives us ample support for such heroic endeavours!

Spring is really about cleansing to make space for our new endeavours and their climax in Summer, when our Spring goals are truly flowering.  If we don't create this space within us, we won't be able to get the best out of Spring and our flowerings in Summer's solar symphony will be bogged down by lack of space to expand at their zenith.  Fasting once a month or bi-monthly is a great way to hit this spot on, remembering that a fast is optimized when we don't just give up food for a day to rest our digestive organs but also give up our computer, television and even reading so the mind and soul can also take a rest.  It can be a challenge to denude ourselves of all these distractions and yet it facilitates a powerful going within to engage in-sight that will then help us literally "spring" outward at the fast's end as we're inspired at looking and finding in ourselves wisdom deeply seated, without surface distractions keeping us on a more superficial level of being.  This can be a spiritual catalyst of the highest kind! 

A meditation protocol is also perfect, 20-30mins a day of sitting with the intention of having no relationship with any thoughts, emotions or sensations that may come up.  In this fashion we detach from the egoic chatter in our minds, find objectivity in our experience and allow more freedom for the currents of springing energy to move unimpeded.

For partners, it's a great time to open up sharing communications as certain indigenous cultures emphasize.  A great practice is to sit before one another, steeping your minds in a brief meditation accompanied by music, and then choosing a talisman (a sacred object) such as a crystal or gemstone that the speaker will hold as symbolic of their time to express.  One begins to speak and the other is not to interrupt but hold a space for the other to express themselves, giving them as much time as they need.  In sharing circles I've been part of with indigenous healers, they are ready to stay all through the night if that's what it takes for us to express the darkest reaches of our souls!  When one is finished, the talisman is passed to the other and it is their turn.  Communication in this way is cleansing, devoid of emotional reactions and cultivates integrity and respect through deep communion of heart to heart.  Whatever comes up, whether it be tears or laughter, share it all, as if a intimate gift bestowed to your partner.  These kinds of communication can offer a revolutionary perspective on relating to one another, the ultimate aim of a relationship. 

Yoga is also a perfect Springtime activity as it allows us to strengthen our flexibility and agility, which are crucial for movement to occur.  We all know that life is replete with adversities as it wants to cultivate our strength and courage.  Rarely do we find a path forward in life that doesn't throw roadblocks and other impediments at us.  These are not curses to obsess or complain over in victim-complexes but challenges to get us to exercise and reveal to ourselves our own brilliant ingenuity to problem solve and be relentless.  When we engage adversity in this way and succeed, we are made much more aware of our strengths!  A great teacher of mine who is a master of metaphors likened the journey of life to the journey of a plant, the essential being of the Wood element. When one thinks of the life of a plant one honours the "sweet uses of adversity".  Firstly, a plant must break out of the confining shell of its seed in the burst of birth. Then, it has only one goal in mind: to shoot up and up toward the Sun and the Light!  But this is no small feat!  The plant has to manoeuvre through tough soil, rocks, pests and predators, and then break through the hard ground.  And though temporary exaltation may come with sprouting into the air above, then there’s the challenges of climate and weather changes and the sheer unknown dangers, such as a rambunctious pet dog or even child coming over and ripping them right out of the soil!  But the plant never complains: up, up and up it goes, ever-reaching for Light, a traditional symbol of self-awareness!

Nutritional Guidelines

Bitters are great for Spring (think dandelion or if a coffee drinker trying to go black for a while) as they trigger secretion of bile that aids digestion of fats and helps Liver/Gall Bladder metabolism greatly.  Secretion of bile is also how the Liver/Gall Bladder primarily cleanses the blood of spent red blood cells and other toxins, detoxifying the whole body.  Bitters are one of the foods we don’t eat enough of in our sweet-fixated Western diets, pointing to a deeper philosophical dilemma in our comfort-convenience-centred Western society that offers a boon of escapism and hedonism to avoid what makes us uncomfortable.  Paradoxically, it’s what puts us into discomfort that often gets us growing the most!  Moreover, bitter is also the flavour most nourishing for the Heart in Chinese Medicine, the source of our love!  Now that’s something to ruminate over! (Key song here: the triumphant anthem “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve -- the video is a perfect illustration of facing everything and avoiding nothing, the central tenet of the Wood Element!).

Leafy greens, eating less in general, adding a few raw foods into the diet, milk thistle tea, and cooking with Turmeric recognized by Ayurveda as a Liver herb.  Turmeric regulates blood sugar (used to treat diabetes and hypoglycaemia), regulates menstruation and aids digestion.

Goji Berries are a great food for the Liver and Kidneys, and are classified as a blood and yin tonic. They contain a good amount of carotene along with vitamin C.

Taking walks in parks, spending time in nature gets us in touch with a cleaner environment, allowing our Liver a break from its busy detoxification activities that can be excessive in the pollutant riddled environment of the city where everything from the air we breathe to the food and drink we ingest and imbibe can present a daunting effort of detoxification.  Moreover, being in nature attunes us to the seasonal current which is expressed as the natural cycle which helps our own Wood Element resonate with the thrust of plant shoots and buds on trees bursting out as leaves.

Here's a few more nuggets of wisdom from the ancient tradition of Chinese Medicine to ponder.  These are common forms of Liver Qi stagnation, an imbalance according to Chinese Medicine.  If you have any of these signs or symptoms and would like heal them, this is the best time of year to seek treatment using acupuncture.  Acupuncture is a natural and holistic medicine that balances the mind-body-soul by balancing the flow of qi or life-energy flowing within us along a series of pathways or meridians.

Virtues of Liver/Gallbladder/Wood:
Benevolence, flexibility, boldness, forging plans, endure hardship, clarity, judgment, self-confidence, positivity, ambition, zest, decisive, performs well under pressure

Vices of Liver/Gallbladder/Wood
Anger, frustration, impatience, over-ambition, poor self-confidence, indecisiveness, lacking perspective, stubbornness, intolerance, over-performs, stagnation, arrogance, impulsive, tyrannical, volatile emotions

Head and Face
Headaches and migraines, dry/inflamed eyes, dizziness, sour-bitter taste in mouth, blurred vision, poor night vision, ringing in the ears

Throat and Chest
chest tightness and pain, lump in the throat, pain between the ribs, shallow breathing wheezing or inability to breathe deeply and freely

Abdominal pains to severe ulcers, indigestion, gas, heartburn, erratic appetite, irregular elimination, spasmodic pain of stomach and intestines (IBS), bloating

Tendo-Muscular Pain
Most of the pain in the body has its root in tendon, muscle and nerve health.  In Chinese Medicine, the Liver/Gallbladder govern the tendons and sinews and often influence the muscles and nervous system.  By using acupuncture to stabilize these organs, such symptoms can be resolved.

insomnia, excessive dreaming, waking between 1-3am and trouble falling asleep again, nightmares, waking with anxiety

Menstrual and Menopausal symptoms
menstruation imbalances (PMS, irregular cycle, aggravation of menopausal symptoms, cramps), cysts and lumps in reproductive organs and breasts (accumulation of toxins Liver is unable to process), swollen and tender breasts

nail health, addictions to stimulants, fatigue, emotional outbursts, feeling overwhelmed, uptight

If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms and would like the help of acupuncture to help them please feel free to contact me by phone or email: 
647 726 7789/dhbodhi@gmail.com.