From Water to Wood: Ingenuity & Intention
At the moment, we are in a huge time of transition. With the season shifting from winter to spring, we can feel our minds and bodies reacting to the change. With spring comes new growth and a breaking-through of Yang, from within the Yin that is winter. According to Chinese medicine’s 5-element theory, this time period sees the elemental shift from water to wood. In organ theory this means we are moving from the time when the energy of the kidney is most prevalent, into the time when the energy of the liver-gallbladder is most intense. This makes it the best time to improve and encourage the function of the liver-gallbladder system. With the current social and political climate and all of its attendant anxieties, it is important, now more than ever to take care of ourselves and each other. Times of distress are often the times during which we forget to take extra special care of ourselves, and yet they are the times when we need it most.
The state of our health, in body and mind, is a mirror for the imbalance in our social, political, economic, personal and environmental realities. For the past while, and for a long time for many, fear has been tangible in our surroundings, and perhaps we also feel it in ourselves. Fear of the future, fear of the past, fear of the unknown, fear of ourselves. I see it in my practice. This combined feeling of dread and panic can bring about changes and pathology in our bodies. Fear is associated with winter, water, and an imbalance of the kidney. Its opposing counterpart is the strength of the will, complimented by ingenuity and skill. During this season change, we will likely see a tendency where fear turns to anger and frustration. Anger is associated with spring, wood and the liver, and its opposite counterpart is strategy, planning and follow-through.
Now is a time that we want to pay attention to our liver qi and ensure that it is flowing naturally and smoothly. The liver is the organ that is responsible for processing and removing toxins from our blood, as well as producing bile to digest fat in the gut. When the liver qi is in pathology, its function is impaired, and we see these imbalances reflected in our emotions (and the difficulty we face in moving past and processing them), our bodies and the physical pain we struggle with, our moon cycles, and our digestion. We need these organ systems harmoniously in their power, so that instead of being consumed by fear and anger, we can channel those emotions to feed the strength of our wills, and to affect change through planning and follow-through.
Some ways that we can detoxify and nurture our liver systems are through diet and care. It is tempting in times of crisis to push our bodies and minds, prioritizing the work we are passionate about, over health. The thing is, that when we nurture ourselves and our health, we are nurturing the things we so care about. With this intention, we can carry the work that we are passionate about.
In terms of diet, it's a good time to put more of an emphasis on fresh produce, and cut down on heavier, oily foods. We can add lemon to drinking water, as the sour taste, has a strong cleansing effect on the liver. While we cleanse, we also need to support, and we can do this by eating liver. I am not a big fan of chewing on liver, so my solution is to make a broth using lots of ginger, a small portion of pig or cow liver, sesame oil, salt, and soy sauce. Another thing that I like to do about every other day, is to take two teaspoons of goji berries and soak them in hot water for a few minutes, before drinking the whole thing. It’s great for nourishing the liver, and increasing energy.
Generous sleep and rest is imperative to healthy and functioning organ-systems. This coupled with moderate regular physical activity (like stretching, short/long walks/jogs with friends, dancing, biking), will give us the energy to sustain ourselves.
Now, more than ever, we need to be strong.