It is now officially meteorological spring! In Chinese Medicine theory, there are five seasons corresponding to the five elements/phases. In this blog, we’ll be talking about each season in the context of this framework as each season approaches. First, a little bit about each of the elements, which feed into one another as part of an annual cycle. Each of these elements/seasons carries enormous significance in terms of describing both people and various aspects of health and disease.
- Wood – the element of spring
- Fire – the element of summer
- Earth – the element of late summer
- Metal – the element of fall
- Water – the element of winter
In practice, these 5 elements comprise a cycle, continually feeding into one another each year. The water element of winter nourishes soil and empowers wood to take shape and grow. It would be limiting to think of just literal wood here. Think instead of all plants shooting up from the earth. If you’ve ever actually gardened or farmed, it can be surprising to see how quickly seeds can burst up vertically in a matter of days. In time, the wood of spring will be ready for harvest to fuel the fire of summer, but more on that when the time comes.
Wood is a yang element, it’s about growing and expanding. It’s still winter here in the Northern hemisphere, but the days are getting longer and we’re starting to have warmer days already (thank you global warming)? The plants seem a bit confused at times. We see buds developing maybe too early on a tree, only to swing back into a cold snap later in the week. However, despite some locally confusing meteorologic signals, spring is very much approaching.
Spring is seen as a period of growth and hope across cultures. It contains Lent, Easter and Passover. To the pagans (upon which many Easter symbols such as rabbits and eggs have been built), it was also a time for renewal. In India, it is commemorated with the colorful holiday of Holi, the “festival of colors.”
The associated element of wood signifies rapid growth and change, pushing up and out of the earth. For those of us who have gotten used to the quiet and slow pace of winter, sometimes we get in a little funk as the pace starts to pick up again. Our bodies may feel out of alignment with the increased hustle and bustle picking up around us. One of my acupuncturists picked up on this cue and gave me a treatment for it last year.
How can you get ready for spring? Here are some tips to get into the spirit of the season:
- Plant some seedlings or start to prepare your garden soil for planting in the months to come. Playing in the dirt is a wonderfully grounding activity and studies show that there are certain bacteria in soil which actually improve mood and battle depression!
- Take a walk outside and look for signs of new growth such as buds on trees. Be observant of the small signs of change – in other words, be mindful. Look at the behavior of birds as they start to respond to cues of spring. Observe the arrival of seasonal birds and maybe buy some bird seed to draw them to your yard.
- Do some spring cleaning so you can spend more of the warmer months enjoying the outdoors. Open your windows and let in some fresh air.
- The wood element speaks to goals and drive/ambition. It’s a great time to contemplate what you would like to accomplish in the year ahead and make concrete steps to reach your goals.
- Do something creative! I always enjoyed participating in the Peeps diorama contest (which was stopped here in DC, but which I sometimes do on my own anyway). Or if that’s too much trouble – eat a Peep! Have a pure rush of sugar and joy which you cannot justify from your adult brain. Feel the sugar high and use it to get started on something you’ve been meaning to do all winter. (Disclosure – unabashed peeps fan here).
- Between Heaven and Earth- A Guide to Chinese Medicine
- Summer is Meant to be the Season of Joy: Can it Still be?
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