Spring is a time of new beginnings – we can feel it, even smell it at times. We also see it in the faces of people on those first warm, sunny days. It is particularly noticeable in the rousing of Nature, which is also reflected in our own bodies. Inspiration flows as we start new projects, clean closets and get out more. Spring begins the transition from the Yin/Winter into the Yang/Summer seasons. It is a time for recalling our original vision and giving attention to the self-expression of our true nature.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Spring is related to the Liver, which is the heaviest organ in the body and is also one of the largest. Among the many vital functions of the Liver, is the storage of blood, regulating the volume of blood in circulation, making bile and removing toxins from the body. It also screens the blood for toxins, viruses and bacteria, detoxifies alcohol and certain drugs, and plays a major part in supporting the body’s immune system.
The Liver is perhaps the most congested organ of all. Our modern lifestyle constantly keeps it under pressure by filtering the large amount of toxins in our world. It is easy to see how an unhealthy Liver can interfere with these important functions, leading to poor health. Fortunately, it is somewhat resilient. However, longstanding Liver stagnancy wears down the system. Taxed with excess, an expanded Liver continually struggles toward balance, and thus generates heat. One of the first signs of disharmony is emotional difficulty related to anger: impatience, frustration, resentment, arrogance and mood swings, as well as emotional extremes in general.
The most frequent cause of this excess occurs when too much food is eaten. The Liver becomes swollen and sluggish in its attempt to circulate qi/energy smoothly through the body. A healthy Liver, on the other hand, increases our capacity for stillness and reflection, along with kindness toward the self and others.
In the important area of nutrition, cooking of foods at this time of year is shorter but at a higher temperature – light steaming. The diet should contain foods which emphasize the Yang, ascending and expansive qualities of Spring: young plants, fresh greens, and sprouts. Grains, vegetables, legumes and other complex carbs are ideal ‘sweet’ foods for long-term Liver harmony. The diet should be the lightest of the year – we naturally eat less or even fast to cleanse the body of the fats and heavy foods of winter. Avoid foods high in saturated or poor-quality fats, excesses of nuts and seeds, intoxicants and highly processed foods. Consumption of raw and sprouted foods is also increased time of year, but must be used cautiously in individuals with signs of weakness and deficiency.
Ironically, we now find ourselves during a time when we should be ‘emerging,’ and we are being instructed to stay home. This could provide us with a powerful opportunity to delve deeply into ourselves, find creative ways to utilize our time, and explore our relationship with and possibly dependence upon others. May each of you discover yourselves more thoroughly during this valuable time.