Spring and the Wood Element Part 3


Apple blossom


“…the gall bladder occupies the position of an important and upright Official who excels through his decisions and judgment…” – Nei Jing

As it has been such a long drawn-out period of cold this Spring, and with ‘Springwatch’ just arriving on our TV screens, I feel at liberty (and have decided!) to put out this last post on Spring and the Wood Element at a time when many would feel we are in Summer. To me it feels like we are on the cusp of the two seasons.

With all of Nature long held back and now suddenly bursting forth all at once instead of the usual gradual progression, reflecting no doubt the feelings of most of us as we dash to say hello to the sun and its warmth, let’s look in this final post for Spring at some information on the Gall Bladderthe sister organ of the Liver (both associated with the Wood Element), as well as concluding with some final thoughts and guidelines.

It is wonderful to make plans and think about things that we want to change or be creative about, but they need to be put into action, and become concrete, which is where decision-making comes in – the yang aspect of the ‘yin-yang couple’ (Liver being yin and Gall Bladder yang).

However, because Gall Bladder stores the bile, a ‘clean’ and refined substance secreted by the Liver, it more closely resembles a yin organ and, in Chinese medicine, it is the only organ that works with pure essence. This purity is vital for sound decision-making, as we will see later on, and indeed critical as we are making decisions every second of our lives at a conscious level, let alone at a level below our conscious awareness.

Basically both the Planner (Liver) and Decision-Maker (Gall Bladder) never rest. Their times of peak activity in the twenty four hour cycle is between 11pm and 3am (GMT) (12 midnight to 4am BST). The time we would normally be sleeping, they are both busy working out the schedules for the body, mind and spirit. This ensures we start each day with a new optimism and new plans. We all know the maxim : ‘I’ll sleep on it’ before having to make a major decision – they can do their best work when we are asleep and we awake with a clear, or at least clearer, idea of what to do. Choice is a key word here, as there are choices in everything we do and the Gall-Bladder makes choice possible.

At the level of physical movement, we have to plan where to be, where to go and move accordingly to be at the right place at the right time. Every physical movement is a collection of split-second decisions – a healthy Decision-Maker means we are a triumph of co-ordination, some of this outside our conscious control.

Gall Bladder’s real expertise lies in our mental abilities, which cover deciding, judging, evaluating and co-ordinating. With the plan provided by the Liver, we have to decide how to carry it out and compare where we are with where we want to be. The healthier the Gall Bladder the clearer our thoughts and thought processes will be.

When it comes to judging and evaluating the more profound goals we draw from our ‘Planner’, we need to judge and decide whether it is a worthy goal or not. The Gall Bladder alone is able to bring a wonderful power of judgement to our body, mind and spirit to evaluate the worth of the goals we set ourselves. This is a treasure, particularly in our times when, around us, so many people are trying to convince us about their version of the ‘truth’ as they see it. Here is where the purity aspect of this ‘Official’s’ work can act as a guarantee that we can see to the heart of those ideas and beliefs around us, and can see the rights and wrongs that lie within – a healthy ‘Official of Judgment’ can guide us to the ‘truth’.

Let us not also equate the physical organ and the ‘Official’ in any literal sense. The storage of bile secreted by the liver for instance is not indispensable – a diseased gall bladder can be removed without greatly affecting the patient’s overall health, but we would be in trouble without our continuing ability for decisions and judgment, at whatever level!

Guidelines and final thoughts for Spring and the Wood Element

  • Wood and the colour Green – as mentioned in the last post about vision, take the opportunity to experience the lightness, tenderness and fineness expressed in the greenness of new growth and the hope engendered by the Spring. There is a vast variation of green in Spring – look for light greens in willows, deep brown green leaf in oaks, the long blue tinted green leaves of the elder, as examples – see what you notice and what variation attracts you.
  • Wood and the Eastern direction – the direction of the rising sun and a new day. As we approach the longest day, the sun is rising early but, if so inclined, try meeting the sunrise. As you face east, contemplate what you plan to begin soon and see if you feel it being energised by this contemplation. In Chinese culture, the whole eastern quarter is ruled by the Green (or Azure) Dragon who flies high in the heavens heralding a new day and bringing fertility in all senses.
  • Wood and Food – the grain associated with Wood is wheat and many people now have wheat allergies – could this be more to do with toxicity in our lives, problems with plans and/or decisions? If allergic, consider some liver/gall-bladder cleansing.
  • Wood and Exercise Referring to spring, the Nei Jing says :After a night of sleep, people should get up early (in the morning); they should walk briskly around the yard; they should loosen their hair and slow down their movements (body); by these means they can (fulfill) their wish to live healthfully.” Keep up whatever exercise plan you may have devised for yourself during this Spring. After the Winter we are encouraged here to act on the urge to move our bodies and stretch our muscles – the suggestion to slow down our movements is probably a reference to slow-moving exercise forms such as T’ai Chi to counterbalance the frenetic energy of Spring. The reference to loosening the hair suggests a relaxation of the Kidneys function to store and contain our essential energy through the Winter, now Spring has arrived – the hair being tied up, i,e contained, is a reference to Kidney energy being contained over winter –  head hair is related to Kidneys and seen as their flourishing at the external level. Give yourself a 5 minute scalp massage next time you shampoo, concentrating on the sides of your head and behind your ears. This stimulates the Gall Bladder meridian.
  • Wood and the beauty of Nature the spirit of Wood within us needs to be in contact with the life force of Wood in Nature, to feel the breezes of the air,  feast our eyes on the colours and movements of trees, hear the songs of the birds, and if you spend a day watching the shapes of clouds move across the blue sky, it will sometimes do more for that aspect of us than any medication. Remember the image of the ‘free and easy wanderer‘ mentioned in the previous post. Check out the BBC’s Radio 4 ‘Tweet’ of the day. Also try walking barefoot in the greenest grass you can find.
  • Wood and Active Imagination the spirit of Wood is especially receptive to work with active imagination – draw or paint pictures of your dreams and fantasies, then reflect on these inner images : feel how hope and new enthusiasm can arise from this.

This Spring, as we have watched the world flower again, I hope that these posts have helped us all regain that childhood sense of wonder in front of Nature and no less our own nature, which is reflected in its movements, finding anew our own hope and vision for the months to come in the cycle of the seasons. Let the two ‘Officials’ of the Wood Element be united in you in their task of bringing a sense of new birth, growth, purpose and hope to your body, mind, and spirit.

Next we move onto summer and the Fire Element and I look forward to sharing those details with you before long!

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