The feeling of growth, expansion and reawakening at this time of year is incredible. The whole of nature is beginning to burst with new life, and yet spring can affect us all in different ways. Some of us may be full of joy and eager to move around, stretch and get on with new projects, while others may be prone to energy slumps, colds and illnesses after months of cold, dark weather.
The ancient Chinese philosophers were the masters of observing how these seasonal changes affect our health and wellbeing. According to five element theory, all parts of the universe, from cosmic cycles to the internal organs of the body, can be described in terms of the five elements - Wood, Water, Fire, Earth and Metal - and the complex flow of interactions between them.
Today many practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine use five element theory to help diagnose and treat patients. But there are simple ways of incorporating this ancient philosophy into your family’s life which can help you all grow, flow and align yourselves with the changes going on both internally, and in your physical environment, as the seasons change.
Spring is governed by Wood element. Wood is the upward, outward, “yang” energy of the first spring shoots pushing up through the ground. They may be small and fragile - yet they have the power to break through concrete! The colour of this element is green, and its image is a tree. Trees possess the positive Wood qualities of balance, growth, tenacity and resilience. They are both robust and flexible, evolving and expanding from tiny seeds into strong, beautiful, living beings.
Like trees, when human beings get the sustenance we need, we flourish and thrive, expressing our true nature in healthy ways. When our Wood element is in balance we are firmly rooted, goal-oriented and adaptable. We are able to make healthy decisions, have a sense of direction, embrace change with ease and grace and are kind and generous. When our Wood element is out of balance, this may manifest as anger, frustration or stagnation. We may suffer headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, painful periods and a host of other related problems. Some argue that Wood is the most powerful element of all, since it is the urge of life itself to express and come out into the world.
We see strong Wood element qualities in babies and toddlers as they grow and try out newly developed motor skills – often by falling over lots! Wood also governs the emotional and cognitive development of children as they learn new activities and seek to test the limits of what they can do. Wood is associated with vision, imagination, creativity and dreams, all of which come quite naturally to most children, and which need to be nurtured like budding seeds.
THERE ARE LOTS OF SIMPLE WAYS TO INVITE WOOD ELEMENT ENERGY INTO YOUR LIFE AT THIS TIME OF YEAR
FOR THE MIND:
- Any exercise or therapy which helps to express and move anger in healthy ways is great for balancing Wood element. Dancing, shouting, running, writing, relaxation practices or talking therapies can all be beneficial.
- Wood is the home of new ideas, thoughts, transformation, change and hope. Now is a great time to set intentions for the year ahead and to start planning projects. What areas of your life feel like they are stagnating? Is there a transition you have been waiting to make, a new skill you want to learn or a creative project you need to start? Jot down your personal and family goals and start taking steps towards making positive changes.
FOR THE BODY:
- Incorporate mindful and playful movement. Tai Chi and Yoga are ideal, especially twists as they are great for the liver, which along with the gall bladder is governed by Wood element.
- Children (and adults!) will enjoy a simple visualisation practice of closing their eyes and imagining that they are growing from a little seedling into a mighty tree. Talk them through the process as their roots reach deep down into the earth, with branches stretching up towards the sun, and leaves dancing in the breeze. Don’t forget to draw pictures of your trees once they have grown!
- If you are feeling sluggish, a gentle liver cleanse may be beneficial now. Cut down on toxins such as sugar and alcohol and increase your intake of liver-cleansing foods such as garlic, turmeric, quinoa, millet, apples, beets and carrots, green tea, dark leafy greens and chlorophyll-rich foods like spirulina. If you don’t already, now is a great time to start the habit of having warm lemon water every morning to help stimulate the liver.
- Try an acupuncture or shiatsu treatment. Even a short course of treatments can have a profound effect on lifelong symptoms.
- Take a walk in nature with your family, encouraging them to discuss what they notice about the plants, animals and colours of the season. Collect a few items and make a seasonal collage or altar at home. Remember, there are no right and wrong ‘answers’, it’s all about playful expression and enjoyment of time spent together in nature.
FOR THE HOME:
- Getting rid of clutter will freshen your home and clear stagnant energy. If an object isn’t useful, beautiful or doesn’t bring you joy, let it go, ideally by giving it away to a friend or to charity.
- Bring blue and green-coloured objects into your home. Feng Shui advises placing a healthy green plant or three living bamboo sticks with water in a clear vase in the north-east corner of your house to promote Wood energy.
FOR THE SPIRIT:
- Keep your spirit vibrant, authentic and free by practising gratitude and letting go of stagnant habits, relationships and attitudes which no longer serve you. This will attract abundance and create room for the things that really matter.
READ: Children at Their Best: Understanding and Using the Five Elements to Develop Children’s Full Potential for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists by Karin Kalbantner-Wernicke and Bettye Jo Wray-Fears with Thomas Wernicke