Traditional Chinese Medicine: Transition from Spring to Summer
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a strong influence over and emphasis on preventative health care. It is wise to avoid illness in the first place than to allow illness and unbalance to rise, causing one to suffer through the backward trail to health again. A common question asked in TCM is, “How long did it take you to get to this point? Has the illness been developing for weeks or years?” In the case of years, it is unreasonable to expect to return to full health instantaneously without changing any habits. It would also be unreasonable to assume a single dose of medicine or treatment will magically cure all ailments without a cost. Fast weight loss schemes are a prime example of how diets and diet approach medicine does not work in the long term. If you do not adjust the fundamental issues that is causing your health to fail in the first place you will get sick again and again.
May day is here also referred to as Beltane. It is a fire festival of fertility that celebrates the coming of summer in some western traditions. In Chinese medicine there are 5 seasons: Spring, Summer, Late summer, Autumn and Winter. Each season houses a specific energy and sprit. Through mindful practice and dedication, we can live in harmony with nature and its cycles with little effort on our part when a regular practice is established.
We are entering into the season of summer, the spirit of Shen and the most extreme yang aspect of the year. The earth is blooming, spreading its offspring through seed to eventually flourish where it lands. We are no different. As humans it is important for us to prepare for the coming season and ensure we are following the natural flow of the seasons. In TCM, the spring is an important time to keep one’s neck covered to avoid wind and invasion of pathogens as the energy of the earth is rushing and surging to spring up from the ground. Winds pick up as if to blow away the cold and crispness of winter and provide a milder temperature. It is said in the Nei Jing that to preserve health in the 3 spring months to be ready for the coming of summer one must go to bed when night comes and wake early in the morning. It is common practice for monks to wake at 4AM, the time of the lung, and practice their meditations and chants. This both exercises their lungs while the energy is strongest but also allows them to follow with the natural flow of the day from morning to evening without feeling tired, overslept, under-slept, sore, or stagnated. The Nei jing states one should breathe fresh air while they are walking the yard to exercise tendons and bones in addition to loosening their hair to allow a full body comfort as they generate spring energy.
In TCM, spring is the time of the Liver. This organ is responsible for the emotion anger which can be expressed in a loud explosive fashion or could be disturbed by the pensive, passive aggressive or suppressed emotions one hides from fear of expressing one’s anger. The spirit of the Liver is the Hun. The Hun is the messenger between the Shen, which is closely aligned with our higher selves and travels to the heavens and back to us to keep us on our mission. The Hun is responsible for decision making and planning taking the message of the Shen and bringing it to fruition through our actions and deeds. The Hun is also responsible for quality sleep, dreams, vision, and imagination. During spring months, it is important to practice breath work to help soothe the liver and harmonize the Hun with the Shen. Without this balance one may feel emotionally exhausted, guilty and self-doubt can set in. There is a lack of clarity in ones thinking and an inability to move forward with plans and decisions made. One will forget or fall short on promises made and shame can set in deeply.
If these energies are not well balanced and kept, a person will suffer the consequences of these actions in the following month of summer. This displays most often as cold syndrome in the body. The phrase used is, “inadequate of offering growth.” Spring is the time of growth and expansion. One must commit to not killing but rather to help surviving, which is why it is good practice to donate and not snatch, grab, or forcibly remove anything from others at this time. It is a time for praise and reward, not punishment. The cutting nature of these negative traits cut the wood energy that is described in the season of spring. As the trees grow and expand so do, we. If we fail to expand and grow, it is said that we will wither and suffer.
As we enter the transition from spring to summer it is advisable to follow these principles to ensure the best opportunity for health arises. This is a great season to start more self-care rituals or wrapping up loose ends on your medical procrastinations. Remember to be kind to yourself and resist explosively expressing anger or building up negative thoughts. In TCM, this will help to avoid illness and prepare for the Season of Joy and embrace the Spirit of the Shen.
– Dr. Lyndsey Tucker DTCM RAc