In the 5000-year-old philosophy that underpins Chinese Medicine, the season of spring is the time of the Wood element. More accurately, and with more linguistical correctness, it could be said that springtime is the time of Trees. But formally the myriad implications of strength, aliveness, green-ness, youth and creative power so associated with the renewal of spring are expressed in the ‘shorthand’ of Wood.
Wood is the element of moving forward, of new beginnings, of vision for the future. The direction of Wood is East: the place from which the sun rises. This makes sense when you consider how dawn is all about the fresh new start expressed in the element Wood, and in the season of spring. The idea of ‘spring cleaning’ comes from this, in that it encourages preparation for new things to come. Spring is the time of beginnings.
The external organs associated with Wood/spring are the eyes, and it is easy to see (no pun intended!) why this is true as well. Wood is the element of Vision: of clarity, definition and focus in moving ahead. In the same way that spring is historically the time of plating for the harvest year, it is the ideal time for goal-setting and initiating action in the pursuit of future plans.
The mindset – or ‘emotion’, as the Chinese formally call it – associated with Wood/spring is assertiveness: anger on one side, and creativity on the other. If you think about it, they are really the same energetically, and that is the point. The spirit of Wood is purposeful action: and both anger and creativity – as well as everything in between – embody this idea. In Chinese Medicine, anger is not ‘bad’, provided it has some reason and focus. It can be a catalyst for problem-solving, a great motivator. it is only inappropriate or excessive anger which is unhealthy. (Discernment of what, exactly might be inappropriate is a function of Metal, which we will talk about in a future post).
The color of Wood is green. Not a lot of explanation is needed here, especially when you consider that Wood is more specifically thought of as Tree. The profusion of young, green leaves that return every year after winter dormancy is the perfect expression of the fresh active and creative renewal that is the essence of the Wood element. Incidentally, it is for this spirit of freshness and pure newness that Virga Botanicals takes its name! Virga, as you may know, is Latin for ‘a branch’.
Staying in Harmony with the Season
Spring is the perfect time to make new plans. More than that, it is the time to work out concretely and practically how to bring those plans to fruition. Take an afternoon or a day to set future goals for the year; then for 5 years, for 10 years, if you like. Then break down the practical steps needed to achieve them, with a timeline for each. Take your vision into the realm of action.
Get up early, at least one day a week. Watch the sunrise, if you can. Sit in the quiet newness of the morning or better, take a walk! Morning, dawn, is the time of Wood, the time of Spring.
Put fresh flowers in your house. Ideally ones that are potted so they continue to grow. Or: buy a green plant. It is another way to connect with the beautiful, active greenness seen everywhere in nature this time of year.
Eat seasonally. The flavor associated with Wood is sour; but in the spring, when Wood is already at its peak, it is important to eat foods that calm, rather than stir it up more. Some foods well-recognized for this in Chinese Medicine are: celery, watercress, lettuce, spring onions, mint, black pepper, carrots, grapefruit, sweet rice, cherries, and coconut milk.