In Chinese medicine we are taught from the perspective of cosmological wholeness. People are understood as integral aspects of nature, the embodiment of the same life force and flow as everything else in the natural order of the universe. From this holistic perspective, the wisdom of Chinese medicine advises that people undertake behaviors befitting the progression of the seasons since the influences occurring in nature have inextricable influence on human physiology. Springtime is the the season that nourishes and renews life from the contracted state of winter introspection and holding. It is the season of beauty and harmony; a time to roam through gardens and forests, leisurely sitting and absorbing tranquil sights, sounds and fragrances. It is against the dynamics of nature in this time of bursting forth to dwell upon things or become morose. Spring is a time to be rid of stagnant energy. The energy that encourages budding and regeneration is experienced by all of the natural world.
Heaven and Earth are enlivened and the ten thousand things may now begin to grow luxuriantly
Renewed warmth of the sun’s rays kindles growth and the wind stirs motion. This stirring, upward energy can have influence on disease conditions that have lurked beneath the surface, activating their expression with the heightened dynamics of the wood element. In early spring (from February to April according to the Chinese calendar) weather is erratic; cold wind at one moment then hot sun the next, and since most people suffer some form of chronic imbalance, this advancing and shifting of influences may also cause people to feel tired and weak. Chronic ailments flare easily under these conditions and therefore we should encourage suppleness of the Liver.
Gao Lian, Ming dynasty medical scholar and poet, elaborated upon the season of spring as discussed in the Huang Di Neijing Su Wen, the doctrinal source of Chinese medicine for more than two millennia.
• Spring is the time to discharge the stale energy of winter’s storage and confinement. In spring one should behave in such a way that new life is nourished so that growth can occur in summer.
• Get up early. Walk. Let your hair down. Garden. Do T’ai chi. Relax and make your body supple.
• Reward, fortify and promote all life. Do not kill, deprive, or punish, as these contrary actions damage the Liver.
• Seek to give, not take. Be agreeable and have a benevolent bearing.
• Eat less sour food in order to prevent excess in the Liver, and eat more mildly sweet food to shore the Spleen which is suppressed by excess the wood element.
• Avoid drinking alcohol, coffee, and food and drink that agitates the harmony of Liver Qi.
• Show restraint in eating the commonly eaten foods that have a tendency to harm the integrity of the Spleen and Stomach.
• Do not simply use herbs to overcome stagnation. If there is no sign of disease the need to take medicines is lessened. (Converse to the advice to nourish with foods and tonifying medicinals in the previous two Yin seasons of winter and autumn).
There was moonlight, the trees were blossoming,
and a faint wind softened the air of night, for it was spring.
~Li Bai, from ‘Clearing at Dawn’
and on the law of the four seasons.
Life destiny lies in balance.