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  • Writer's pictureSuzanne Sky

Spring: Tending Your Heart Garden


Spring is arriving here where I live in Southern Oregon. The weather alternates between warm sunny afternoons and chilly, gray damp days. Today the wind is blowing, the tall Leyland cypress trees are swaying and dancing, my wind chimes are singing sweetly, and I was outside with my dogs weeding and doing some yard work. In the Chinese Lunar calendar, spring arrived about ten days ago, and with it the start of the Yang Wood Dragon year. 


Spring, wind, and growth are all associated with the Wood element in Chinese medicine which is based on a naturalist cosmology and a wholistic system of intricate interrelationships in the natural world mirrored in our soma and psyche. The ancient Chinese sages and Taoists lived in nature and closely observed her seasons and their influence on our health and well-being. 


After a long winter of resting deep in the earth, most plants and trees are budding and just waiting for the right time to burst open. Peony buds are pushing up through the earth. Vibrant red-green leaves are about to unfurl on rose bushes. And early bloomers are popping up every day. Purple Grape Hyacinth, yellow and purple Crocuses, and Daffodils are singing their spring colors. Sap is rising in trees after resting down in the roots through winter. Similarly, in spring our energy pushes up from our core and moves more freely with the arrival of more light and warmth. Do you feel your sap rising? Many of us feel more energy and want to be outside more in spring. This is a great time to begin, renew, or advance your Qi Gong practice; moving mindfully to ground in the earth and harmonize the flow of Qi (energy) through your system.


The Liver is considered the General of the body, responsible for the smooth harmonious flow of Qi (energy or the vital life force). Liver energy influences the health of the nervous system, tendons, ligaments, and eyes. It is also associated with our life vision and ability to plan and bring that to fruition through our decisions and actions.


Every organ system has a direction or pattern of energy flow. The Liver energy is meant to stay even and stable in the center of the body. When under stress or aggravated by heat, fire, and/or wind, Liver energy goes upwards. This can cause things like headaches and red itchy eyes which we often see with spring allergies. The distressed Liver energy can also attack the Spleen/Stomach centers causing digestive problems. It’s good to continue eating mostly warming, cooked foods throughout spring season to support digestive health. 


There is a mental/emotional component to each energetic system. Emotional imbalance or difficulty is seen as one of the main causes of disease in Chinese medicine. The Liver and Heart systems are the most sensitive and vulnerable to adverse effects of any emotional stress. When the Wood energy is under stress we can experience degrees of irritation, frustration, anger, or depression. We can feel stubborn, argumentative, or just plain stuck. The good news is that most of the time, with awareness and compassion, we can exert our agency to change our attitudes and choose to process and let go of grudges, anger, or other emotions that actually cut us off from ourselves and our own heart. If the issues are more deep seated, then naturally it is wise to seek professional help. 


The positive qualities of the Wood element include benevolence, clarity, life vision, and bringing our vision to fruition. It is our ability to cultivate maturity and resilience in our body, mind, attitudes, feelings, and actions. Neuroscientist Ruth Feldman suggests that resilience is the flowering of human maturity as we grow through life’s many challenges. 


We can create, nourish, and grow conscious daily routines that evolve over time with the rhythms of our life and changing seasons. We can engage both stability and flexibility, like the bamboo, green and growing; strong and flexible. And, in letting go and letting be, we nourish our own heart. It’s like tending our garden. I know for myself, sometimes it feels like I’m constantly pulling weeds. Being consistent with pulling weeds keeps them from clogging the roots of other plants and over running the garden. I’ve certainly had times, especially in early spring, where the weeds get away from me and, as I carve them away, am delighted to rediscover my flowers and give my plants and their roots breathing room.


And so it is with our own heart. Weeding our gardens and our heart allows what we’ve intentionally planted to thrive and grow well. For us gardeners, spring is a time for weeding, cleaning and prepping our garden beds. But it's also a time for creating our garden vision that we may have dreamed in winter and for planting. To me, spring is full of delight as tree leaves return and colorful array of flowers burst forth every day.


What needs weeding in your heart? And what will you plant to nourish your heart's vision this season? How can you can more fully enjoy the beauty of your heart's garden and let your light shine out into the world?


From my heart to yours,

Suzanne


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