Spring – Renewal/Reinvention
By Ellasara Kling
In the very beginning of the Nei Jing, Huang Di inquires of Qi Bo how it is that people do not live (we presume healthfully) to a very old age. In essence, Qi Bo replies that people no longer know how to live properly and, therefore, deplete their energies in a wide manner of ways. This bit of conversation from the Nei Jing tells us that thousands of years ago people in general had already lost the means to engender a healthy, balanced life on a daily basis. As a well-known aphorism states: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Perhaps as a Universal response to a widespread desire by modern people for lives that are more balanced, harmonious, healthy, inspiring, and natural, systems such as Qigong, Taiji (and other internal martial arts), Chinese medicine, meditation, yoga and others have become popular throughout the Western world. It is from these practices that we can learn how to engender our health, create balance, harmony, calmness, and a peaceful heart in a fast-paced world that swirls about in what can be a dizzying pattern.
It is through our daily practice of our chosen energy cultivating methods that we can become ever more harmonious with the Universal, experience balance and calm in our daily lives and maintain and increase our health. It is through the moment-to-moment choices to follow Nature, take the time to truly engage in quality practice and make these things part of our 24/7, rather than compartmentalized practices that are not integrated into our lives, that we will ultimately reap the harvest of our dreams. Utilizing the principles of our energy practice in our life is a way to renew and reinvent ourselves and our lives. Manifesting these principles at work, for example, may be a challenge, but it is one well-worth engaging in. This is a way to nurture Qi, ourselves and everyone/thing around us as part of our energy life.
FIVE ELEMENT THEORY
Spring Season A Time of New Beginnings.
Winter has left and Spring arrives with new growth. We now have the opportunity to nurture the beginnings of the new reality. The energetic direction of the season, as exhibited by the new growth we see, is upward and outward. This is the beginning of Yang rising in nature. For example, tree sap rises and signals budding. Seeds underground respond to the warmer ground and dampness. It takes a lot of energy for a seed to germinate and break through its shell and then the ground to form a sprout!
Many people think that Spring is a time to start a “detox” of some sort. Actually, if one follows the Season and nourishes themselves appropriately, the body will perform its own Spring Cleaning in a natural and easy way. This season calls us to perform more activity after our Winter rest. The tissue of the season is the Tendons. It is a terrific time of year to start (or do more) stretching/walking. If walking, look around and let your eyes, the sense organ of Spring, enjoy the budding beauty that is Spring. Wind is the environmental factor of Spring. It is important to “protect” oneself from the invasion of wind and dampness at all times, but especially in the Spring. The invasion of Wind can look like cramps, itchiness, tremors, pains/aches that move around the body, the common cold, and other symptoms. Remember to keep your head and chest covered.
Foods for this season are often green (the color of the Season and new growth) and have a slightly sour/bitter taste. Asparagus, sorrel, dandelion greens, and sprouts are examples of those combined qualities. Even so, too much sour should be avoided, especially if you are someone with chronic pain or anxiety. The sour taste does strengthen the Liver, but too strong a Liver energy can overpower the Spleen/Stomach system. Moderation is always a good rule of thumb. Eating the Sweet taste is balancing for the Liver system. Having sweets in their natural form, such as pieces of fruit or sweet vegetables such as fennel is preferable to lots of added refined sugars.
As always, eating greasy foods and over eating is hard on the Liver/Gall Bladder and should be avoided. Too much can lead to Liver Heat. Symptoms of this include, anger, irritability, frustration, dry red eyes, headaches, and many more possibilities. Watercress, citrus fruits such as lemon or grapefruit can help relieve Liver Heat. Simple meals primarily consisting of cooked green vegetables, beans, some grains, with small amounts of meats/fish as a complement will help support health in this season.
Flowing freely and flexibility are Liver/Gall Bladder/Spring concepts. The more we do to “go with the flow” and to be flexible in our outlook, the more we can attune to this season and its sometimes surprising gifts.
Relaxation Self-Massages: Flexibility and a calm, relaxed approach to life are key to harmony with the Spring Season. Here are a few simple self-massages you can perform almost anywhere to release tension:
1) Close your eyes. Turn your head very, very slowly to the left as far as it will go without strain. Then turn your head very, very slowly to the right as far as it will go without strain. Do this 3 times in each direction. Be sure to move your head/neck very slowly – the slower the better — and only go as far as you can without any strain. Be certain to keep your shoulders relaxed. Do not be concerned about how far you have turned your neck. Distance is not as important as the slow speed and keeping your shoulders relaxed. Remember to breathe.
2) Shrug with both of your shoulders: Sit straight in your chair and relax your shoulders. Pull your shoulders up as high as they will go towards your ears and then just let them drop. Do this 3-5 times. Remember to always only go as far as you can without any strain. Breathe in when raising your shoulders and breathe out when releasing them. Can you feel the connection to your whole torso as you do this?
3) With your mouth (lips) closed, but your teeth not touching, take the second and third finger of each hand and place them softly on your face where your jaw hinges. With very light pressure, massage this spot with small circles for 10 seconds in each direction (forward towards the front of the face and backwards towards the ears). There is no need to apply a deep pressure.
4) Starting at the top of your ears with your thumb and index fingers: Place your thumb on the back of the ear and let your index finger fall naturally on the front side. Pressing gently on the ear, “Walk” your fingers from the top of your ears to the bottom of the ear lobes by pressing your fingers against the ear and inching them downwards. Give your lobes a slight, gentle tug at the end. Do this 3 times. (If you are wearing earrings, please remove them first.)
5) Placing the base of your palms on either side of your lower jaw and allowing your hands/fingers to relax softly and naturally on your face, very gently, very softly, move your hands upwards until the base of your palms are on your cheekbones. Then move your hands out towards your ears until your thumbs touch the place where your ears connect to your face, and circle back downwards to your starting position. Your hands/fingers should be barley touching your face. Do this three times. If you wear glasses, please remove them. There is no pressure on the eyes, but the hands need to “slide” over them. The fingers are on the hairline before the hands move outwards.
Some Foods That Are Particularly Good For The Spring Season:
Apples, Artichoke, Bamboo shoots, Bean Curd (tofu) – use non GMO, organic, Beef Liver, Bee Pollen, Beets, Black Gram (dal), Broccoli, Broccoli rabe, Bok Choy, Cashews, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicken , Chicken Liver, Clams, Crab, Dandelion greens, Dates, Dill, Eggs, Eggplant, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Green veggies in general, Green Bell Pepper, Honey, Kiwi, Lemon, Lime, Lotus, Lychee, Mulberry, Mushrooms, Nettle Tea, Oats, Parsley, Peanuts, Pepper, Peppermint, Pickles, Radishes, Rhubarb, Rye, Safflower oil, Scallion, Sesame oil, Spinach, Sprouts – all kinds, Turkey, Vinegar, Watercress, Wild Rice , Wolfberry, and more.
2 TB grapeseed oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper – ground
2/3 cup celery leaves only minced (the inner leaves from the heart of the celery – no stalks)
½ cup scallion whites thinly sliced
1 small clove garlic – minced
1 cup water (or chicken broth or v. mild vegetable broth)
1 lb asparagus stalks – read below for preparation
3 cups almond milk – unsweetened
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup almond meal/flour – thickener; alternatively use cornstarch or rice flour – adjust amounts accordingly.
Red pepper flakes
Preparing the asparagus stalks: break off the white ends of the stalks and cut the stalks into bite size pieces. Set the tips aside. If you are using thick stalks of asparagus, cut the stalks into very small pieces otherwise they will be stringy/woody when cooked.
In a heated wok or large skillet, heat the oil and add salt and pepper, celery leaves, scallion whites and garlic, sauté lightly until the leaves begin to wilt.
Add the water, stir. Add the asparagus stalks and cover. Let simmer lightly until the asparagus is about to turn bright green (don’t wait until it becomes v. green or it will over cook.)
Add the almond milk and coconut milk and stir. . . heat this through.
If you are using almond meal/flour, then add that now. If you are using cornstarch or rice flour, make a slurry and add it slowly to the soup, stir thoroughly so that it is well blended.
Adjust your seasonings.
Heat through, and serve.
Optional: a dash of red pepper flakes.
Asparagus clears heat, is good for blood circulation, urination, constipation, nourishes Kidney Yin, moistens the Lungs and much more. Almonds are sweet and relieve stagnant Lung Qi.
Bean Sprouts w/Scallions/Watercress/Peanuts
2-3 TB Grapeseed oil
3 TB minced scallion whites
1 TB grated ginger
2 large cloves of garlic – sliced lengthwise
1 TB vinegar
12 oz bean sprouts
1 large bunch watercress – remove the tough stems
1 TB sesame oil
1 TB sliced scallion green
¼ cup toasted peanuts
Red pepper flakes – optional
In your heated wok or large skillet, heat 2-3 TB oil (start with less), add at one time the scallion whites, ginger, garlic, sprinkle on the vinegar and sauté until fragrant.
Add the bean sprouts all at once and toss into the spices, just as the sprouts begin to wilt, add the watercress and toss everything through. Heat through and plate. Sprinkle with scallion greens, toasted sesame oil, and peanuts – for more pungent heat add red pepper flakes.
This dish is good for, among other things, dispelling heat and dampness, relieving sore throats. Watercress which is both sweet and pungent in flavor is good for relieving coughs.
Bring water or broth to a simmer and add fresh peas and a little salt (if using water).
When the peas are almost bright green, remove from the liquid and toss with dill – leaves only no stalks.
This simple side dish can be an accompaniment to almost any meal.
Dill is known for spreading Qi throughout the body. Peas are used Yin Deficiency especially Spleen Yin Deficiency, and digestion.
Tea For The Season
Ingredients: 1 TB grated fresh ginger; 3 TB finely chopped celery; 3 cups water;
Directions: put all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Drink warm
This tea is good for dispelling Liver Wind and Dampness as they are understood in TCM.
Wishing you good health! Remember to smile from the heart at all things.
The information in this article is based on the theories and principles of Chinese Medicine/Five Element Theory. Ellasara, a practitioner of Wu Ming Qigong, has been studying with Master and Dr. Nan Lu for many years and has participated in special classes through TCM World Foundation and the Tao of Healing in New York City.
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