By Ellasara Kling
“Not only are we in the Universe, the Universe is in us.“ “To learn is to become closer to Nature” Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, Director of the Hayden Planetarium.
“The wise nourish life by flowing with the four seasons and adapting to cold or heat, by harmonizing joy and anger in a tranquil dwelling, by balancing yin and yang, and what is hard and soft.” The Neijing
For most of us living in 24/7 Harmony with Nature is a goal; something we would like, but due to the constraints and beliefs of the 21st Century, not something we believe we can necessarily accomplish. However, we can open to the idea that we are not separate from Nature and actualize that awareness in our daily living in ways that are unique to each individual. We can attune ourselves to Seasonality and use this attunement to assist ourselves in attaining and maintaining true health, which might be defined as a balanced and harmonious physical/mental/emotional/spiritual system with a strong foundation of vitality. We can utilize Five Element theory to assist ourselves in harmonizing with the seasons and experiencing the flow within ourselves, as we also see it reflected “outside” ourselves. We can engage in energy practices such as Qigong/ Taiji/Yoga to develop a strong vital energy foundation and qi flow. We can touch to the Universal by delving deeply into our practices.
With the above concepts in mind, let’s explore some of the relationships and qualities of the Spring season. In the Spring it is obvious that Life is coming into view and moving upwards and outwards. Plants are putting forth shoots, sprouts, and buds. The grass is moving from winter brown to spring green. The weather is becoming warmer, damper and windier. New, youthful energy surrounds us. In our bodies, it is also the season of Spring and our Yang Qi is moving upwards and outwards towards our skin. We can feel easily excited and enthusiastic, and want to engage in more activities. This is movement of Yang Qi from our “center” upwards and outwards. This movement to our surface depletes the inner Yang Qi, requiring it to be replaced. We can replace it through our energy practices, quality sleep, and the foods we eat.
Although the flavor for the Liver/Gallbladder/Spring Season is Sour, this is a time to increase eating sweet and pungent foods. A little sour is fine, but too much causes contraction at a time of expansion. Although it would seem like the perfect time to indulge in raw salads, it is not. Raw, cold foods, greasy and fried foods are all best left off your menu. Instead, make warm salads, like the one described below in the Recipe section.
The related emotion of the season is anger which is an outward flow of energy and is accompanied by heat. Enjoy teas like the one described later in this article that help to clear Liver heat and soothe nervous irritability. This season is another opportunity to find ways to “give yourself a break” and to be kind to ourselves and others.
See the Five Element chart on the left for other relationships and attributes of Spring.
Some Foods That Harmonize With Spring
Artichoke, Asparagus, Avocados Bamboo shoots, Basil, Bay leaf, Bean Curd (tofu) – use non GMO organic, Beef Liver, Bee Pollen, Blackberry, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Broccoli rabe, Buckwheat, Caraway, Carrots, Cashews, Celery, Chicken Chicken Liver, Chives, Chrysanthemums, Clams, Corn silk, Crab, Dandelion greens, Dill, Eggplant, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Green veggies in general, Green Bell Pepper, Kiwi, Leeks, Lemon, Lime, Lotus, Milk thistle, Mulberry, Mushrooms, Mustard leaf, Nettle Tea, Oats, Parsley, Pickles, Quail, Raspberry, Rosemary, Rosebuds, Rye, Safflower oil, Scallion, Spinach, Sprouts of all kinds, Tangerine Peel, Vinegar (raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar has many uses), Watercress, Wild Rice, and more!
Oatmeal Congee (Oats are used to reduce internal wind – See #8 in Chart above)
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 4 cups water
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ tsp dried tangerine peel (Chen Pi – warming, helps relieve “wet” coughs, aids blood circulation)
Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer stirring often, until it is a thickened porridge. Be careful not to let it overflow or stick to the bottom of your pan. If it becomes “too thick”, simply add more water.
At this point, you can serve it at any meal and add cooked vegetables such as carrots, fennel, kale, parsley, chives, and so on; or fruits and toasted nuts such as apple, mulberry, and cashews. (In TCM, Mulberries are considered to be strengthening to the Kidney function and to “cleanse” the Liver.) [In mountainous, windy Switzerland, Oatmeal Soups are a traditional dish.]
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 TB ginger diced
- 3 scallions whites cut into thin rings and
- 3 scallions greens cut into 1-1/2“ pieces
- 1-2 little red chilies – whole
- 1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 4 cups uncooked soy or mung bean sprouts
1 beaten egg (optional)
- 3 TB chopped mushrooms
1 tsp Pure Sesame oil
- 1 TB lemon juice
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
Wash and drain the bean sprouts
Heat the oil in a wok or heavy skillet.
Add the garlic, ginger and scallion whites, mushrooms, sauté lightly till whites of scallions are wilted.
Add the vinegar and chilies’ and stir
Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry briefly till the sprouts are heated through. Add the scallion greens and toss.
If using egg, add now and stir-fry another few seconds till the eggs have cooked.
Drizzle a little sesame oil and the lemon juice over sprouts just before serving and top with the chopped cilantro.
Warm Mushroom/Leek Salad with Fennel and Greens
- ½ cup grapeseed oil
- 1 pound mushrooms: this can be any kind or mixture of mushrooms that you prefer.
- 2 Leeks – white and lower green parts
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh ginger
- ½ tsp Turmeric
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 small to medium Fennel bulb – sliced lengthwise.
- ½ lb. of Sturdy Greens such as Kale or Mustard Greens – torn into large pieces – be certain to remove the tough stems
- Juice of ½ a lemon
Directions: Prepare your vegetables in advance for ease of cooking.
Carefully and fully clean the leeks (they can be sandy in between the layers) and cut the whites into thin ringlets and the greens into ½” pieces.
In a large heavy skillet or wok, heat ½ the oil and add a sprinkle of salt (to keep the oil from splattering);
Mix together ginger, white wine, Turmeric, ground black pepper
Add the ginger/wine/spice mixture into the wok and then add in the mushrooms and leek whites – mix together and cover – over low heat
In another skillet/wok heat the remaining oil and a sprinkle of salt;
Add the fennel bulb and greens, including the leek greens, mix together, cover over low heat.
Stir and check the mushrooms and leeks. Continue cooking the mushrooms until they are cooked through but not be “cooked away” and the leeks should be somewhat translucent and tender – If they are done, remove from heat but let sit in the wok.
When the fennel and greens are tender, put them on your serving platter and then cover them with the mushroom leek mixture. Toss lightly, sprinkle with lemon and salt & pepper to taste.
Serving suggestions: Add toasted nuts, chopped apples, or even a poached egg per person.
The aromatic fragrance of flower teas as they are brewed and poured automatically induces an instant relaxation response. That is their first healing benefit. The second can easily be the visual effect of the flower(s) in the teapot (especially if it is glass), cup or tall glass. And then, each flower imparts its unique medicinal qualities to the infusion. This tea is quite beautiful and sweetly scented. For each cup of tea, put together 5 white chrysanthemum flowers, 3 rose flowers, and 1 T honeysuckle flowers in a sachet. Place the sachet or loose flowers in a pot with 1-1/4 cup of water for each “flower group” and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1-1/2 minutes. Enjoy.
According to TCM, this tea strengthens the liver function, clears heat, relieves toxicity, reduces liver and gall bladder inflammation, improves vision, improves appetite and relieves a dry throat.
I originally found this tea recipe in Chinese Herb Cooking For Health.
Seasonal Self-massage: Relieving Stress: Think of a cat. Picture this cat curled up on a rug in sunlight. Peaceful. It awakens. It uncurls and stretches its limbs, neck and tail. Arches its back and lets its head fall forward. It opens its mouth and stretches its jaws. It stretches every inch of its body in purposeful, gentle, graceful movements. Never straining or over doing. Doing just enough. Then, it moseys on to its next cat event. This is a wonderful lesson in self-massage. Simply stretching like a cat. Almost regardless of where we are, we can stretch out our arms from the tips of our nails to deep within the shoulder muscles; stretch our legs the same way, one by one if standing or both together if seated. Even just stretching our fingers and palms and flexing our feet and stretching our toes can feel so relaxing. Remember to breathe deeply and take in the fresh Spring air, it’s so invigorating!
Wishing you good health! Remember to smile 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 participated in numerous special classes through TCM World Foundation and the Tao of Healing in New York City. For comments, questions, consultations, firstname.lastname@example.org