From water to wood: transitioning yourself from winter to spring

Mar 17, 2024 | Balance, Blog, Change, Featured, Liver, New, Spring, Uncategorized, Water Element, Wood Element | 10 comments

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Chinese philosophy, we (humans) are integral components of the universe. Further to this, we each are made up of our own small universe. Harmony exists when the universe (both big and small) is in balance. As the earth orbits around the sun, we experience seasons. Our bodies are a reflection of nature. When seasons are changing outside, we also experience changes within. How could we not? We are hanging out on this spinning orbiting planet!

The sun−with its yang properties of brightness, activity, and heat−will be dominating our lives for the next six months. During this season of spring nature is bursting forth with energy; and so are we in our own small universe. The seeds we stored within during winter are ready to burst forth and blossom into plentiful fruits for fall.

Within the Five Element Theory of Chinese Medicine, winter−with its yin properties of darkness, stillness, and cold−is associated with the element of water. During winter we water our internal seeds by going inward, being still, and conserving; nurturing the predominant winter organs, the kidneys. Spring is associated with the element of wood and the organ is the liver. For wood to grow, it needs just the right amount of water. If there is not enough water there will be no support for the wood and the corresponding liver, resulting in little growth. Too much water and the wood will grow in excess, which could lead to a fire (heart problems or hatred). How can you tell if you have too much or not enough water for the wood? You may feel cold frequently, feel fear or fearful, be unmotivated, you may find yourself unable to take action, your digestion may be poor, you may be angry, short-tempered, or irritable. How to heal?

By having balance in our lives, and in the universe, we will have the right amount of water to grow the wood into a beautiful healthy forest.

For me, I find that balance is not attainable, but always sought after. Like the constant side to side corrections I make as I float on my paddle-board, or stand in stork pose (not on my paddle-board!). When I notice I am doing too much of something or not enough of another, change is needed. But how do I take notice? How do I know when I’m out of balance? By quieting down my body and my mind, and going inward, I can observe myself and my life. This is when I hear the whispers, telling me to lean the other way, but for whatever reason I sometimes tune them out. I may even wait until I get sick or have pain or injury before I take notice. Sometimes I chose not to listen and I’m not sure why. It’s like I get lazy, or want to be in this state of discomfort; however sometimes I am under a deadline and I have to push hard to get the work done, and that often means I need my body and my mind to bear with me. But usually, when I take the time to practice qigong, meditate and get quiet with myself, I become mindful of how I am living and make the required adjustments to bring myself closer to centre.

Case in point, this past month it seemed I was fighting with myself: I was having digestion issues (observed it but ignored it); I was irritable and short-tempered (ask Mountain Man); my shoulder was aching; and I could not seem to find creativity for a work project. I felt stuck! Each of these symptoms leads directly to the liver. But wait a sec, I live healthy, I meditate, I do qigong and yoga, I walk outside everyday, I drink water, heck I even brew my own kombucha for Pete’s sake. Sometimes there are bigger universal forces exerting their influence on our small universe; forces so big they require us to take notice, to fine tune, to figure out this new place of balance. It’s like we think we are doing everything right and living a healthy purposeful life because we are doing all the right things. But if our small universe ignores what’s happening in the big universe, we can topple into the abyss.

Seasonal changes reflect large shifts in the energy of the universe, especially during spring and fall. For our small universe to adapt, we need to pay more focused attention to body, mind, and spirit.

I knew I was out of balance. I started paying attention to my liver, adding more water so the wood could grow and supporting the earth so the water could get to the wood. I increased my yin-yang water, cut out coffee (I know!), and made a point to generate enough heat through exercise (transforming blockages). But most importantly, because most health issues start with emotions, I focused on what made me happy and on gratitude for all that was good in my life –or in a particular day- I also shared my fears about work, life, and my health with Mountain Man. These things helped. The emotions of gratitude and happiness are the antidotes to fear and anger. I am feeling mostly stable again. I am flowing nicely downstream and am not so wobbly. Last on the list are more green foods. I can’t seem to get enough kale, spinach, and nutritional yeast right now – all lightly sautéed. I’m going with it. Other things that feel good: Dandelion tea, supplementing with Silymarin (milk thistle which is good for the liver), planning meals, more qigong, and playing outside. My intuition did guide me to tune into these whispers before they became screams. Sometimes it takes a little longer.

Sometimes I chose to ignore what’s best for me, even when my body is trying to get my attention. Sometimes we all do.

If I ignored these symptoms I likely would have developed a cold, nature’s cleanse. My irritability may have escalated like throwing wood on a fire; fuelling stronger emotions potentially shifting into feelings of deep anger. If this flow of negative emotions continued, health challenges would likely flow right along with them. Physical indications of an imbalance in the wood/liver may look like headaches, hormonal imbalances (PMS, hot flashes, or irregular periods), more aches and pains, inflammation, anger, and bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. But by tuning inward and being quiet with my life and my thoughts, space is created for my intuition to be heard. I listened, it may have taken a bit, but I heard.

Let’s turn our attention to wood. Wood in springtime represents growth and renewal. Wood can be rigid and strong or flexible and yielding. Its roots can be deep and penetrating or shallow and superficial. Wood can be hard or soft. Any of these qualities may be required depending on the situation. Imbalance occurs when one quality is present when the opposite may be more appropriate.

When the wood element is in balance, we can be strong when needed yet still be flexible and able to go with the flow. When out of balance, we can experience stress, irritability (guilty), or lose our temper (not yet!). Someone who feels everyone is against them may mean their wood element is out of balance. Spring is the time of planning and planting. Being flexible and able to alter your plans with the changing world and environment may help keep your wood element in balance and ultimately a healthy liver and balanced emotions. For myself, I wasn’t being flexible in some areas of my life. Being okay with a change in plans, a new direction, or things not working perfectly is part of adapting and correcting; seeking the ever elusive balanced state; or to live in flow. 

How are the elements of water and wood showing up in your life? Do you find yourself adapting and balancing as the season changes from winter to spring, or are you feeling somewhat stuck and frustrated with others or situations in your life. I’d love to hear that I’m not alone in the comments!

Love and light,

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  1. Carol Gariano

    So much wisdom here. I am grateful.
    Thank you

    • Sue Crites

      Thank you Carol!

  2. Trudy

    You are not alone dear Sue! Thank you for the gentle reminders on how to remain healthy, whole, and holy during this amazing adventure called life. 💕

    • Sue Crites

      Thank you Trudy!

  3. Cathy C

    Such beautiful insight and wisdom. Helps me make sense of many of the challenges I struggle with. Grateful for you sharing your personal experience and learnings. Grateful for you !

    • Sue Crites

      Thank you Cathy! I’m glad it helped. I’m grateful for you as well!

  4. Karen howes

    thank you Sue for those thought provoking, real words, beautiful . I will reflect on them during these first days of spring, Karen ♥️

  5. Martha Baker

    I certainly appreciate hearing your experience as a longtime SFQ practitioner. I tend to think I’m having a particular challenge because I’m not “doing enough”. Consistently do the SFQ movements with recordings but not so much the meditations. I celebrate your willingness to share your own experience so that I know that even the most experienced SFQ folks have challenges and overcome them. Many thanks!

  6. Jan Gilmer

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences as you transition into the spring season. I so relate to what you are experiencing, especially feelings of frustration and anger which filled me yesterday. Thank you for your wisdom in learning how to connect the dots and find a path forward. So appreciate all that you do.

  7. Ann Graziosi

    Ah, Sue! Spring is a time for planting, yes, but you have taught me to go slowly, gently into spring! I am taking the one warm day, the next cold day as a sign that there is no immediate “start” to anything, but a slow, ever evolving, ever changing process in nature. We must be resilient and adaptable. Go with the flow. And not be rushing spring or summer as it will come as surely as autumn and winter. Thank you, Sue, for helping me appreciate the seasons, my body, and my emotions as part of nature. Not to be controlled, but enjoyed through the ever changing seasons of my life.


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