Flow with the Spring Season

Flow with the Spring Season

According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), a happy and comfortable life is, for the large part, the result of carefully adjusting oneself to the prevailing external and internal circumstances – “going with the flow” so to speak.

I will write more of the various flows of life that affect us another time, but today I want to talk about the flow of the Spring.

Seasons affect us, whether we notice it or not. In the winter, everything is slow and quiet, withdrawn, lying deep within, waiting and recuperating. In the winter  nature dies, or hibernates.

Spring, on the other hand, is a time for renewal and growth.

Waking up

Come Spring, and  nature bursts into life. First hesitantly, then with full force.

The same happens with us humans. We start waking up, at first awkwardly and sometimes painstakingly, from the long slumber of  winter.

To help us wake up and get moving, we want to introduce some gentle movement into our life. Early Spring  is not yet the time to go crazy and start training for the next Iron Man Challenge –  instead what we want to do is head out to the woods for a brisk walk. Trees and the Spring go hand in hand, and the woods give us the space we need for quiet reflection and introspection.

Exercise should include movement and stretching to open up the muscles and loosen the tendons; breathing in the fresh spring air, relaxing and spending more time outdoors.

Be careful about sweating in the Wind though, for Spring is a vulnerable time and it is easy to catch a cold when the weather suddenly changes.

Cleaning up

We do a spring clean in the house, but hopefully also in the mind and in the body. The winter has weighed us down in all sorts of different ways. We have been eating heavy foods, we’ve been eating lots, we might have been drinking more than usual. Physically we’ve probably been quite inactive and are now feeling heavy and burdened by it all.

It can feel difficult to move from a season of inactivity to a season of light and movement. It can feel unpleasant to look at all the dust and rubbish collected in the house, in the mind, in the body, now revealed by the bright sunlight.

But you needn’t worry! If you accept Spring for what it is, and accept that there might be a little bit of actual work you need to do yourself, you get your metaphoric cleaning bucket out and get to work.

Many people like to fast in the Spring. TCM does not usually recommend fasting, instead we have other, gentler ways of cleansing the body.

  • Eat simple meals: avoid complicated recipes and combinations of too many ingredients.  Just your spuds,  fish,  beans,  meat and greens.
  • Prepare your food in a light and simple way: simmering briefly, or steaming or stir-frying.
  • Avoid heavy, greasy foods. This means laying off butter, cream, dairy products and fatty red meats.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Avoid too much sugar and carbohydrates.
  • Avoid hot and spicy foods.
  • Avoid stimulants: coffee, alcohol, any drugs you don’t need for a health condition.
  • Eat in moderation, stop eating when you are 70% full.

These simple changes help your body to clear and clean out unnecessary rubbish, “toxins”, and even excess weight.

Time for change

Spring is a season of change and by its nature is changeable and somewhat unsettled. Spring winds bring rapid changes in the weather and you never quite know what to wear.

Similarly in the human mind, Spring can be an unsettled time and bring about unexpected changes of mood. It can be hard to predict how you are going to feel from one moment to another.

Resisting change that is needed can make Spring a difficult time to get through. That is when we need to find a way of relaxing, softening, looking inwards and understanding what the change is that we are fearing or don’t want to make.

In a positive way, Spring is the time for newness, for changing direction, for changing what does not work for you any longer. It is the time for new projects to start and old ones to be abandoned.

During walking, or meditation, or even walking meditation, we can reflect and listen to ourselves, to identify the rubbish and dust we don’t want to carry any longer and to hatch a plan to get rid of it.

  • Are there any old emotions or emotional burdens you are carrying, that are weighting you down and could be better written out into your journal and left there?
  • Are there attitudes and habits that have shaped your life but are not serving you well any longer, if they ever did?
  • Are there relationships, activities, hobbies or duties that do not benefit you any more?
  • Is the environment you are living in the right one for you, or is it time to move on?

Use the energy of the Spring to fuel your new direction!  At Spring time we are able to come up with new ideas, we can plan, we can organise.

We can get ready to enjoy the summer, to enjoy life..

The 气 Qi* of Spring is light and upward moving.

Whilst the natural movement of  Winter is inward and downward,  Spring stretches up and outwards.  Time to shake off the cobwebs!

In diet this manifests in eating increasing amounts of

  • Fresh, leafy greens.
  • New growth, such as sprouts or fresh new growth nettles
  • Pungent tasting foods: mint, chives, rosemary, scallions, garlic, ginger, watercress
  • Sweet and pungent flavours: baby turnips, peas, spinach, legumes and seeds.

You should avoid using too much salt. Salt is heavy, it slows things down and weighs you down. It works the opposite way to the energy of  Spring.

*Qi is a technical term in TCM denoting something loosely translatable as ‘energy’.

肝 Gan – the Liver organ system

In TCM, Spring is related to the organ system which is called “Gan”, or Liver in English.

In practice this means that problems relating to the Gan often manifest during the Spring, but can also be open to treatment during that time.

I will write more about Gan another time, for now it is enough to know that various pain conditions such as headaches and migraines, IBS and other digestive problems, various menstrual irregularities including PMS and PMT, dream disturbed or otherwise interrupted sleep, depression, mood swings and angry outbursts, are common problems associated with the Gan organ system and hence prone to cause problems during Spring time.

Gan is vulnerable to wind and in the strong winds of the Spring it is important to protect yourself against them by wearing appropriate clothing. Wind, in TCM terms, interrupts the healthy functioning of the person and can cause problems of even very serious kinds, such as stroke!

Self care for Spring in a nutshell

Activity:

  • Relaxing, gentle movement outdoors: walking in the woods, stretching. Seeking reflection and softening of the mind and body.
  • Reflective meditation
  • Cleaning, cleansing。
  • Leaving the old and looking for the new.

Dietary advice for Spring:

  • Prepare your foods quickly and in a simple manner: steam, stir-fry, simmer briefly
  • Eat until only 70% full
    Spring diet in a nutshell
    Foods to eatFoods to avoid
    Simple meals
    Fresh, green vegetables
    New growth
    Sweet and pungent flavours
    Heavy, greasy, fatty foods
    Processed foods
    Coffee, alcohol, drugs
    Sugars, white flour
    Hot, spicy foods
    Excess salt

Spring nettle soup recipe for you to enjoy

Collect only the light green, fresh new leaves. You’ll want to be wearing rubber gloves and long sleeves! Be careful not to use nettles from the roadside or otherwise polluted area.

IngredientsMethod
3 gloves of garlic
1 onion
400g potatoes
1 tblsp olive oil
200g nettles
1l of vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
1. Heat olive oil in the sauce pan and saute the garlic and onion until soft and translucent.
2. Add chopped potatoes and stir for about 5 minutes
3. Add the stock and simmer for 15min.
4. Wash the nettles
5. Add nettles and let the wilt for a couple of minutes.
6. Liquidise and add the juice of lemon.
7. Season with salt and pepper.