Living in Harmony with the Seasons: SPRING IS HERE! (Really! I promise!)

I know, I know…The blizzards just dropped over 2 feet of snow on the DC area. Spring?   Really?? YES!  My friends, really truly, spring is arriving! Now!

Little shoots rising up out of frozen soil...

Little shoots rising up out of frozen soil...

Of course, the truth of this statement really depends on what we mean by Spring.  Those 72 degree days and flowers blooming may still be a ways off.  But if we are talking about the return of the light, the season of new growth, the upward rising surge in nature--well friends--we are here!  The ancients paid attention to the land and what was happening and they realized that something creative, punchy and gobsmackingly new begins to happen right about now—the first week of February.  Even though it is still deep underground life is beginning to sprout again.

Nature is starting to wake up after her long winter’s nap.  The birds are beginning to sing.  I have noticed the light returning in the morning.  The sap in the trees is beginning to rise.  If you were to dig underneath the cold soil you would see little plants beginning to sprout-their tiny green shoots starting to push up through the frozen earth.  Even though the earth in many places is still buried in melting snow—this is the rising time.

Just a few weeks ago, my cats were content to curl up and sleep much of the day but now they are acting like loons—dashing about the house chasing each other and using every creative strategy to get out and just leap across the lawn.  We humans may be feeling that way too.  Some call it cabin fever—that feeling of needing to get out and MOVE after the long winter sleep.  If you are feeling that way--punchy, (even a bit irritated!) its not just the endless days at home with the kids while we dug out from the blizzard – it’s the spring time energy rising in you too! 

Spring (which on the Chinese calendar lasts from this first week of February through early May) is a time of action –finally making  manifest all those plans you have been sleeping on all winter.  So often this time of year we get serious about the New Years resolutions we made a few weeks ago.  Usually in February I find myself moving beyond the dreamy phase of vague hopes I muttered on New Years Eve and start sketching out step by step work plans with lists of tasks. I am suddenly ready to take on new work.    We may gain clarity on a situation.   A vision for a new project may take you by surprise or a new solution to a difficult challenge may suddenly come into crisp focus.    That’s spring for you!

This spring time rising energy can feel a bit, well, violent—especially after the restful tranquility of winter.  That’s because that fierce energy that is what is needed to shift the momentum from the quietude and stillness of winter.  It’s the  horse’s leap out of the gate, a swimmer’s explosive dive off the blocks, the leap of a hockey player off the bench as she dashes after the puck.   Fast and furious.

Spring can also be a bit sporadic—maybe even windy.  It moves in bursts and fits. As a result spring time energy is strong and fierce but not always steady.  If you are feeling frustrated with your creativity’s fits and starts, you can be reassured by walking outside and feeling the wind—strong one minute, quiet the next.  Nature is moving that way too.  You will get your groove on, don’t worry. 

The Chinese medical classics tell us that the most important thing we can do to support our wellness is to live in harmony with the seasons.   What does that mean when the roaring windy spring time energy starts moving in us?

1.     Move your body.  You don’t need to suddenly become a gym rat but finding ways to move will help keep this creative energy flowing.  Take a daily walk after lunch, try out some yoga, or simply put on some music and dance a few minutes a day.  If you are more of an exercise buff or you have been dreaming about taking on a physical challenge take care not to push yourself too much!  A classic side effect of this spring time burst of energy is that some people (you know who you are!) can push themselves too much.  Listen to your body and remember that moderation and balance are always the goals!

2.     Stretch.  Physically and Mentally.  In Chinese medicine the spring time energy “governs” the tendons and sinews.  Hence, this is a great time of year to work on your flexibility. (and help prevent injury—see above!)    This applies not only to our bodies but also our minds and our spirits.  Ask yourself—where in life can you be a bit more flexible?  Or where can you stretch yourself in an area of your life where you may be a little uncomfortable.  Embrace new possibilities!  

3.     Create.  Whether it’s something artsy, a project around the house, or a new plan at work—get visionary and create something new.    Take time to get visionary and then make plans and break it down into bite size pieces.    Take action in little bits—write for 20 minutes a day, do at least one tasks on your plan each morning.  You will create a lot of forward momentum that way.

4.     Embrace new possibilities.  Springtime is the spirit of new ideas.  In challenging areas of your life, asking yourself what you might want to try differently this year?  Try seeing things from different perspectives and see what new things get born!  It doesn’t have to be all serious—you can make it a game. 

5.     Sleep.  Wait--What? My advice to sleep may seem a bit out of sync with what I just wrote,but at this time of year it is still so important!  Our minds do their best creative work when we are sleeping—our subconscious brains need the nighttime to process so that we can be deeply creative during the waking hours.  You know that old adage—“Why don’t you sleep on it?”  It comes from the folk wisdom that we are often able to creatively solve problems or find new ways forward AFTER we have given ourselves time to rest and recharge.  When we are feeling all excited and full of energy (or maybe a little stressed out...) it may be tempting to stay up into the wee hours creating or working through to-do lists.  RESIST THE TEMPTATION! I can tell you from both thousands of years of Chinese medicine knowledge and my own personal experience there are few things that will damage the spring time energy in us  (and subsequently our health) like sleep deprivation.  While the human body is marvelous at adapting to lack of sleep in short stints (like when we have a new baby at home) as a long term chronic habit it can create trouble.  So create, be active and move forward on your plans but get thee to bed and sleep a good 7-8 hours a night!  If sleep is difficult it may be time to seek support (acupuncture is a great one!)  to protect your creativity, your ability to move through life efficiently and ultimately your health. 

A note for you if you are just too tired...

This season can be hard for people in our modern American culture.  That’s because we push push push 12 months out of the year.  After a while we run out of steam.  If we don’t allow ourselves to really rest during the winter, we may not have enough energy to really support the rising energy in us come February and it can fall a bit flat—like a a motor that’s having a hard time turning over.    This can lead to us feeling anxious, irritated, or just perpetually off or snappy.  We get started on things but have trouble getting excited about them or have difficulty finishing them.  Creative ideas can fizz out before they get started.  It also may show up as headaches or tightness in our body.  Sometimes it just feels like exhaustion—difficulty finding our motivation—a desire to let the world rise without you.

If that’s the case for you, don’t despair!  Allow yourself to take these first few weeks of spring to rejuvenate. Intersperse your activity with deeply restful  moments—work on your work plan for a few hours and then curl up by the fire with a book or give yourself the gift of a long nap.  You may also want to just continue to embrace winter for a few more weeks and leave the planning until later in the spring.  That’s OK too.  During these first few weeks of a season nature does that too.  It oscillates between the old season and the new.  Of course all this may also be the sign that its time to come in for acupuncture treatment, to get some support and find some balance.  Acupuncture is wonderful at helping people come back to true when we are feeling "off".

Because in our culture, there are so many ways this spring-time energy gets off, I am going to spend some time on the blog and in these newsletters this spring delving a little more deeply into spring energy and how it impacts the body.  Stay tuned.