By Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC
Spring is an enlivening time of year as it welcomes the increasing flow of atmospheric yang energy back into our body-minds and daily routines. The sun warms and energizes, hardness melts, seeds sprout, fauna and flora in all colour and character flourish and express. Internal work unravelled from winter’s past transform into active goals as visualization and manifestation bloom into reality. Indoor stretching, strengthening, and mindful meditation routines may move towards morning outdoor walks, biking, jogging, journalling, chanting or yang type breath-work.
What’s exciting about Spring is that it’s symbolic of new life, expansion, and renewal. Instincts toward living life as aligned to your true nature are put into motion by learning how to tap into constitutional balancing with Spring’s routines and rhythms. There’s a lot you can do to shift towards growing deep seeds of potential from winter, to flourish, thrive, and prosper. The following post highlights how to move with Spring as it corresponds to the wood element and liver health. We’ll focus on liver processes in harmony and disease, mental-emotional correspondences, and how to take care of your liver health, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
“The Liver, whose Qi is akin to the phase of Wood moves and arouses the mind by allowing tension and pressure to build. As spring initiates the rising of sap in the trees, so the Liver lifts the Blood and Qi. Alternately gathering and releasing the Blood, the liver modulates the intensity and force of all motion and process.” - Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac., and Efrem Korngold, L.Ac., O.M.D.
BEFORE WE BEGIN: Clarifying the Chinese Medicine term ‘Organ’
When acupuncturists refer to a specific organ we are describing a system of interrelated physiological functions and senses, meridian and paired organ processes, mind-body-spirit aspects, and cosmic-seasonal resonances that collectively refer to one’s inner-external state of balance and patterns. This is unlike western medicine, which focuses on physiological functions related to anatomical structures in health and disease.
THE LIVER SYSTEM
The liver is predominantly known for being in charge of the smooth flow of qi (vital energy) and cleansing of emotions throughout the entire body-mind.
Here is a review of its main functions & relations:
Ensures the clearing, opening, and free flow of qi pathways throughout the entire body.
Stores the blood, distributes it as needed, cleanses and nourishes blood (yin) at rest. Liver blood nourishes the spirit, which is stored in the heart, and houses the ethereal soul.
Controls the sinews (tendons), joints, and ligaments. Liver blood nourishes the sinews.
Manifests in the nails and lustre of head hair as a reflection of quality of blood.
Opens into the eyes and controls tears.
Related to the emotion anger and overall emotional cleansing.
Peak energy flow of the liver occurs at 1 - 3 am, and the gallbladder between 11 - 1 am.
Related to the spring season, the sense of sight, rancid smell, the sour flavour, and the shouting sound.
The liver’s yang paired organ is the gallbladder. The gallbladder stores and releases bile, controls judgement, courage to make a decision, and supplies qi to the sinews (joints, tendons) with the liver.
Houses the hun (spirit of the liver; ethereal soul). As a source of inspiration for fulfilling life’s purpose. Enters at birth and leaves the body at death.
The wood element rules the liver and gallbadder. Mental relations include clarity, judgment, foresight, decision, planning, organizing, and action.
“The ethereal soul facilitates the ability of a person to wait and observe situations, relationships, or emotional conditions until the time is ripe for action, when courage is needed.” - Jason Robertson
LIVER IMBALANCE MANIFESTATIONS
Liver energy can become stagnated with perceived and non-perceived chronic stress, extreme or repressed emotions (especially anger), alcohol, drugs, environmental and self care toxins, pesticides and hormones in foods, overeating, and too much rich, greasy, spicy, sour, or denatured food.
The following symptoms and conditions may be reflective of a constitutional wood element imbalance (deficient or excess) and/or the following TCM syndrome patterns: qi and blood stagnation, yang rising, damp heat, internal wind, liver-spleen disharmony, and/or liver blood or yin deficiency patterns. Consult with your acupuncturist to learn more.
Stress-hormone and reproductive imbalances: Estrogen dominance or imbalance, fibroids, menorrhagia, PCOS, hyper and hypo thyroid disorders (and swinging between), high cortisol and sympathetic nervous system tone, PMS, PMDD, breast pain, and infertility.
Digestive: Acid reflux or regurgitation, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Head , face, ears, and eyes: Skin breakouts between the eyes or temple area, eye disorders (eye movement or optic nerve disorders), photosensitivity, dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, ear pain, vertex and temple headaches or migraines, cluster and lateral headaches, migraines behind the eyes, and eye tearing.
Circulatory and neurological: High blood pressure, tremors, epilepsy, strokes, and blood clotting disorders.
Musculoskeletal: Chest or diaphragm constriction, TMJ, sciatica on sides of the body, pain in tendons/joints/ligaments, pain on sides of the body, upper trap tension (neck and shoulders), muscle spasms or twitching, and migratory pain that comes and goes.
Other: Circadian rhythm imbalances, insomnia, dryness, low libido, impotence, genital itching, hypoglycaemia, nerve inflammation, boils, cold hands/feet and hot head, green complexion, nail disorders, and sour or rancid body odour.
”The liver’s coordinating action is expressed through the nervous system. The smooth efficient action of neurons and chemical messengers may be seen as the liver smoothing the flow of qi throughout the body-mind.” - Daverick Leggett
Mental-emotional: Chronic stress, ‘tired but wired’ feelings or burnout, eating disorders, erratic eating patterns, substance abuse, dependence on stimulants and sedatives, emotional imbalances or extremes, discomfort with relaxation, anger (repressed, intense, or prolonged), frustration, impatience, tension, depression, creativity blocks, ADHD, lack of clarity, poor judgment and foresight, indecisiveness, emotional upsets with environmental wind and heat.
Spiritual: Lack of purpose in one’s life, absence of goals and vision, .
“All chronic illness is a symptom of the personality’s resistance to the soul’s purpose in this life.” – Dr. Edward Bach
EXPLORING THE LIVER MENTAL-EMOTIONAL REALM
As Spring unfolds, our outer shell from winter’s hibernation peels back layers with each new day towards the upmost yang season of summer. This isn’t always an easy process. Exposing insight and unresolved feelings up and out from winter’s depth can bring up feelings of being stuck, blocks, mood swings, angry outbursts, and un-groundedness. If winter’s attuning nature of slowing down was neglected in favour of a go-go-go lifestyle, one may struggle with burnout and immune system imbalance regardless of the atmospheric boost that spring provides.
As mentioned, the primary emotion that resonates and stirs things up with the up and out energy of Spring is anger. According to Chinese medicine a liver pathology can result in anger and anger itself can cause a liver imbalance. As a transformative emotion, anger is often linked to feelings of frustration, impatience, and irritability, as well as underlying degrees of sadness, anxiety, fatigue, inadequacy, and abandonment.
”I strongly believe that chronic, uncontrolled anger can lead to serious illness. . . This doesn’t mean ‘control’ in the sense that we bottle up our anger. Instead, it means finding appropriate ways to view the situation (the function of the heart spirit) and direct our actions (courage) accordingly. “ - Dr. Wang Ju - Yi
ANGER AND E-MOTIONS AS TRANSFORMATIVE FORCES
It’s culturally indicative that anger is ‘too much’, a sign of instability or craziness, and that expressing it over choosing to respond is cheap and easy. As there is a duality to every emotion, positively, anger is a force that yearns for transformation. It often surfaces in situations where there is an energetic need to move through great difficulty with determination and drive. It also presents if boundaries are crossed, and in return the emotion moves toward, “This is what I am worth, this is what I deserve, and I can voice how I feel.”
Linked and underlying feelings such as worry, sadness, inadequacy or insecurities, and fatigue, symbolize being stuck with an underlying theme that is holding you back from reaching your full potential. This could include subconscious habits that were passed down from parents, unhappiness at work, and lifestyle routines that stagnate your purpose and drain your reserves. As a result, your spirit bubbles with these anger expressions as a way to say, “I’m ready to let go of that which no longer serves me, towards that which aligns to my core values, truths, inner desires, and passions.”
Ultimately, at one’s spiritual level anger is information that screams from your soul’s craving for a transformation from unhealthy patterns, lack of self care, and unresolved experiences. It is a messenger to spark the change that you’re worthy of.
Note: This post is not intended to validate aggression and abusive behaviour. If you are involved in extreme anger situations please reach out and seek support.
MOVING FROM ANGER TOWARDS BENEVOLENCE
Expressing anger and associated feelings is important because it allows our energy system to cleanse and flow with ease as available nourishment for interrelated systems. Stagnant energy from unresolved anger results in erratic energy flow, manifesting in physical ailments such as joint and tendon disorders, headaches, menstrual disorders, depression, and self-destructive behaviour.
The first step towards expressing anger safely is awareness of anger expressions, both in triggered situations and habitual reactions. Some helpful hints throughout this process include taking a step back to look at the big picture, pausing, and the practice of responding rather than reacting. For example, I’m feeling triggered or emotional and I need some time before I respond to you. Or, “When you ___ I feel/felt___ because___.” And, ”That was harsh, what I would like to hear is ____ [for example, I’m proud of how hard you’re trying].”
"When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind." - Dr. Wayne Dyer
With practice, baby steps, and more practice, anger reveals it’s kinship with compassion. We learn that it feels better to be kind than to be right. To be open to humbleness, forgiveness, taking self-responsibility, and to saying, “I see some truth in that.” Ultimately, as individuals we have the power to choose how to act and respond, and the ultimate transformational remedy for anger, aside from feeling and expressing, is practicing kindness and love. Grow through it and transform for yourself, and the people you love.
“If you try to get rid of fear and anger without knowing their meaning, they will grow stronger and return.” - Deepak Chopra
The takeaway: Anger and emotions are a part of you but they don’t define who you are. Emotions (energy in motion) are messengers that light the way along your journey towards who you are becoming, your most authentic self. Acupuncture, counselling, herbal medicine, and nutrition can help guide the way through.
Here are two helpful posts that have practices for expressing anger safely in relationships:
Learning to Soothe an Abandonment Wound with Anxious Style Attachment
How to Heal an Abandonment Wound
Self-care and self-love habits offer solutions to imbalances. Read on to explore some nourishing rituals and routines and practice a few that resonate with you.
RITUALS TO NOURISH + REJUVINATE LIVER ENERGY:
Walking and stretching are essential for liver health to help circulate qi and to prevent stagnation. Movement brings qi into all muscles and tendons, encouraging lymphatic flow, stress balancing, and purpose. Grounding your feet on the earth can amplify energetic balancing.
Competitive sports, martial arts, and art therapy can be beneficial as an outlet for anger and resentment.
Listen to classical music or chill hip hop to support free flow of liver-gallbladder energy.
Bring order and organization into your life through cleansing your home space. Detoxing your environment brings clarity to mental-emotional health. Consider creating a ‘Wardrobe Capsule’ or watch ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ for inspiration.
Abstain from addictive substances, such as refined sugar, alcohol, marijuana, and hallucinogens.
Practice released diaphragmatic breathing to release constrained liver energy. Hormone expert Dr. Sara Gottfried suggests the following breathing exercise for stuck energy in the diaphragm. “Exhale all the air in your lungs, then pull the abdomen up and under the rib cage while holding the exhale. Hold the breath for a few counts (aim for 10 - 15 seconds). Next you release the abdomen after a gentle pause. The process is repeated for several rounds, then resume normal breath. This releases chronic tension and tightness in the core.”
Explore expressing yourself creatively. Remember to rest and relax to balance the drive toward creating, expressing, and implementing goals.
Green crystals such as jade, and the essential oils of rosemary, chamomile, lemon, and frankincense, are especially supportive of liver energy.
Reflect on your life’s plan and purpose as aligned to your values and mission. Vision boards and future self journalling (see above) are great tools for this.
Liver-gallbladder nutrition tips.
MANTRAS TO SUPPORT THE WOOD ELEMENT
Choose a few from the list below to practice as daily self-talk or during meditation. While you practice the following mantras, routinely connect to the emotion that embodies how you want to feel. This will amplify the vibrational frequency that you want to match.
I am safe and choose a new way to experience myself as separate from my ego.
I see some truth in that and the reality of the situation.
What another has done to me, I have done to another in some form.
It is what it is.
I direct my energies to achieve my goals.
I know where I am going and how I am getting there.
Step by step I am moving in the right direction.
Set backs are natural and teach me further. I get right back on track.
I have the ability, I have the determination, I believe in myself and I can do this.
I enjoy my unique creativity.
I love to express myself in creative ways.
I enjoy my own imaginative responses to the world as I see and feel it.
I make peace with my past. I accept my (and others) humanness, let go, and embrace my current reality.
I let it go and let it flow to let it grow.
I’m so sorry we had to do it this way. Please forgive me, thank you, I love you. - Ho'oponopono prayer
I enjoy solving problems and finding solutions.
I can do and feel difficult things.
I move past my mind every day.
I can and allow myself to say no; other’s don’t have to agree with me.
Other peoples emotions are not my responsibility.
I enjoy being calm when others around me are not; another cannot take my power away.
I can respond rather than react to other’s perceptions, considering that what they say is a mirror reflection of themselves, or as material for growth.
I exercise self control and determination.
For nutritional guidance please refer to the following posts:
Spring Nutrition Tips
Change of Season Soup
I hope my post has given you insight today. If you’re interested in nutrition and acupuncture I’d be happy to guide you along. Please visit www.vcaspa.com to book online or call 250-590-4341. To learn more about my acupuncture practice, follow @hayley_stobbs on Instagram.
Wishing you love & vitality,
Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC
Acupuncture For Stress + Anxiety
Optimizing Circadian Rhythm For Well-Being: 10 Tips
Balance Your Menstrual Cycle With Acupuncture
Acupuncture For Thyroid Health
Leggett, Daverick. Helping Ourselves: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics. Totnes, England: Meridian Press, 1994.
Pitchford, Paul. Healing With Whole Foods. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2002.
Hicks, Angela; Hicks, John; Mole, Peter.Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture.Churchill Livingstone, 2011.
Robertson, Jason D. Applied Channel Theory In Chinese Medicine. Seattle, Washington: Eastland Press Inc., 2008.
Hayley Stobbs shares general Chinese medicine, nutrition, and health information solely for informational purposes of the reader. The contents displayed are not intended to offer individual medical advise, diagnosis or treatment. Information by the blog author is not a substitute for medical care and if you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider first and foremost.