I’ve written before about Chinese Medicine’s approach to emotions, how each organ system holds both virtue and vice, and how it is all connected to different seasons. Here I’m going to discuss the wonderful dichotomy of Spring and its partner organ, the Liver.

Spring is the season of contradiction. The winds of change rattle the ever irritable liver, the organ associated with anger and frustration. When the energy of the organ is inflamed or oppressed, a person can become unpredictably volatile or militantly obedient. We look to the liver when one suffers from paralyzing depression, uncontrollable rage, or just simmering, threatening, persistent irritability. We live in a society, or really , a world, that pokes at the liver with every turn. Work more, process your feelings less, do what I say, sleep when you have time. A relentless pursuit of basic human needs throws us into survival mode, thus the energy in the body stagnates.

But the very same organ and channel system, that one energy zone, also holds our capacity for vision, aspiration, and planning. The opposing sides of the liver exist much like our autonomic nervous system, composed of both our sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. One inhibits the other in action, but the two depend on each other for survival. We cannot thrive in only one state of being. In fight or flight, our sympathetic system temporarily turns off our rest and digest capabilities; there’s no time to have a snack when you’re running from a bear. Similarly, our parasympathetic nervous system relies on our sympathetic nervous system’s consideration, hoping it will step down and give rest a chance.

The liver requires blood and a healthy flow of qi to thrive. These essential commodities are gained in sleep, quiet restoration such as meditation, and nourishing foods. Without the balance of self care, the liver energy becomes unbalanced, and we may find ourselves looking for a fight without any plan of how to win it.

The liver is the body’s general, I like to picture mine as a kung fu master. It’s a seasoned warrior, skillful with bow, sword, and shield. But like any mysterious strategist, she is often found sipping a hot beverage, her shoulders relaxed, as she looks out over something so simple that most would miss its beauty. She’s prepared for battle at every turn, but she never misses an opportunity to rest.

Spring brings life to the point of chaos. There are distractions in every direction, and choosing where we set our sights can feel impossible. Let’s not look for answers when we are in flight. Take a quiet moment in a neutral space and trust the breath that frees your ribs, fills your belly, and stills your mind. It’s forming the plan by creating space for clarity, and any endeavor is lost if we have no vision.

Kari Napoli, L.Ac.

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