Extract taken from Facial Enhancement Acupuncture: Clinical Use and Application by Paul Adkins
Spring is the season of the Wood Element, the time of rising yang energy, creativity and birth:
Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass -- innocent, golden, calm as the
The spring's first dandelion shows its trustful face. (Whitman,W. 1888, p.375)
The spring is the time when we look forward to the coming year with optimism and excitement, or rather we should, if our Wood Element is in balance. This season is all about fresh starts and new things bursting into existence, it is seen in the plants and the trees around us and the wildlife coming to life after the long sleep of winter. We should be starting to make plans for the future now, putting to rest memories from the past and looking forward with optimism:
Spring is the time of birth and regeneration. The burst of activity which surges out of the stillness of the winter has no equal elsewhere in the year; there is an energy and dynamic force abroad which brings life and vigour to everything. (Worsley, J.R. 1998, p.1.2)
The spring can be a very lively and noisy time with people starting to go about their business and planning for the new year ahead. The animals are beginning to show more activity in the fields, as the spring lambs bounce around. It is generally a time when things start to happen after the shutdown of the winter months. The gift of this season is the optimism and chance to look to the future. It brings to us an opportunity to start again, to put failure behind us and take a fresh approach to things. Obviously, this only works if we are in balance, as if we are suffering from an imbalance during this season we will find it very hard to plan or look forward; we will have no energy, no drive and no ambition. If we have no vigour then we can become depressed and anxious, these are all signs that something is not right.
Spring is linked with the Wood Element because of the prospects for growth and development. If a tree is not nourished and given a chance to grow, then it will wither and die, very much like the Body and also the Spirit of a person who is suffering from an imbalance. Again, like a tree, we must be able to bend and be flexible, adapting to things that may come our way. We must stay strong and rooted, but supple enough to give a little, should the need arise:
And so the tree grows according to its destiny, in harmony with the seasons, in constant battle with the natural forces. As it grows strong, the winds and weather do it less harm. The tree maintains enough flexibility to sway in the wind, yet stays firmly rooted in the ground. (Herrmann, C-M. 2000, p.180)
The Wood Element will show itself as someone who is well motivated and organised, someone who is a scrupulous planner; perhaps they might be self-employed or a director of a company, a person used to having things mapped out ahead of them. They are people who like to be pushed and their abilities tested and stretched. A Wood Element will be totally dedicated to anything that he or she pursues. This may be to do with work or the family; it can be taken literally to the point where that person would lay down their life for that cause. If we look at an historical example, we could see this devotion in Joan of Arc who, being so totally dedicated to what she believed in, became a martyr.
The spring is truly a time for inspiration, when things look more positive than perhaps at any other time of the year, this is the time when we can achieve and get things done:
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. (King James Version, Song of Solomon 2:10-13)
The emotion that is linked with the Wood Element is that of anger or lack of anger. When a Wood Element is in balance, this emotion will not necessarily be portrayed as the usual idea of anger, but perhaps more as a forcefulness of wanting to get things done, not tolerating laziness or sloppiness. Whereas, a lack of anger will come across as someone who is very timid and they may appear to have had the stuffing knocked out of them.
The sound that relates to this Element is that of shouting and patients with a constitutional imbalance may have a clipped or loud voice:
The voice of thunder is heard and through the Spring Equinox, the yang makes its victorious rise more visible. Celebrations are in the making and everyone is excited, pushed on with a slight feverishness. The songs of the workers rise in harmony with this awakening of spring. These are the aspects of the second month: the Awakening of Insects and the Spring Equinox. (Larre, C. 1994, p.28)
The Yin and Yang of this can be seen in the patient that may struggle to be heard.
The Officials of the Wood Element
Within each Element there are organs, also known as Officials, which process, store and distribute vital energy. Their functions are very specific and it is this, rather than the physical properties of each, that works to maintain life.
The Wood Element has two Officials: the Liver and Gall Bladder. They can be likened to the architect and the site foreman on a building site, one makes the plans and the others make the decisions on how to put these plans into progress.
The Liver is the ‘Official of Planning’; this manifests itself in the Body, Mind and Spirit. We must all have a plan, be it long-term or short-term, otherwise we would lack direction and meander aimlessly. The Liver Official is always evident in a Wood Element as they are very serious planners. They usually have everything mapped out to the finest detail, they will also have a contingency plan prepared for those times when things do not go quite as they expected. A Wood Element in balance will have all the angles covered. When things are planned to this degree it can give us the peace of mind to be able to relax, as we know we have all eventualities under control.
The Body has many contingency plans of its own that spring into action when they are required. When we cut ourselves, a plan is launched that begins to clot our blood. There are many plans that are in place, which release hormones into our system when our reserves are becoming depleted. Another example of a plan, this time solely in women, is that of the menstrual cycle. This is a plan that is regular when we are in balance, as soon as we suffer an imbalance these plans go out of the window and the menstrual cycle can become irregular or can even cease.
The Liver carries on planning for our futures and without this service we would flounder and lose direction. This Official also gives us the power to be flexible, when things do not quite go to plan, the Liver will give us the adaptability to change them. When there is an imbalance, any change of strategy, such as this, would be devastating and we would not be able to cope. The ability to plan is more important than ever to our Spirit, we need to be able to look to the long-term and we want to be able to realize the goals that we have set for ourselves. Without this capacity to organise our lives and look ahead, it could almost feel like we have no reason to exist.
The Liver is the Official responsible for managing the flow of Qi and also Blood. An imbalance would emanate in the Mind as an inability to move forward, a feeling of being stuck in the same place and eventually becoming stagnant, as nothing is moving. On a more physical level, an imbalance may show in the form of anaemia or some other blood disorders. It may also be evident in poor circulation, as the Blood is not flowing freely to the extremities of the body. This in turn can cause poor joint conditions and arthritis, also the nails on the fingers and toes usually show signs of being in a poor condition, these are obviously at the extremities and not receiving the circulation that is required.
The gall bladder weighs 3 liang and 3 chu, is 3 ts’un long and lies within the shorter leaf of the liver... It can hold 3 ho of liquid essence (bile). The gall bladder's spirit is Lung Yao "splendor of the dragon," its epithet is "the stately and the radiant one," and its shape isthat of a hybrid of turtle and snake. (Wallnofer, H. and Von Rottauscher, A. 1965, pp.82- 84)
The Gall Bladder is the ‘Official of Decision Making and Judgment’. It is the Official that converts the plans into actual decisions, it excels in making choices and, of course, if this Official is suffering from an imbalance then the opposite applies and decisions will be very difficult to make.
Our whole existence involves decision making on one level or another. On the physical side, for every movement that we make, a decision has to be made as to which direction, or how much weight, or when, can that arm or leg move. That is why people whose Gall Bladder is not functioning correctly might show signs of movement disabilities or stiffness of the joints. Obviously, decision making is more evident in a Mind situation and without this Official functioning to its best capability, the person will stagnate and be unable to make any decisions - they will flounder without any direction or purpose. They may also resort to being very judgmental about others, they will have a fixed idea of how they think things should be and there is no room for reason or discussion over the matter.
The Gall Bladder is one of the most influential Officials in the body, becoming involved with all of the others; it directs and organizes the rest: ‘In Chinese medicine the Gall Bladder is said to be the only Official who works with pure essence; all of the others either store or come into contact with polluted or dirty energy.’ (Worsley, J.R. 1998, p10.10)
Western medicine sometimes removes the Gall Bladder in cases of disease and the patient can live a normal healthy life, but if that is the case why do we have the organ in the first place? From this perspective, the Gall Bladder carries out the function of storing bile, which it regulates to the Small Intestine. Without the Gall Bladder the bile still flows to the Small Intestine, but in more of a drip-feed manner, rather than a regulated flow. Personally, I think I will try to retain my Gall Bladder. This decision follows what I, and medical doctors, considered to be a recent Gall Bladder issue. I had been experiencing some considerable pain under my ribs in the area of the Gall Bladder and after some treatment with acupuncture and adjustments to my diet I paid a visit to the doctor. They agreed with the diagnosis and I was sent for various scans and tests. The curious thing was that during the whole time I was suffering with the pain, my decision making process had gone to pieces; a ‘headless chicken’ comes to mind I could not make a decisive decision about anything.
Following the scans and regular acupuncture, my Gall Bladder had settled down and I felt quite strongly that, given the choice, I would not want to part with mine and face a life of indecisiveness.
© Copyright 2013 Paul Adkins Lic.Ac., BA(Hons), 1st Dan, FEA, MBAcC, MCAUK
Herrmann, C-M. (2000) The Five Elements Volume I: The Movement of Life Through Body, Mind and Spirit. Coventry: Paul Coughlin Ltd.
Larre, C. (1994) The Way of Heaven Neijing suwen chapters 1 and 2, translated by Firebrace, P. Cambridge: Monkey Press
Wallnofer, H. and Von Rottauscher, A. (1965) Chinese Folk Medicine and Acupuncture, translated by Marion Palmedo. New York: Bell Publishing Company, Inc.
Whitman, W. (1888) ‘The First Dandelion.’ in The Complete Poems of Walt Whitman. (1995) Hare: Wordsworth Editions Ltd.
Worsley, J. R. (1998) Classical Five-Element Acupuncture Volume III: The Five Elements and the Officials. J. R. & J.B Worsley