This Spring will be like no other. Of course, each Spring is unique – in some ways. This one promises to be unlike all others in many and momentous ways.
The shoots we see emerging come Spring arise from root work that happened over the Winter. The nature of each Spring is partly determined by the nature of the root work that preceded it. Events this Winter unleashed powerful forces. So it’s easy to predict we’ll see more gusty – and gutsy – forces blowing this Spring.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be a collision course. One way to learn about conflicting currents is to watch how they play out in the natural world. This is actually the basis of Asian healing arts like acupuncture.
We acupuncturists say that in each of us, as in the natural world, the creativity of Spring comes from opposites mixing it up. Light and dark, yin and yang, hot and cold, left and right, in and out, self and other — all these distinctions show up more clearly come Spring. Sometimes the differences between opposite polarities is so extreme we can’t see both at the same time.
One way or another, opposites have to come together to create what comes next. We humans are not so different from trees whose blossoms only germinate with breezes or bees rustling their branches, rearranging their petals and their pollen. We reproduce only through some sort of combination of opposite sorts of DNA. Creativity on any level germinates only with the input of material from other sources. Humans, plants, animals, even our planet. Every living being came to be as a result of opposites coming together in some way. That’s the only way life moves forward.
Come Spring, we find our creative urges waking up from their Winter’s nap. In the words of poet Piet Hien:
The lilacs are flowering, sweet and sublime, with a perfume that goes to the head; and lovers meander in prose and rhyme trying to say - for the thousandth time - what’s easier done than said.
But the vigorous creativity of Spring is not always gentle. Opposite forces often clash and wrestle. Wind is our name for what gets stirred up when opposites clash. It blows with fits and starts and can change direction in the blink of an eye.
This year, a lot of opposites started showing up in extreme ways before Spring started. Not just politically but climactically – and globally. Weather patterns have broken records going back decades. Droughts and floods. ‘Bombogenesis’ and ‘thundersnow.’ Collisions of high and low pressure systems, warm and cold fronts stirring up serious storms. And this Spring is not in full swing yet.
So here are some bits we know from the natural world about how to thrive in the Spring:
Movement is key
Can’t keep still when it’s windy. Brittle branches break in a big blow. Say that sentence three times fast and feel how the air blasts out of you mouth as you do – that’s the energy of Spring! Not always smooth. But forceful. Like the ‘Putt Putt Putt’ of an outboard motor that shoots water back to propel a boat forward. Push me, pull you – we experience a lot of that in the Springtime. And if we don’t move with it, things get gnarly real fast. More on this later.
Contrasts are contrary – there’s no getting around it. And there’s no avoiding them come Spring.
Fireworks, fighting – and ironies – abound when extreme contrasts come together. Trying to hold still in the midst of this only makes for whiplash and carnage. And not just physically. If we cling to what was or think things can stay as they are, injury is inevitable when the winds of change start to blow. Spring reminds us that one constant in the universe is constant change.
And – here’s the secret that makes Asian Healing Arts so potent – nothing is ever just one thing. We are always both light and dark, yin and yang, hot and cold. Lean back now and then to take in the big picture. We have to, to go get a good view of the fireworks. Irony is often our first glimpse of opposites showing up in the same place. Shifting back and forth from close in to big picture viewing can help us develop perspective – and catch our breath along the way.
Our urge to create needs outlets. When we don’t know how to engage with the forces swirling around us, open the windows and let the wind blow through. Growing up in the Midwest, I learned that the best way to protect your house in a tornado is to open the windows. Counter-intuitive as this may seem, closing them risks greater damage. Sometimes we’re better off waiting out a storm rather than engaging with every gust. Effective steps become clearer when the wind settles a bit. Even if it’s only a moment’s calm before it starts ripping again.
Distinctions between self and other can get real touchy come spring. When we don’t recognize the contrary opposites wrestling within ourselves, we look for someone or something outside ourselves to blame for our discomfort. Sound familiar? We make cruel choices whenever we make the mistake of thinking we can separate ourselves from the opposition. Better to notice how opposites combine to create movement. Like the outboard motor pushing water back to propel the boat forward. Or how brilliantly a small light penetrates darkness. Or the ‘strength made perfect in weakness.’
Notice your reactivity
Our own reactivity can get in our way big time come Spring. This time of year we can get so itchy we want to jump out of our skin. In fact, allergies are one example: We can react so strongly to irritants that we over-produce histamines til they make us congested and miserable. Antihistamines don’t get rid of irritants, by the way, they just counter our histamine response.
These in-out, self-other distinctions are key to thriving come Spring. And it’s not just physical things like pollen that ‘get under our skin.’ We can get reactive in the presence of any input that is too toxic or just too much. Too much news, for instance, or too many announcements. Tweets are an especially ‘Windy’ form of communication: Fast, abrupt and changeable. All of which encourage us to react rather than to respond from our highest and best self.
Think of a tree. For it’s trunk to stay steady, its branches need to move freely with the wind. For us to maintain the integrity of our core selves, we need to let things blow and shift around easily at our edges. And in a strong wind, even our core may have to lean a bit to stay strong and not snap. Flexibility allows it to easily return to its own particular upright shape after a big blow. And move around obstacles – ever seen how a tree grows right through a fence or sidewalk that showed up between it and the sun?
Wherever we find ourselves stiff come Spring, imagination helps. Imagining a movement or stretch you don’t feel up to can actually expand your range of motion. Try this next time you’ve been sitting in one position too long: Imagine – without moving a muscle – the movement you’d like to make or the step you want to take. Breathing fully and gently, fill out your imagination with as much sensory detail as you can muster.
You may be amazed by how much more easily you move after doing this a few times! We say in our business that ‘Qi (life-force energy) follows mind.’ So energy starts flowing thru your tendons and ligaments as you imagine them moving. This imaginary exercise helps prevent the painful strains and pulls that can trip us up in Spring training exercises. And it works on mental as well as physical levels. Try it next time you’re up against an obstacle and can’t see a way around it.
Stretch to detox
A little gentle stretching after vigorous movement is also important when we’re moving in new ways. Think of trees gently nodding to each other after the wind dies down. Moving shakes loose toxins trapped in our muscle tissues. That’s good IF we see them all the way out. Gentle stretches improve the circulation we need to dispel whatever’s gotten into us that we want out. Spring actually tunes up our ability to do this by invigorating our Liver, the organ in charge of filtering out deeply held toxins. No wonder Spring Cleaning feels so good – within and without. Spring clears our vision and clarifies our direction. We feel more empowered than ever to clear out obstacles. Or get around them, maybe even turn them into stepping stones.
If you want to develop some tools to get moving in new ways, see the attached video (free) for a powerful Qi Gong movement practice. QI Gong are practices that cultivate our energy thru deliberate movement, posture, breathing and meditation. Many are easy to learn, fun to do and virtually anyone can do them. This video is the first of a series of what I call ‘Stoplight Qi Gong’ that take just about as long as the turning of a red light.
The goal of all of this Springtime activity is what we call the ‘virtue’ of Spring: Benevolence. This is our name for aimed generosity. Clear choice that allows our best self to show up most effectively in the world. Of all that we see as possible, what, exactly, do we want to create? We can’t be very happy in life if we don’t know what we’re here for. Connecting with our purpose is the work of Spring.
I say the stakes – and tensions – around this work are higher than usual this year. We each need all the tools in our toolbox to envision the future we want and to clarify our role in creating it.
‘Stop Light’ Qi Gong Videos Coming Soon
Looking for ways to help you get moving this Spring? Or to weave a bit of beneficial movement into your day?
Stay tuned for videos of Qi Gong movement practices presented by longtime teacher and acupuncture practitioner Cynthia Zanti Jabs. This series of free mini-classes will teach movement and meditative practices anyone can do. These ancient Asian practices are both refreshing and restorative. Some take as little time as your wait at a red light – and can be done in the driver seat of a car!
The videos will be posted seasonally and show movements appropriate for each season in turn. First class will be available later this month. Look for the link to ‘Stoplight Qi Gong’ on the Ruscombe website.
Cynthia Zanti Jabs, L.Ac., has practiced Acupuncture and Medical Qi Gong for two decades. She can be reached at her Ruscombe Mansion office by calling 443-226-6626