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Daoist Diary: Spring

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 87 - April 2003

Flowing with the Seasons

Spring is in the air! The cold dark days of winter seem to be fading as we notice buds starting to push their way through the earth towards the growing warmth of the sun. And these outer seasonal changes seem to affect us on an inner level. Having perhaps spent the chillier months of the year in semi-hibernation we suddenly feel like giving the house a good old spring clean. Some of us may feel even more energetic and want to start tackling quite ambitious projects in the house or garden. In the view of the ancient Chinese philosophy of Daoism this surge of activity at springtime is a very appropriate response to the change of season.

As an acupuncturist, I find the tradition of Daoism that is the philosophical background to Chinese Medicine to be full of a commonsense wisdom that teaches us how to live a happy and healthy life. Central to this view is an understanding that all life is composed of change and that we need to learn to flow with and adapt ourselves to these inherent changes. Usually we do the opposite of flow – we attempt to force circumstances so that life goes the way we want it to – we constantly push ourselves hard rather than learn to balance business with stillness. Eventually we become so stressed and burnt out that we find ourselves unwell – literally out of ease with ourselves – dis-eased.

The Five Element Seasonal Cycle
The Five Element Seasonal Cycle

The changing seasons present us with a fruitful opportunity to let go of feeling stressed and instead learn the art of going with the flow. The seasonal cycles can teach us to take an attitude that accepts change instead of fighting it. Those who follow the Dao believe that when we learn to observe and align ourselves with the changes inherent in nature and the seasons we will be able to live a life that is in balance and is thus easier and healthier. We start to see that winter, although it may not be our favourite time of year, is actually a time for inner work, a time of preparation and quietness where we are less active in order to store energy before spring's time of growth and expansion. If we run about and party constantly at this time of year then we will find ourselves with very flat batteries when spring arrives.

Spring – a Time of Creativity and Assertivness

In the view of Daoism there are five seasons (Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Autumn and Winter) and Spring is seen as the time of young yang when energy moves upwards and outwards and all life bursts forth and expands towards the light. It is the season of regeneration and creativity and its energy is known as 'Wood'- very apt as healthy Wood is the essence of all that is spring-like – flexible, strong, able to bend and adapt to the wind but not break. The colour associated with Wood energy is green – the hue of all that is vibrant and fresh in nature. On an inner, emotional level this is therefore a time of movement to adapt to external circumstances – a time to shake ourselves out of our winter torpor and get going!

On this inner, emotional level the energy of spring and the Wood element manifests itself as the ability to be assertive and to make the decision to start those creative projects you have been mulling over during the dark winter months. In the view of the Dao, failure to align with and cultivate this seasonal energy will result in a certain stuckness – a frustration and stagnation that ultimately can result in anger or depression.

Creativity is not necessarily about being artistic in the conventional sense but as Sandra Hill puts it in her book Reclaiming the Wisdom of the Body being "artistic depends on whether it (artistic endeavour) captures the soul."[1] Creative activities that you could channel Wood energy into could include keeping a journal, taking singing lessons, working in the garden or planning a hiking expedition. Whatever we involve ourselves with the Liver energy of the spring demands that we give ourselves time to fulfil our dreams and ambitions; to be creative. Feeling affected by the seasonal changes of spring you may be inspired to cultivate a lifestyle that will include regular Chi Gung exercises, breathing techniques, acupressure and dietary changes and so start to live in a way that is wholly creative.

Chi Gung exercises are very helpful in getting Liver energy flowing. Here are two exercises to particularly practise in the springtime and so encourage the flow of Wood energy.


1. Stand with feet parallel and knees slightly bent, bringing hands into loose fists and hold them facing upwards at either side of the waist;
2. Take a deep breath in, exhale through the mouth with a loud 'haa!' as you punch with the left fist turning it over so that it is faced downwards when fully extended. Return the fist to the left side;
3. Do the same with the right fist and return to the right side.

Repeat 5 times.

Side Stretches

Stand with feet parallel and take several deep breaths. Breathe in and then, on the out breath stretch the right hand down the leg as far as you can whilst remaining vertical. Breathe in as you return to the upright position. Repeat to the left. Repeat 5 times each side.


The Wood element needs space and movement so the best form of exercise at this time of year is walking out of doors. And because Wood is associated with trees and plants then the best place to walk is in nature – even if it's only a few laps of your local park. Pay attention to breathing - breathe deeply and evenly and feel your arms swinging at your sides.

Massage Meridian Points

The Liver and Gall Bladder are the organs associated with the Wood element and at this time of year it would be helpful to massage the channels of energy (meridians) associated with these organs – perhaps every day.

* The Gall Bladder has points on its meridian around the eyes so spend time daily with the following movements. Rub palms together until hands are hot then place them over the eyes. Repeat 10 times;
* Put your hands over your ears and with thumbs locate the depression at the side of the base of the skull. Massage gently with circular movements;
* Massage in a downward direction Point Liver 3 'Supreme Rushing' found in the angle of your foot between the big toe and second toe.

Flushing the Liver

Now is the time to help the liver to flow freely and continue its work of eliminating wastes from the body and purifying the blood by taking a liver flush drink.[2]

* Drink this in the morning - first thing. In the spring take it for ten-day cycles followed by three days off;
* Mix citrus juices together to make one cup of liquid. Orange and lemon or grapefruit are good;
* Add two cloves of fresh chopped garlic plus a small amount of grated ginger;
* Mix in one tablespoon of cold pressed olive oil. Blend and drink;
* Follow the flush with two cups of cleansing herb tea such as fennel or peppermint. Wait an hour before eating.

As we have seen the Spring is a time to start afresh – it is a time of growth and change as the liver energy spreads out and rises upwards. Go with the flow, get up and get moving! Cultivate your Wood energy – assert yourself, make changes, free up your life and you will find this is truly a time of growth and creativity.


1. Hill S. Reclaiming the Wisdom of the Body. Constable and Company. 1997.
2. Hobbs C. Natural Liver Therapy. Botanica Press. 1986.


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About Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna BA Lic Ac trained at The College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Leamington Spa with Professor Worsley from 1981 gaining her Lic Ac. in 1984 and has been practising acupuncture in Scotland since then. Her book A Balanced Way Of Living; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with Post Polio Syndrome is available from 


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