Why is it So Hard to Step into Spring?
Spring is the season of bursting forth from cold, dark months of Winter stillness, the season of upsurging energy, of vibrant activity, of new beginnings, of growth, of hope, of optimism, of exuberance, of creativity and clear vision. Right?
So why is it that, with the days getting brighter and longer and warmer, that I seem to have come across so many people in recent weeks who feel anything but like this?
They instead complain of feeling low, drained, grotty and unusually exhausted, having to drag themselves out of bed in the mornings to face the world when all they want to do is to curl up in a cosy ball under their covers. By the early evening, they feel utterly shattered. Many are also suffering from a range of changeable symptoms – neck and shoulder stiffness, headaches and other aches and pains; shifting moods, restlessness, insomnia, frustration, agitation, irritability – especially when the sun is shining brightly …
Out of sync
Feeling this way in Spring seems so wrong, both because we can see the natural world starting to come back to life and because there is a certain cultural pressure to be bright and happy and full of hope at this time of year. We think that we ‘should’ feel like that as we step into Spring – so, when instead we feel miserable, we feel doubly hopeless.
When we feel like this, it is perhaps helpful to realise that we are by no means the only ones struggling to step into Spring with a bounce. And if we look a little closer at the energy of the natural world in this phase of its endless cycle, perhaps this apparent seasonal paradox is less hard to understand.
Firstly, over the past few weeks we have not yet really come into Spring, but are still in the transitional period out of Sinter.
These transitional phases between seasons are times when nature is in the process of finding a new equilibrium. So it is quite understandable that us humans – as integral parts of the natural world – should also feel unstable, off-balance and shifting this way and that.
This instability makes seasonal changes delicate and vulnerable periods when we risk losing a lot of energy, but – with things turned upside down – also precious times when we are offered a great opportunity for change. Whether we come through them depleted or revitalised depends, in Chinese Five Element theory, on the health of our Earth element, which holds the centre in such times of change.
Sputtering engines in Spring
The transition from Winter to the real onset of Spring can be a particularly hard one. Even nature seems to go through numerous false starts as she tries to get her engine turning over again after months of rest. How many times recently have we felt Spring in the bright air, only to find ourselves plunged back into cold, wet, dark winter again and then back again into spring – often all within the same day?
This changeability in part reflects the unpredictability that is part of the nature of Spring and, in Chinese medicine terms, the Wood Element and the winds associated with it.
But it’s difficult to step into Spring also because it simply requires a great deal of energy for this upsurging season to really start and for those dormant seeds in the earth to sprout and to push up through the soil towards the light to grow into their particular plant. In a similar way, it takes much energy – and courage – for us to reemerge from the relative homely comfort of winter and to go back out towards the world with the energy and creativity needed to share our own unique gifts.
Autumn and Winter: preparing the seed
This is especially true if – as is the case for most of us – our own personal energy is not quite in harmony with that of the natural world and its seasons.
For instance, few of us are likely to have followed nature’s example in Autumn of preparing carefully for Winter’s stillness by contracting our awareness inwards, consciously cutting the excess out of our lives and focusing on what is truly essential to us. Likewise, in Winter, how many of us were able to ‘hibernate’ or at least find regular time for the quiet rest, reverie and deep introspection needed to conserve energy and nourish the essential, creative seed of ourselves? Only with such a process are we likely to feel restored and ready to burst forth into springtime growth.
Instead, we tend to either push on through in Winter or to collapse in a heap of exhaustion. So it is no surprise that by springtime we are either burned out with no fiery spark or still wallowing a damp swamp of stagnation. Either way, having made no real space for Winter’s purpose of reunion with our true self, it is incredibly hard to get our engine going again.
In terms of lifestyle and diet, there are many factors that can extinguish our fire and create excessive cold, heavy dampness in our bodies in winter. In psycho-spiritual terms, it may be that we need to move through deep fears and self-imposed limitations that are blocking us from going towards our true destiny. In such cases, it is no wonder that we are hesitant to move upward and outward into a life that is not truly ours.
Whatever the causes of disharmony, as the expansive energy of spring struggles to rise smoothly and vigorously as it should, it is imbalances in our Wood element – associated in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with the Liver and Gallbladder – that start to come to the fore at this time of year.
The Liver governs the smooth flow of Qi or vital energy in our bodies. When it is functioning well, we are pain-free, move smoothly through life, full of creativity, vigour and hope, and take our daily stresses easily in our stride.
When it is out of balance, our Qi can get blocked, leading to symptoms that may (according to the specific TCM pattern involved) include moving pains, neck tension, pulsating headaches, dizziness, cramps, allergies, gritty eyes, nervous tension, restlessness, frustration, irritability and depression.
Unsurprising, many of these Wood element symptoms are the very ones that people are starting to complain of at the moment.
How to boost Spring’s rising energy
In order to restore harmony in a deep and thorough way, we need to look at our overall lifestyle and diet through the whole cycle of the year, recognising that how we live in one season will lay the foundations for our well-being in those to come.
But there are nevertheless steps we can take right now to help Spring’s energy to rise and flow as it should. Key among these are practising specific Yoga and Qigong forms that are designed to tonify and rebalance Spring’s Wood element energy and its organs, the Liver and Gallbladder, as well as consciously bringing the feeling of Spring into our diet and lifestyle.
Read more about steps you can take to step into Spring here – Spring Clean – 10 Tips for Unblocking Your Creative Energy