Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


Complementary Corner

Acupuncture and the Five Elements

Renee Lehman

The Wood Element, part 1

In January I began a series of articles on the Five Elements, the cyclical pattern of expression in nature, as observed by the ancient Chinese. These Elements or energies are felt to be the prime energetic building blocks from which everything in the material world is composed, and were never seen as five "distinct things". So, every living thing and every person is a unique embodiment and combination of these Five Elements. The Five Elements are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal (see the figure below).

Remember that each Element describes a particular movement and the particular qualities which belong to a specific state of the changing energy seen in the universe. Together, the Five Elements help us to understand the process of dynamic harmony and balance in the whole system of energy. Therefore, when it comes to our health, if all Five Elements are in balance within us, then we are at a state of optimal health/wellness.

So, as you read this article on the Wood Element, Part 1, keep in mind that you are reading only about one part of a much bigger picture! Also, because of the breadth of information regarding the Wood Element, this article will only cover the Season and the Organs of the body that are related to the Wood Element. In May, part 2 of this article will cover the remainder of the information corresponding to the Wood Element.

To explore the details of the "essence" of the Wood Element, let's first look at the season that the Wood Element corresponds to: Spring. By examining the season of Spring, you will see how the Wood Element expresses itself in nature and in your own life.

Season of Spring

Look outside and see what is happening during the springtime. What words come to your mind? We can all recognize that things are growing, shrubs/trees damaged by the winter snowstorms are regenerating, the animals and birds are giving "birth", and there is more "activity" in nature.

Are you spending more time outside being active? I bet that many of you are cleaning up from winter, preparing your gardens, or just going for walks outside. Spring is a time of beginnings and renewal, flourishing, enthusiasm and excitement, increasing light/brightness, and feeling the temperature rising.

Overall, there is so much more activity, action, or movement happening this season than compared to Winter. Isn't it amazing to see how the tulips, daffodils, and other spring plants grow several inches taller in one day? This burst of activity out from the stillness of winter is unmatched by any other season of the year!

At the same time that all of this "growth" is happening, it is purposeful and organized. When you plant tulip bulbs, you get tulips, and baby robins hatch from robin eggs. Each has an "inner blueprint" that it fulfills. Each has a purpose, and a flexible plan that allows for meeting the goal. Look outside; can you see the self-imposed order within the growth of Spring?

Finally, the gifts that Spring gives us include flexibility, clarity and vision, creativity, new possibilities, decision making and planning, and hope. Have you started a "To Do List" for projects over the next few months? What new things are you interested in trying this Spring? Are you assessing things that need to be completed by the Fall, and creating a flexible plan to get them done? Can you feel the energy of Spring within yourself?

Along with being associated with the season of Spring, the Wood Element is also defined as having other associations. For example, some of the associations are a Yin and Yang Organ (the Liver and Gallbladder, respectively), a body tissue (Tendons and Ligaments), an external manifestation (Nails), a sound in the voice (Shouting), an emotion (Anger), a color (Green), a direction (East), a climate (Wind), and a taste (Sour).

Organ Correspondences

The organs that correspond with the Wood element are the Liver and Gallbladder. In Chinese medicine, the Liver and Gallbladder have many functions on a body, mind, and spirit level.

The Liver is considered to be the "architect of your life" or the "commander of the armed forces in defense of life". Another way to see the Liver official is as a "crouching tiger", analyzing the conditions around it and formulating a plan to protect its "kingdom". Just as an architect creates a blueprint for a home, a commander creates a plan of attack with the least amount of casualties, and a tiger springs into action after waiting observantly and patiently. The Liver is responsible for assessing the circumstances within and around us, and creating a plan on how to flourish in life given these circumstances. It also will account for unexpected obstacles to your life plan and create contingency plans so that you can still reach our goals. An image related to this is a willow tree or bamboo, bending but not breaking in the wind. This leads to self-esteem, self confidence and success!

On a physical level, the Liver is responsible for regulating the smooth flow of energy in the body. These include but are not limited to: smooth blood flow and hormone release within the body, regulating the menstrual cycle, supple joints and tendons, and flexible muscles.

On an emotional and mental level, the Liver is responsible for the planning and organization of our life. It is constantly accurately re-evaluating and reorganizing your plans to meet your goals, creating new objectives once goals are met, all the time doing this in a way that keeps you at ease while achieving these goals. To reach your goals we require rational, clear thinking; clear perception of the future; being able to see the "big picture"; and the ability to carry ourselves with hope and benevolence. Finally, if a specific goal that you have is unattainable, then having the ability to "gracefully yield" falls under the realm of the Liver.

On a spirit level, the Liver is responsible for your "inner blueprint". To have a sense of purpose, to "take up your space", and to be able to grow and develop your spirit are things that you can all strive for. What a great joy it is to feel fulfilled!

The Gallbladder has the ability to see what is "just and exact" to fulfill your plans. So, if the Liver is like the architect of your "inner blueprint", then the Gallbladder is the "site foreman" who carries out the plan. It has the ability to make determinations about what is "right" for you (the inner wisdom that comes from your Heart), and then make the decisions necessary to carry out your life plan.

It is constantly judging and discerning how to make your next "step" in any plan that you may have, all the time considering past experiences, present, and future possibilities. Sometimes it takes courage and initiative to take action toward a goal - this falls under the realm of the Gallbladder. Just think about the phrase, "That took some gall!"

On a physical level the Gallbladder is responsible for the flexibility of your movements and proper coordination of these movements, and for healthy vision.

On an emotional and mental level, the Gallbladder is responsible for the ability to make good decisions based on accurate judgment, to be able to see all sides of a situation, and the ability to turn resentment and anger into effective action.

On a spirit level, the Gallbladder gives us the courage to follow your own unique path in life, self confidence, and the ability to follow through on goals while integrating the "inner knowing" of your Heart.

How does this relate to you today?

Below is a list of questions that I would like you to ask yourself. Think about what shows up for you when you answer each question. Are there any answers that surprise you? See if you are able to accept yourself fully while processing your answers. Is there anything that you would like to compassionately change about yourself so that the answer would be different in the future? To do this, you may need a professional to work with you (a physician, nutritionist, acupuncturist, personal trainer, massage therapist, counselor, spiritual director, and other wellness professionals).

  • How would you describe the flexibility of your muscles and/or thinking?
  • How do you act toward others (ranging from an aggressive manner to being a "doormat")?
  • How easily do you express your emotions?
  • How would you describe your ability to organize?
  • How would you describe your decision making ability?
  • How strong are your nails?
  • How good is your eyesight? How easily do you see the "bigger picture" in situations?
  • For women, how would you describe your menstrual cycle?
  • Have you had any gallstones?
  • 1How healthy is your Liver?

Read Part 2

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.

She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman