Yin Yang and the Spirit of Spring
The concept of Yin and Yang is the single most important theory behind Chinese Medicine. This theory dates back to around 700BC, where it was referenced in the I Ching, ‘Book of Changes’, by Yi Jing. This theory is what has separated western theologians like Aristotle, which is based in the opposition of contraries. Yin and Yang is completely different, while Yin and Yang represent contraries, they also represent complementary qualities. Therefore each object, or non-object can be itself or it’s opposite. Furthermore, within one you have the birth of the other and vice versa. Where for example midday is the height of Yang, it is also the birth of Yin.
Yin Yang and The Five Elements
The School of Naturalists or the School of Yin Yang, further developed the Yin Yang theory and the Five Element System. This was during the Warring States period which began in the 400’s BC. The Five Element System in Chinese medicine explains the interaction of the internal organs. While the organ itself is Yin, its function is Yang. Many schools have arose to further develop this theory which has ultimately become the base to Chinese medicine.
Yin is known to be the shady side of the mountain, while Yang is the sunny. If Yin is shady, it is also cold, and damp, where Yang is bright, hot and dry. If you were to compare the seasons, then summer is Yang and winter is Yin. Spring is more Yang, as the plants are growing and flowers are blooming and moving up toward the heavens, while autumn is Yin, where the leaves are turning brown and falling toward the earth. As heaven is gaseous then it is Yang, where the earth is solid and Yin.
If you understand the Chinese symbol for Left and Right, then you will understand that left is Yang, as within the Left symbol is the character for work. Within the Right symbol is the character for mouth (eating), which would represent nourishment and rest and therefore Yin.
Everything in the universe has a cyclical movement. Days, months, years, seasons, the shooting of a bud, to the growth of flowers which eventually wither and die. Each stage represents either Yin or Yang and the birth of the other. Yang corresponds to energy and growth, while Yin is material, contraction and descending in nature. This is an interdependent relationship. There cannot be one without the other, and there is nothing that is completely one without having the seed of the other within.
The Five Elements are equally important when it comes to Chinese Medicine. With the application of the Five Elements into Chinese medicine, this showed a move away from the belief that disease was caused by demons, but instead could be observed in nature. Fire, Water, Wood, Metal and Earth constitute the Five Elements. Wood is Spring, which ascends, representing birth, where Fire represents growth, autumn is associated with harvest, water is winter, and represents storage, while earth is the season between summer and autumn and is associated with transformation.
Spring and The Wood Element
As we have entered spring I wanted to concentrate on the wood element. The wood element is associated with the Liver. The taste of the Liver is sour and specific foods should be eaten at this time. In practice the Liver energy can be easily affected in spring. Feelings of nervousness, anxiety, or explosive behavior. Spring is a time where energy abounds. This huge burst in energy can cause moods to become aggravated, especially when there is wind. This can also cause headaches and stiffness of the muscles.
Each of the elements house a ‘Ghost’. This basically means that each element has a particular mental, spiritual, behavioral aspect to it. The Liver houses the Ethereal Soul, the Hun. In ancient times it was believed that these spirits were in fact the root of the disease, but today external, within the Five Elements, and internal causes, Yin and Yang, are at the root which may nevertheless affect the spirit of the organ. The Hun influences planning and gives you direction. Without direction there is mental confusion. If the energy of the Liver is weak the Hun is not rooted, when it is strong you have wisdom and vision. If the energy becomes blocked, emotions flare up causing irritability. A smooth flowing Liver energy is creative and promotes growth.
If you understand Yin and Yang you can understand a lot about the universe. It explains the theory of duality, of balance. That there is no absolute; nothing is completely Yin, as within Yin there is the birth of Yang. Five Element System is used to explain the nature of disease. Spring is wood and the energy of wood is Yang, is growth. Ensure balance of both Yin and Yang in this season, which will give you direction and a perspective on life.