Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring Clean - by Vonetta

Spring, the season of renewal, is a beautiful season here in the hills.  The winter is over and all energy moves towards resurgence. Relieved to be getting some of my Vit D straight from the sunshine I start to feel like a new shoot, eager for growth but a little fragile. As the creeping energy of the Gallbladder starts to awaken to encourage me to grow and unfurl from the cosy slumber of winter, I am made aware of the places where I have settled for less, both within my body and mind.

I have learnt that the renewal of Spring energy encourages us to make decisions and stick to them, but my body, in need of some ignition, can easily find itself trying to catch up with soul aspirations, and in no time at all the rush of enthusiasm can easily become frustration followed by a distinct loss of stamina.  I have been known to cling white knuckled to comfy jumpers and the dreaminess of winter mist. Spring in balance says, “Come out.  Let’s play.” Out of step with the season, that spring like enthusiasm can easily become an exhausting reminder that I am not yet able to rest in the languid days of summer heat, there are still the year’s mountains to climb. 

In the city it was hard to fully appreciate the metaphors of natural medicine, born out of our relationship with nature. I didn’t fully grasp why in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Spring was also associated with the urgent and unsettled, at a time equally associated with good times, happiness and a return of the sun.  In the countryside it is easy to appreciate why this season of the Wood phase, is the time of judgement, decisiveness and courage.  As a vegetable gardener there is just so much to do.  Thousands of little babies need to be planted, watered, fed, kept free of strong weeds according to the principals of crop rotation.  It is easy to forget the seeds that have been sown, not yet jewelled with summer flowers and fruit.   The peas need to be sown before the summer heat comes, and staked and watered.  The tomatoes need to be planted correctly so that their adventitious roots may receive all the good food we will be giving them this year.  The potatoes planted before the Spring rainsa re now proudly above the soil, but as they come up one knows that there is no time for sitting around giving congratulations, those potatoes, still need feeding, earthing up (covering with soil) and mulching. 

Crops that I have only just sewn seemed to be going to seed and need to be sewn again.  And of course everything needs to be bedded down before the ravages of summer heat.  So it is in the emotional environment, many of us may have made New Year’s resolutions it is about now that we realise our ideas or not.  Relationships with colleagues may suffer, as the clock ticks and tocks, it easy to fall out of step with the love vibrations and be pushed forward by Liver energies of independence releasing  the autocrat commanding that this be done and that be done with perfection.  The mind can become contaminated by Liver Wind as the Gall Bladder’s energies are turned towards nourishing the heart and the Soul’s work through decisive action.  Flash card thoughts may blow in and out and it can be difficult to hold onto sequential orderly work. Bright sharp headaches, irritable eyes and ears throat disorders may become prevalent. Uncoordinated urgency is the disease of this time as we run from task to task trying to make it all happen. 

This season has a pushing forward energy and at this time of little rest, I do not necessarily want harsh detoxes or fasting, there is just too much to attend to. Instead I am looking for a gentle way to maintain any good work that has been accomplished and the commitment to take on any challenges that are coming my way.  I want energy, a lift to help me feel good, and no downs please. I want to shed the winter skin by doing the work of spring to prepare for the fruit of summer. Spring encourages work and the gentle awe of the land’s delicate bounty. When in balance I can see that beneath the urgent activity, there is a gentle heart pull to give space to the past times of childhood. Unstressed walks through the still soft forest floor are preferred to runs. Our work has to cease for a few moments to play homage to the tiny species daffodils, bluebells and buttercups that will only be around for a week or two. The channels of our bodies warm thanks to the ever increasing strength of the sun, and from my desk I can hear shrieks of delight as our guest dip their legs into spring water flowing from the thawing snows of the Serra de Estrela.

As the elements awaken so too does my desire to give.  I find myself energised to practice, teach and give treatments.  My limbs easily unfurl under the influence of Spring Gallbladder Qi and a sense of independence arises from my Liver.  I find myself leaping out of bed before my alarm to get on my matt and beat the sunshine so that I can bask in it’s warmth during morning Sun Salutations.  The creaky, disjointed aches of Winter are passing and my body begins to hum.  Hum for balancing postures and inversions and flowing sequences.  I long to stretch my limbs as far as possible but I am also still reminded that these early days call for containment and a sensitive approach to testing the strength of my tendons and ligaments, most vulnerable at this time of heat and cold, themselves dominated by the energetic potential of the Liver and Gallbladder the Yin and Yang organs of Spring.  Gentle side opening yoga postures are required before I am ready for heated heart opening back bends, such as Ustrasana.  My neck, still thawing from the emotional coldness of winter needs a little more time in Shoulderstands.  I adore  Kurmasana and Yoga Nidra and I am thrilled and encouraged by the return of just enough heat to make these postures possible, I find myself looking for more of, this.

Spring Qi when we are attuned may give us lightness; as these days are not yet weighed down by the heavy languidness of the Earth days yet to come.  This is the time to turn away quite effortlessly from heaviness of any sort.   My being cries out for the light, green and cleansing.   Salads of watercress and cucumber with dill or Mustard frills lettuce, hot and spicy with it’s little yellow flowers attached, generate water into the mouth.   I find myself instinctively reaching for all things green, Green Tara Mantras, a new Green Sporty jacket, my favourite Moss Green Hat , I think about buying new green tights but instead, wisely,  reach for a little Green Juice and some of Katherine Smith’s cleansing Kedgeree.

Juice like fine Spring days, stimulates our childlike delight in lightness. In Barbados, where I was born, we drink litres of fresh juice.  Fresh cherry juice electric pink and deep staining to the tongue.  Mango juice thick and fibrous enough to take the place of a solid lunch.  Grapefruit juice for cleansing and Pineapple for Magnesium.  The detoxing and nutritional benefits of juice have always been secondary to the delight of drinking juice.  Juice makes me feel good and light where other foods may leave me feeling heavy and sleepy.  Juice makes my mouth feel, innocent.  Innocent and clean and good for me without any guilt or frustration, the perfect medicine to stave off Spring colds and fevers.  As I write and sip my morning concoction I can almost feel the coolness of the juice keeping my blood pressure at normal levels, ensuring that my arteries and heart stay open.

When I started yoga, I wondered why it was that all the yoga practioners seemed to be drinking something green. It was a yoga practioner that introduced me to the health benefits of green juices. I am amused now that next to my litre of fruit juice lays a drunken one slug shot of wheatgrass juice, some teachings stick.  I now know that to be able to meet the demands of this season of growth, I need all that chlorophyll, besides that, drinking Green Liquid Sunshine makes me feel happy. One hit of these relatively tasteless organic wheatberries and I feel the return of the Superhero Gallbladder Child, my Liverish tendencies to initiate growth, are calmed and ordered. This season of Spring cleaning and Spring fever remind me to give my renewal Qi a boost.

At the moment I am drinking my wheatgrass in the powdered form. Soon I hope to have huge pots of this wonder food growing and maybe a handsome Matsone juicer to release the power of this plant. As I look at my completed shot glass I can not help but google search again the health benefits of this super food.  As I read again that this food will give me 70% of my greenfood needs and 92 of the 102 minerals my body needs, I am impressed.  This one ounce shot of wheatgrass juice claims to contain the equivalent nutritional content of 2 pounds of green vegetables. I mean, I couldn’t eat 2 pounds of green vegetables first thing in the morning, yet I can get the equivalent nutrition in a one ounce glug.  If I tried to grow enough vegetables  to be able to eat 2 pounds a day, I would need to give hours of back breaking work to the land, disturbing a great deal of the soil structure and probably hurting myself in the process. Yet, I can grow wheatgrass in large shallow pots, in less than one ounce of soil and just cut, use, water the plants and watch them come again.  20 minutes after taking a shot I can feel the energy uplift and I can rest assured that this hit will last throughout my day.  Guilt free, environmentally sound healing nutrition, for real?  Sign me up. 

If you are as impressed by wheatgrass as I am, then I would recommend you read Ann Wigmore’s, “The Wheatgrass Book”.  Wheatgrass is simple but powerful medicine, and it is always worth it doing a little research before we introduce any new food into the body.  However below is a summation of some of the generalised benefits of taking wheatgrass juice, as taken from my Natural Physician course with the School of Natural Medicine.

Wheatgrass as a complete protein containing the 19 amino acids, the building blocks of protein and roughly 30 enzymes. These friendly little health giving acids and enzymes will:
  1. Protect me against cancer
  2. Build up my blood protecting me against anaemia and will keep my easily dirtied Liver clean as a whistle
  3. Give power to seminal fluid (maybe this is not so important to me)
  4. Increase my energy levels
  5. Help me to keep my hearing and nerve function
  6. Calm my thyroid and my brain while leaving me alert and switched on
  7. Repair my DNA, and stop free radicals from damaging my cells.  Yes please one shot glass, keep me looking younger for longer.  That sounds good.
  8. Chelate heavy metals so that my nerves don’t fry, clean my colon so that doesn’t fry and protect my heart from inflammatory conditions, so that that doesn’t fry.
  9. Help to sooth cuts sores, eczema and sinusitis helpful, as the pollen count is high in the Spring
  10. Enhance and boost my immunity
  11. Improve my circulation
  12. Neutalise body odours.
  13. And put me to bed encouraging a deep and restful sleep at the end of the day.
This is one plant that ensures I can keep going and not give in.  A must if I want to stay balanced and keep that spring in my step.