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Spring heralds change. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) Spring means Wood and Wind energy. In Sustainable Health: Simple Habits to Transform Your Life I talk about the benefits of forest bathing. Right now we have the opportunity to enjoy a special kind of Wood energy, the transitory, joyful, bloom of flowers, especially flowering trees.
Many trees flower before they put out leaves. Those flowers drink in sunshine and provide pollen and nectar to the bees, birds, and other creatures who delight in visiting these early heralds of summer. Take advantage of this special moment in time to sit under a flowering tree or lean against her trunk. Grab a blanket or dress warmly and lay down on the ground to gaze at the sky through her blooms. What do you feel?
Watch the petals vibrate in anticipation of the bees who will soon come to visit. Such excitement and growth! Flowers change every day and they don’t last long so seize the moment. Spend as much time as you can soaking up this amazing, transforming energy while it lasts. What is ready to bloom in us? Let the flowers call it out. Send your dreams and ideas up to the flowers. No need to hoard them. Look at the flowers’ abundance, their joyful openness to whatever will come next. Some will go on to become fruits that ripen and provide nourishment, others will fall fearlessly and shamelessly to the ground sharing no less than their beauty with all who pass by.
Of course we can see plenty of ground flowers, daffodils, crocus, violets, and dandelions. They have their own energy. They grow from bulbs, roots, and last year’s seeds. Each of these flowers has their own special magic. Flowering bulbs can teach us the value of storing energy through the winter. Roots know how to hold on through all seasons. Seeds store their energy in small, seemingly lifeless packets that burst into life under the just-right conditions. Dandelions have the kind of staying power that defies any attempt to stop them. Watch them change daily as they push upward to the sun, fearlessly searching out the cracks in our city’s concrete and relentlessly reaching for the sky. Their roots, leaves, and blossoms have provided herbalists all over the world with healing tonics for ailing patients.
Tree flowers have a special magic. They have wisdom that comes from patience. Year by year t grow from seed to seedling, seedling to sapling, biding their time, sending down roots and waiting for just the right moment to burst into bloom. If a flowering tree has grown large enough to sit under, chances are it is as old as or even older than you. It could be older than your parents, grandparents, and even more remote ancestors. Let these flowers whisper wisdom in your ear as their petals kiss your cheeks. Breathe in their joyful courage. Breathe out fear, grief, and worries. Flowers have no time for them, and neither should we. Drink in their effervescent joy.
Get Moving – Moving is Wind energy. Go for a walk in the park with a friend – have coffee in an outdoor cafe or park bench. Admire the flowers. Sing to them. Talk to them. Listen for their wisdom.
Breathe – Breathing is Wind energy. If we have allergies we might choose to view flowers from indoors through a window for this season. In TCM allergies come from Wind energy which means they can change. Like wind they lack permanence. What we do can change our allergies – reduce them or even make them go away. Make peace with pollen’s joy as you get to know the flowers better. What feelings or experiences may be blocking your own joy. When did our allergies start? We often shame young people, especially girls, for enjoying their youth and displaying their beauty. Can we learn from the flowers how to enjoy our splendid moments without shame or fear or guilt?
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Eat lots of greens – Eating spring greens helps us resonate with growth and change – Spring’s special energy. Lots of fresh greens and herbs become available at our farmer’s markets and in our grocery stores. Get the freshest greens you can buy if you can’t pick your own. Dandelion greens have the strongest energy. Brew fresh leaves into tea and sweeten it with maple syrup for a Spring tonic.
Cook your greens and serve them warm to avoid drawing in more winter cold. Save your salads for summer’s warmth.
1 bunch of greens – washed well to get rid of any grit or dirt
a handful of salt (1-2 tablespoons)
Water to cover the greens
Flavorful oil – butter, extra virgin olive oil, leftover bacon, beef, or chicken fat from cooking
- Separate fibrous stems from leaves. Chop the stems into half inch bits. Cut the leaves into half inch ribbons – crosswise.
- Bring water to a rolling boil and add the salt. Cook the stems first for a few minutes until they are soft, then throw in the leaves. As soon as the leaves turn a brighter shade take the pot off the stove and drain the water out. Rinse the greens with cold water to stop them from cooking any more. This reduces the bitterness of fresh greens.
- Put enough oil in a pan to cover it up to a quarter inch and heat it (doesn’t take long!). Toss in the greens and stir them around in the hot oil until they are coated.
- Serve as is or add some toasted nuts, sesame seeds, or other garnish.
Add lots of fresh herbs to cooked dishes just before serving them. Fresh herbs are loaded with beneficial micro-nutrients that herbalists use to treat a variety of illnesses and discomforts. Here’s a few examples from Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide:
- Basil – eases gas, stomach cramps, and nausea; relieves depression, fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia
- Mint – eases gas, stomach cramps, and nausea; reduces pain (headaches); calming and energizing
- Rosemary – stimulating brain tonic that boosts memory; stimulates cardiovascular system; helps with inflammation
- Sage - aids digestion of rich, fatty meats; supports the liver and hormones; fights colds and flu; especially good for tonsillitis and laryngitis
- Thyme - fights infections, coughs, and colds; supports the body as a glandular tonic