In order to understand the energy dynamics in the human body we first need to understand the energy dynamics in the universe. Ziyi Peng in his The Circular Dynamics of Ancient Chinese Medicine described the energy dynamics in the seasons in the below chart.
The Yang energy from the Sun gives life to the earth. The above chart tracks the dynamics of the Yang energy from the Sun in the four seasons. Each season has its associated direction and dynamic motion. The warmth of the summer sun reaches the surface, a point in three dimensional space we will refer to as “center”, and during Autumn it is absorbed into the earth in an action known as “descending”. This energy continues to descend into the earth, where it meets with water deep within the ground and is stored as potential energy during Winter through an action known as “sinking”. As Spring approaches, energy begins to rise toward the surface in an action known as “ascending”. It eventually reaches the earth’s surface and is returned to the Summer sky in a movement known as “floating”.
Each motion is associated with a season as well as a direction. The Winter Solstice lies at true North and represents the transition of Yang energy from sinking to ascending. Ascending continues to grow in strength until its climax at Start of Spring. waning as it approaches Mid-Spring, where it transitions to floating, and so on through the cycle. It is important to remember that this cycle traces the movement of the sun’s heat, or in other words, Yang energy, through its annual progression. Therefore, at Mid-Autumn and Mid-Spring, the amount of heat above and below the surface are relatively equal, while the Summer and Winter Solstices represent the apex of heat both above and below respectively.
Our ancestors used Five Elements system to describe the energy movements. The ascending energy is called Wood Energy which is growing/stretching. The floating energy is called Fire which is heat and bloom. The descending energy is called Metal which is descending and collecting. The sinking energy is called Water which is stillness and storage. The mid line is the earth which is neutral and nurturing. The energetic function of the main organs are categorised and associated with the five elements:
- Wood – Liver/Gallbladder
- Fire – Heart/Small Intestine
- Metal – Lung/Large Intestine
- Water – Kidney/Bladder
- Earth – Spleen/Stomach
Man as energetic beings should follow the same law as the nature. In the Internal Classics it says that:
“The months of the Spring season bring about the revitalization of all things in nature. It is the time of birth. This is when Heaven and Earth are reborn. During this season it is advisable to go to bed early and arise early. Also, go walking in order to absorb the fresh, invigorating energy. Since this is the season in which the universal energy begins anew and rejuvenates, one should attempt to correspond to it directly by being open and unsuppressed, both physically and emotionally. “On the physical level is good to exercise more frequently and wear loose-fitting clothing. This is the time to do stretching exercises to loosen up the tendons and muscles. Emotionally, it is good to develop equanimity. This is because Spring is the season of the Liver, and indulgence in anger, frustration, depression, sadness, or excess emotion can injure the Liver. Furthermore, violating the natural order of Spring will cause cold disease, illness inflicted by atmospheric cold, during summer.
“In the months of Summer there is an abundance of sunshine and rain. The Heavenly energy descends, and the Earthly energy rises. When these energies merge there is an intimate connection between Heaven and Earth. As a result, plants mature and animals, flowers and fruit appear abundantly. “One may go to bed somewhat later at this time of year, while still arising early. One should refrain from anger and stay physically active, to keep the skin breathing and to prevent the qi from stagnating. One can indulge a bit more than in other seasons, but should not overindulge. Emotionally, it is important to be happy and easygoing and not hold grudges, so that the energy can flow freely and communicate between the external and internal. In this way, illness may be averted in the Fall. The Summer season of Fire and Heart also encompasses late Summer, which corresponds to the Earth element. Problems in the Summer will cause injury to the heart and will manifest in the Fall.
“In the months of Fall all things in nature reach their full maturity. The grains ripen and harvesting occurs. The Heavenly energy cools, as does the weather. The wind begins to stir. This is the changing or pivoting point when the active phase (yang) turns into its opposite, the passive phase (yin). One should go to bed with the sunset and arise with the dawn. Just as the weather in Fall turns harsh, so does the emotional climate. It is therefore important to remain calm and peaceful, refraining from excess sadness so that one can make the transition to Winter smoothly. This is the time to gather one’s spirit and energy, be more focused, and not allow desires to run wild. One must keep the Lung energy full, clean, and quiet. This means practicing breathing exercises to enhance Lung qi. Also, one should refrain from grief, the emotion of the Lung. This will prevent Kidney or digestive problems in the Winter. If this natural order is violated, damage will occur to the Lungs, resulting in diarrhea with undigested food in Winter. This compromises the body’s ability to store in Winter.
“During the Winter months all things in nature wither, hide, return home, and enter a resting period, just as lakes and rivers freeze and snow falls. This is a time when yin dominates yang. Therefore one should refrain from overusing the yang energy. Retire early and get up with the sunrise, which is later in Winter. Desires and mental activity should be kept quiet and subdued, as if keeping a happy secret. Stay warm, avoid the cold, and keep the skin covered. Avoid sweating. The theory of the Winter season is one of conservation and storage. Without such practice the result will be injury to the Kidney energy. This will cause weakness, shrinking of muscles, and coldness; then the body loses its ability to open and move about in the Spring.
“So the full cycle can be seen. Spring is the beginning of things, when the energy should be kept open and fluid; Summer opens up further into an exchange or communication between internal and external energies; in the Fall it is important to conserve; finally the Winter is dominated by storage of energy.
Understanding the energy dynamics in the nature and living according to it helps to preserve good health.