The Wood Phase is about creation, birth, evolution, and development of life or projects in life. The General Liver and its’ Lieutenant Gallbladder are the officials of this process. They work to keep the harmony in body, mind, and soul in the human expression or in the project being birthed.
The Wood Phase is about flexibility. The tendons and ligaments and their functions are the physical expression of wood. It is flexibility that allows for a smooth flow in life. And the ability to live life to its fullest is an expression of flexibility. It is a combination of firmness, so that you can stand upright in thought and expression, along with the ability to bend and turn in tune with current conditions. Planning is firmness. Sound decision-making requires the ability to adapt to current situations. Both are needed for a strong supportive wood expression.
The Wood Phase is about spring, a time of explosive growth. It is a time of new beginnings and experiences. As the sun rises, wood shines as the birth of morning. A new day. A new beginning. Morning is a time of planning the day, firmness, and decision-making and adaptability during the day is flexibility. The beginning of a project and the planning stages are representative of the wood phase. The birthing process, bringing the concept of an idea (water phase) into form (wood phase) is like a seed bursting forth a green shoot through the soil, stretching to the sun on the first warm day in April, after a rain shower.
The Winds of Change is the climate of wood. Wind is a forceful energy (firmness), yet has the ability to change direction (flexibility). It brings new ideas and changes old ideas to better suit the new “Now”. The winds of change are the surprises in life that spur us into growth. They can be like a “kick in the ass” if we do not pay attention to them. They can be creative with vision and direction or chaotic inspiring frustration and anger.
Anger is an expression of offense to the wood aspect in our self. It rears its’ angry head when our individuality and ego are threatened or not respected. Sometimes it is the appropriate response to our protective boundaries. Other times it may be a sign that wood is out of balance. Unexpressed and suppressed anger over a period of time becomes depression, which is an unhealthy expression of self. Wood’s positive expression is that of patience and endurance. Wood’s positive quality is that of harmony and peaceful co-existence. In a forest, all the trees live side by side.
Wood energy moves upward. It may take some sideway turns, but its’ goal is to reach to the light and the light is in the sky. Wood’s energy anchors downward through its’ roots to provide stability (firmness), but its’ upward growth dances with the breeze (wind & flexibility). Too much upward and not enough rooting (too much Yang & too little Yin) or too much side growth and never reaching for the sky (stagnation) is an imbalance.
The color green is represented in leaves and plants. Green is the color of the Wood Phase. Disharmony in the Liver and/or Gallbladder meridians can be noticed as a green or yellowish green hue around the eyes and/or mouth. Sallow or olive skin tone, which is not due to racial heredity, also shows an imbalance.
Gallbladder’s time of day is 11pm – 1am. Liver’s time of day is 1am – 3am. Individuals that are night owls and experience discomfort in the morning upon waking or individuals that wake during these times of night on a regular basis are presenting with a wood disharmony.
Our senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste can pick up on imbalances in the five phases. Wood’s color of green when noticed in skin tone shows an imbalance. A disharmony in the wood phase may be noticed on the face if between the eyebrows appears puffy and swollen or there is tightness, contraction, and vertical lines between the eyes or bags in the upper inside corner of the eye or along the eyebrow bridge appears bumpy and greasy. The whites of the eyes may appear yellow or red. A shouting voice, which may present as loud, strong, or clipping speaking manner is representative of a wood imbalance. A rancid odor such as rotting meat or sour sweat may be present and is a sign of a wood imbalance. We may feel an imbalance through touch of stiffness or hyper-flexibility in our client’s body. An over desire or an aversion to foods that represent the sour taste of wood or foods that support the wood phase such as lemons, limes, berries, pickles, sprouts, spring greens, barley, hato mugi, wheat, leeks, scallions, and celery to name a few, may point to a disharmony in the wood phase.
The eyes are the sense organ of wood, the nails are wood’s flower, and the tears are wood’s fluid. Issues with any one of these are indicative of something going on with the wood phase. Any issues with the Gallbladder or Liver organs are indicative of the wood phase needing attention.
General Liver is the home of the ethereal soul or Hun (rhymes with soon). The Hun is like a soul personality that survives our physical form after death. It is the link of the Shen to the physical expression and includes our personality and guidance to live our life purpose. After our physical demise the Hun is nourished by our benevolence to others created during our lifetime and their remembrance of us sustains the Hun’s existence for up to three generations. The Hun assists the liver in the activities of storage and distribution, specifically good will and benevolence. As growth occurs, the Hun is responsible for shaping our destiny in accordance with our life purpose.
The liver is responsible for the storage of blood (Yin Function) and the free flow of Ki (Yang Function). When not functioning optimally, the liver may be slow in making blood available, fail to release the blood, or impart heat to the blood which leads to discomforts such as: stiffness and pain, dull and dry skin and hair, pale or sallow complexion, dizziness, inability to fall asleep, depression, poor memory, scanty menstruation or no period, blurred vision, floaters in vision, weak and brittle nails, a tendency to strain tendons, heavy menstruation, heavy nosebleeds, sudden bleeding anywhere in the body, and red and itchy skin – hives to name a few. When the free flow of Ki becomes bound in the liver leading to stagnation, then discomforts such as: pain with distention, mood swings, depression, pre-menstrual irritability with painful breasts, menstrual pain, lump in the throat, difficulty swallowing, nausea, hiccups, constipation, and diarrhea to name a few arise.
Lieutenant Gallbladder supports General Liver in the free flowing of Ki. The gallbladder stores and excretes bile and other secretions, which are used for the digestive purposes of food Ki. The General Liver makes long term plans (firmness) and Lieutenant Gallbladder supports the liver by making the moment to moment decisions (flexibility) that come up in life while still pursuing the goal.
The traditional liver meridian begins at LV 1 located on the lateral side of the base of the big toe nail and ends at LV 14 located below nipple, between the 6th and 7th ribs. The traditional gallbladder meridian begins at GB 1 located at the lateral corner of the eye and ends at GB 44 on the lateral side of the 4th toe, at the base of nail. Masunaga, the Father of Zen Shiatsu, extended these meridians into the arms with Liver ending at the 4th finger – palm side and Gallbladder ending at the middle finger – back of hand.
When the Wood Phase is deficient or in excess it will affect its’ child – Fire, its’ mother – Water, its’ ability to control – Earth, and its’ ability to be controlled – Metal. This creates disharmony in the system. Some common signs of Wood deficiency and excess are: blurred or weak vision, deficient immune response, passive behavior, scanty menstruation, dry skin, tremors, numbness, low self-esteem, cold hands and feet, incomplete individuation, inability to make decisions, stiffness and pain, dull dry hair and skin, moodiness, irritability, depression, high blood pressure, anger, PMS, menstrual cramps, rigidity or spasticity, allergies, hyper-immune response, inflammation, gas, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, hiccup, belching, pounding headache.
When the Wood Phase is in good working order some positive aspects are: harmony, healthy self-esteem, toned flexible musculature, smooth and strong nails, personal vision and direction in life, moist clear eyes, clairvoyance.
In summary…Love your Liver, Love your Gallbladder, have strong Roots and reach for the Sun!
References and Further Reading
The Book of Shiatsu by Saul Goodman
The Foundations of Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia
The Hip Chicks Guide to Macrobiotics by Jessica Porter
Shiatsu Theory and Practice by Carola Beresford-Cook
Wood Becomes Water – Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life by Gail Reichstein