Saturday April 5, 2014 was the beginning of the Clear and Bright (Qing Ming 清明) seasonal node (jie qi 節氣). Clear and Bright is the node just after the Vernal Equinox and the next step in the progression of Spring. As I sit here in northern New Jersey, the weather is a bit chilly although the Spring warming has certainly started. Trees are setting buds, and the tree peonies in my yard are starting to grow. The sky this morning is crisp and clear, reminding me of the name of this seasonal node – Clear and Bright. The character for “Ming” 明 in the name is written in Chinese with the characters for both moon 月 and sun 日 next to each other. The basic definition of the character is “brightness.” Certainly, the combination of moon and sun together demonstrates the idea of bright illumination. That said, the characters of moon and sun also represent a Yin-Yang pairing. The Spring, even though it is a time of expanding Yang in the natural world, also is a time of balanced Yin and Yang. It is one of the times between the Yin-Cold of Winter, and the Yang-Warmth of Summer. So, I think a character that combines moon and sun is especially appropriate at this time.
The first “to do” during Clear and Bright is to protect being warm (bao nuan 保暖). This is because there is still a chill in the air in most places. Spring is the time of growing Yang, and we don’t want to do anything that damages that internal warming Qi. The second chapter of the Su Wen admonishes us that if we don’t take care in Spring, then cold disease will arise in the Summer that follows. During this time the temperature outside is constantly fluctuating up and down. Be sure to tell patients to dress appropriately for the day, and not to think that just because its supposed to be Spring, that every day will be warm enough for light clothing.
The second “to do” during Clear and Bright is be active in outdoor activities or exercise. With the continued growth of Yang in the natural world, it is important to increase our physical activity. The Wood phase and Liver assure normal smooth circulation of Qi in the body, and similarly during Spring we should be sure to keep our bodies moving. Of course, exercise doesn’t have to be intense to be effective. Suggest to patients that even just getting outside to do light yard work or gardening is a great idea. Practicing Taiji or Qigong outside is also appropriate.
One of the Nourishing Life exercises that is appropriate to Clear and Bright is pressing and rotating Shen Que (Ren 8). Shen Que is obviously an important point on the body. The abdomen is the location of many of the important internal organs. Likewise, it is the area where some of the most important channels in the body originate – the Ren, the Du and the Chong. In Chinese these three extraordinary vessels are said to be “one origin and three branches.” For this exercise first rub hands together vigorously to warm them. Then place the warmed hands over the navel and slowly, with moderate pressure, rotate 50 times in a circle one direction, then 50 times in the other direction. This exercise helps warm the center and expel cold. It is especially appropriate for patients who are cold and depleted, and patients with clear nasal discharge such as seasonal allergies. For patients who are very depleted, think of doing moxibusion at Shen Que.
The flip side of this is to be cautious of patients with uprising Liver yang patterns, or patterns of internal wind. Clear and Bright is also the time to guard against hypertension in patients who are prone to this condition. These patients should certainly be counseled to get some more exercise, as this is an effective adjunct therapy for hypertension.