Purpose, Potential and Adaptability

Posted by Sabina Pettitt on

Embracing the Year of the Green Wood Dragon

2024 is the Year of the Green Wood Dragon in the Chinese zodiac, and March 21 is the beginning of the season of the Wood element in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This confluence feels like a great time to talk about Wood and how imbalances in this element can affect us mentally, physically and emotionally.

The Wood element is about purpose and potential. It’s about beginning as a seed and becoming whatever possibility is contained within that particular seed. The acorn becomes an Oak tree. The Maple key becomes a Maple tree. And while each tree is living its journey, it is not looking around and seeing what all the other plants are doing and comparing itself to them. It simply moves forward to its fullest expression.

When adverse conditions occur, the tree either gives up and dies, or it gathers its resources and sends energy deep into its roots. It goes dormant, while perhaps looking fairly disheveled and unrecognizable above ground, waiting for life-supporting conditions to once again emerge and thrive. If it runs into another tree, it often changes direction. It doesn't just force its way into the space of the other tree. While Wood is not as fluidly flexible as Water, it does demonstrate the gift of ‘adaptation’. I remember being on the French island of Saint Pierre off the coast of Newfoundland and seeing all the trees that had been made into bonsai by the weather sweeping in from the Atlantic Ocean. They were the same trees as those growing elsewhere in the country, but presented a different expression as they adapted to their local environmental conditions.

This ability to adapt is one of the gifts of the Wood element. Driven by the desire for fulfillment, the Wood element stays focused on its purpose and moves in the direction that is easy.

The meridians, or energy pathways, in the Wood element are Liver and Gall Bladder. Liver is like the general who has the vision to see where we are going and where we want to go, and Gall Bladder is the decision-maker who directs the army toward the goal Liver has set.

The sense organs associated with the Wood element are the eyes, granting us our ability to see and to plan where we want to go.

The colour associated with the Wood element is green. We often use this information in TCM diagnostics by observing if there is any hint of green in the face of the person we are treating.  This colour can appear around the eyes or the mouth if the patient is struggling with a Wood imbalance. It might also be useful to remember the phrase ‘green with envy,’ which can be a commonplace symptom for a Wood element imbalance. Envy can be the reactive emotion we experience when we ourselves are unfulfilled. In this situation, when we look around it might appear as if everyone else is happy and doing what they want to do, while we are struggling to find or to express our heart song.

The sound associated with the Wood element is shouting – big loud voices complaining about the way of the world instead of getting on with ‘being in the world’ at the highest possible vibration they can express on their own journey. The opposite of shouting can also be a symptom of Wood imbalance. This sound is very controlled and controlling, and there is a sense that if we get in the way of this person they might explode.

The season associated with Wood is Spring, the time of the year when Mother Earth wakes up and begins to express her bounty in the form of plants growing and manifesting their potential.  This is a time of rebirth and promise.

When Wood becomes imbalanced in our Body/Mind we might experience some of the following symptoms:

Physical – Tight and tense muscles, headaches, symptoms of liver or gall bladder dis-ease, vision problems

Emotional – Frustration leading to anger and possibly depression when everything seems insurmountable

Mental – Addictive patterns, feeling like a victim, poor judgement, tendencies to be wishy-washy and undirected

Individuals with a healthy Wood element are charismatic and benevolent and derive profound happiness and contentment from knowing their purpose and constantly striving to fulfill it. They are happy wanderers on the Earth plane, where they exude harmony and balance. They are independent of the opinions and noise of the cultural conditioning which surrounds them and with gentle determination focus on what makes them happy.

I love this passage from an ancient Chinese text by Hung-Chih, which is quoted in Five Spirits by Lorie Eve Dechar:

“A person of the Way fundamentally does not dwell anywhere.
The white clouds are fascinated with the green mountain’s foundation.
The bright moon cherishes being carried along with the flowing water.
The clouds part and the mountain appears…
The six sense doors are not veiled, the highways in all directions have no footprints.
Always arriving everywhere without being confused, gentle without hesitation, the perfected person knows where to go.”

*Note: The ‘Way’ refers to the way of the Tao

The Green Wood Dragon year is the perfect time to pay attention to your Wood element. In Chinese mythology dragons are powerful helpers to manifest your hopes and dreams and goals.  In particular, the Green Wood Dragon helps us to connect with Nature and to embrace the wisdom which she expresses, and then to choose to embody this wisdom within ourselves and our lives.

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