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Be Well Blog

Free And Easy Wandering

Central Park in the Spring

“Heaven begins to generate warm energy and Earth begins to develop, so that everything flourishes… The spring possesses the will to grow, and after things have grown, do not destroy them.”

Spring is finally here! You can feel the transitioning of winter into spring as the temperature ping pongs up and down, keeping us on our thermostatic toes. But inevitably, inexorably, the buds pop out on the trees, the bulbs push up, and there’s a tantalizing scent in the air. Here at Evolve Health + Wellness, our wall-length “wave” windows shows the community garden putting off its winter coat of snow and revealing delicate colors of silvery green leaves, pale white branches of blossoms, and the occasional splash of wild yellows and pinks of daffodils and tulips.

You can feel the sap rising, and it’s not just in the natural world around us (even in NYC) but it is within us as well! Our own “sap” is rising. Free and unfettered, it moves us into new projects and engaging with the world, and prepares us for stepping out into the bright light of summer.

An ancient Chinese medicine text called the Huang Di Nei Jing says: “Heaven begins to generate warm energy and Earth begins to develop, so that everything flourishes… The spring possesses the will to grow, and after things have grown, do not destroy them.”

So how to best take advantage of this time of blooming and growth? This is a time of year I get to give out one of my favorite prescriptions: FREE AND EASY WANDERING. This 2,000+ year old advice from the Huang Di Nei Jing teaches us the importance of adapting to the seasons for the benefit of our health.

The text tells us: “it is desirable to get up in the morning, take a walk in the yard, to loosen up the hair and relax the body.”

This advice was later associated with a phrase coined by Chuangzi, a famous Taoist philosopher, as free and easy wandering. It’s such a great prescription that it even has an herbal formula named after it!

To grow and flourish with the spring, we need to have the relaxation of body and spirit for the natural energy of the season to move through us. It we are tight and contracted, or too much turned inward, the flow that wants to rise up and out will be impeded. A blockage of this kind can manifest emotionally as irritation, frustration, and feeling on edge, or physically, with a myriad of symptoms such as headaches, gut disturbances, changes in menstruation, or even neck or back pain.

So to follow this ancient prescription:

GET UP IN THE MORNING: it’s not just daylight savings, we are returning to the long days of summer. It’s time to shake off the cocoon-like habits of winter and greet the day with awareness and by being awake. In the winter we sleep in, and store energy. Now is the time to rise and shine. Use those extra minutes to stretch or breathe, or simply gaze at the beautiful world around you with a cup of coffee or tea.

TAKE A WALK IN THE YARD: well, we might not have those here in NYC, but we’ve got wonderful parks, gardens, rivers and open space. Even just finding a quiet few blocks with some hardy city trees will do. Walk briskly, allowing your arms to swing and lungs to pump. Gaze far off into the distance, across the water, down the block, at the buildings around you. Wide open spaces lift our spirits through the eyes and their direct connection to our energy. Look far, and definitely not at your cell phone!

LOOSEN YOUR HAIR: this prescription dates to when people wore their hair only bound up in the social sphere. Unbinding your hair means letting go of the trappings of that world and returning to a natural state. As you walk, or wander freely, let your mind let go of worries, thoughts of work and relationships recede to a low buzz. Just take in what’s around you, see it, enjoy it, and let it go.

RELAX THE BODY: we store all kinds of tension in our physical structures. Shoulder tightness from desk work, restricted breathing from tension in the diaphragm. Let that go too. Be easy, be relaxed. As you walk, find areas of restriction and allow them to melt away. Use the flow of the walking to release.

Try this prescription every day, if you can, for 30-60 minutes during this season. Sub out the gym for some free and easy wandering. Enjoy this observance of the natural movement of energy all around us. Find a favorite city spot and go!