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Wood Element: Clarity of Direction and Purpose/Gate of Hope (Liver 14)

Posted: Feb 19th, 2013
The Wood Element:
Clarity of Direction and Purpose


Consider an acorn in springtime. Present within it is a blueprint for a beautiful oak tree. A goal, and all the necessary potential for achieving that goal, are present in the acorn. You may have seen a an acorn sprout in a tiny crevice with barely enough soil or water to sustain it, yet it continues to grow through an old sidewalk or through the foundation of a building. The clarity of direction and purpose expressed by the acorn is an expression of the Wood element.  

Like the blueprint contained in the acorn, the Wood element represents our blueprints for our own sense of purpose and direction. Mentally, the Wood element shows up in our capacity to create effective ways to deal with obstacles and conflict. When we can navigate our way through a series of obstacles by keeping our eye on the long-term goal, we have healthy, flexible Wood energy. Or maybe we are more able to shift our perspective on a conflict and become flexible and adaptive to the needs of others, creating partnership or reconciliation where there had been opposition. Another way that healthy Wood energy can support us is in our ability to envision and manifest a solution that does not yet exist, perhaps in a new artwork, legislation, or tool.

Physically, Wood element is expressed in the liver and gall bladder, as well as the eyes, tendons, and ligament. When Liver qi and Gall Bladder qi are not flowing well within the body, there are many possible physical symptoms. Headaches, especially those that are one-sided (called a Gall Bladder headache) or felt at the crown of the head (known as a Liver-type headache) may be chronic problems. Irregular menstruation, severe pre-menstrual symptoms (irritability, headaches, muscle tension), and difficult menses (severe cramping, heavy bleeding) are also signs of imbalanced Wood energy. 


Spiritually, Wood is expressed as our sense of purpose and direction; our capacity to see where we want to go in life. Lack of motivation, depression, and anger are signs of a spirit suffering from lack of healthy Wood energy.


Gate of Hope (Liver 14)
Gate of Hope is a beautiful point for treating a common condition in Chinese medicine called "constrained Liver qi". Constrained liver qi contributes to depression, anger, digestive problems, headaches, and infertility.  To find it, slide the fingers down the medial border of the ribs from the sternum into a notch about two to four inches away from the xyphoid process. You may find a tender spot  - this is probably Liver 14!  
Gate of Hope lies near the border of the diaphragm and this important gate can be closed when we stop  breathing in a relaxed manner, which causes tension or tightness in the diaphragm. The name Gate of Hope refers to the function this point fulfills in allowing Liver qi to rise up from the abdomen into the chest, nourishing the Heart. When this gate is open, our sense of possibility and purpose is flowing freely and is connected to our heart. When it is closed (as is often the case when we are breathing shallowly and have tension in the ribcage) our sense of direction may feel frustrated and unexpressed, or in our heart, we may feel unconnected to any clear sense of direction in our life.  
Opening this gate can be facilitated by: 
  • massaging this area
  • stretching the upper abdomen in a back bend 
  • breathing deeply and slowly
  • regular cardiovascular exercise, and of course, 
  • acupuncture!

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