Crooked and Straight

We’ve entered the season of letting go. Essential to letting go is flexibility, a topic intimately related to pressure. (Positive Pressure) How much pressure we can bear depends on how flexible we are. No matter how strong you are, if you are not flexible, almost any amount of pressure can cause distress.

Letting go has always had a mysterious quality to me. I never know if the physical letting go will result in an emotional letting go or vice versa. Often it is impossible, prior to the completion of the process, to know what exactly I am letting go of. In some ways, letting go seems to be about letting the picture blur somehow, as if seen through a window with condensation.  This is the domain of the Lungs in Chinese medical thinking, the Metal element, the element associated with Fall. The Lungs are responsible for distributing “clouds” of moisture, creating the rain that nourishes our whole body. And we cannot let go without some moisture, some rain to wash away whatever we are holding on to.

What happens inside you when the weather changes, when the grocery store is out of your favorite snack, when someone cancels their date with you? Can you bend, change course, adapt to the new circumstances? Can you soften the gaze, see the picture through the rainy window? If these things are tough for you, demanding, stressful, you might need more moisture in your life.  Moisture could be water or fat, (bacon, even or even especially) or it could be a good day in bed reading or staring out the window. Moisture is both the substance itself and the quiet, slow pace of a rainy day.

Essential to flexibility is a quality called “crooked and straight.”  A funny saying, crooked and straight, but one that describes the Wood element from Chinese medicine..  Why am I thinking about the Wood element, which is usually associated with Springtime, here at the advent of Fall, you might ask? Well, I am thinking about the flexibility that is characteristic of a healthy Wood element. And I am thinking about what the opposing movements of Spring and Fall can teach us about flexibility. In Springtime, the pressure of growth makes things explode, show themselves in a tender green glory.  In Fall the pressure is on slowing down, letting go, moving into a quiet, simple state.


Crooked here means we can turn, bend, move aside, like a tree that grows out over the stream at an angle, bending and twisting to get the sunlight it needs. Straight means we are strong, holding up under the pressure of climate changes, schedule changes, the everything changes changes. I’d go so far as to say that this kind of flexibility is the single most important quality for your health.  I know it is most important for me. Everything that grows in the world, including humans, needs flexibility to survive.  And everything needs a kind of strength. Yet flexibility remains key, pivotal, you might say, as everything can turn on whether or not we can bend with the pressures rather than stiffen against them.

Where are you straight and strong, still growing? And where are you ready to soften, to let go?   

Josephine SpilkaComment