When I was a lad, my mother used to tell me that an hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two hours sleep after midnight. No doubt she was trying to curb my teenage tendency to stay up late. Of course I didn’t believe it at the time.
Now I see that this notion echoes the Chinese medicine prescription of going to bed by 11 pm. This is so that we are resting during the time that the high tide of Qi is moving through the Gall Bladder meridian (11 pm to 1 am) and the Liver meridian (1 am to 3 am). It is said that the these organs and channels of the Wood Element like to be horizontal during this time of peak Qi.
Another concept that relates to these meridians is the idea of “sleeping on it”, meaning “I won’t make a decision right now but I’ll sleep on the question or problem and decide tomorrow”. This is excellent advice, for it is the Gall Bladder official that is in charge of decision making. By allowing the passage of time for the high tide of Qi to pass through this functionary of decision making, the answer or solution usually looks clearer the following morning.
A particularly thorny problem or decision may take more than one sleep, but don’t put the decision off too long. Procrastination is the other side of rashness, and both states can be pointing to an imbalance in the Wood Element. A balanced Wood provides us with the capacity for wise judgement followed by considered, appropriate action.
The season of spring, when the high tide of the year’s energy is passing through the Wood phase, can provide us with more than usually significant challenges in the areas of planning, decision making and taking action. If this describes you at the moment, then consider it a call to support your Wood. Go early to bed, eat green and sour foods, take herbs and supplements to gently cleanse the organs of liver and gall bladder. Avoid alcohol and rich, fatty food. Look at the emotion of anger (over-expressed or suppressed) and how that may be injuring these organs. Most of all, Wood likes to move, so get plenty of exercise.
At the level of spirit, the spirit of Wood is the hun, the ethereal soul. During the daytime the hun resides in the eyes, helping us to see how we can best act in alignment with our soul’s direction. But at night the hun descends to the Liver where it organises dreams that are beneficial to our soul. Sleeping soundly during Liver time (1 am to 3 am) is essential to that purpose, while sleep disturbances during that time are pointing to issues that relate to Liver.
All this talk of Liver reminds me of another saying, this time a Russian proverb: “The morning is wiser than the evening.” While I suspect this advice may have something to do with the nocturnal consumption of vodka, it is nevertheless another reminder of the clarity that can arise from just “sleeping on it”.