The Liver is the second organ and is a very important one. The Liver is full of yang that can get riled up very easily. It contributes greatly to our emotions and often a Chinese Medicine practitioner will address the Liver when people complain of irritability, anger, aggression and rapidly swinging emotions. It can "overact" on the Spleen, causing diarrhea, bloating and poor food digestion taking advantage of the Spleen's inherent weaknesses. But the Liver also has a soft side too. It is a yin organ and can become deficient, allowing the fire of the Liver to flare upward and cause headaches and red eyes. It is intricately tied to our hormones and hormonal health. As yin decreases as we age (especially in women) the Liver yin (as well as Kidney yin) must be supported.
The liver energy flows out and upward. It also stores the blood. It governs the tendons and when there is insufficient blood in the Liver to nourish the tissues, the body can have tremors, stiffness, or become weak. The eyes are the window to the Liver and depend on the good functioning of the Liver itself. When the Liver energy is strong, the vision is clear both on a physical and mental level.
The spirit of the Liver is the Hun. The Hun is the Ethereal soul. The Chinese character for Hun is made up of 2 characters. The character on the left represents "cloud" and the character on the right is "ghost". This is to represent that the spirit of the Liver is like a ghost, but is also free like a cloud that can float in and out of the body. The Hun is what gives us "sight" in the day and our dreams at night. It is responsible for our projects and plans and our dreams for the future. Because the Hun is in the Liver, and the Liver stores the blood, anything that can cause a loss of blood can make a deficiency in the Liver that can allow the Hun to get out of control.
The Hun is considered to be the minister to the Heart. The Hun proposes things and the Shen (minister to the Heart) either accepts or rejects them. The Shen is supposed to control the Hun, keeping the Liver spirit from wandering too far away into a world of dreams and no purpose. This presents a problem when the Shen isn't strong enough. This often happens, as the Shen is very vulnerable to our emotions and we are often ruled by our emotions, allowing the Shen to be weakened. The Hun can wander away, or be stolen away by bad ideas or whims. The Hun can leave the body and go out into the world and not come back (mental illness) and it is then the Shen's job to get it and make it do it's job. Strengthening the Shen to aid it in its job is a topic for another post. :)
The Hun has 3 souls. These 3 souls resonate with the each of the Dan Tians. The first soul is connected to the Lower Dan Tian. When they are in harmony, physical health improves. The second soul is connected with the Middle Dan Tian. When they are in harmony, the emotions heal. The third soul is connected with the Upper Dan Tian (which is considered to be the superior Dan Tian) and when they are in harmony, the spiritual being is developed.
When we die, the Hun returns to the sky. This is why it is important to nourish your soul as well as your physical self.
Wood is the element of the Liver and represents both firmness and flexibility. Anger is the emotion of the Liver and can cause the Liver energy to rush up. So, when there is too much anger and stress, causing that Liver energy to go upward, the Liver becomes exhausted and burns itself out (causing Liver yin deficiency, or Liver yang rising which is excess above and deficiency below - usually involving the Kidney too.....) Spreading is the nature of wood and so it is fitting that Liver energy wants to flow upward and outward. Wood qi is characterized by its upward momentum and its innate desire to be straight. We must nourish that wood aspect of the Liver to encourage the flexibility of wood: strong base, supple branches.
Thank you to Master Liu Dong and Master Liu He in their wisdom and Subhuti Dharmananda from ITM in his genius.