Between the hours of 5-7am is sunrise, the yang energy of the day is increasing and so we build the desire to rise, plan our day, and ambitions. This is the time of the stomach and spleen, and they will begin to awaken as well. Spleen’s spirit is called “Yi” it is what guides our intention, and this intention needs to be calm and gentle. This is why the Taoists believe that morning meditation at 5-7am will have a great impact on how your day will go. With sitting in stillness, it is important to try to calm the “chattering mind”, relax and “let go” of physical, mental, and emotional stress. This will help ground you for where you can deal with daily tasks in a calm and focused way.
At noon time, the heart is strongest. We can view the heart as a mirror. Is your mirror clean or foggy? The heart needs to be clear. We often need to “empty our cup” and let go our ego to see the true reality and be morally pure. Often times we can be living in a fantasy world, and it is just an illusion. Have you ever worried yourself so intensely over something and it turned out to be nothing? The heart takes the brunt of all emotions, so let go of them sometime.
5-7 pm is the hours of the kidneys. The sun is beginning to set and the yin energy begins to arise. This is the time to nourish our jing. Jing is the reproductive hormones and motive force, and it is yin. Yin is things like blood and body fluids that keep the body moist to prevent dryness. One practice Taoists will do is swallow spittle to the stomach. This will nourish the stomach yin. Drinking an herbal tea is another way. Lungs, Liver, and Kidney yin can be nourished by foods and herbs. Kidney time is one of harvesting yin in the body. Meditation as well will havest yin.
Now how does this all relate to sleep? Between the hours of 3-5am organs like the lungs and liver are releasing toxins. The liver is storing blood, cleaning the blood, and releasing toxins that were stored up during the day. This release is in proportion to what had taken place between 5am morning and 7pm evening. So what you do between the 15 hours of 5am to 7pm will determine if you will have a good sleep according to Taoist philosophy. If you are waking up at 3-5am thinking too much about your troubles, worrying, and not letting go, this is not true sleep especially in the unconscious mind. Stress about the past or future can manifest as restless sleep and nightmares. If the toxins are not released in the hours of 3-5am, then problems can occur physically because toxins are still there.
This is a really interesting concept as I recently took a medical massage course. In the course chapter on the lymphatic system, the doctor was explaining how lymph in the brain was proven. It is was coined the Glymphatic system by Danish neuroscientist Maiken Nedergaad. Researchers at both University of Virginia and University of Helsinki in Finland independently found vessels in the brain.
These vessels were found to carry lymphatic fluid and immune cells toward the cervical lymph nodes in the neck to carry waste material including amyloid beta proteins that accumulate like in pathologies like Alzheimer’s disease. There is much evidence describing that sleep is the essential function in activating this Glymphatic pathway to help maintain metabolic homeostasis and clearance of neurotoxic waste.
So in summary, when you wake up, I recommend being gentle to yourself both mentally and physically. Try to sit in stillness and let go of emotions before planning your day. Seek tension in the body, relax, and let go. Remember you cannot force yourself to relax or stop thoughts. There should be no reason to get nervous trying to relax, so if it does not happen, just let it be and go with the flow. Get a good night’s sleep and ample rest daily.