Yellow light, the earth phase, and a light-activated protein named Arch.

What's that you say?

Now that we’re at the end of the long Portland winter, I find myself appreciating sunlight and the color yellow. I’m seeing yellow everywhere right now! Apparently Yellow is all about the ego and personal power, so I thought I’d post some pics of myself. Hah!!! Are Daffodils egotistical too? They certainly seem proud of themselves for being some of the first flowers of the new year.

What does yellow do for us humans? According to Chinese Medicine, yellow is the color of the Earth phase or element. This phase can be found at the end of each season. It is seen as the center or the fulcrum, the axis around which the other four phases spin and transform (water=winter, wood=spring, fire=summer, metal=autumn). Yellow/earth creates a rhythm or cycle, and hence this yellow color can be seen in the transitional places between cycles. The center of something must be hollow in order for things to move through it (i.e. a river through a valley, bicycle hub vs spokes), so yellow also represents opening and holding a space for change and movement. It represents cycles and transformation in humans; it represents the mother giving birth; it represents the last 18 days of each season, when one phase gives birth to the next.

The Tao Te Ching talks about this idea in chapter 6:

The valley spirit never dies;
It is the woman, primal mother.
Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.
It is like a veil barely seen.
Use it; it will never fail.

Here is my response to the verse, written a while ago..
A simple yet effective parallel can be drawn between the idea of a valley and the idea of the space through which the six channels run, and which define their limits. This space carries the energy which existed before physical form, and which connects the human body to the energy of the heavens and the earth. This is reflected in the line, “her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.” The valley is not an object that can be analyzed except through its surrounding features, the mountains that define its walls. In a similar way, we can never see the energy that roots heaven and earth, but only feel its effects. The actual energy is only that which allows action to occur; it needs a physical body upon which to act. The “veil barely seen” not only reminds me of the idea of a veil between human reality and ultimate reality, but it also reminds me of the reflection/refraction of light through a veil of water. That refraction is the only reason that you can see the clear water; but you can also only see light when it is captured or acting upon a physical form.

The conformation of a valley itself is a reflection of the forces of nature, of all of the effects of wind, water, heat, gravity, etc. The valley never dies because it is a conduit, and as long as these forces exist, they will use this conduit. If we as humans can find these conduits, we can also access the energy moving through them. In a similar way, whenever we want to move our own energy, we must be able to stop looking for something to grasp onto, but rather look for something to move through. Being able to see this barely visible force is like looking at negative space; it reminds me of the dark matter that creates much of the energy of movement in the universe. It also reminds me of the spaces between the nucleus and the electrons of the atom. The energy within and around this space allows air molecules to repel each other and create the low density of the atmosphere, yet the molecules’ energy changes can create wind of amazing force. This virtually empty space becomes a physical presence, only seen by the objects that the wind moves, and this seems like another veil which can barely be seen.
More than anything else, this verse reminds me of the unity of life, its creative and vital basis, and the creativity required to access this energy.

Right, kind of heavy, but it shows how the “solid” idea of Earth can simultaneously embody movement, energy, creativity, and the exchange of energy between light and matter, between particles and waves. Sunlight is the perfect example:

One more gratuitous picture...SUNBEAMS

Another reason I’ve been so attracted to the color yellow, besides my obsession with anything associated with sunlight, is its correlation with the particular “spirit” that it represents in the body as the Earth element. The mental/emotional aspect of Earth is known as Yi, or Intention.

The left character is Yi

As Lonny Jarrett describes it,

The character yi may [be] thought of as composed of three components. Hence the 117th radical li, meaning “to establish,” is placed over the character yue, meaning “to speak,” which depicts a mouth with words in it, which in turn is located over the character xin, depicting heart. Thus we may describe the character yi, meaning intention, as signifying the process of establishing meaning in the world with words that come from the heart.

So I see the color yellow as corresponding to not only honesty and clear logic within our minds and bodies, but also the transformation that can occur in a healing setting when we speak from our hearts. This is the essence of nourishment, of the yellow earth element. I associate this idea with the correct implantation of intention with each action of our daily lives; a beneficial activity during this time of year is literally sowing seeds and amending soil in preparation for the summer garden.

Courtesy Maia C on Flickr

On a different topic…

Wowee, now scientists are using light-activated proteins to help dampen the firing of particular neurons that they are “placed within.” Check it out below:

Neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., recently developed a way to turn off abnormally active brain cells using multiple colors of light. This research could prove useful for managing disorders including chronic pain, epilepsy, brain injury and Parkinson’s disease. (Credit: Arthur Toga, Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine)

“Silencing different sets of neurons with different colors of light allows us to understand how they work together to implement brain functions,” explains Ed Boyden, senior author of the study. “Using these new tools, we can look at two neural pathways and study how they compute together,” he says.

Boyden’s ‘super silencers’ derive from two genes found in different natural organisms such as bacteria and fungi. These genes, referred to as Arch and Mac, are light-activated proteins that help the organisms make energy. When Arch and Mac are placed within neurons, researchers can inhibit their activity by shining light on them. Light activates the proteins, which lowers the voltage in the neurons and safely and effectively prevents them from firing. Arch is specifically sensitive to yellow light, while Mac is activated with blue light.

“In this way the brain can be programmed with different colors of light to study and possibly correct the corrupted neural computations that lead to disease,” explains co-author Brian Chow, postdoctoral associate in Boyden’s lab.

The National Science Foundation’s division of mathematical sciences supports the research through a grant to the Cognitive Rhythms Collaborative, which is comprised of four research groups in the Boston area focused on questions in neuroscience. The collaborative brings together researchers with expertise ranging from experimental design to mathematical modeling. The research paper, “High-Performance Genetically-Targetable Optical Neural Silencing by Light-Driven Proton Pumps,” appears in the Jan. 7 issue of the journal Nature.

-from Science Daily News

Humans also use different colors of light to modify mood patterns, and have done so since at least Sumerian times. I have heard about chromotherapy (aka color therapy) but have not had any experience with it… still trying to find good sources that are not too vague. Any suggestions for books/articles? I found a few listed below, and will be soon reporting back about “Colorpuncture.”

1. New light on chromotherapy: Grakov’s ‘Virtual Scanning’ system of medical assessment and treatment. Hankey A, Ewing E. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2007 Jun;4(2):139-44. Epub 2006 Oct 5. PMID: 17549230 [PubMed] Free PMC Article Free full text Related citations

2. Chromotherapy in the regulation of neurohormonal balance in human brain–complementary application in modern psychiatric treatment. Radeljak S, Zarkovi?-Palijan T, Kovacevi? D, Kovac M. Coll Antropol. 2008 Oct;32 Suppl 2:185-8. Review. PMID: 19138024 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] Related citations

3. A critical analysis of chromotherapy and its scientific evolution. Azeemi ST, Raza SM. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005 Dec;2(4):481-8. PMID: 16322805 [PubMed] Free PMC Article Free full text Related citations

4. Colored light therapy: overview of its history, theory, recent developments and clinical applications combined with acupuncture. Cocilovo A. Am J Acupunct. 1999;27(1-2):71-83. PMID: 10513100 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] Related citations


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