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Chinese Five Elements:
The Season of Water
by Karen Shaw
This is a brief article on the water element. The
water element is one of the aspects of the five elements in the Chinese
medical system. I am a practitioner of acupressure, which is a hands-on
method of bodywork, focused on the Chinese medical system. In the Chinese
tradition, the five elements—Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth—are the
dynamic qualities of Nature in life. Each element is ever-present, and
basic to life. The elements are our deepest connection to Nature, the most
embodied state of Nature that we experience.
I want to discuss the Water element in this article,
because we are in the Water time of year. With each element, we have a
season to which it pertains, as well as all the qualities that that season
holds. Water is Winter, Wood is Spring, Fire is Summer, Earth is Late
Summer; Metal is Autumn, and then we return again to Water/ Winter, and so
on as a continuous flow from one season to the next. What I find most
interesting is not only the physical aspect, but also the day-to-day
manifestation of the Water element in our daily lives. I offer this
for your information, your greater understanding, your increased awareness
of your own life and of all life around you.
There are two organs in the body governed by the
Water element: the Bladder and the Kidneys. The Bladder Meridian Pathway
begins at the inner aspect of the eye, flows up over the head, down the
back and legs to the little toe. The Kidney Meridian Pathway begins at the
bottom of the foot, travels up the inside of the legs and front of the
body, ending just under the collar bone. The
Chi energy flows through these Meridians, with Bladder from 3 to 5
pm, then to Kidney at 5 to 7pm.
The Kidneys are considered “The Root of Life” in
Chinese medicine. This is because the Kidneys are the first aspect of
physical life to manifest; in the Kidneys are stored the pre-heaven
Chi, derived from the
Essences of one mother and father, and “The Gift of Anterior Heaven,”
which is the Primary Essence ensuring the continuation of Life. The
Kidneys are the foundation of Yin and Yang in the body; Kidney Yin is the
foundation substance for Birth, for Growth and Reproduction, while Kidney
Yang is the motive force of all physiological processes. The Kidneys are
also the origin of Water and of Fire in the body, and are referred to in
part as the “Gate of Vitality,” the physiological Fire essential to Life.
The Fire of The Gate of Vitality provides heat for all the bodily
functions as well as for the Kidney Essence itself; Kidney Essence
determines our basic constitution, strength and vitality; it is what
produces marrow to nourish the skeletal structure including bones, teeth,
hair, spinal cord and brain. Vital Kidney Essence shows outwardly as keen
mental clarity, concentration, memory, as well as sexual vitality and
time of year corresponding with Water is Winter. In Nature, Winter is the
deepest, most inward time; all the energy has gone within and is at rest.
Notice all the trees with no leaves, or the animals that hibernate,
for example. Most temperatures are cold or even freezing; there are
clouds, fog, rain, trickling streams, raging rivers, quiet ponds,
frozen lakes, crashing ocean waves. There is stillness of waiting;
the calm before the storm; the Long Sleep of Winter; the seeds
underground just there for now… waiting deeply within. There is
little or no movement… Waiting.
Within the Water aspect are the seeds of what
will become in our lives within the coming year. It could be a child, a
goal, an idea, a dream, a destiny. It begins as a seed with an outcome all
its own, and this is within us, waiting. This is our time to give it space
to BE, a time of inquiry and deep listening. Like the Water, we are deep
and full of possibilities, full of potentials.
If we are in rhythm with the nature of Water,
we can cultivate stillness, and flow with trust in the Now. If we are not
in rhythm with the Water, we may feel fearful, overwhelmed and exhausted.
If we are in rhythm with the Water element, then what we do flows out of
who we are. The Water element holds our will power, determination and
focus; it holds the seeds of our life’s purpose within it.
How can we use this knowledge to benefit our
day-to-day experiences in business? I can recognize that being still and
being quiet with a client or a coworker who is fearful and exhausted will
bring relief and understanding. Anyone can practice deep listening any
time we are being spoken to, making sure we have really heard what was
We can increase our awareness of our own
manifestation of our Water within us; are we calm and quiet, or are we
rough from the wind? As the Water element, we cannot be contained, but we
can flow and meander through our day, rather than drown in all that is in
our path. We can warm someone who is ice cold, we can cool someone who is
red hot; we can each bring warmth to one another through laughter and
playfulness; we can remember that within the waiting, we are gathering
strength for ourselves and the balance of the Earth.
Click here for a PDF version of this article.