The second installment in our Elements of Chinese Medicine series is Water. The season of the year associated with Water is Wintertime. Winter is the time when things in nature are contracted, dormant, and cold, as with a seed that lies beneath the snow, waiting for the Springtime to sprout. The energy of Water is that it sinks down, pools, and collects.
The internal organs associated with the Water element are the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder. The Kidneys contain the root energy of all your organs and spark the energy of the whole body, just the same as the seed beneath the snow contains the essential energy the plant needs to grow. The energy of the Kidneys is a strong, generative force centered in the lower abdomen and the lower back. The Kidneys’ essence, or jing, as it is called in Chinese medicine, is associated with the human life cycle – growth, maturation, and aging. This is much the same as the person’s DNA. You inherit your Kidney energy from your parents.
Healthy Kidney energy will ensure that a child develops normally, the sex hormones are in balance, and the person lives relatively free of age-related diseases as they get older. The Kidneys are also related to the Brain, and influence mental development and mental aging. The bones are associated with the Kidneys. If the person’s Kidney energy is strong, they will have strong bones and teeth. If it is weak, they will tend to have problems such as osteoporosis, and tooth problems. Longevity is associated with healthy Kidney energy. In fact, have you ever seen a picture of the Buddha with his long earlobes? If you have large ear lobes, that is a sign that you have healthy Kidney energy, and barring any unforeseen events, you should live a very long life.
In Chinese medicine, there is really no way to separate the mind and the body. Fear is the emotion that is associated with the Kidneys. If the Kidneys are out of balance, the person will have the tendency to have a more fearful, phobic personality. If the Kidneys are in balance with the rest of the 5 elements, the person will be calm, introspective, and have a deep inner strength. There is a point on the bottom of the foot called Bubbling Well or Gushing Spring. This point is used in Tai Chi to root the person to the earth. If you find that you are thinking too much, and the energy in your head is too active or turbulent, you can massage this point to bring the energy back down to earth, to become grounded again. It is also very useful in cases of insomnia, when you are unable to sleep because you are thinking too much. The point is located in a depression on the bottom of the foot, behind the ball of the foot, between the 2nd and 3rd metatarsal bones. If you tend toward insomnia, simply massage this point before you go to sleep.
You can maintain your Kidney health by eating a nourishing, balanced diet, doing gentle exercise, such as Tai Chi or walking, getting plenty of sleep, and keeping stress to a minimum.