Delving into Winter’s Earth Element: Water

Delving into Winter’s Earth Element: Water

by Courtney Luck, M.Ac, L.Ac


Winter has arrived.  You can tell by the change in the air.  Not only has the temperature dropped, but there is a heavy, quiet stillness that can be sensed.  In Chinese medicine, the winter season is associated with the element of Water.  Observing nature is such good medicine.  We are nature; it lives within us.  What do you think of when you observe water in nature?  A quiet meandering stream?  A babbling brook?  A fast moving river that is smooth on the surface yet racing underneath?  A frozen lake?  Or perhaps a cascading waterfall or raging rapids?  Water shows itself in many forms.  It naturally takes the shape of any container that it is placed in.  It transforms.  Water also flows downwards to the depths of its environment.  It can carve deep caverns through mountains over time, patiently working its way through the landscape.

In Five Element theory, the Water element represents deep listening and strong will.  It represents the conservation of resources and the generation of power.  Each element is represented in our bodies by particular sets of sister organs.  These organs have many functions apart from the physical- they are instrumental in the way our minds and emotions function.  The organs that govern the Water element are the Bladder and Kidney.  Physically, the Bladder fills and empties, clearing our bodies of waste that is not useful to us.  Similarly, we can liken this to our mental and emotional patterns of filling and emptying.

The Bladder also helps us manage our resources; allowing time to fill our cups, so to speak.  When we get appropriate rest, the Bladder is that which manages our energy so that there will be enough day to day.  It sets the pace so that we do not use more than we have and creates a container for the power received from it’s sister organ, the Kidneys.  Physically, the Kidneys are responsible for filtering our blood, balancing body fluids, and are also the docking station for the adrenal glands.  You could say that what the Kidneys do for our blood can translate on the mental and emotional level as well.

Just as the Kidneys clear our blood to be free from any toxins picked up or created within the body, the Kidneys also teach us how to sort through ideas and stories we’ve picked up as we move through life and help us to know our true, deep nature.  The Kidneys house our unique blueprint and teach us what we need to fulfill our Tao, which is our destined path in life.  It could even be said that your Kidneys are that voice that comes from deep inside you, whispering “Yes, this is who you are, this is what you need”.

These sisters bring their gifts to all aspects of life.  They enable us to “go with the flow”, just as water does in nature.  When we experience illness or mental and emotional “stuckness” in life, this is when they need support.  When our joints and bones ache, when we have trouble listening to our inner voice, when we don’t get enough sleep and feel like we’re “running on empty”, when we are frozen or panicked in the kind of fear that prevents us from enjoying life the Bladder and Kidneys are asking for help.  Acupuncture is the fastest, simplest, most natural way of affecting change in the body and to bring support to our sweet sisters.

In this article, we are merely scratching the surface of what the Water element brings to life.  The depths of this medicine are great and vast.  (Much like water- pun intended!)  And so there are, of course, many other attributes and functions of the element of Water.  My hope is that this article inspires you to get in touch with Water, in nature and in you.  Find time to observe, be still, be silent and see what flows into your consciousness from your depths.

Article by Courtney Luck, M.Ac, L.Ac

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