“Man does not live by food alone…we need to be nourished in our body, mind & spirit if we are to live a full and happy life.”
Now that it is late summer, we are in the midst of the Earth season. Soon enough, the sound of the cicadas will fade, the smell of the garden’s fresh, abundant harvest will be gone, and eventually, this season will end with the first frost of autumn.
When our Earth element is nourished, we are emotionally stable, attentive to needs, satisfied, and we’re able to think clearly with both focus and intention. The power of the Earth element is to feel at peace within ourselves, and this happens naturally when we are grounded and balanced. The absence of a well nourished spirit can create feelings of being uprooted, unbalanced & unprotected. This can bring on insecurities and even lead to depression. What do you need to feel more comfortable? Consideration of this question is important in examining the health of your Earth Element.
Governed by the Stomach & Spleen meridians, these Officials are physically responsible for taking in, digesting & assimilating. When imbalanced, we are prone to abnormal and frequent bruising, hemorrhaging, bloating and flatulence, epigastric discomfort, indigestion and belching, decreased appetite, nausea and vomiting, food retention causing pain and discomfort, weak limbs, edema and phlegm, loose stool, organ prolapse, bad breath, and excessive thirst. We may even see cracks on the surface of our tongues. When we lack digestive power we subsequently lack systemic distribution, and this cascades to symptoms of low energy and lethargy. No energy means no movement and no heat, leading to cold hands and feet.
Lack of digestion affects us mentally too, especially when we face something that we “can’t stomach”. Two days before my second board exam, I received a phone call with some heavily distressing news. Prior to the call I was feeling great and balanced, yet this information was very unsettling. Later that evening and up through my exam, I was having terrible symptoms of what Chinese medicine refers to as rebellious qi. It’s basically “wrong way” qi and wreaks havoc on your digestive system. I was having trouble remembering very simple things that I had previously memorized. This turned into anxiety and the experience of a panic attack right before my exam. All of these symptoms were unusual to me, and were triggered by information that didn’t sit well.
Mentally and emotionally, an out of balance Earth element looks like: overthinking and circular thinking, difficulty concentrating and confusion, worry and anxiety, poor short-term memory, and obesity and anorexia. When hunger and need aren’t centered, it can create insatiability. In health, hunger comes from need. Unmet needs can become compulsions and unnatural appetites. Ask yourself: What do I hunger for, and how can I create it in order to feel full within myself and still have enough to extend to the community?
Signs of being well fed include healthy flesh and muscles. We are able to think clearly and concentrate, and our memory is intact. Both digestion and elimination are good, our appetite and sense of taste is normal, and we feel strong and energetic. Our blood circulation is strong, and the blood stays in the vessels where it belongs. Sympathy and compassion for others comes naturally. Integrity and reciprocity, virtues of Earth, are effortlessly expressed in health.
If you could use help living a more well rounded and balanced life, Five Element acupuncture and Chinese herbalism are both gentle and effective. Nutritional advice plus recipes for a healthy digestive system will be in the next blog, so be sure to check that out. At the very least, consider the above questions and try to integrate the answers into your life.