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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Part Three in a Five-Part Series

Five Element Theory (or Five Phases Theory) is an important aspect of many schools of Eastern medicine. Although Mao et al (you know, the Communists) diminished its importance when codifying TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), it remains a vital part of many schools of Classical Chinese Medicine, Shiatsu, and so forth. Every week for the next five weeks I will be contemplating an element and writing a brief essay about it for class--how it acts in nature, how it applies to the human. I direct the curious to an overview or two of Five Element Theory.

In the class after I handed in this essay, I learned that I missed the point, really, of the Earth element. If you were to take some soil in your hand, remove all the plants and water and minerals, all you would have left is...nothing. Earth is the force that holds everything else together. It is the element that needs all of the other elements to exist, but it is the center, the binding force that unites the other elements. Earth-imbalanced people must be very careful to find their own center, or they will live tossed by the wind.

Nonetheless, here is what I wrote.

Earth Qi and Me
Full disclosure: I thought I had a tough time approaching the Fire essay, but this one has been much worse, because Earth is there, right in my face, 24/7, and it’s hard to see something you’re always dancing with. (My Western astrological chart actually has no Earth in it—unless you count the Wounded Caretaker in Taurus, which many astrologers don’t. This lack of Earth in my natal chart corresponds nicely, I think, with chronic Spleen Qi Insufficiency. So there we are.)

There is something I dislike terribly about Earth: It’s so easygoing as to let everyone literally walk all over it. Earth is the element that would be barefoot and pregnant with nine kids and no dreams of her own, with Wood yelling at her for putting on dinner too late, drowning her sorrows in a pack of Twinkies when she really needs assertiveness training. I’ve noticed that the people who irk me most are those with Earth unbalanced in a different way than my Earth is unbalanced. Sure, I over-think and eat too many dampening foods, but why does she take everything so literally? Why is he so stultifyingly practical? That person is so needy! In some ways, I’ve organized my life as a reaction against Earth qi. Maybe I should stop doing that.
I suspect that the Chinese thought of both earth, the soil, and Earth, the planet, when they devised 5 Element Theory. In the early model, Earth qi was at the center, with the other elements orbiting around it, like the moon and stars. Earth qi is associated with roundness, and we spin through space on a round planet Earth.

Earth, both our planet and its soil, is solid, stable, and reliable. It supports us. Without the gravity created by Earth, we’d all go floating off into space, fodder for black holes. We know, however, that there is great turbulence beneath the surface of the Earth, which erupts, sometimes, as earthquakes; and over longer periods as mountains, continental drift, and other such phenomena. The planet is undergoing constant change, twirling through space, with multiple seasons at the surface at any given time, and yet it seems solid beneath our feet. Likewise, the earth—soil—is forever churned by worms, prodded by shoots, and dug by humans. There are tremendous riches deep within the Earth/earth: minerals, metals, gems, and, most importantly, potential. Earth can grow all manner of plants, give water its shape, and create minerals.

Earth is nourishing. Just as the earth grows our food and sustains us, so the Earth element in the human gives us our nourishment. It takes the food from the earth and creates gu qi and xue for the body. The Chinese describes Earth as “the center”, and it is; Earth is the center of our existence. Except for a few astronauts and very in-tune astrophysicists and shamans, none of us knows anything that is not of the Earth. We are of the Earth. In the creation stories of both the ancient Greeks and the ancient Hebrews, a god creates humankind from clay. A very wise psychologist and potter once told me that clay had to be used with caution in art therapy. It is very powerful because it is made of the same stuff that we are, earth and water, and as such it could be too strong a tool to use on people with deep psychological disturbances.

I can’t quite wrap my mind around how Earth qi became associated with the intellect. It makes sense to me that Earth qi is associated with Spleen and Stomach, and that Spleen and Stomach digest both food and information, but that is an indirect link. Perhaps the fertility of the earth ties in with mental as well as physical fertility.

I think that a person with a balanced Earth element would keep her center in times of great change and turbulence, but also would be content in times of sameness, accessing the riches available in the present, and knowing that circumstances are bound to change eventually anyway. She would have a sharp intellect, but be able to quiet the chattering mind. She would be very comfortable with herself and quite grounded. Her fertility would enable her to grow whatever was necessary for life on this planet, be it new life from her body or new ideas from her mind. She would find and appreciate the nourishment around her, through food, friends, art, and, really, everything, and be comfortable accepting that nourishment.

2 Comments:

Blogger Emma Goldman said...

i think that perhaps this is one of the elements i can balance reasonably well.

i have to say, this really is interesting.

11:05 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

glad you're liking it! metal is next...stay tuned...

10:41 PM  

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