"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." ~ Max Ehrmann
When I looked for quotes to start my previous post on Feng Shui and Your Body, I found that all the quotes by women on the topic of body that I could find were about body image, body-shaming, hating our bodies, wishing they were different, trying to make them conform to standards created by marketing fantasies and celebrity culture, or, on the other hand, trying so hard, so valiantly, to accept them as they naturally are. Ugh. Your body is your most intimate home, your sanctuary, your physical self. Love, love, love it! I don't mean think it's gorgeous, or feel happiness with how it looks. I mean love as a verb. LOVE it. Be good to it, take care of it, treat it like the precious possession it is. Do what you need to do to let energy flow through your physical body, as it flows through the trees and the earth and the clouds and the tides, the planets and the stars. If you are willing to pay attention to arranging your home so that the energy can inflow and outflow freely, why wouldn't you be willing to do the same for your own body, your soul's home, that you take with you, everywhere, every day, all the time? So, for this post, I begin with a little snippet from Desiderata, a piece of writing that has meant a lot to me since I first read it, decades ago. Read the whole thing sometime; it's easy to find. But right now, remember that you are here and you live in your body. So, while you may have been taught from an early age some facts about skin, bones, and teeth, your education may not have touched on the dynamic energy that keeps it all together. That energy is what Feng Shui has to do with your body.
The Five Elements and Your Body
Everything in the Universe is composed of energy, specifically the energies of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. The interplay of these Five Elements enables each of them to flourish, while it also keeps them in check. For example, Water and Earth can each, in its own way, help temper Fire, while Wood fuels Fire, enabling it to increase. Balance is the goal of the constant dynamic between the Elements in your body, as in all of nature. Each of the Five Elements is linked to an area of human anatomy, as well as specific emotional responses.
The Element of Fire is associated with the heart and small intestine. Fire represents passion, expansion and warmth, the season of summer, bringing emotions like joy and love. But it can also fuel negative sentiments like impatience, cruelty, and hate. Physical symptoms of problems in this area might include heart palpitations, high blood pressure, or chest pain.
The Earth Element rules your spleen, stomach, and pancreas. Late summer is the season ruled by the Earth Element. Positive emotions related to the Earth Element include fairness, openness, and trust, while worry, anxiety, and mistrust represent the other side of this Element. Your body may experience digestive issues when the Earth Element is out of balance.
Your lungs, skin, and large intestine are ruled by the Metal Element. You might wonder how skin got on this list of organs, but actually your skin is your body's largest organ. The season here is autumn, and the emotions associated are courage and righteousness. On the other hand, negative emotions of sadness and depression are also ruled by the Metal Element. When this Element is out of balance, your body might suffer breathing problems or constipation.
The Element of Water oversees the human kidney, bladder, and ears. This Element offers gentleness, calmness, and silence, and is associated with winter. The negative emotion of Water is fear. Water Element imbalance may show up as nervous system disorders, loss of vitality and sexual energy, abdominal issues, or an overly acidic body.
This Element rules your liver, gall bladder, and eyes. The season associated with Wood is Spring. Kindness and generosity are the positive emotions of this Element, while its negative side includes anger, frustration, envy, and jealousy. Problems in this area may include overproduction of cholesterol, digestive issues, or impairment of the liver's ability to to detoxify the body.
So, exactly how do we balance the Elements in our bodies? I am not a doctor, and none of this is intended as medical advice. However, Feng Shui is associated with Eastern medical practices, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which includes acupuncture and herbal remedies. TCM also offers nutritional guidance that categorizes foods into yin or yang, warm or cool foods (although cooking method can sometimes make a difference, this is not about temperature or spiciness, but rather specific food lists). For example, my TCM doctor once told me that my liver was hot (I had plenty of good reasons to be angry at the time), gave me a food list and recommended that I avoid "hot" foods and eat "cool" foods instead. Each of the Five Elements is also associated with certain foods, according to their colors and flavors. The colors associated with the Five Elements include reds/oranges for Fire, yellow and earth tones for Earth, whites and pastels for Metal, black and dark greens and blues for Water, and medium greens for Wood. Foods in these colors support their respective Elements. So, for example, according to TCM, eating red/orange foods is good for the Fire Element (heart), green foods for the Wood Element (liver), and so on. The Five Elements are also related to the five flavors: sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty.
Fire - reds/oranges (strawberries) - bitter (parsley).
Earth - yellows/earth tones (corn) - sweet (sweet potatoes).
Metal - whites/pastels (white rice) - spicy (peppers).
Water - black/dark blues and greens (black beans) - salty (soy sauce).
Wood - green (spinach) - sour (lemon).
Practices such as acupuncture and acupressure are based on the ancient idea that energy flows through the human body along specific tracks, called meridians. These practices unblock slowed vital energy (ch'i), release negative emotions related to specific organs, and relieve consequent health problems. Achieving and maintaining open meridians allows ch'i to flow freely throughout the body, promoting emotional and physical health and well-being.
We are not living in Nature, but are part of it. The same energy that makes the trees grow and the clouds rain and the planets orbit around the sun flows in and through each of us. No less than the trees and the stars, we all have a right to be here, inextricably entwined in the whole, part of the Five Elements in the Universe. Just as the Earth suffers when we humans throw it out of balance by stripping the rainforests or polluting the waters, our bodies suffer when we neglect to balance the Elements within them. We need to take care of every part of the Earth and every part of our bodies if we are to flourish.
Energy flows through your physical body, just like it flows through all of nature.
The Five Elements need to be balanced in your body as they do in your home and in nature.
• Read through the explanations of the Five Elements and their associations with parts of your body. Meditate on each area of your body, thinking about the Element that corresponds to it. Begin to associate that part of your body with that Element, so that when you think "lungs," you think "Metal," and so on.
• Are you experiencing any problems listed under one of the Elements? Try increasing your intake of foods in the colors and/or flavors related to that Element.
• Balance your diet with foods of various colors and tastes. Make sure these are the food's natural colors, and not a result of additives. Avoiding processed foods is always better, in any case. Natural foods are available in many colors, including fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, honey, herbs and spices, and dairy products. Always consult your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your diet.