Kidneys, Water, Will Power, Winter
Seed in the Cold Ground
The Kidneys, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, are associated with Water Element and with the Winter season. Their attributes can be whittled down to cold and dark–the beginning of everything–from the Big Bang Theory to a seed in the cold ground. This storage of potential energies is the same dynamic we have in our will power, this innate power battle of life itself.
Will power (Zhi in Chinese medicine) is the beginning and it holds much of our ability to develop and utilize wisdom. Our wisdom, if you look at this past year, was made up of growth, expansion, turbidity and loss. Now comes winter, the end of all the seasons. It’s not really an “end” but a point where things slow and stop to some degree. This cold and dark drives us to find some inner warmth. It provides a time to be more receptive, introspective and storage-oriented, thus giving us more purpose and aiding our destiny.
History has examples of ancient scholars pondering their existence and/or the state of the unknown, The First Matter. Similar to that seed in the cold ground, existence in ancient texts is a cold and dark place. In the expression of our body and mind, this is our will power, manipulated by our everyday impulses, which later neuroscientists would define as our prefrontal cortex.
Water Element and Associations
When assessing each element in theory (FIRE, EARTH, METAL, WOOD, and WATER) imagine how each element is expressed in nature. Water for example, has many different forms but its main attribute is that it fills and settles into space at the lowest point. There you can observe the connection to introspection and its requirements for depth. Water also flows and moves with a force behind it or gravity pulling it down. It always takes a path to those points where it can finally reach depth. If the atmosphere is too cold we observe water in it’s solid and slightly expanded form.
In our bodies, this depth is located between left and right kidneys, and it is closely related to the bladder, adrenal glands, reproductive organs and pelvis. In Taoist literature, the pelvic cauldron is our ocean floor, the beginning of the organic processes.
Ways to Consider and Work with the Kidneys
Zhi – Who am I? Why am I here? What am I going to do about it?
Wisdom is the spirit of Winter, it is defined as our unconscious force. This aspect includes our capacity for reflection. When we reflect, self assurance arises. In order for our will power to gain purpose, we must manifest self reflection into wisdom. We do this by utilizing our resources and bringing our potential self out into the world. Similar to a geyser or a spring, our life purpose vents up toward our conscious mind. Through our reflection, our mind can read the playbook and now take on the tasks for our intended purpose. We can engage our intended purpose by checking in with these necessities:
– Planning and Vision (Liver/Gall Bladder) – stress can obstruct outcomes
– Passion (Heart) – overthinking and a restless mind affects concentration
– Introspect/Reflect/Remember (Kidney) – are you taking your time?
A typical case study in our clinic comes to mind, a patient comes in with stress and anxiety. Upon further investigation this patient needs to make a decision and this overthinking causes either fatigue or reckless behavior. Oftentimes this patient identifies that they need to sit and reflect, rest and recharge for what is ahead. By the time this patient is finished, their thoughts seem a little lighter and they are able to use their time to flow in a direction that is purposeful.
Nutrition and Adaptogenic Herbs
A little trick once shared with me is listen to your food being cooked. Oddly enough, Ears and Hearing are related to Kidney health and are most affected in the time of Winter. Hearty soups and beans, plus roasting veggies, all have the capacity of long durations and preparations which can aid in stimulating appetite naturally. Other particular tonic foods and botanicals significant helping us with inner warmth are:
- prepared rehmannia (common herbal formula–Liu wei di huang pian)
- solomon’s seal
- bone marrow soup
- placenta (esp postpartum people)
- black beans with seaweed
- wheat and/or barley grass
- kidney organ
- doddler seeds
Qigong and Meditation – focus on feet, knees, lower back and neck
As winter begins many of us start feeling the pains that cold weather can bring and a simple Qigong warm up routine every morning prompts the body into action especially if done everyday.
To amplify this experience and improve bone health, simply doing low impact strength exericise with bands that focus on the feet (the bladder meridian ends at the small toe and the kidney meridian begins at the bottom of the foot), knees (number 1 acupuncture point for lower back pain is in the back of the knee), and lower back plus neck.
If qigong seems to be riddled with too much theory perhaps meditation can have a major impact on your will power. Breathing exercises, especially when taking your inhale deep, just below the belly button can aid in strengthening the kidney meridian. That breathing can also bring the prefrontal cortex into a relaxed state that can impact memory and concentration, which are both helpful for reflection. Another simple meditation is to either meditate near running water like a stream in nature or imagine a water in its natural form.
Absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for the depth and insight. Your share is such a gift.