Coming from a Western culture that uses figure of speech liberally, connections made between seemingly unrelated things always just seemed curious, funny or odd, until I started to study Oriental healing traditions and found interesting parallels between Eastern wisdom and Western folk knowledge.
The Eastern approach to health and wholeness
Many Eastern approaches to healthcare and wellness see the mind-body-spirit as an inextricably interwoven whole where every level affects the other, whether positively or negatively. So would the state of one’s mental or emotional body affect the harmony of the physical body and vice versa? Treatment of one aspect would therefore also affect all other aspects of the whole. This is what is meant by the mind-body-connection.
It all starts with energy
Energy or life force is called Ki in Japan, Chi in China, Qi in Korea, and Prana in India. It exists but is unseen. Light, air or electricity are the closest comparison to it. Energy is considered essential and fundamental to survival. All life depends upon it. All of our organic functions rely on energy to keep us alive.
According to the Nan Jing (A.D. 100), “Chi is the root of a human being.”
The Chinese word for meridian means “passing through” or “connecting.”
Meridians are pathways along which Chi travels through the body. They are not separate, but rather are one continuous, interconnecting web. Certain sections of this web are associated with corresponding organs, and are called organ channels.
Let’s have a closer look at some of these.
The organ channels and their elements
In Eastern traditions, organs stand for much more than just parts of the “engine body.” They have personality, so to speak, and therefore connect the physical body with the mental/emotional. They are organized into pairs, with one channel feeding into the other (then feeding into the next pair and so on), as well as one being more “Yin” or receptive in nature, and one being more “Yang” or assertive.
The fact that they are continuous makes it crucial that the flow of Chi is smooth throughout. Any blockage in one area would create a deficiency further down the line, while causing overload in a previous section because of the Chi backing up.
Each pair is linked to an element of nature, and embodies the energetic charge of a season. Starting with the element of water and moving through the seasons there are:
Associated with winter, nighttime and rest. It relates to the Yang organ of the bladder, and the Yin organ of the kidneys, which house our life essence, the basis of our constitutional strength.
Corresponding emotions or characteristics are:
Being introspective or reflective, or in a more negative expression being shy or fearful; Paranoia, panic or anxiety attacks would be the most extreme.
Western figures of speech relating to it are: “… peeing into one’s pants out of fear”, or (in my native language) “This gets to my kidneys”, which means being completely worn out and exhausted by something that eats at one’s very foundation, emotionally and physically.
Associated with morning, spring and initiating action. It relates to liver and gallbladder, and to assertiveness and confidence, but also to impatience, irritability, frustration, and anger in its negative expression.
Quirky figures of speech in (again) my native language are: “This could make your bile boil over, it’s so irritating” or “What kind of flea crawled across your liver today?” when addressing someone who is grouchy or in a bad mood.
Associated with noon, summer and activity at its peak. It relates to heart and small intestine, and bestows our capacity for joy and love. Its negative expression would be giddiness or pretending to be happy in order to cover up underlying repressed emotions.
Figures of speech would be: “I’m so happy it makes my heart sing!” or similar.
Associated with late afternoon, Indian summer, things coming to fruition and harvest. It relates to spleen and stomach, and to pensiveness and consideration, but also to worry if imbalanced.
“Feeling a knot in one’s stomach,” when worried about possible failure corresponds to it.
Associated with evening, fall, winding down and letting go. It relates to lungs and large intestine, and to either acceptance (and letting go, inhale/exhale), or sadness, depression or grief (holding on).
This introduction is part one of a series on Eastern healing traditions. For questions, comments or to share other figures of speech relating to the mind-body-connection, you may e-mail the author at email@example.com.