The Water energy is a strong generative force centered in the lower belly. When the Kidney Qi is strong, a person is fearless, determined, and can endure many hardships in pursuit of their goals. Persevering by will power is characteristic of those with strong Kidney Qi. Longevity is also considered to be associated with healthy Kidney Qi, signified by large, elongated ear lobes, like those of the Buddha.
When the Kidney Qi is weak, there can be problems with water metabolism, urination, fertility, or sexuality. This person could be anxious, fearful, and withdrawn, and in more severe cases, phobic.
Kidney Qi declines with aging. There may be diminished hearing or ringing in the ears. In menopause, the Kidney yin declines, which is associated with classic signs of heat and dryness – hot flashes, night sweats, dry skin and mucous membranes. Kidney yang weakness is associated with cold – cold extremities, cold back and belly, declining sexual vigor, urinary frequency or incontinence.
The color of the Kidney is black, like the night, or like black ice. When the Kidney Qi starts to weaken, dark circles or pouches appear under the eyes. The Kidney Qi rules in the winter, a time when living things are contracted with cold. Like a seed deep in the cold ground, Qi is dormant, waiting for the time to sprout.
Water — Winter – the Kidneys – the Will
The Water element represents Qi energy at its most consolidated and essential. Like the seed of a plant, it contains within itself the potential for growth. Water is a phase that appears outwardly to be dormant, yet is full of latent power. Water signifies the life force in its primal condition, and is responsible for fertility, growth and development. It relates directly to Will, drive and determination.
The main organ associated with the Water element is the Kidneys. “The Kidneys call to life that which is dormant and sealed up; they are the natural organ for storing away and they are the place where the secretions are lodged. The Kidneys influence the hair on the head and have an effect upon the bones. Within the yin the Kidneys act as the lesser yin, which permeates the climate of winter” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine).
According to Chinese medicine, the Kidneys store the essence (or Jing), the genetic foundation of the individual. Formed from the union of the parental essences and our spirit, it is responsible for growth, reproduction and development. The essence generates the marrow, which in turn produces the bone marrow and fills the spinal cord and brain. The essence determines our constitutional strength and resistance to disease. It is precious, difficult to replenish and thus is something to be carefully preserved. Problems that originate from a depleted essence include infertility, habitual miscarriage, bone deterioration, failing memory and immune deficiency.
It is from the essence that the Kidneys produce the Original-Qi. The Original-Qi acts as catalyst for all bodily activity and is one reason that the Kidneys are called the “root of yin and yang.” Apart from storing the essence, the other main role of the Kidneys is to control water. This we can more easily relate to its scientific anatomical function: that of separating excess body fluids and waste products from the blood. When Kidney-Qi is weak, and fails to control water, problems such as oedema (water retention) can occur.
The Kidneys, in addition, house the aspect of the psyche known as the Will (Zhi), the “spirit” from which we derive will power, stamina and the thirst for enduring. Just as the essence oversees our growth and continuity, the Will is concerned with the unfolding of our destiny, and is the vehicle of self-fulfilment. Like the essence, the Will is “fertile”, the source of inventiveness and ingenuity. When the Will is strong and the Water element is in harmony, we are determined, resourceful and prudent, unwilling to dissipate energy on the superfluous or transitory. There is confidence and self-sufficiency and a mind both penetrating and introspective.
Fear is felt when the Water element is in disharmony. In response, we will either withdraw or seek to control our environment and become restless and driven. In the first instance there is a tendency to become impotent. Apprehensive and quickly overwhelmed, our urge in such a state is to avoid and retreat. In the second instance, where the Will is hyperactive, the individual is unsettled and sometimes rash, unable to contain their personal drive. Described as a “workaholic”, they demand too much of themselves, compelled by insecurity to succeed at any cost. Ultimately they may deplete themselves of both Qi and yin, succumbing to nervous “burn-out”.
The highest expression of the Water element is Wisdom. Wisdom is borne of a mind that possesses a firm foundation, the result of a Will (Zhi) that is both deeply rooted and calmly judicious. Wisdom comes from listening to our innate knowing. The seed of a plant is symbolic of water as it is a concentration of potential and fertility.
They are relatively easy to spot because they are tightly controlled internally or externally. They can have the money bag cheeks and the gravelly voice.
The main difficulty with water is where they withdraw from their withdrawal. This type of water will be internally controlling and this will need to be broken through so they can connect with their own pattern.
Once they are connected with the felt sense it is usually not too difficult. However, keeping them engaged in the process across sessions is a challenge because they have a tendency to run away from difficult emotions and this can extend to them running away from therapy once it is going somewhere. The best approach is to take your time.
If addressing loneliness it is good to have them relate to their inner child, potentially do an inner child process and feel that loneliness. The recognition of the loneliness is in itself a partial correction since the root of the loneliness is personal disconnection.
With numbness it is good to activate the gastro and soleus muscles and the arch of the foot where the tendons of muscles that run up the posterior of the lower leg attach to the foot or big toe. These muscles are heavily impacted by control, and its that internal control that needs to be broken for numbness and withdrawal to come out.
Where trust is an issue it is important to explain the difference between anxious feelings and the things they know with certainty that comes from connecting to knowing. Explain there are thoughts, feelings and knowing and that trust in knowing is the solution to fear. The confusion around feelings and instinct can be cleared up cognitively once they realize those anxious feelings are not related to instinctive knowing.