The Earth Element expresses itself in the physical body through the organ systems of the Spleen (including the pancreas) and the Stomach. As you may recall from the previous blog posts, in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) these associated organ systems represent a holistic network that includes the organs, along with channels for delivering Qi, broader functions, attributes and energetics. It is a very different way of seeing the functions of organs than the way western allopathic medicine identifies, understands and works with a more narrow, mechanical view of organs. In Chinese Medicine the Spleen and Stomach, as a team, provide nourishment and fuel to our body and all the various systems of the body.
When the Earth Element organs (Spleen and Stomach) are healthy and in harmony in an animal/human body, the muscles are supple and have the energy needed to support the body, limbs and movement; the organs remain in their proper positions; food is digested well; there is a healthy balance of blood sugar; and there is enough energy to sustain every day life without worry of lack or scarcity. On a mental and emotional level, when the Earth Element is in harmony the horse or human is able to share from of a sense of abundance with others and equally receive love, empathy and sympathy from others. They feel grounded, stable and centered; and they know how to nourish themselves. However, when these systems are out of balance physically the horse or human may be significantly overweight, struggle with diabetes or insulin resistance or metabolic issues, experience digestive issues, prolapsed organs, edema, and poor muscling, to mention a few examples. On a mental/emotional level, the Earth imbalance may show up as extreme worry, OCD and rumination, the inability to feel sympathy or being overly caring, sluggishness, extreme stubbornness, or even hoarding (the feeling of never having enough).
A helpful analogy for the balance needed to maintain a healthy digestive system, keeping the Earth Element in harmony is to think of a beautiful pile of compost in the garden. A rich, fertile compost pile is one where everything has been “digested”, it has that amazing earthy scent and there is an even feeling of dampness, where the compost could stick together if squeezed into a ball. A good compost pile needs a particular balance of heat, moisture and dry material for everything to decompose. In an unhealthy compost pile it may stink, you may see material that has not been fully “cooked” and there may be some mold, meaning there is stagnation and too much dampness in the pile, which has prevented enough heat to fully “cook” everything. In the other extreme, a compost pile with not enough moisture will be dry and crumbly, with little scent and the materials may not have decomposed well due to lack of heat. The balance needed in the compost pile is similar to the balance needed in our own digestive system. Too much cold, fat and sugar may cause stagnation, and too much dampness, may cause gas, bloating, edema or phlegm. Think about this when your pony is grazing all day on a super rich pasture or when you dive into a big bowl of your favorite ice-cream. It is all about finding the healthy and nourishing, and balanced center for each of us as individuals.