Thinking too much about grief is bad for your Spleen. (Earth & Metal)



I’ve been a bit behind in my intended goal to blog about my take on the 5-elements as they unfold in their respective seasons, and how to utilize that wisdom in our personal and collective struggles. As I wrote in Tending the Fires Within and Without, recharge is a necessary element in following our passion and purpose with sustained fervor. It took me a while to recharge from this summer. So this two-part entry will be a combination of the next two elements on the cycle, Earth and Metal which correspond to early and late fall, and with the psycho-somatic activities of ruminating and grieving. I think it no understatement to say there is a lot on our minds lately, and much cause for grief. To a degree much of this is necessary and a healthy part of being human, but just as with any emotion or mental activity, too much of either can become pathological.

If we follow the 5-element cycle, Fire generates Earth. An overabundance of Fire will leave scortched Earth where nothing can flourish for many years. On the other hand, the right amount of Fire, which depends on the right amount of Wood, can clear out the understory creating the right dose of ash to become fertile soil. A very real means of recharging and recovering from the intensity of Summer/Fire is our natural inclination as an agricultural society to clear space, slow down, and enjoy the plenty of the Earth. Lasting plenty however, from a sustainable standpoint, is dependent first and foremost on soil, the pivotal axis in one arrangement of the 5-elements. There is rock-solid evidence that the gift of soil is beneficial not only for growing food, but also for fighting climate change as one of the largest carbon sinks on the planet, AND for our own physical/psychological health. That the micoorganisms of healthy fertile soil are beneficial not only for our climate but also our mental status points to the importance of having a healthy Spleen/Earth qi. At this juncture in our human experience, it is more critical than ever that we reestablish this relationship with the Earth element, both within oursleves and our collective agricultural practices.

On a personal physiological and psychological level, if our Spleen qi element is fortified, we have the energy to be physically active and strong, as well as clarity of thought and focus. We are grounded. If we are overtaxed in  Earth however, and we are not processing qi from our food properly, it is easy to slip into over-thinking and rumination/regret, which can then further impact our digestive functioning leading  into a vicious cycle. Anyone who has ever undertaken graduate school, written a book, or performed some other massive intellectual project can attest to the physical weariness copious amounts of thinking tends to induce, as well as digestive issues in many cases. In the light of modern science, the role of the enteric brain, the network of neural cells in our gut comparable to our brain in terms of mass, this is not such a far fetched idea. Everyone knows, or at least should know, that you need to be properly fed in order to think clearly. That our digestive health is tied to our mental clarity is borne out by science.

So how do we cultivate this healthy Spleen qi/Earth element? There are numerous ways to do this, but my favorite include getting my hands in the dirt and growing  food and medicine, keeping a red-worm farm to manage kitchen waste, walking barefooted in the grass regularly, and of course eating a diet suitable to my constitution and locale that supports a strong and diverse gastro-instestinal culture. Thouth there are many resources available for the later, from books and the google wizard, in many cases I would encourage you to have a conversation with a trained professional such as an acupuncturist, naturopath, or nutritionist. However we do it, it is critical that we do. For the sake of the planet and our personal wellbeing.

Globally it means choosing local, organic agriculture, or better yet Biodynamic ag. and sustainable practices like permaculture. At the foundations of these two pillars of the sustainable movement is soil- the fecundity of Earth. As mentioned previously, soil is one of the most effective solutions to many of our larger global problems stemming from a misuse of Fire, as well as a place for our personal problems to be assuaged. Though in this country, much of the organic industry is being co-opted by big business, there is still a vibrant local organic movement in many places, and it continues to grow. Even though it usually means more money spent on food, it is a worthwhile expense, for yourself and for the next generations, and I tend to think of it as voting with your dollars. Our disconnection to Earth and abuse of it has resulted in a massive degredation of soil throughout the world, and concomitantly rising health issues rooted in poor diet and malnutrition.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that a vast majority of people have been robbed of our rightful connection to Earth. Whether through outright colonialist-style taking by force and subsequent subjegation, war-torn refugees fleeing for somewhere to land, or by being born into a system utterly bereft of any true and reverent connection to Earth. And this is a cause for great grieving, which leads us to the element of Metal in part 2, where I’ll discuss the necessity of grief, as well as the means to alleviate its effect and find healing- much of which is connected to this post. For now, I’ll let you digest all this.


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