Finding Courage: Kidneys & the Water Element

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D, L.Ac. & Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. 

Life is formed and develops in the water that holds the Essence of the body, called Jing. The Kidneys comprise the organ system that stores this Essence and are the primary organs that provide the Yang metabolic energy which drives the entire function of the body. In this way, our Kidney Essence is the foundation for all Yin and Yang energies of the body. 

Preserving Kidney function is therefore fundamental for health on every level. 

The Water element stores and represents our Essence, and it is through connecting with our Kidney energy that we connect with the deepest aspects of ourselves, especially memories and emotions that have been buried within our subconscious.

As the primary energy of our entire being, the Kidney energy relates to our fundamental drive to live and the willpower to fulfill our goals and dreams. 

On an intellectual level, the Water element deals with philosophy, spirituality, and the great, essential questions of life. The related emotion is what one feels in the presence of the divine, or when one understands the marvels of life. In other words, the sense of awe.

In Chinese Medicine, the Water element brings one through time. It houses the prenatal Qi that we derive from our ancestors, which can be understood as our inheritance or genetic makeup. In this way, our DNA is the fundamental physical aspect of our Essence. 

From a psychological perspective, a Water personality is a deep-thinker, a seeker of sense rather than sensations; someone who strives for enlightenment or the presence of the divine. These people are easily taken as being aloof but they are enormously loyal and can help untangle the most complicated situations. Unlike their opposite element, Fire, which is fully in the moment, Water types are mostly concerned with and have great perspective on the past and future.

The Water type personality is the prototypical hermit as Water types enjoy spending time alone in contemplation. As such, Water type personalities can also be considered “the philosopher.”

The Water type person does not like to conform to social norms.  In general, the Water type likes to be alone to contemplate, collect and simply do his or her own thing his or her own way without interference from the world.  

Some people are naturally very Water oriented and it's easy for them to slow down and relax, however, when a person is too Water he may become stuck within himself,  and may therefore need motivation.

Earth energy helps to balance the excessive Water energy, which may cause one to become overly reclusive or self-absorbed. Earth energy involves community and social relationships.

By cultivating social activity (Earth), a person who is an overly Water-type individual can become more balanced. Doing social work or having an enthusiastic partner or friends can keep the Water type active and prevent being disengaged from society.

Active invigorating exercise is also very important to move the Water personality who can be very content sitting and lounging all day in front of the television or computer. 

Classical Chinese Medicine teaches that the root of most disease is emotionally or spiritually based. Therefore, to change a disease condition, a person needs to change on a deep emotional and spiritual level. Chinese Medicine therefore takes an active approach to get a person moving from their comfort zone in order to experience life in a different way and, hopefully, in a way that is supportive of their healing.

For an ill person who is a highly introverted Water type, the provocation for change needs to be induced through social interaction. For healing to take place on a deep level, it is crucial to move the energy of that person out of the reclusive mode and into a space involving more interaction. This of course can be very difficult for an introverted person and take them out of their comfort zone, but this is the type of interaction necessary nonetheless to stimulate the changes for true healing to take place. 

Whereas a person with excessive Water needs to be socialized, a person who lacks Water energy needs to counter the tendency to be overly extroverted and social by spending more time in contemplation through practices such as meditation. For an extrovert, this practice can be provocative and challenging. Qi Gong and Tai Chi are other practices that support the person lacking Water energy by helping draw their focus and energy inward to strengthen the Kidney Qi as well as calm and ground their restless mind. 

A major aspect to supporting a healthy Kidney system requires giving attention to the adrenal glands located above the kidneys. Through proper nutrition, rest and exercise we can manage the impact of stress which deplete the function of these essential glands.

Especially during the winter months when there is less light, it is best to slow down and go to bed as early as possible. In general, it is essential to reduce the amount of stimulation in one's life in order to restore adrenal function. This includes avoiding or reducing caffeinated beverages, reducing time in front of the computer especially playing computer games, over exercising, over working and engaging in too much sexual activity. It is also critical to reduce exposure to unhealthy or stressful relationships as much as possible to maintain calmness in mind and emotions in supporting adrenal recovery.

These changes will create the opportunity for the body to draw energy back into the Kidneys to strength one's willpower throughout the winter so a newfound courage can sprout forth in the coming spring season, the season of Wood, growth and new beginnings. 

Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. 

Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder and Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine & Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare non-insertion form of Acupuncture. Salvador also teaches Qi Gong at the Dharma Studio within A Center for Natural Healing.