Well tonight elemental travellers I am talking a little about the Earth element, and in keeping with this elements nature I am likely to wax a little lyrical!
The organs involved in the Earth element are the Stomach and Spleen. Now in the west, we know a fair bit about the stomach, practically, what it does and where it is and the fact that basically ‘its where all the food goes’ !
The Spleen on the other hand is a bit more of a mystery. Its usually the organ that in all those movies with a car crash people end up having taken out! “Ruptured Spleen! Get them to OR Stat”…… I may be getting a bit carried away here, but you get my drift.
The Spleen is on the left side of the body, just under the ribs beside the stomach and in Eastern Philosophy has just as important role in the function of digestion as the stomach, but is also involved in regulating the mind and a healthy sense of self.
The Spleen houses the Yi (pronounced eeee) and it can roughly be described as our sense of self, the self that exists in our mind, and is expressed in our thoughts. Clarity of intention and thoughtful reflection are products of a healthy Yi.
And this is where healthy thoughts and digestion meet.
Our Earth element, the Yi and the Stomach and Spleen, are not only digesting the food we eat, but they are also digesting the thoughts and experiences we are having.
Quite literally our Qi (energy/fuel) goes where our thoughts are and those thoughts need to be ‘digested’ Now if we’re eating a meal, and we are watching TV, checking face book and listening to our spouse/ housemate/ children how much fuel is focused on the food that is going in and how much fuel is going on actually breaking down that meal to the best possible end result? Not a lot!
Now lets take it up a notch, we have had a really bad day at work and are feeling a whole range of emotions (that need digesting) we have scoffed a chocolate bar on the drive home to suppress those feelings (that needs digesting ) we are met at the door with a well meaning glass of wine (that needs digesting) followed by the above scenario involving some greasy take away pizza. Does anyone else feel tired? Your Spleen does!
The result of this is congested digestion but also congested thinking and depending on your build and constitution a whole range of symptoms might be experienced after a meal like this. Bloating, wind, and a heavy sluggish feeling along with a foggy mind and probably a desire to fall straight to sleep!
Life happens and sometimes rightly or wrongly we find ourselves multitasking. Sometimes this involves doing things while we’re eating.
In an ideal world we will get the best out of our food if we are mindful of it.
And we will have clarity of thought and a peaceful mind if we are able to observe what else we are digesting in that process.
What can we practically do to assist this process?
1. Limit the things we are doing at meal times. Its proven that multitasking doesn’t actually result in higher productivity. Set aside even a small amount of time just to eat your food. This doesn’t have to be a silent zen affair as anyone with children will attest, just limit as much as possible the distractions!
2. Choose your food based on your mood, now this isn’t me saying to binge when your sad, rather just be aware of what else is happening for you. If your tired already, don’t sit down to a big heavy meal, quite simply it won’t get digested. If your emotional by all means eat comforting food, but these should be nourishing soups, roast veges, rice puddings. Food that supports you and won’t suppress the feelings we are often trying to escape from.
3. Eat according to season and source food thats as natural as possible. Food that is warm and lightly cooked is ideal to support the Earth element. Cold and raw foods tax the Earth element. (This statement will get its own blog people hang in there!)
4.Those ‘Spleeny’ Earth types out there will tend toward craving sweet foods, to maintain your healthy blood sugar levels, make these naturally sweet foods, not highly processed foods full of sugar.
5. Ginger tea in the morning is great to wake your digestive fire, and cinnamon is a beautiful herb to add to breakfasts and deserts.
When the Earth element is nourished with mindful eating the consistency applied to our digestion will cultivate a consistency and reliability in our state of mind. With our Earth element centred and grounded our thoughts have a solid foundation, and the actions that flow from these thoughts will be longer lasting.
So as a simple exercise for the week, observe your thinking and your eating. No judging. Just start watching where your mind is and how you are feeling at the time and where your mind is while your eating. Don’t take my word for it, observe this difference between a mindful meal, and one eaten on the run and let me know how you go.