Acupuncture has used the bodymind connection to prevent and treat disease for thousands of years. In the Five Element Theory, winter is the season for the water element and its kidney and bladder meridians. Since winter officially arrives Dec. 21, it seems appropriate to focus on the kidneys and fear, the emotion most closely associated with them.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views the kidneys as the most yin (female) of the 12 meridians and winter as the season for turning inwards and rest. Think hibernation. Of course, this is anathema to our economic system which has us doing the opposite, our finances and health be damned.
Physiologically, the kidneys balance fluids and electrolytes and eliminate toxins. Failure in balancing can lead to frying the heart's electronics or congestive heart failure, the latter akin to flooding the engine room. Failure to remove toxins from the blood also threatens life, hence the proliferation of dialysis centers (where machines do the work of failing kidneys) in our communities.
It's remarkable that TCM connected fear with the kidneys more than 2,500 years ago. Consider it a near miss. Kidneys certainly are affected when we are in danger. However, more specifically, the adrenal cortices, the glands atop each kidney, are the organs most involved. In the face of danger or stress, the adrenals pump out adrenaline (epinephrine) and other neurotransmitters so that we can immediately run like the wind (flight) or kick like a mule (fight). Of course, all this assumes that we are not in adrenal fatigue from constant stress, unrelenting danger or PTSD and its cousins, and drug abuse, pharmaceuticals or toxic exposures have not damaged our kidneys.
Of course, not everything we fear deserves it. The acronym FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Most of us experienced this as kids when our parents turned the lights off and closed the bedroom door, leaving us to conjure all kinds of monsters from that noise in the closet or the branch brushing against the side of the house, etc. Of course, adults are susceptible, too, making us easy targets for the purveyors of fake news and products and services promising to cure what ails us, real or imagined.
While TCM may be correct in associating the kidneys with fear and other emotions with other organs, the brain parks unprocessed emotional overloads indiscriminately. Therefore, we can just as easily have unprocessed fear in our big toe, heart, lungs, bicep, or even in our head. For example, at an advanced workshop, a colleague mentioned that she'd had a headache all week. Ironically, her mind had parked her fear that she was inadequate in one of the four arteries serving her brain. Upon finding that belief, the flow through her right vertebral artery improved and her headache eased. Fear and other emotions and beliefs parked in our tissues prevent us from living in the present and keep us reliving and recreating crises past.
Hoping to make BIG changes in 2023? Balanced, happy kidneys give us resolve. Of course, a kidney stuck to a neighboring structure following injury or infection, won't be happy.
Holiday book suggestions:
- "Anxious People," Fredrik Backman's humorous look at love
- "The Myth of Normal," Gabor Maté, MD; all you need to know about health how our culture sickens us
- "Northern Paiutes of Malheur," David H. Wilson's exploration and exposure of a horrific, local genocide
—Bend resident Mike Macy, LMT, is an avid skate-skier, fat-tire biker, and birder. His book BodyWise conveys insights gained during 30 years as a Craniosacral Therapist. Reach him at [email protected].