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A beginners’ guide to the Chinese Five Elements of Change

4. Water- Path of No Resistance


Water…flows on and on, and merely fills up all the places through which it flows; it does not shrink from any dangerous spot nor from any plunge, and nothing can make it lose its own essential nature. It remains true to itself under all conditions.

The I Ching


Swimming in the sea at Waiheke Island, pondering the qualities of the element of water, I experienced full realization of the existence of all the oceans of the world linked to the very bay that I was floating in and the vastness of that connection; many countless drops coming together to form the enormous stretches of water that encompasses our planet.

Our seas are all linked as one, and yet we still see them as quite separate entities. This is a key to understanding the quality of the water element. Merged yet separate, happy to become one with all other water, happy to separate and go wherever needed.

Think of the qualities that water holds the balanced Water type is exactly these. Water has a strong sense of where it needs to go and will do whatever necessary to get there, with patience and persistence. A deep pool in a river seems calm and still, however there is a strong flow of water running through it, Water is always flowing one way: down to the sea. If it cannot pass an obstruction it will build up and flow over or around it slowly wearing the obstruction away. If it can do neither it will sink into the ground or evaporate and become clouds travelling to where it can rain down onto the earth to flow into the sea.



The symbol for Water is a Black Turtle. It is the protector of the back and kidneys with its hard shell. Turtle lives in water, has long life and much energy but moves slowly and with purpose.



Colour – dark blue or black

Direction- North

Dynamic energy- will power

Emotion- fear, timidity

Fluids- saliva

Nature – cold flows down

Orifices- lower orifices

Perverse climate- cold

Psychic- will, ambition (chien)

Season- Winter

Senses- hearing

Smell- putrid

Sound- groans, yawns

Symptoms – water balance

System- uro genital

Taste- salty

Tissues – bones, scalp, hair

Yin organ-kidney 5-7pm

Yang organ – bladder 3-5pm




“Instead of allowing ourselves to be led and trapped by our feelings we should let them disappear as soon as they form, like letters drawn on water with a finger.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche


Water holds the ability to be in the moment and “go with the flow”. It brings with it the qualities of introspection, patience and silence. Filled with potential the balanced water type is ingenious, yielding, fluid and courageous. They live in the realm of imagination and often come together with others to share knowledge and skills and refresh their perspective on life, yet let go easily to continue on their own path, staying true to themselves.



Inflexible, opinionated and intolerant the excessive Water type is self centered, resentful and competitive. Forceful and defiant if told what to do, underneath there is an inner sense of fearfulness. Suspicious and paranoid (obviously everyone is talking about them) there can be fear of persecution when in an extreme state. Wisdom becomes scattered and disjointed focusing on trivial information. The natural sense of when to wait and when to push forward is lost resulting in wasted energy.


Lethargic, cut off, isolated and disconnected the deficient water type may find that their normally creative ability dissolves and dries up leaving them with a sense of despair and despondency. Everything becomes a chore and the joy of doing their work disappears. Spontaneity disappears and they become cold, frigid and detached, finding relationships difficult to maintain due to a lack of their usual fresh, bubbly sociability and compassion.



The organs associated with Water are the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder

In the last issue we spoke about the organs ruled by the Wood element: Liver and Gallbladder. These organs know how to break down and sort out from our food what’s good or bad for us. After the Liver has done this it is the turn of the Kidneys to take all the things we don’t need anymore out of the bloodstream and send them to the Bladder to hold onto until an appropriate time to let them go. This relates on an emotional level to the feeling that we have to put up with things which we feel we want to get rid of out of our lives or which are perceived blockages to our development. The Water element nourishes the body mind and spirit with chi energy which is stored in the Kidneys (Storehouse of the Vital Essence). Yuan chi or jing is inherited from our parents, especially our mother, and mothers are seen as needing to support their Kidney chi after having babies. Jing rules the cycle of birth, growth, maturation, death and individual destiny. Reproductive power, sexual energy and desire are related to Water and jing. Kidney fire (ming men-huo) sparks the system and separates the pure Water from the impure gifting us the will power to reach our goals in life. The Bladder is seen as a reservoir which holds the chi energy until it is needed. If the Bladder is not working properly then the whole body, mind and spirit are at risk of filling up with toxic waste and slowing down. Water also maintains healthy teeth, bones and bone marrow.

Being listless in the morning and or washed out in the afternoon can indicate imbalance in kidney chi. Chronic fatigue is seen as energy leaking from the bladder.


Hyper sexuality, high blood pressure and headaches behind the eyes, not enough sweat or urine and little need for sleep, knee problems, low back pain, arthritis and stiffness in the joints, urinary infections, kidney and bladder stones, neurological disturbances or diseases are all symptoms of excessive Water energy.


The following physical problems signify deficient Water energy: premature ageing, grey hair, wrinkled skin, weak degenerating spine and osteoporosis, weak abdominal muscles, sore lower back, aching knees, ear infections, tinnitus, fatigue, low energy and dark rings around the eyes, frequent urination and urinary infections, Candida, thrush, amenorrhea, frigidity, impotence and infertility.


When dealing on an energetic level with a client who needs to balance their Water energy the kidneys are incredibly important. Kidneys process fear out of the system, and often there is a lot of fear and panic, which is different in quality to the anxiety felt with an imbalance of Earth. There can also be a great difficulty with balancing the emotions and it may be possible that the client would be overwhelmed by their emotional state (excessive) or quite cut off and detached (deficient). Balancing the fear is the key to this problem, by using our essence combination Path of No Resistance we reintroduce and reinforce the feeling of courage. Fluidity in ones approach to life and strong vital energy are able to flow throughout the system through being nourished by wisdom and life force. An ability to let go of what doesn’t serve anymore and recognition that perhaps the perceived barriers to life goals are actually chosen stepping stones which will get you there.


The following exercise is helpful for energizing the Kidney chi, and is best done in the morning to wake up the primordial (jing) chi:

You can stand with feet in parallel, shoulder width apart and knees soft or sit on the edge of a chair with back straight, both feet on the floor and shoulder width apart. Place both hands on your back with palms on the Kidneys (the Kidneys lie either side of the spine just above the level of the navel) and massage the kidneys gently in a circular motion 36 times one way then 36 the other way keeping palms facing the Kidneys. Breathe normally to start with while you do this, once you feel at ease with this exercise you can breathe in one slow breath for the first 36 circles and one slow breath out for the second 36 circles. Bring hands palms together in front of you and rub them 36 times quickly whilst breathing in one slow long breath (this collects chi in the hands). Place the hands gently on the ears, palms facing inwards and breathe out in a long slow breath feeling the warmth and the sound from your palms.


In the next issue we discuss the last element in this series of articles: Pure Heart Pure Mind the Element of Fire. We will also explore the quantum physics of the mind and disease and why balancing and understanding the emotions in terms of true well being is so important as part of a balanced health programme.

See the giveaway page for your chance to win one of 10 Balanced Energy Path of No Resistance essence blends.


Catherine Opie and Henri Venturini are Master practitioners, teachers and producers of Vibrational Medicines, energy healing and martial arts. They live on Whangaparaoa Peninsula in New Zealand where they run their Auckland based natural health and healing company and school of Vibrational Medicine: Balanced Energy Ltd. Copyright Balanced Energy 2007

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