The heart of self-healing is awakened when we perceive the body as more than just scientific functions. In indigenous healing traditions, like Chinese Medicine, the internal organs are jewels of consciousness; they affect not only our physical health but also our emotions and how we perceive reality. The organs are considered energetic in nature, with energy-sensing pathways—meridians—that stretch out over the entire body and even sometimes beyond the body. The organs do not exist in isolation inside the torso. They are part of a vast meridian network on the body that works in harmony. We can understand the body’s metabolism and needs in a new way when we take into account the emotional and spiritual component of a particular organ and its meridian network. In this article, the name of the Chinese organ is capitalized and in italics to show that we are discussing the Chinese organ, not merely the physical organ.
Water Metabolism in Chinese Medicine
The two main organs in Chinese medicine that metabolize water are the Kidneys and the Urinary Bladder. These two organs have energy pathways that stretch all over the entire body. The Urinary Bladder meridian, which is the largest and longest meridian in the body, stretches from the eyes all the way to the back of the body. The Kidney meridian begins on the feet and flows up the inner leg and up the torso. All meridians are bilateral, so the body mirrors itself. These two meridians can be seen as a parallel to how water pathways stretch all around the Earth, encircling the Earth with ocean and waterways.
Kidney Energy: Bank Account and Trust Fund
The Kidneys, in Chinese Medicine, are known as the energy bank account or energy reserves in our body. This is a connected function to the adrenal glands that rest on top of the Kidneys and are responsible for our flight-or-fight response. Perhaps this explains why the Kidneys are responsible for the emotion of fear. The Eastern interpretation of the Kidneys is that they act as both a trust fund and checking account for your daily energy. The left Kidney stores all of the accumulated Qi, or energy, that you brought in with you from your ancestors and parents. This is the life force that comes from your genetics and DNA. It is our deep reserve of energy, stretching back through generations.
The left Kidney is responsible for all of the liquid substances in the body. It is responsible for the nourishing secretions such as mucus, sweat, urine, sexual fluids and saliva. If we keep ourselves healthy with good food choices, plenty of exercise, water and rest, then we can avoid taxing this trust fund, and the interest accumulates and builds up, which gives us a healthier life. To maintain healthy function, it is ideal to avoid dipping into the energy of the left Kidney but instead live from the collected energy in the bank account, or right Kidney. This organ helps the bladder to move and discharge urine and supports digestion and the movement of breath into the Lungs. The right Kidney is nourished by the daily effort of healthy living.
The Joy of Guzzling Water
Plenty of water is needed to keep our bodies from being dehydrated, but more water may be needed to create a fluid sense of consciousness. It’s possible that being even slightly dehydrated can affect mood and create a sense of overwhelm and even depression. Too many toxins in the bloodstream can lead to disjointed thinking, and it’s essential to drink enough water not just for health but to keep an elevated state of mind. If we are sensitive to this, sometimes we can feel the subtle sensation of fear, the emotion of the Kidneys, when we are dehydrated. Have you ever felt an undercurrent of worry or fear in your mind that vanishes after you drink a glass of water? If yes, you are lucky it was that easy, perhaps simply being dehydrated. Some people are more sensitive to this than others. For example, when visitors to New Mexico first arrive, the level of dehydration they experience can be shocking to them. We do have to remind ourselves constantly to drink water and teas here. It’s so important to have a water bottle with you everywhere because it’s so easy to slip into dehydration due to the desert climate and high altitude.
A Beautiful Bottle Makes All the Difference
Here are ways to make water taste better and help you stay on top of your water consumption. First of all, buy yourself a water bottle that you really like and appreciate. This is important because, in New Mexico, you really should carry a bottle with you everywhere so you stay hydrated. I have a nonplastic water-bottle collection including a blue one and a purple one, and I always like to mix water in clear mason jars with peppermint leaves and orange or lemon slices. Think of your water bottle as an accessory item, like a scarf or a purse. Also, avoid being part of the industrialization of water where gobs of plastic bottles are piling up in landfills. The plastic itself is toxic, does not decompose and pollutes the earth. You avoid contributing to this by carrying your own water with you in a safe and stylish bottle. Another fun flavoring for water is adding a little Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey drink (available premixed) to your daily water for the health benefit. Apple cider vinegar is known for multiple health benefits, including weight loss, digestive support and more. At first, it may taste somewhat strong, so the premixed drink with honey is delicious and makes it easy and even enjoyable to drink.
How Much Water Is Enough?
The standard maxim is eight glasses of water a day, or divide your weight in half and that number is the amount of ounces you should drink daily. All clear liquids that you drink, other than caffeinated beverages, count towards your total. Tea, broth, liquid soups, juices and water all help you stay hydrated, but caffeine is a diuretic and amplifies dehydration. See if you can determine the right amount of water for you to feel elevated, content and grounded. In other words, do you recognize a connection between your mood and state of mind and how much water you drink? Even basic health problems like constipation or menstrual cramps can be eased with more water, so try drinking more for yourself as a general pick-me-up. And when you drink water, remember the depth of the organs in your body and how water influences consciousness flowing through all of us and connecting us to the Earth and its waterways.
Japa K. Khalsa, Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM), is co-author of Enlightened Bodies: Exploring Physical and Subtle Human Anatomy (enlightenedbodies.com). She teaches a weekly yoga class for people with chronic pain at Sacred Kundalini in Santa Fe. She completed her Master of Oriental Medicine degree at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago. She combines traditional acupuncture with herbal and nutritional medicine, injection therapy and energy healing. Her work with patients and students emphasizes optimal health and personal transformation through self-care and awareness of the interconnectedness of all life. www.drjapa.com