The Water Element: An Overview

I clearly remember the day it was time to learn how to swim in the deep end of the pool for the first time. I loved the water but the space between my feet and bottom of the pool was unknown and terrifying. I felt that surely I would have to tread water forever short of being saved from my swimming instructor who seemed too far away as they were also watching other children. This was a moment of self initiation and inner strength, though. My 5 year old self didn’t know that at the time.  It was one of my first memories of will power and fear wrapped into one.  Even now, if I am swimming in a deep lake or the ocean and my feet can’t touch the bottom, I get that same feeling in the pit of my stomach of ‘not knowing’ and not being in control even though my mind knows (and my instincts) have all the tools to keep afloat.

Flash forward to today, almost 2 years into this pandemic, perhaps you can relate to this same feeling of swimming in the unknown together. We seem to forever be treading water, some have help nearby, some don’t. The unknown has always been there but world events keep asking us to look deeper into the subtle and not so subtle lessons available. These lessons can show our 5 year old selves (or younger/older parts of us) that we have more strength and more resources within ourselves than we know.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the water element is present all year within ourselves and of course in nature, but more pronounced in the winter. The pervading psycho emotional aspects of the water element are about cultivating the depth of wisdom while balancing too much versus too little fear in our lives that play out in the form of habits and beliefs. For example, too much fear can look like feeling stuck, unable to get the motivation to take action on our goals while not having enough fear can result in being reckless.

All of life and creativity begins with the water element as it is associated with the kidneys and bladder. The essence of all life is birthed from the kidneys which comes from the kidney yin and yang energy from both the father and mother. The power within the virtues of the water element helps us to utilize resources (internally) to potentially be expressed out into the world. The cultivation of these resources give us potential to create and take action in the face of the unknown instead of acting out of instinct (fear). Remember the hording of toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic? Yeah, that’s called fear, instinct and reaction.  Tools like kundalini yoga and TCM help to embody that depth of our awareness so we are acting from a place of response instead of reaction.

If we are repeatedly acting out of fear it uses up kidney energy too fast. Some of these habitual actions are subtle like not expressing yourself to your partner or boss while others aren’t so subtle and cannot be controlled like living in poverty, war or abusive environments. The kidney energy also stores the inter-generational history of our ancestors and is passed down with each generation. This is why people can have unexplained experiences  rooted in their bodies with grandparents or other family members (including themselves) who experienced and continue to experience effects of  racism, Holocaust, slavery, famine and so many more inequalities.

Essence contains the intrinsic nature that makes each individual unique and when balanced can give an opportunity for us to express ourselves through our will power. That essence we all contain was formed with intent (either consciously or unconsciously). Hence, having clear intentions is most important in living a life we desire and can help give us the clarity of what action we need to take in every moment for ourselves and for others, especially when chaos is present. That’s why asking ourselves questions like what is the intent of our relationships,work,day to day actions is so important.  I feel, if we are lucky, 30% of our day is intentional, as everything else is usually played out as a result from fear or habits that embedded in our conditioning over time. Cultivating intent is the true path of a modern day spiritual warrior. If we are going to strive to be spiritual warriors we can be active participants in the process of being intentional in our work, relationship and even how/when we relax. It’s a lifelong process, though.

So what is the intent for the next few blog posts? I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about the water element from a body, mind and spirit perspective.

Here are a few qualities of the water element:

Season: Winter

Direction: North

Yin Organ: Kidney

Yang Organ: Bladder

Color: Black

Sound: Groaning type voice

Smell: Putrid

Emotion: Fear

Taste: Salty

Climate: Cold

Sense Organs: Ears

Tissues: Bones

People who might have a water element imbalance may experience:

Infertility, Menstruation issues, Prostate issues, kidney stones, erectile dysfunction, low back or knee issues,Meniere’s disease, spine issues, birth development issues, and urinary tract infections. *Please note this list does not suffice as a tool to self diagnose. See Bir Kaur or another Registered Acupuncturist in your area for a proper diagnosis*

Here are some concepts that I will be discussing in the next few blog posts:

Diving deeper into Intent

How the water element relates to the 6th body (Arc Line)


Will Power

Finding Ease in the Face of the Unknown



“Handbook of Oriental Medicine 5th Edition” by H.B. Kim

“Nourishing Destiny” by Lonny Jarrett

“Deepening Perspectives” by Lonny Jarrett