Part 4: The Earth element phase of transformation

June 15th, 2014






“I used to measure the skies, now I measure the shadows of Earth.
Although my mind was sky-bound, the shadow of my body lies here


– Johannes Kepler




Now that the peak of the fire element has cooled and the ash has settled back to earth to nourish new growth we are left to sit and reflect on our wild adventures. The fragrant, balmy evenings of late summer provide a calmer space where we can chew things over, reflect and mature our understanding of our journey.



This phase of transformation then reflects our personal maturation of understanding, acceptance and learning from life’s ups and downs.





The Earth body




The Earth element type is someone ‘built for comfort more than speed’ as the saying goes. They are more generously proportioned and their body movement is slower, more languid and patient. They are more oral in nature and have a tendency to indulge their impulses. It will come as no suprise then that they can have issues with oral addictions, body weight and self-image.



Physically, the Earth element finds its parallel in the digestive process. New input – food, the products of the earth for human life – is slowly broken down to ultimately become our Earth element, the flesh.





Holding up the earth



The Earth meridians travel through the breast and support the tone of the flesh. (Unknown artist)

The Earth meridians travel through the breast and support the tone of the flesh. (Unknown artist)


Like the fruit of late summer our Earth element is soft and easily bruised. It rules over all soft tissue and is responsible for the tone and upward moving resistance (‘Earthly force’) to counteract the downward (‘Heavenly force’) of gravity:


  • Muscles
  • Fat
  • The organs (with a particular focus on the digestive organs)
  • The structural integrithy of blood vessels
  • The quality and integrity of the mucosa
  • The Earth meridians travel through the front and insides of the legs, the abdomen and breasts, the throat and the front of the face.




Maturity and the Earth phase



In children, the central physical functions of the Earth element, the digestive system, are still maturing. By definition children are immature. Their taste buds are getting used to an ever increasing variety of flavors while their immune systems are being trained by the introduction of new bacteria to their digestive mucosa. Any parent or day care worker can attest to the almost constant state of phlegminess and minor immune challenges young children experience.



Likewise all their soft tissue structures are still forming. They bruise more easily than most adults but heal quickly too. The Earth rules the center. In us that is the abdominal area. Young children typically have a slightly ‘pot belly’ as their abdominal tone has not yet developed.



A pot belly in an adult can be the result of adipose tissue (that’s ‘fat’ to you and me) or, in more extreme cases, due to prolapse of the abdominal wall where the abdominal muscles stretch outwards due to poor tone. A combination of both of these can be seen in obese adults.1



©  David Lesage

© David Lesage



Sugar blues



Sugar is allowed across our blood-brain barrier as it is the fuel of the central nervous system. The potential for addiction therefore is obvious. Oral dependency and addiction are the root of many other addictions as it is the first bond with our earth mother and Mother Earth via food.



One can almost chart the mood of a child from their blood sugar levels. From a whiney and complaining desire for something sweet; to intense focus on consuming the object of their desire; to a manic but brief upswing in activity as the sugar rush hits their blood stream; to a return to tiredness and tears as insulin overcompensates by taking the sugar out of the blood again.






‘From the nipple to the bottle never satisfied’2



Of the recovering alcoholics I have treated over the years a very strong, recurring theme is a sense of early separation and/or emotional abandonment by the mother/main care giver.



When oral addictions like alcohol or cigarettes are stopped they are often replaced by other ones like food. Rapid weight gain is the usual result. It will come as no suprise then to learn that maturity, impulse control, an ability to learn from past behavior and a sense of satisfaction (or not) are ruled by our Earth phase of development. Impulse control in itself is one measure of emotional maturity.






Upon reflection – “Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.”3



The spiritual quality attributed to the Earth phase is meditative reflection perhaps best symbolized in the round-bellied, sitting Buddha – or an equally paunchy, sweet and sweet-addicted bear like Winnie the Pooh if you prefer.



It is this state of calm, considered repose that digests and neutralizes the mental static of the day and brings us into balance once more with the center of our Self. It is the opposite of distracting ourselves with yet more sensory pleasures and escapes. It is the focus on being rather than doing anything.




Thinking versus worry and anxiety states – “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”4


mind split


While the ability to process, digest and recall complex information is a commendable and healthy attribute of the mind (and the earth energy that fascilitates it), worry and anxiety are not.



It is perhaps easiest to understand worry states as poor digestion and assimilation at the mental level. Our usually calm, considered, earthy approach becomes bogged down in the mud of a mind that has lost it center. The obsessive spin of our mental wheels only digs us deeper as the more energy we use leaves us no closer to a solution.




Self esteem5



The root of anxiety lies in our relationship to the Self. In a (theoretically) ideal childhood our self esteem grows, secure in the knowledge that we are loved simply for who we are, not what we do or how we perform or please the will of others. We are free to focus on inward questions like “What am I feeling/thinking/desiring to create or experience?”



If, like a green banana peeled too early, we are forced to jump out of this maturing relationship with our Self, we can stop nourishing it. We literally begin to forget who we are. If our environment is hostile or demanding of a certain behavior we may become quite skillful at figuring out what others think/feel/desire of us.



We may become very good at being the ‘good’ girl or boy that knows how to play the pleasing game.6 In many cases it is simply a skill we use to survive. We may even develop confidence in the skills we acquire and be encouraged further by the positve feedback of others.



The cost however is that we travel farther and farther from the earthy center of the Self. We may have become good at doing but we are clueless about how to be ourself. We have lost our place to rest and neutralize external stresses.



We have abandoned ourselves and so are left to wander endlessly in the search of who we are through the fickle filter of others opinions. Why wouldn’t such a person feel anxious – about everything?



It is hardly suprising to find that chronic worry, poor problem solving ability, low self esteem and digestive issues go hand in hand.





Love, Sympathy and Co-dependency




The emotion associated with the Earth element in the five phases of transformation is sympathy. Sympathy is a nuturing emotion. It is a form of love we use to show our concern, solidarity and support for another’s pain or difficulty.



The ‘risk’ of sympathy alone however is that it can nourish the problem as well, inadvertantly encouraging the person to remain stuck in it. It then becomes part of a pattern of co-dependency where the reciever’s problem (and their sense of identity as the victim of it) is validated and reinforced. Rather than tranform and evolve they and the sympathizer remain fixed in a co-dependent relationship of their own creation.



Codependency is not love however it may superficially resemble it. Love contains a connection and respect for the Self while the codependent (as either victim or helper) are constantly sabotaging their self respect in order to settle for a lesser version of love and confirmation in the form of external sympathy and support on the one side and the power of being needed on the other.




Self help


Here are a few tips and practices for helping our Earth element:



Physical body level:


  • Stretch the front side of the body (Earth/digestive meridians) – particularly after meals and long periods of sitting. Modern life often means these meridians stagnate for long periods of time in sitting positions so open them up again by bending backwards (while supporting the low back), hanging from an overhead bar while trailing the legs behind the body, forward lunges and so on.
  • Move! Walk, run, cycle, swim. Do not allow the Earth lement to settle and get too comfortable for too long. It has a tendency to turn to mud with water and weight gain, poor digestion and phlegm, low energy and sweet cravings the result.
  • ‘You are what you eat’. Choose foods that you can visualize becoming part of a healthy body more than a quick pleaure impulse.



Psychological/emotional level:


  • Empower the solution not the problem. Taking realistic, small steps to solve a problem will increase our confidence that we will get through it. Focusing on the problem numbs us into inaction, procrastination and low self esteem.
  • Be aware of codependent relationships. Misery loves company and is reinforced by it. Do not surround yourself with negative opinions that repeatedly drag you into reinforcing their victimized, disempowering world view. ‘Friends are the gifts we give ourselves’ so be careful of the company you keep.
  • Make the simple but profound choice to be positive. We are constantly creating and attracting reinforcement for any mental position we adopt so choose an attitude that supports rather than sabotages our experience of life.
  • Clean and neutralize the day’s dramas with a short period of meditation and rest. It is an investment in our Self.
  • Consciously develop gratitude. Find something we can feel grateful for every day.
  • Don’t beleive everything you think. Identify addictive behavior and observe the tricks of the mind when we choose to leave it behind. HINT: Mental threats that cannot be delivered upon (“I could die!”. “I will fall into depression!”. “Without you I’m nothing!”) are no real threat at all. Call their bluff.



Well I’m not bluffing at least when I say that that’s it for this week. Stay tuned next week for the Metal element in the final installment in this series on transformation where everything comes to an end – for this Northern summer at least…




Till the earth turns to face another Monday




1 Interestingly, the bellies of the alcoholic, junk food addict and the victims of famine have something in common: malnutrition.

2 ‘Nipple to the bottle’. Grace Jones. Sly Dunbar. 1982. Island records

3 ‘Winnie the Pooh’ by A.A. Milne

4 ‘Take it easy’. Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey. 1972. Asylum records

5 For a more specific focus on this subject click here

6 For more on the potential consequences for our health from that click here 


© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:

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