Monday, September 19, 2011

Yi - The Earth Spirit

Chinese character for 'earth'

Yi is the spirit of the earth element. The earth provides the centre around which the transformations of the other four elements take place. The earth element allows us to establish boundaries in regards to nourishing ourselves and nourishing others. When in balance it allows us to react with a balanced response to feelings of need. Earth constitutional types are prone to living life in terms of the continual fulfilment of needs, and may suffer from either a lack of centeredness (feeling lost, confused) or an excessive centeredness (selfishness). This may manifest as excessive thought, pensiveness and worry on an emotional level. This excessive worry can lead to people caring obsessively for themselves, or so much to the needs of others that their own resources are exhausted. With excessive worry the Yi is weakened, and we have less capacity to move forward and manifest our true path in life.

The Yi is responsible for the emotional digestion of thought, allowing us to process and transform our life experiences in a balanced way. When the earth element is unbalanced, obsessive thought patterns may result and the individual is unable to manifest productive action in their lives, unable to digest and be nourished by their life experiences.

Those with a balanced earth element and Yi are able to meet the needs of themselves and others in a balanced way, resulting in altruistic behaviour. The Confucian ideal of true altruism aligns itself with Buddhism where, expecting nothing in return, the individual is able to care for self and others without attachment to a result. To bring the earth element back into balance, self reflection and meditation to centre the individual brings about the most profound change. For those with an excessive centeredness, meditation that cultivates altruism, such as 'metta' or loving-kindess* will allow the individual a way to take focus off themselves and turn it outwards to others. For those who are exhausting their reserves by obsessively trying to meet the needs of others, guided breathing meditation techniques will help to calm the mind and excessive worry, and teach the individual to reflect upon their life experiences, digesting them in a balanced way that nourishes the self.

* Jarrett, L, 2009, Nourishing Destiny
* Rossi, E, 2007, Shen: Psychoemotional aspects of Chinese Medicine
* See Sharon Salzberg's website here


  1. Goodness TCM philosophy is so beautiful and eloquent! Modern western herbal medicine really lacks this poetic, ethereal touch. Looking forward to the installments beautiful xox

  2. thank you for writing the yi earth element capacity balance

    it really good