The organ clock is an extremely useful instrument for Shiatsu: it points out many equally exciting and efficient connections within the meridian structure, with the help of which we can quickly deepen our approach to treatment. As three selected examples show.
The organ clock describes the daily circulation of Qi in our meridian system. The circulation of energy begins with the lungs and ends with the liver: At 3:00 a.m. the Qi flows via the point Liver 14 to the point Lung 1. Liver 14 – Qi Men – is the „gate of the cycle“, because here one cycle ends and a new one begins. Understanding the organ clock can help us to better attune our everyday life to certain energy phases. For example, the lung time (3:00 – 5:00) is ideal to start the day with gentle breathing and physical exercises. Here we can charge the lungs with Qi, which then flows into our system during the day following the energy cycle. Eating time in the morning belongs to the earth element, which tolerates more carbohydrates than the water element, which prefers proteins and has its energetic abundance in the early evening. In return, coffee should be avoided at lunchtime because it directly addresses the heart. And why sleep before midnight is particularly important is due to the function of the triple warmer (21.00 – 23.00), which can consolidate our entire metabolism if we give it the necessary rest. In this respect the organ clock is a practical and lifelike tool. But also in Shiatsu we can benefit from the connections found in the organ clock. Let us go on a search…
In Shiatsu, the system of the Five Elements has been established in order to make energetic dynamics within the meridians and Zang Fu comprehensible. The Five Elements are only one of many possible systems. Interesting in this context: The established presentation of the Five Elements is mainly aimed at the interaction of the Zang Fu, when it comes to disharmonies, Zang Fu pathologies. However, when it comes to psycho-emotional processes, we find many elementary connections in the organ clock. And based on these, we find suggestions on how to deepen our approach to treatment quickly and easily. For this we have to free ourselves from the five elements of thinking. Because in the Five Elements the earth element nourishes the metal element. In the organ clock, however, it is exactly the opposite…
METAL STRENGTHENS THE EARTH
In the organ clock, the metal element comes before the earth element, which means that the earth element receives energy from the metal element. And it is not only in the organ clock that the lungs are at the very beginning, also in our life the lungs are the first organ which comes into his power. The first breath has a very decisive importance for our system, which initiates a chain reaction of physiological processes. The divine breath that brings us to life. Breathing governs the Qi, breathing is Qi and Qi is life. Without breathing we do not survive for long. Without food, on the other hand, we get by for a long time. If we see the earth element and the metal element as sources of postnatal Qi, then the metal element takes over a much more central role. It is also the lungs that supply the oxygen that is essential for our metabolism. Without oxygen there is no combustion. In addition, deep breathing supports intestinal peristalsis. The lung is also our highest organ in the thorax. It is heaven. Then comes the earth. Of course: The large intestine follows the stomach, that’s clear. Here the earth feeds the metal. But the stomach actually feeds the small intestine, earth feeds fire, and so it is in the organ clock. We will come back to this.
Shizuto Masunaga liked to use the image of an amoeba, a single-celled creature, as a representation for his interpretation of meridian dynamics. Every living creature first needs a limit in order to be able to define itself as such, to be viable. In the case of the amoeba, this boundary is the cell membrane. With the cell membrane, a delimitation and a limitation takes place. A delimitation from the environment. A delimitation of what the amoeba actually is. A function of the metal element that is at the forefront of Masunaga’s meridian evolution. Then follows the earth element. Because it is only by drawing boundaries that a living being with needs emerges. Hunger, for example. But the drawing of boundaries is not only necessary to define a centre as such, it also protects it. A castle wall protects the palace. Without a castle wall, the palace is exposed and can be attacked more easily. And exactly in this aspect the metal element strengthens the earth element.
Many people come to Shiatsu to get into their centre or to stabilise it. In the system of the five elements, the fire element nourishes the element of the centre, the earth element. However, it is much closer to life to focus on the metal element to strengthen the centre. Why?
A well-functioning demarcation makes the middle clear: This is my home, this is my home. A weak border results in a palace without a castle wall. A coming and going without control. There can be many border transgressions, psychologically, emotionally. Everyone gets what he needs. Everyone leaves what he no longer needs. Those who cannot separate themselves well are prone to take a lot personally. Those who are not good at demarcation are more likely to lose themselves in the outside world. What’s mine? What’s yours? Where do I stay? Who am I? These are the questions that keep us busy. The search for the lost centre.
The lungs represent the big yes to life and the yes to yourself. The colon says no to things we don’t need or no longer need. The combination of both results in a strong feeling for oneself and one’s needs, in a strong earth element. Furthermore, the lungs stand for an orientation towards the future, the colon likes to hold on to the past. With the earth element, the stomach is the thinker and the spleen is the brooding one. If we are too busy with the future or the past, our thoughts are drawn from the here and now, from the middle. Much of what lies heavy in the stomach of the earth element comes from the metal. That would correspond to the cycle of exhaustion of the five elements. The child exhausts the mother. Conversely, the positive integration of the individual past and a hopeful look into the future can strengthen the Earth. So it is also worthwhile to take a look at the metal element.
As with the Po, the elemental spirit of the lungs. The earth element is often associated with our physical form. Our body represents the earth. However, the Po is considered the architect of form. It stands for our animal instinct. The sixth sense. The fine nose. It knows what is really good for us. In this way he helps to shape the form. A good Po ensures a natural unfolding and development on a physical level. A weak Po can lead to a derailment of the form because we feed against our inner nature or move too little. It is exciting in this context that many eating disorders have their cause in the metal element, above all anorexia, where the metal element draws the line before an appropriate food intake. Again the metal element comes before the earth element. When it comes to earth issues, the metal element is a very effective lever in the treatment to strengthen the centre. This corresponds to the sequence of the organ clock. If we do not pay attention to these connections, it is possible that less movement in the earth is caused by a pure approach.
EARTH STRENGTHENS THE FIRE
In the organ clock, the spleen comes before the heart. There’s a good reason for that. The heart is 90% yang. It needs yin like no other organ. Mostly in the form of blood. Because the elemental spirit of the heart, the Shen, is at home in blood. This provides the spleen. Lack of blood due to Spleen Qi weakness is a very common energetic pattern. If the spleen is weak, the yin organ of the earth has nothing to pass on to the heart. This becomes empty and then runs hot like an engine without oil. However, the causes can also be found in the stomach. The stomach likes to run hot. And the stomach touches the heart with its outer course. With an inner branch it penetrates the heart. Heat in the stomach can quickly attack the heart, because the heat vaporizes the Yin, which so necessary for the heart.
Either way, the key symptoms are: jitteriness, emotional sensitivity, restlessness, memory problems and difficulty sleeping through the night despite great fatigue. The Shen is growing restless. He’s losing his home. He gets nervous. He’s becoming unstable. He flickers wildly around. All in all, a state that one would not exactly call centered. In the cycle of the Five Elements, the wooden element feeds the fire. But this does not help the Shen without a home. On the contrary. Here’s the thing: The liver is also very dependent on Yin and blood. Otherwise it will be too dry. The result: a straw fire without substance. The substance comes from the earth. At all levels. Because the elemental spirit of the liver, the Hun, not only needs Yin and blood, it should above all create visions that spring directly from our midst. Just as a tree must be deeply rooted in the earth to grow tall. But often the tree of visions is not rooted in our midst, but in the midst of others. Because there is not only our individual Hun. There is also a family Hun, a social Hun, a Shiatsu Hun, a historical Hun… Hun is the memory consciousness that feeds Shen with images from which the visions can arise, visions that the heart should pursue with passion. What memory are we tapping into? Where does our wood element root?
The Hun must be closely connected with our center to nourish the Shen with images that really have substance. Otherwise we do not follow our inner images, but the dreams of our parents or the conventions of society. Then the heart does burn. But for things and ideas that are not really our own. That quickly burns us out. In this sense, the earth element also supports the wooden element, which is confirmed in the organ clock by the fact that the energetic peak phase of the earth element is in the morning, in the day phase of the wooden element.
And then there is the question of satisfaction, abundance and stability. All earth qualities. If you see the heart as the emperor of the organs, then it is clear what it strengthens most: contentment, abundance and stability in its territory. Above all, stability is decisive. Qualities of fire, like passion or enthusiasm, can only develop satisfactorily in the long run on the basis of inner stability. If we are dealing with themes of the fire element in Shiatsu, it is therefore worthwhile to take a look at the earth element.
FIRE STRENGTHENS THE WATER
In the Five Elements we assume that the water element controls the fire element. In the Organ Clock, on the other hand, the Fire Element strengthens the Water Element, while the heart and small intestine come before the bladder and kidneys. In practice, this is much more lifelike. We can use the Fire Element perfectly to support and nourish the Water Element. Why? The kidneys are considered to be the seat of life force, the store of our essence. Therefore a lot is invested in the kidneys, in Shiatsu. If we want to strengthen them, we first think of the sources of postnatal Qi, the lungs and the spleen, but also of rest and regeneration. The diet has to fit, the breathing has to fit, lots of sleep and meditation. All good. But nothing provides us with faster and more lasting energy than enthusiasm. Nothing warms the kidneys more than passion. However: As already mentioned in the connection between earth and fire, passion and enthusiasm must come directly from the centre, from our centre, must correspond to what makes us what we are, only this provides a glowing stick of embers that has constancy. Empty straw fires would only evaporate the water. But, in order…
The kidneys control our willpower. Willpower is an aspect of kidney yang. It’s hard to develop real willpower without the heart behind it. Even hours of moxa won’t help. Only when we stand behind ideas or projects with body (earth element) and soul (Shen), true willpower can unfold. This also explains why in the organ clock the small intestine stands between the heart and the water element. It is all about clarity. Clarity with regard to what we want. Lack of clarity immediately attacks the kidneys. Because unclearness always means uncertainty. Awareness and clarity give strength, that is the true essence for the kidneys. The fire strengthens what water.
The kidneys respond to our sexuality. Purely functionally, sexuality can come directly from the kidneys. Energetically, however, they are rather weakened by this, which can be read in many classical TCM textbooks. However, sexuality with passion based on love can nourish the kidneys. And passion and love can stimulate sexuality. In many disharmonies regarding this function of the kidneys, the way through the fire is the much more constructive approach, from listlessness to difficulties in conception, it is mostly about cold. And what melts the cold better than warmth and affection? An honestly meant „I love you“ has a stronger effect on the kidneys than the best herbal formula…
The kidneys need regeneration, especially sleep. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, every form of sleep disorder is directly or indirectly related to the heart. So how can the water element find the so important rest when the heart is restless? In the organ clock the fire feeds the water. If the fire does not come to rest, restful sleep will be difficult to achieve. Sure, there are sleep pathologies that are based on a depletion of the kidney Yin. But the question is: what has injured the renal Yin? In many cases it is the heat that is transferred to the kidneys via the organ clock. So here, too, it is worth looking at the fire when it comes to the water.
If one continues to follow the organ clock, there are many more exciting connections that can deepen the practical approach with Shiatsu. Kidney and bladder feed pericardium and triple warmer. Water strengthens fire. And fire strengthens wood: gall bladder and liver are at the end of the energy cycle, which experiences a new cycle with the transfer of Qi into the lungs. But working with the opposition times is also an interesting field: How are lungs and bladder connected? Why are heart and gall bladder coupled?
In practice, we often encounter energetic dynamics that are difficult to squeeze into the corset of the Five Elements. Or where a classical treatment approach via the Five Elements does not yield fruitful results. A study of the organ clock can help us to discover and follow new paths. This is what I want to encourage with this article. As well as to further discussions, which I would be very happy about.