Winter: The Season of the Water Element

“The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent it’s difficult to see.
When it’s calm, everything becomes clear”.

– Prasad Mahesh


Introduction of the Water element.


Water is the most feminine of the Five Elements and therefore is considered very Yin. In Taoist cosmology, femininity is not considered weak. On the contrary, water is the most powerful element for it can move around any obstacle in its path without losing its essential nature. Water can, in time, dissolve the hardest mountains.

Colors: Black (Yang) and Grey (Yin)
Earthly branches and months: Boar (November), Rat (December), Ox (January)
Planet: Mercury
Direction: North
Climate: Cold
Season: Winter
Emotion: Fear
Body organs: Kidneys (yin) and Bladder (yang)
Power Animal: Tortoise & Deer
Meridians: Kidney & Bladder

Water’s planet is Mercury. The metal Mercury exists in a liquid form, like water. Water’s season is winter and therefore corresponds to the three earthly branches of wintertime:
Boar (November), Rat (December), and Ox (January). It is a time when living things are contracted with cold. Like a seed deep in the cold ground, Qi is dormant, waiting for the time to sprout.

Water’s direction is north. Water’s position on the Feng Shui Ba-Gua represents career and the life journey. As we have two kidneys we have two symbols for the water – one is a black Tortoise (representing longevity) and the other is a deer (representing sexual vitality).

Although water is a very Yin element, it can exist in either a Yang or a Yin state. When water expresses masculine yang energy, its color is black and is symbolized by a wave. When water expresses feminine Yin energy, its color is gray and is symbolized by a brook or a lake. The color of the Kidney is black, like the night, or like black ice.

Water qualities are creativity, sensitivity, reflection, persuasion, effectiveness, and desire for life and sex. Water types value family and social contacts and possess the ability to attract (being receptive, water can attract, rather than pursue). The emotion associated with water is fear. Other water emotions are indecisiveness, vacillation, and uncertainty. Those born in a water year succeed by not allowing fear to block the fullest expression of creativity. The challenge for water types is to overcome their fears and become active participants in life.


Water Element & Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, water’s body organs are the kidneys and bladder. Water types may have a disposition for urinary problems, bladder infections in women, or prostate difficulties in men. Coffee drinking weakens the kidneys, and cocaine and marijuana abuse causes irreversible kidney damage. These toxic substances, including alcohol and other drugs, must be avoided.


The function of the Kidney:

Kidney Yin & Kidney Yang are the roots of the genes – if one is deficient, the other one will be too; Kidney stores essence & governs birth, growth, reproduction & development; They produce marrow, fill up the brain & control bones; They govern water; They control the reception of Qi from the lung; They open into the ears; They manifest in the hair; They control the lower orifices (spermatic duct, urethra & anus) opening & closing function;
They house the will power & motivation; The gate of vitality (called Ming Men) provides heat for all body functions, warms lower burner, stomach & spleen to aid digestion; harmonizes sexual function; supports all other organs; warms the kidney Yang & nourishes kidney Yin.


When Water is in balance

We have a solid genetic background and cultural heritage and benefit from a solid support system of friends, peers, family and community. Life comes easy to us and we are calm without the need to fight.
Water energy is a strong generative force centered in the lower belly. When the Kidney Qi is strong, a person is fearless, determined, and can endure many hardships in pursuit of their goals with ease and gentleness. Persevering by will power is characteristic of those with strong Kidney Qi, as is longevity, often signified by large, elongated ear lobes, like those of the Buddha.

Positive emotions are: gentle, soft, prudent, limitless, encompassing, embracing, calm, determined, creative and sensual.

When Water is out of balance

We are in the survival mode of “fight or flight”. We feel so weak that even when we fight we know we are going to lose. When the Kidney Qi is weak, there can be problems with water metabolism, urination, fertility, or sexuality. This person could be anxious, fearful, and withdrawn, and in more severe cases, phobic with extreme activation of adrenaline and stress hormones and a tendency for fits of despair, anger, depression and powerlessness. When the Kidney Qi starts to weaken, dark circles or pouches appear under the eyes, weakness in the legs and knees, lower back pain, fatigue, bad teeth, loss of hearing, frequent urination, incontinence, osteoporosis, cold extremities, declining sexual vigor, kidney stones, and baldness. Kidney Qi declines with aging. There may be diminished hearing or ringing in the ears. In menopause, the Kidney Yin declines, which is associated with classic signs of heat and dryness – hot flashes, night sweats, dry skin, and mucous membranes.

Negative emotions are: impulsive, fearful, cold, rough, slippery, small, scattered, timid, absent, speedy, stagnant, sterile, paranoid.

The Spirit of Water Element


The Zhi is the spirit of the deep underworld, residing in the most hidden parts of our subconscious. It is the hidden life force, will to live and the unknowable mystery of quickening life. The Zhi rises from the wellspring of our being and imbues us with a desire to grow, thrive and live fully.

The light of the Zhi can be seen in the shimmering moisture of mineral-laden caves, roots, creatures that crawl beneath the earth, luminous algae and phosphorescent plankton that shine from the darkness of the ocean. The realm of the Zhi is the world of karma, the world of unconscious forces that determine the course of our lives. Here the light of the spirits wait until the goddess releases them back into the life cycle to nourish new psychic structures.

When the Zhi is upset we see many of the signs and symptoms of an unbalanced water element or weak, exhausted kidneys & chronic fatigue.

Common symptoms – Forgetfulness, lack of drive, lack of initiative, inability to pursue goals, addictive patterns, depression, fear, sleep disturbances, sexual disturbances, over-controlling.

Spirit level signs – Lack of heroism, absolute despair, no hope of ever healing, inability to face fears, trying to always cut corners and find the easy way out, the disintegration of the nervous system, spiritual paralysis with the inability to move on or take on life.

Possible cause – Overwork, excessive physical activity, too much adrenal stimulation (i.e. caffeine), chronic disease, addictive behavior, chronic fear & anxiety, shock, trauma, guilt, multiple births, excess blood loss in menstruation, lack of discipline & encouragement in childhood.

When our energy levels are weak we cannot keep the Zhi alive in us.

How to help resuscitate the Zhi, balance the water and nourish the kidneys?

The Zhi needs to be seduced and tempted into coming back to you. This is what the Zhi loves:

  • FACE THE FEAR – Make friends with your fears – sit with them, use internal alchemy to be sensitive, pause and allow the fears to simply just ‘be’ without activating adrenal glands or fight/flight response. Sit next to your fears and in small doses make changes that can overcome these fears.
  • LIFESTYLE – Nourishing food, rest, meditation, natural beauty.
  • PHYSICAL EXERCISE – Calm exercise which strengthens the spinal column and aligns posture.
  • THOUGHTS – Avoid excessive thinking, working & craving and make time and space each day to do nothing.
  • WATER – Spend time in the water, watch how water moves, drink lots of water, keep a bowl of water in your house, watch rivers, oceans, ponds, sea.
  • FOOT MASSAGE – Massage K1 to stimulate the Zhi
  • MEDITATION – A quiet mind and subdued ego will allow the lower light to shine forth.


Click here to listen to the Water Element Meditation.


May your blockages be released.
Your veins and rivers flow with ease.
May your fears be washed away.
Cleansed and pure; let nothing stay.


I am here, to release all of my fears,
come to peace with all my tears,
and discover what it means to be alive.

Find out more about Chinese Medicine and the 5 Elements here.