MACROBIOTICS AND THE THEORY OF FIVE TRANSFORMATIONS II

In this post we continue what we started earlier. I would like to talk about the ancient theory (even older than the theory of “yin” and “yang”) of the Five Transformations.

THE THEORY OF THE FIVE TRANSFORMATIONS

In the interaction of energy (yin) and matter (yang) all phenomena manifest and vanish. This is one of the most irrefutable truths of nature. Everything is constantly changing. The spinning of the earth creates days and nights, and the four seasons and the course of the years come and go as it goes around the sun. Likewise, the Milky Way is also moving. Ultimately, the entire universe is. Life is movement. Yin transforms into Yang and viceversa. We can see five different stages. Periodicity and rhythm are observable phenomena in all natural processes. Some are too slow or fast for us to record or notice, but all are influenced by polarity. In short, in order for change to exist, polarity, tension, differentiation, yin and yang, must exist too.

The study of these phases forms the basis of the Theory of the Five transformations (or elements), by which “energy” moves in its process of change. Rather, we can describe it as this “energy” or “ki” acquires different “qualities”. From the moment of minimum expression to the maximum degree of expansion or manifestation, all material and energetic phenomena pass through phases of birth, growth, maturity, decay and death. We can see it in the life cycle of a plant, for example:

  • The seed is underground, in lethargy, with its vital energy not yet manifested (it is WINTER)
  • The buds break the soil rising upwards and growth begins (it is SPRING)
  • The plant reaches its maturity and the plant is full of seeds (it is SUMMER)
  • The plant begins to wilt and the seeds fall to the ground (it is the LATE SUMMER)
  • The seeds are buried in the ground and the cycle ends (it is AUTUMN).

Thus, the Five Phase Theory identifies phases of transformation, patterns of expansion / contraction, proliferation and decay. The same happens in the life of the human being and his cycles, similar to those of Nature, starting with the Birth, until Death, passing through the Growth, Maturity and Decadence:

The phase of the TREE is seen in the birth of the new life. The newborn, small, fragile, mobilizes tremendous energy for rapid growth. It is identified with SPRING.
The peak of this phase is reached in adulthood when we are at our best (FIRE). It is identified with the SUMMER.
Stage of maturation when we delight in our maturity (EARTH). It is identified with the LATE SUMMER.
We review yin through degeneration and aging (METAL). It is identified with the AUTUMN.
In our death we return to the yin stage of the dissolution phase (WATER) and to the vacuum from where we left. It is identified with the WINTER.

For example, the SWEET flavor influences the STOMACH, SPLEEN and PANCREAS, the organs of the EARTH element. This means that the correct quality and quantity sweet taste will tonify these organs and will enhance the emotional and psychological aspects related to them. The spleen is a “resource” organ, responsible for supporting and providing resources. When we say somebody has an EARTH deficiency, we can see how, in addition to having problems such as diabetes, hypoglycemia or heartburn, he/she also manifests emotional symptoms. A person with a strong stomach/ spleen/pancreas will be compassionate and empathetic and understanding. However, bad habits, excess, or poor quality sweet taste, animal food, alcohol, etc, will cause deficiency (weakness) or excess (overload, saturation) in these organs, and the person can modify his/her emotions and character (emotional dependency, worry, negativity, loss of perspective). The five stages are applied to all phenomena. We can see them in the parts of the day, in life cycles of all living things, in the seasons, in the food. According to Traditional Chinese medicine, our organs are influenced by each of these “transformations” too.

Thus, through careful and constant observation, Traditional Chinese Medicine claims that each of the five transformations is related to a colour, a taste, a series of organs, a season, etc.

We can observe that in each season nature provides us with what we need to make balance with it, and we see changes in the way plants and trees grow, the  tastes, water content, etc.

  • Daikon in autumn (downward growth, more concentrated roots, lower water content).
  • Root vegetables in winter (inner growth, descending, downward and inward)
  • Greens and fruits in spring (ascending growth, green colour, predominance of chlorophyll, high water content, acid taste in apples and citrus)
  • Flowers and fruits in Summer (high water content, bitter taste of green leaves)
  • Vegetables, cereals and fruits of yellow and brown colors during the late summer (pumpkin, millet, chickpeas, adzuki beans …)

We must respect the rhythm of nature to achieve a balance with it by choosing seasonal products and following a lifestyle in accordance with the energy of each season. For example, in the winter, we want to relax and be at home. However, spring is a more appropriate time to undertake projects and summer is time to be active.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SEASONAL FOOD AND EMOTIONS

What nature gives us in each season of the year influences a specific type of element/energy. Seasonal products will have an effect on a specific set of organs. This is the result of observation. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the observation of natural phenomena.

As we discussed in previous articles, each taste stimulates a specific set of organs and promotes specific emotions.
Some emotions/organs become more apparent (more active energy) at different times during the year.
Each taste stimulates a specific organ, because the tastes express the dynamic nature of energy (chi). The spicy and sweet tastes channel it upwards and out of the body. On the contrary, the salty, acid/sour and bitter tastes channel it downwards and inwards in the body. In the same way, each taste is closely related to a specific area in the body:
Acid influences the liver / gallbladder
Bitterness influences the heart / small intestine
Sweet influences the stomach / spleen / pancreas
Spicy influences the lungs / large intestine
Salty influences the kidneys / bladder
Everyone knows that ginger (hot) activates the circulation of blood and increases the heat in the body. You can feel it. It also has to do with the functions of the different organs. For example, the liver is in charge of dealing with fats, so the sour / acid taste helps digest fats (vinegar, pickles …) The sweet taste has to do with carbohydrates (and the spleen plays an important role there) … and so on.

FOOD, ORGANS AND EMOTIONS

What worries us most about the theory of the 5 phases to be healthy is the relationship between different foods, organs in the body and emotions. Thanks to the theory of the five transformations, we can understand how KI (CHI) moves and adapt our eating and lifestyle patterns to that movement. As for the organs in the body:

LIVER + GALL BLADDER are associated with the TREE phase
HEART + SMALL INTESTINE are associated with the FIRE phase
STOMACH + SPLEEN + PANCREAS are associated with the EARTH phase
LUNGS + LARGE INTESTINE are associated with the METAL phase
KIDNEYS + BLADDER are associated with the WATER phase
Emotions and mental states are also associated with the organs and are connected to their state of health. From this association we can understand that, for example:

A person who tends to criticize will have a liver problem
A person who is always afraid has problems with their kidneys
A person who laughs too much or who never laughs should balance his heart, etc.
A person who cares too much about everything, should take care of his stomach / spleen / pancreas and monitor the intake of sweets.
A person who tends to depression and isolation should take care of their lungs and large intestine.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), organs and emotions influence each other. For example, if we increase someone’s self-esteem, we will improve the condition of their kidneys and vice versa: by strengthening their kidneys we will increase their self-esteem. How can food cope with the exhaustion of organs and, subsequently, negative emotions? Looking at the classification that connects the 5 elements with nutrients on the one hand and on the other hand, the classification that connects the elements with food. Thanks to them we can learn what food will be good to eat when a specific organ is weak or when we face a negative emotion.

THE CYCLES “SHENG” AND “KE”

Each element nourishes the next, continuing in the direction of the clockwise.
The five elements affect each other in a process called creation cycle (“SHENG”), where the 5 energies create or nourish the next. This cycle of energy is repeated in the same direction and never in the opposite direction. It is the law of the mother-child or generation cycle. Each element nourishes the next. At the same time, the child obtains energy from the mother without weakening it, stimulating her to “recharge” each time she is discharged. On the other hand, these energies are controlled among themselves in the control cycle (“KE”).
When an element is over-stimulated, it becomes blocked and causes deficiency of energy in the opposite. It is the law of opposites (control cycle “KE”). There is a close relationship between each organ, gland and element.

SUMMARY OF THE FIVE TRANSFORMATIONS
PancreasCORRESPONDENCE OF THE 5 ELEMENTS – SUMMARY

 WATERTREEFIREEARTHMETAL
SEASONSWinterSpringSummerLate SummerAutumn
ORGANSKidney
LiverHeartSpleen
Pancreas
Lungs
VISCERABladderGallbladderSmall IntestineStomachLarge Intestine
TASTESaltyAcid
Sour
BitterSweetPungent
COLOURDark
Purple
GreenRedOrange
Yellow
White
GRAINSBuckwheatWheatCornMilletRice
VEGETABLESRootsSmall leavesLeafy greensRound vegetablesPungent roots
ABSORTION MineralsFatsVitaminsCarbohydratesProtein
NEGATIVEShy
Fearful
Irritable
Furious
Talkative
Arrogant
Hesitant
Suspicious
Depresive
POSITIVEEnthusiasticPatientWittyPerceptiveEmpathic

We will approach each of these five elements in more detail in the near future. Very soon we will talk about late summer and we will see how to balance ourselves with the movement of nature at this important stage. See you soon!

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