An Encounter with the Stomach, Spleen & Pancreas Energies

"The guardians of the treasury"

In the old texts of the Yellow Emperor, the stomach is described as being "head of the storehouses and granaries", where rotting and ripening occurs. Stomach and spleen/pancreas energies are associated with the autumn, where the earth is still, ready for change.

The stomach energy is most active from 07:00 - 09:00 hours and the spleen/pancreas energy from 09:00 -11:00 hours. This indicates why breakfast is so important before going to work, as well as why the main meal of the day used to be eaten around midday. In many countries this is still the case. It could be said that who wants to put on weight should eat late in the evening, when the digestive system is least active!

The spleen

In the Chinese five elements, both stomach and spleen/pancreas energies are associated with "earth", our foundation, giving us stability and providing us with food. Centrally located in the body, their energies relate to the feeling of balance, emotionally as well as nutritionally. Fear arises when this stability is threatened, as in earthquakes and on an emotional level when we feel unsupported, 'undernourished' by a relationship with someone/something.

Earth's nature is dense and porous, providing a home to all plants that need a place to grow their roots. The earth element is therefore related to the bearing of children and establishing solid relationships.

To digest or not to digest…?

The physiological ability of the stomach and spleen to receive is so crucial to the maintenance of balance; to the process of nourishment physiologically, as well as emotionally and intellectually. To maintain balance, we need to be able to take something in; process and absorb it, then let go of it. Here I'm referring to food as well as to ideas, experiences and to emotional responses. Disturbance of this natural process leads to mental and physiological constipation, whereupon body and mind become rigid.

In my own clinical experience with cases where earth energy is weak, I have found that the person is unwilling to love, care for and 'nourish' themselves.


The stomach

Being concerned is also related to the stomach and spleen energies, excessive concern indicating imbalance. A common example: women in the role of mother, caring for everybody except themselves.

The English saying that someone doesn't "have the guts" (stomach) to do something reflects the stomach energy's relationship with courage. Perhaps this is why the image of a firm, muscled belly is so desired by many.

Too much thinking

Spleen energy "nourishes" the ability for abstract thought. Imbalance will lead to mental fatigue and the tendency to worry excessively.

The earth element's spiritual aspect is called the Yi, meaning both 'verbally expressed thought' as well as 'heart and mind'. The latter relates to the balance and the communication between your center (hara) and the mind. Whenever physical security is lacking (deficient earth energy) we seek reassurance and reality in intellectual concepts and structures. This is the link I've often spoken of in the lessons between stomach/spleen energy and too much thinking!

Other symptoms which may occur when earth energy is unbalanced are lethargy and purposeless mental hyperactivity.

Red cheeks often indicate that the stomach energy is too strong, whereas deficient stomach energy causes a lack of appetite; lack of strength in the legs (especially upon climbing stairs); knee problems and tension around the neck or shoulders.

stomach Recommended exercise

Do; Re; Mi…

Any professional singer will tell you how important it is to sing from the stomach, not from the throat. Melodious singing is related to the energies of both stomach and spleen. The voice may fluctuate in order to convey empathy, yet indicates imbalance when it becomes a permanent feature of a person’s way of speaking.

Elements related to stomach & spleen energy

A fragrant odour indicates balance between stomach and spleen; disharmony gives a sickly-sweet odour to the breath. The tongue is related to stomach and spleen energies, being the beginning of the digestive system (actually desire may be the beginning!); the need for oral satisfaction (e.g kissing and/or smoking) and being able to taste the 5 tastes (bitter; sweet; rancid; sour; salty). Imbalance may lead to the inability to taste anything. Disharmony may lead to mouth ulcers; to cracks in the corners of the mouth; bleeding gums or to cold sores.

To like or not to like…

"Like" and "dislike", are not only manifested when children refuse to eat certain things; adults can be also choosey. More importantly, what are the underlying fears or pleasures which lead to rejection or acceptance of something? And to what extent and in what ways do we reject or accept ourselves?

The taste connected with spleen and stomach energies is sweet. Imbalance in these energies can lead to a craving and excessive consumption of sweet-tasting food (the "cookie monster syndrome"!).

The function of the spleen/pancreas organ is to transform and transport nutrition it receives. The essence extracted from food is then sent upwards to the lungs from where it can be circulated throughout the body, particularly to the muscles and tendons. The amount of muscle volume a person has is related to the strength of this function. Imbalance will show when the stomach becomes distended ("beer belly") or when the body looks emaciated.

Food essence received by the lungs is transported to the heart which makes blood from it. Imbalance in the spleen's function can cause: dizziness; scanty/irregular menstruation; anaemia; insomnia; depression; blood in the stools, sputum or urine; painful urination; broken capillaries; nose bleeds; varicose veins and excessive or prolonged menstruation.

Another important aspect of spleen energy is that it maintains the position of your body organs. Imbalance can cause the uterus, bladder, stomach or other organs to move downwards and can lead also to haemorrhoids. It will also cause the cheeks, jaw and breasts to sag. An irregular menstrual cycle and tenderness of the breasts also indicate imbalance of the spleen energy.

Manipura Chakra

stomach The word Manipura may be divided into two sanskrit words – mani, meaning "jewel" and pura, meaning "city". According to Tibetan tradition it is known as mani padma, meaning "jewelled lotus". An important center for the awakening of kundalini energy (that lies sleeping in the pelvic region), it is also associated with dynamism, energy, will and achievement. Considered to resemble the dazzling heat and power of the sun, it radiates and distributes energy throughout the entire body, regulating and energizing organ functions, systems and life processes. When this energy is reduced one will experience a lack of vitality; depression; be hindered by poor health and have little motivation or commitment in one's life. Therefore the awakening of manipura chakra ought be high on the list of priorities for anyone wishing to enjoy life more fully. Manipura is connected to the solar plexus, controlling the digestive fire and regulating the body temperature.

Manipura's organ of knowledge is the eyes; its organ of action the feet – indicating the interdependent processes of vision and willful action.

The ancient texts tell us that yin and yang energies merge into each other in the stomach area, and in the ancient yogic texts (the Vedas) we are told that the primal, animal aspects of our energy are transformed into a more spiritual, more refined energy upon rising to the level of manipura chakra (located opposite the navel, in the spinal column). Meditation upon manipura chakra can lead to knowledge of the entire physical system. Purification and awakening of manipura leads to a disease-free body, which becomes luminous and where consciousness no longer recedes into the lower states (those of mooladhara and swadisthan chakras, where the higher states of consciousness cannot be seen).

The psychic experiences one may have upon awakening of manipura chakra, are infused with compassion, unlike those experienced in the lower chakras.