The Well-Nourished Spleen
Abundant Spleen energy will tend to generate a deep inner sense of well-being and a wonderful sense of ease and comfort in the body. We feel content, enjoy the pleasures of life, and have a deep relationship with our own sensuality. We feel abundant at all levels, equally able to give and receive generously. Digestion is relaxed and efficient, the body feels supported and toned, the mind is clear and able to concentrate well. We are grounded, as in touch with the earth as we are with our body, and we rest secure in the knowledge that we are safe and deservedly looked after by the divine Mother, Providence or whatever name we give to the provider of our needs.
When the Spleen is in disharmony there is usually a poor ability to digest food. This will often be mirrored by a decreased ability to receive emotional nourishment. Often weak concentration is linked with difficulty in sifting and sorting nutrients in the physical body. Sometimes, when deeply hungry for love, we turn instead to food to bury our pain. When feeling emotionally unnourished the body may contract and impede the flow of nourishment into the soft tissues; or the posture may collapse, especially the middle section of the torso and at the lumbar-sacral joint, giving up in both an emotional and physical sense.
Nourishing the Spleen
The Spleen loves touch. Anything we can do to feed ourselves at this most fundamental level will strengthen the Spleen. Deprived of touch, the human being shrivels up, behaves crazily and sinks into depression. Touch is as fundamental a need as food, so supporting the Spleen also means entering a deeply sensual relationship with the body. To receive bodywork, to cuddle friends and family, to touch oneself lovingly: all these are ways to strengthen the Spleen. Often we focus on food when in fact this other fundamental need, the need for contact, is the secret cure.
We can maintain the tone and free flow of nourishment in soft tissues by stretching. The Spleen loves to stretch. Stretching eases constriction and opens the flow of nutrients into the muscles. It is a good way to enter into a relaxed relationship with the body. Other ways include learning how to fall, crawl and roll around on the ground. This playful approach reconnects with the earth and helps the body develop trust in the earth’s support. When we innately trust the earth to support us, internal resistance to gravity softens, our energy becomes more grounded and the effort used in holding the body upright can be freed to give the body more vitality.
Touch, stretching and physically reconnecting to the earth all direct us to becoming more fully embodied. Being comfortably at home in the body is the natural expression of Spleen energy. In the touch-deprived, over-sedentary and ungrounded lifestyle typical of modern culture, the Spleen has a hard time. Of all the Organs, the Spleen is the most commonly deficient.
As well as finding groundedness in the body, we can create grounding in our daily lives. We can do this by creating structure and routine in the otherwise chaotic nature of daily life. A structured life is a Spleen-supportive life. This may be as simple as creating a daily space to drink tea, meditate, sit with a book, write in a journal, massage the body, anything which nourishes. It may also mean eating regular meals or keeping regular sleeping and waking times. Routine and structure create a constant, safe and dependable place in our lives, an external support for the Spleen.
We can extend this idea of structure to the physical structure we live in, the home. The home is an external mirror of the internal condition of the Spleen. Creating a comfortable and safe home can also be seen as creating an external support for the Spleen. The Spleen longs for a sense of home and it is no coincidence that people who travel a lot find that their Spleen energy is often put under extra strain. Many illnesses actually have their source in a kind of homesickness, a deep need to feel the security and care that belongs, or should have belonged, to one’s childhood home. Creating a sense of home, even when moving from one place to another, will support the Spleen.
A short anecdote illustrates this last point. I once fell into conversation with a man on a train in India. When he found out that I worked within the healing professions he asked me what he could do about his chronic sinus congestion. Our conversation eventually led back to his original home which he had left because of his job. It turned out that, although he had been to several doctors and tried many medicines, the sinus problem was relieved by nothing except his return home. At home his sinus problems would vanish. The deep loss of home was simply too stressful for him. From a Chinese medicine point of view, the Spleen processes the moisture in food and produces mucus which the Lung then stores. In his case, the Spleen was weakened through homesickness and unable to properly process the moisture in food, creating an excess of its by-product (mucus).
The sense of home is vital to the Spleen’s health. Ideally, through the childhood experience of secure and nourishing home life, we develop an internal sense of home which enables us to be at home anywhere, independent of place and circumstance. In other words, we become at home in ourselves, accepting of ourselves and comfortably relaxed in our own bodies.
Just as it is helpful to stretch and exercise the body, so it is helpful to train the mind. Learning study skills supports the Spleen’s function of sifting and sorting information. Clearing out mental clutter, simplifying involvement with the paperwork of modern life, finding ways of working with the perpetually encroaching chaos: these are all ways of supporting the Spleen.
The Spleen’s emotional territory covers the relationship with needs, and inner feelings of trust and safety. The Spleen calls us to honour our needs and attend to them, to enter a nourishing relationship with ourselves, to become self-nourishing. Unattended to, our needs will find their own way to fulfilment and the more they are ignored the more disruptive this way may be. Asking oneself ‘What do I truly need to feel nourished, supported and safe in this world?’ is a way of engaging with the Spleen at the emotional level.
We can nourish the Spleen in daily life through simple things such as cuddling with someone (even the dog will do!), getting bodywork regularly, making a nesty corner in the home, creating a daily self-nourishing ritual, rolling around on the floor or on the earth, and taking the time to give to ourselves in whatever way we need.