Earth Day invites us to think about our relationship with our planet. What lessons can we learn from the earth, and how can we stay more connected to our true home? If we listen carefully, we’ll find that the earth is rich in wisdom and energy that we can bring into our Qi Gong practice, as well as all aspects of our lives. To celebrate Earth Day, we decided to write a blog post about the wonderful gifts that the earth has to offer.

The Earth Element

In Chinese Medicine, the earth is one of the Five Elements that we work with in our Qi Gong practice. The earth is often referred to as “the stabilizing force,” and is seen as the constant around which everything else changes. Weather, seasons, plants, and creatures are in constant flux, but the solid material beneath our feet is there to stay.

In Qi Gong, we view each individual as a microcosm of the entire universe. Within ourselves, earth represents our authentic self—a stable place of grounding that we can turn to when the world around us changes.

Often, life requires us to step into different roles. Maybe you’re a parent, a partner, a work colleague, or a teacher. Although it can be healthy to identify as these roles, it’s also important to remember that you aren’t the roles. There is something beneath the roles you take on that continues to exist separate from anything going on in your life. When we can cultivate the earth element, we can find it easy to connect to that stable and grounded place within us.

You can think of events and responsibilities going on in your life as the seasons in a mountain landscape. If you visit the mountains in the winter, you may find yourself surrounded by snow and ice. If you return in the summer, you may feel that you’ve arrived to a totally new place because it’s warm and green. Although your experience of the mountains can be completely different depending on when you visit, it’s still the exact same place on earth. The earth’s existence is separate from the seasons that occur. Similarly, we must learn to not think that we are the season that we are experiencing, but rather that we are the earth that is stable beneath the snow or flowers.

Imbalance and Recentering

Have you ever felt caught up in stressful thoughts and unable to be present with what’s going on around you? Sometimes, it can be easy to respond to life’s demands by obsessively thinking and stressing out about things rather than being present and clear. This happens when we allow our internal energy to rise to our head, rather than stay balanced in our body. This would be similar to the earth thinking that it is the snow that lies on top of it.

If you really pay attention to what it feels like to be caught up in stressful thinking, you realize that your body feels uncomfortable. Some people feel jittery, depleted, or even have issues with their digestion. To regain harmony, it’s important to rebalance your energy by bringing it back into your body. When your Qi is centered in your lower abdomen (Lower Tan Tien), it becomes easier to act from a grounded and authentic place. The beautiful thing is that you always have your earth energy to reconnect to when you’re feeling lost within yourself. When you find your place of stability, you’re able to experience the earth’s gifts of clarity, intuition, receptivity, and a deep awareness of the present moment.

We Are The Earth

Energetically, the earth is part of our extended body. Quite literally, we grew from the earth, just as an apple grows on the branch of an apple tree. However, in modern life, it can be easy to forget our connectedness to our planet. Instead of walking in the forest and foraging for fruits and vegetables to eat, most of us buy our food at the grocery store where it’s often wrapped in plastic and doesn’t even look like something that came from the natural world. When we want to relax, many of us turn on the TV rather than spend time enjoying the peace of nature. When we turn to human-made sources to fulfill our needs, it’s no wonder that it becomes easy to forget that the earth is the true source of our existence.

Unfortunately, when we forget that we are part of the earth many people start to treat it poorly. Large companies start to view it as something to possess and take from rather than something to appreciate, cherish, and nurture. Ironically, disrespecting the earth is synonymous with disrespecting ourselves and every other living thing on the planet. Humans can sometimes be like an apple that thinks it’s somehow separate from the apple tree.   

Rather than fall prey to the illusion of separateness, we must practice cultivating our awareness of connectedness to the earth, which is no different than connectedness to self. Qi Gong is a wonderful way to nurture this truth and understanding! When we do so, we naturally feel the desire to take care of our sacred planet and treat it with reverence. The result is a profound appreciation, as well as an ability to fully embody the lessons that the earth has to share. After all, the earth is an abundant source of Qi that we all can tap into.

Qi Gong for Earth Day

To help us cultivate the wonderful gifts of the earth, Lee has put together a short Qi Gong routine to share some practices for the earth element. This routine is a great way to recenter when you’re feeling stressed out, or to just reconnect to the earth for support and grounding. So, take some deep breaths, turn up your speakers, and get ready to follow Lee in a relaxing Qi Gong practice.

By Ian Drogin