• Color of Red (or Ashen)
• Sound of Laughter (or lack of laugh)
• Odor of Scorched
• Emotion of Joy (or lack of joy)
• Taste of Bitter
• Sensory organ – Tongue
• Manifests in the Face
• Tissue – Blood Vessels
• Season of Summer
• Power of Maturity
• Direction of South
• The Climate of Warmth
• Time of Day: 11am – 3pm and 7pm – 11pm
The list above.. is just that, a list. Though what lies in commonality within it, are some of the different manifestations of qi embodying the Fire Element. They can be observed in all things, because ‘the 10,000 things’ are all just different forms of qi that came from an expression of the Tao millions of years ago. We can observe it in nature, people, music, animals, and even ‘seemingly’ inanimate objects. For the sake of this website – in terms of discussing the Element itself, my spirit is drawn to discuss these observations through a particular microcosm – within the rays of the sun. In discussing the Officials, I will refer to the very same observations, though how we might see them manifest in people.
The time of summer – where the sun is at its highest peak, and we receive its warmth, light, and love. It is a time of brilliance and maturity for the trees, plants, grasses, flowers, and fruits before the harvest. And with a healthy, vibrant bloom during summer we receive not only sustaining warmth but also an abundant, nourishing harvest in late summer to give us the resources to get us through the autumn and winter.
The sun – nature’s purest manifestation of the Fire element. Like most fire, it is hot, vibrant, lively, dynamic, flickering, draws us to it, warms us, and makes us feel good. The sun is the Supreme Controller of our solar system providing warmth, light, and stability. Within that, we see its role as an official in charge of balance and harmony. Take for example, heat – people, plants, and animals depend on the sun for its warmth, and the slightest shifts (like by a degree or two) can have dramatic (and even catastrophic) effects on us all. And they happen all the time, though we take them for granted – shifts in air currents, melting of the polar ice caps, changes in migration patterns, vegetation as a whole (ranging from an abundant, nourishing harvest to droughts, famine), etc. On a general yet personal level, the warmth of the sun brightens our day and lightens our mood, brings joy and laughter, and community by being able to be out and about in its greatness (i.e. camping, sports, BBQ’s).
All processes of organic life require a spark or heat on some level – whether its coming directly from the Sun or physiologically within our bodies or energetically within our spirits, we depend on it to thrive. In nature, it comes from the sun, and people, plants, and animals are drawn to it and are nourished by it. We can see that same spark of healthy fire when we look in someone’s eyes, there is joy, laughter, vitality and passion there… and we just can’t help but want to be around them. Contrary, when all that’s seemingly left of a fire is ash – this can also be seen in the eyes… a lack of spark, accompanied by a lack of connection (on various levels). Though if you mindfully blow on the ashes, fanning the flames, allowing the embers to burn again – a person’s spirit (fire) can be reawakened.
The essence of the Fire element is LOVE – connection, relationships, intimacy. And just as the Fire Officials within our bodies use the blood as a medium to communicate and spread these various manifestations of love – I think of the sun’s individual rays coming down and gracefully connecting and communicating with all that is within its kingdom of protection and compassion. It bathes us and penetrates us, and when healthy – flows freely, allowing us to make and sustain connections with our friends, family, lovers, strangers, and the universe around us. Enables us to be open and accepting of those around us without assumptions and judgments, but simply an open heart and a warm smile – the sun shines on us all with the same love and warmth, it just depends on how open we are to receiving it.
“love is in the air” – a cliché of sorts, but it seems to fit!
THE HEART– The Supreme Controller
I know traditionally, the Supreme Controller is likened to an Emperor or King… but I can’t help but think of it as Queen or Empress. Who is she? She is at the top and she is at the core of her kingdom, community, village, house, body, spirit, etc. She is connected throughout – connected to every person, to every official, to every cell. She is overseeing everything, sets and regulates the rhythm for the other officials and making sure they are happy and doing their jobs well.
Though she is in the seemingly most position of power, she is also fragile and sensitive, warm and compassionate. She is an embodiment of pure love and when healthy, is always open – able to both give and receive love. And it is this gift of warmth and unconditional love that enables the other Officials to accept her mandate openly and without hesitation. It is a reciprocal relationship, as important as her position is, she is nothing without the other Officials.
What is important to note is that because of this vital combination of immense power and unconditional love, she requires the most protection – having 3 emissaries – the Sorter, the Heart Protector and the Keeper of the Three Burning Spaces.
The Queen stays connected to her kingdom via the blood and its network of blood vessels – this is her form of communication with everything and everyone. Along with the Heart Protector she is involved with circulating the blood, however she is more concerned with its actual production and the force behind its travels. So when the Queen is healthy, there is warmth, joy, and love spread throughout. And as wonderful as it is when she is healthy is as severe as it is when she is not doing well.
THE SMALL INTESTINE–
The Official in Charge of Separating the Clear from the Turbid
Nothing quite sums up this official’s role as nicely as the nickname ‘The Sorter’. We see this on a physiological level without much strain – it receives food from the Stomach and then immediately starts sorting out all the fabulous, nourishing nutrients to make pure useable qi from the turbid crap (i.e. chemicals, additives, preservatives, bad fats, etc.) contained in most of the food we consume on a daily basis. Its truly an amazing process – a healthy Sorter will fine the good and pure even if we are consuming mostly fast food, processed foods, etc.!
There might not be a whole lot of it in this case, but the point is… a healthy Sorter will continue to do its job under less than “ideal” conditions. Looking at it from another angle – if the Sorter is not healthy, than it does not matter if one is an eating an all organic, whole-food diet… because it will not be able to sort out the difference between the pure qi-filled nutrients from harmful toxins. It could retain the turbid materials trying to make it into useable qi and send this malnourishing product to the other Officials AND/OR mistakenly throw away the pure, essence, qi vital to our body, mind, spirit functions. Both not good!
Now, this can very easily be applied to the mental/spiritual levels. I liken the Sorter to being the Queen’s “number 2”. Nothing gets to the Queen without speaking to her #2 first. This is somewhat similar to the Heart Protector Official, except the Heart Protector is dealing more with relationships, especially intimate ones; whereas the Sorter is doing more the day-to-day stuff.
I have this image of someone sorting the Queen’s mail – “ok, allow the postcard from her sister and the coupons for Whole Foods, throw away the magazine subscriptions and the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes stuff!” We are constantly bombarded – the news, internet, television, emotional input, intellectual input, spiritual input – the world we live in. What is useful? What is helpful? What is right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, ripe vs. not ripe, healthy vs. unhealthy, glass is half full vs. half empty, the path of least resistance vs. the road less traveled?? Then once this filtering process has been done, it is then the Sorter’s job to prioritize it all in terms of its importance – what does the Queen need to address now versus a year, month, week, day, hour, minute, second, nanosecond from now?!
It is the Sorter’s job to discern clarity from the constant perfusion of stimuli and input to keep things running smoothly and protect us from acute or chronic harm to our body, mind, and spirit.
THE HEART PROTECTOR – Official in Charge of Circulation-Sex
Sometimes referred to as the Pericardium, in Western Medicine it is a 3 layered fluid-filled sac that surrounds the heart. In this respect, some of its functions are to: provide an outer protective layer for the heart, keep the heart contained in the chest cavity, prevent the heart from overexpanding when blood volume increases, and limit heart motion. Then when we look at it from a Chinese medicine point of view – these functions would still apply (though on more than one level), but they do not capture the entire picture of this Official’s role.
In talking about the Heart Official we talked about the blood being a medium of communication –where it was more the Heart’s role to produce the blood, we see the Heart Protector in charge of the actual arterial/venous circulation of blood and of internal/external sexual secretions. What this allows for when healthy – is the free flow of qi, inner warmth, love, sexual energy, generosity, forgiveness, and compassion to every cell in the body.
Mentioned when talking about the Heart Official – in order for her to truly be able to embody the grand scope of maintaining order with love, compassion, power, wisdom – she has to remain open and free from the day-to-day tasks and protected from harm. If she had to do her job, and at the same time always be constantly worrying about her own protection – we wouldn’t last 5 minutes! And so true to its name the Heart Protector’s main role is taking on all the insult, injury, trauma, for the Heart – like her personal Secret-Service person, the “imperial bodyguard”. Whether it is an accident or physical trauma, crappy diet, harmful substances, excessive behavior – exercise, stress, sex, etc. It is this Official that selflessly puts himself in harm’s way to protect the Queen at all costs. It is said that about 85% of “heart disease” is actually the impact on the Heart Protector and not the Heart itself. Interestingly enough, many of the symptoms we might see with “heart disease” is actually a good indicator that the Heart Protector is doing its job, because the manifestation of trauma/invasion getting to the Queen herself can be far more severe.
This viewpoint can also be applied to the mental/emotional/spiritual level… in that when most people say things like, “their heart is breaking” or “heart-ache” or “from the bottom of my heart” and all other such phrases pertaining to matters of the “heart” – they are in actuality more than likely referring to their Heart Protector doing its job! This is the Official most closely intertwined with connection and relationships – particularly one-on-one relationships, versus the Triple Warmer dealing more with relationships on a somewhat grosser scale. The Heart Protector is dealing with friendships, romantic relationships, intimacy on all levels, connection on all levels. Who is this person standing before me? A friend or is there something more? How much should I be putting out there OR how much protection do I need? Can I openly take in what this person is trying to express to me – without being consumed by it? Is this the right time for a romantic relationship? How much is safe to let in/out? Is it appropriate to have these feelings, to share these feelings, to act on these feelings? If not, what do I then do with these feelings? Can I transform them into something healthy and productive?
This Official gives us the ability to work with these moments in a way that is in accordance with the Liver’s vision and the Heart’s mandate.
THE TRIPLE WARMER
– Official in Charge of Balance and Harmony
This is the only Official that does not have its own western correlation with a specific organ in the body. Though there is talk of it being likened to the hypothalamus or even the endocrine system as a whole. But for now, let’s just stick with what we know.
Like the other Fire Officials, the Triple Warmer also deals with warmth. In comparison to its partner in crime, the Heart Protector focuses more internally and on self-protection, the Triple Warmer looks more externally and balancing /harmonizing the inside with the outside. We are talking about the Official who is the keeper of the three heaters (or burners, warmers, energizers, etc.) – they are three energetic spaces in the body in which all the Officials reside.
The upper burner houses the Heart, Lung, and Pericardium Officials; the middle burner houses the Spleen, Stomach, Liver, and Gallbladder Officials; the lower burner houses the Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Urinary Bladder, and Kidney Officials. The word “temperature” comes up a lot when talking about this Official, and it takes on several meanings. First off, it is responsible for the homeostatic environment of each of the three burners – allowing for the optimal conditions under which all the other Officials can carry out their moment-to-moment functions. In addition, and certainly just as important is the regulating that happens between the body and its external surroundings. I enjoyed the analogy to a building janitor – he/she is behind the scenes yet knows everyone; knows all the inter-workings of the building and has all the access and means to make everyone/everything very comfortable and seamless or something not unlike a living hell!
Let’s look at it on a physical level first – our internal thermostat. It is this Official that regulates our core temperature – when we are drinking ice cold water on a sweltering hot day or having a snowball fight followed by hot chocolate, sitting in a sauna, a pool, or hot tub. This process of temperature regulation is one of the utmost precision and care. And I think we all can recall how uncomfortable it can truly be when we are stuck at a temperature that is not in agreement to our daily living. The same applies on an energetic level as well – all of the Officials need to feel the same love and warmth from the spirit, just as much as ‘body heat’. Now we must take into consideration the mental, emotional, and spiritual temperature of the world outside our bodies – so we’re not talking about the physical weather anymore, but say for example the temperature of a relationship, of a board room, an audience, a party full of people. This is about the external situation, and very much gives us our basic skills around social interactions. “Are these people being receptive to me? How much do I feel like engaging them, and in what manner? Is this a warm or cold environment?” This Official allows us to both properly gauge the situation and then be able to make the appropriate changes to ebb and flow with the dynamics of each moment.