Fire Phase in Dragon Rises Red Bird Flies
Continuing on this week, we take up the Fire Phase of the Wu Xing five-phase model found in Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies, the third part of this short series. Feel free to catch up on the first two pieces, the Water Phase and Wood Phase. The Fire Phase is about creativity, about inspiration, about making manifest in the world our most intimate and personal selves. Having just come this weekend from sitting sesshin at the Gainesville Retreat Center with my teacher Valerie Forstman Roshi, this sense of taking time and finding space to be in touch with the heart-mind (Shen) feels particularly pertinent. Sesshin, among it’s potential translations, can be understood as “encountering the heart-mind” and what arises for me most after this weekend is that it is impossible to look anywhere and not come face to face with exactly that most intimate heart, in each face, in each word, in every encounter, in every breath. Thanks for reading.
Heart Yin Deficiency
Heart Yin can be understood as one’s openness to and availability for inspiration, to allow the vibrant and dynamic living world that moves through and in oneself to come forth as creativity. DRRBF describes a Heart Yin deficient person here as “dull, boring, and uninspired” with a significant aversion to change. This seems to me perhaps to be the case because Heart Yin would allow for softness and a suppleness of mind, a perhaps more permeable membrane between the limited consciousness of the ego and the limitless source of inspiration that is the creative universe. What is needed here is some way of softening and making more open and receptive the Heart energies that allow the movement between the macro- and micro-cosmic worlds of our bounded identities and the reality of the undifferentiated fecundity of the universe in motion.
Heart Yin Excess
Excess of Heart Yin is perhaps an over-porous nature of the Heart, where the creativity and dynamism of the whole world flow over and through a person too regularly, too rapidly, too insistently, without an ability to manage, order, or even clearly distinguish and differentiate these impulses. The collapse of self-and-other boundaries can be a risk simply because of the chaotic potential of that state. It seems to me, perhaps simply because I would prefer it to be this way, that it is less a matter of an over-openness to the creative universe than it is a matter of being out of sync, either too fast or too slow, with the momentum of the ideas and impulses being recognized and resonated with. In this sense, the clarity and beauty of each thing standing out exactly as it is becomes blurred and confused, a kind of Phlegm even, such that appreciating and responding appropriately to inspiration becomes difficult to impossible. What is needed is to support the openness to the world that comes from a robust Heart Yin, while clearing away stagnant Excess that has begun to cloud the mind and spirit, and to help the person find a more functional synchronization with the momentum of the ideas and insights that come to them with such regularity.
Heart Yang Deficiency
This is the classic inability to fully express or clearly organize and communicate an idea or insight, a difficulty completing and finalizing otherwise worthy plans. The struggle here for the Heart Yang deficient person is that their ideas, assuming Heart Yin is sound, are viable and often worth acting on, but their capacity to implement and follow through is lacking. What is needed here, often, is simply patience – both by the person for themselves, and by others for them – and a willingness to work with them to discover together how certain ideas that were inchoate can be brought to fuller form. This gives their Heart Yang an opportunity to manifest itself in whatever form it can, and hence be strengthened, while also allowing the anxiety that can tend to exacerbate the inability to fully communicate and organize thinking to abate, even if only for a time.
Heart Yang Excess
In many cases in DRRBF we see situations in which the more classic notions of Yin and Yang must be understood in different ways – that is to say that someone could exhibit signs of simultaneous Yin and Yang deficiency, such that when Yang diminishes, Yin does not necessarily gain. Here, however, it seems as if that is in some ways what is happening. The Heart Yang excess person seems to have the exuberance of their Yang overwhelm and eventually diminish the fertility and vibrancy of the Heart Yin, such that even though their creative output in terms of quantity may be high, the quality tends to suffer in terms of originality and vision. In the sense that a Heart Yang deficient person often feels the need of a constant audience, what they are really needing is to feel genuinely heard. In feeling heard, the pressure of the Heart Yang excess can perhaps be quieted to some extent, and a more reflective and still moment may give rise to a new expression and experience of Heart Yin, where real inspiration might again take place, rather than simply rehashing over and over again old and partial inspirations, insights, and ideas.
Pericardium Yin Deficiency and Excess
If Pericardium Yin is about properly sustaining the “thread” of connection and regulating the energy between people in relationship, then both excess and deficiency here will mean an inability to properly balance the give-and-take of healthy relationship. In Yin deficiency, the ability to protect oneself, or perhaps to “receive” energy in a more Yin sense, is less than it should be, and so this person will have difficulty getting their needs met in relationship, based in large part on their inability to ask for what they need, being overly-willing to keep giving past where they are truly capable. The Pericardium Yin excess person has, in some ways, energetically consolidated their end of the connection to such a “yin-heavy-dense” degree (in terms of excess) that energy can no longer flow in or out, and they become unreachable, and unable to reach out. The Yin deficient person is manifesting a need to feel safe and capable of expressing their own needs, to recognize that they are worthy of having their needs met – they need to acquire the tools to properly communicate this in relationship. The Yin excess person is, in some ways, cut off even from the intimacy of self-relationship, as even at our innermost selves we are still never other than an intersection and cross-connection of relationships at innumerable scales. The Yin excess person must find a way to reconnect with their own self-relationship, at which point a cascade-effect will begin to occur as the dynamism of this refreshed connection will have an opportunity to expand out to all other relationships as well.
Pericardium Yang Deficiency and Excess
Pericardium Yang is about the fluidity and naturalness of communication and interaction with others in relationship, the appropriateness of timing, word, and deed with regard to our intersections with one another. Fittingly then, Yang deficiency in this case is an “out of sync”, not necessarily saying the “wrong” thing, but simply not the right thing at the right time. There is a hesitation or a stuttering misstep to the quality of the communication. The Yang excess will be so in sync with the fluidity of the relationships and the interactions between themselves and others that the actual substance has the possibility of being “lost in the wash” as it were, where the elements that were important to communicate became subsumed, forgotten, or obscured by the fluid and seamlessness of the interaction itself. Both of these are, really, being out of sync with the actual flow, whether from an inability to move at the same speed and velocity, or forgetting that you are yourself part of the stream’s momentum and direction, and that the substance of your contribution matters. What is being needed in both cases, in a way, is a sense of security to simply communicate, to be in relationship with others in intimate ways, without self-consciousness or other-consciousness clouding what would be better served by an inclusive mindfulness of the “we” that makes up the actual relationship.
Small Intestine Yang Deficiency and Excess
Small intestine energies are about a kind of clarity of thought, perception, and feeling. The function of sorting pure from impure can be understood in this way as the capacity of the Fire phase to allow a person to see, understand, behold, or otherwise experience a situation in a way that is unclouded by factors that are not germane to the reality of the immediate experience. When SI Yang is deficient, a person will have difficulty making the necessary discriminations and distinctions between the elements of their experience to properly analyze components of a situation and synthesize these with their existing knowledge. When in excess, the lines for separating “pure from impure” become hard and fast, too drastic and absolute, leading even to the well-known syndrome of “paralysis by analysis”, where ever finer distinctions must be drawn and made solid in the mind of this person. Both of these, excess and deficient, are needing clarity – deficient SI Yang brings about muddled thinking from a kind of overlapping of ideas or emotions drawn from sources that are often not applicable to the current situation, but excess SI Yang in turn clouds thinking with its own rigid application of idea sets and frameworks used to make ever-finer distinctions about the world. Both of these behaviors tend to come from an over-identification with an experience or conceptual framework of some kind that tends to be applied injudiciously to unsuited situations, and what is needed is the recognition that there is more freedom of thought and experience to be had when these are allowed to drop away.
San Jiao Deficiency
Inasmuch as the San Jiao is most responsible for integrating aspects of the person with all other aspects and aiding in the development and expression of a more-and-less cohesive and coherent self, deficiency of the San Jiao will lead to a kind of dangerous disintegration. Where elements of the self have different aims or move in differing directions, if the San Jiao is unable to mediate these energies, then there is the possibility of chaotic action, as the person is pulled in too many directions simultaneously, or too rapidly one after another. At best the person will simply be unbalanced or lack the capacity for coordinated effort, and at worst, chaos and breakdown of both internal and even social cohesion can occur. Care must be taken to find ways to bring this person back into harmony – not necessarily to direct or redirect those aspects of self which may pull in different directions, but rather to find ways to allow the person to see themselves as still whole and complete, but simply composed of different elements, rather than experiencing themselves as so drastically disordered.