Yi: The spirit of Earth- Integrity, Intention, Clear Thought & Devotion

With the Yi, we begin to feel earth beneath our feet. It is no longer enough for us to know, to intuit, to envision and to dream. Now we must put the solid weight of our being, the power of our intention, behind the knowing that is in our heart.

When the Yi is fulfilling its function, we fully commit ourselves to manifesting our destiny and to bringing the light of our spirits into the world around us. The Yi is the soul aspect that lets the world know that we mean to stand by our dreams.

The Yi is the middle, the earth, the celestial pivot. Above is heaven, light, formlessness, infinite possibilities and the yang spirits of the Shen and Hun. Below is matter, darkness, density and the finite form, manifestation and the yin spirits of the Po and the Zhi.

The Yi are the spirits of receptive, creative energies of the earth. Their function is to receive the messages of the Shen through the imprint of the Hun and then manifest the way of heaven in concretized form.

The Yi are the spirits that give us the capacity for sustained intention, purpose, clarity of thought, altruism and integrity. They are related to the emotions of sympathy and the organ of the Spleen. They support our capacity for thought, intention, reflection and the act of applying ourselves to our Heart’s purpose. They give us the ability to concentrate, study and memorize data, and they endow us with the capacity for clear thought.

The Yi endow us with the power to stand behind our words through committed, persevering action. Through them, we stay with our task and stay on our path. And through them we gain the capacity to digest experiences and impressions and turn them into usable ideas that empower our action in the world.

The Yi endow us with the intent, purpose, integrity and devotion necessary to plant and tend the garden of our lives. The Yi allows us to bring our ideas and visions down from the windy skies of the Hun so that they can be digested and nurtured in the yin matrix of the earth.

Organ Correspondence

In Chinese Medicine, the earth element Yi is related to the Stomach and Spleen, these organs that digest our food and distribute the nutrients through our bodies,. They create the nutrients we need to do what we do in the world. On a physiological level, this process enables us to digest our experiences and impressions that we need for psychological growth and development and let go of those that are not useful so we do not take on concepts that do not “belong” to us.

The Spleen and the Yi are related to the element earth as the Liver and Hun are related to wood. Earth is yin in respect to wood. Its quality is less active, more dense, more material, more influenced by the constraints of time and space. Unlike the wood, the earth cannot reach toward the sky to actively gather up the qi that pours down from heaven in the form of sunlight. The earth’s nature is rather to keep still, to receive, to absorb and contain the qi and to nourish the life from its resources.

The Yi as the Pivot Point of the Soul

The Yi is also that the pivot point between the two aspects of the soul—the yang, Hun and the yin, Po. Between the Shen and the Yi, the Hun drifts up and down between heaven and earth. And between the Yi and the Zhi, the Po soul rises and falls like the breath between the earth and the underworld.

On a psychological level, the Hun carry the light of the Shen into our lies as vision, clear sight and imagination, inspiring us with the breath of spirit.

The Yi are the psychological force that impresses these visions and patterns onto the material substrate of our lives, which manifest as the patterns and actions we commit to over time that ultimately determine how our destiny unfolds.


Worry—persistent, anxious thinking about unpleasant things that have happened or may happen in the future—is a mental state that has a direct and very negative effect on the Yi. This mental attitude may arise from a constitutional weakness of the Spleen or it may be a patterned, habitual response to excess stress and insufficient life supports.

Whatever its cause, worry is part of a self- perpetuating, vicious cycle. The more qi we expend in this useless mental activity, the less we have available to nourish our Yi and to take steps to create the life we really want to live. As the Yi is weakened, we have less and less capacity to more forward on our life path and manifest our Tao, the heavenly mandate of our destiny.

Worry ties the psychic qi into knots and causes it to stagnate. Eventually the knotted psychic qi transforms into denser qi and manifests as physical symptoms such as chronic muscle spasms, digestive and appetite disturbances, epigastric discomfort, abdominal pain and distention, and fatigue.

Over time it can affect the Heart and Lungs, disturbing the Shen and the Po and eventually causing such stress-related symptoms as insomnia, palpitations, breathing difficulties and chest tightness. When we worry, rather than allowing the initiating energies of the Shen and the visions and plans of the Hun to animate the Yi, we block these energies, perseverating and worrying rather than taking action. The qi backs up and the Yi becomes paralyzed or stuck in repetitive, obsessive thought patterns. It is crucial to interrupt this cycle.

Signs and Symptoms of Yi Disturbance

According to Chinese Medicine, Yi disturbances, like all psychological problems, can have internal or external causes that exacerbate a constitutional vulnerability. A person who has an earthy constitution will be more prom=ne to these problems than others. The follow common behavior patterns of earth types are also common symptoms that appear with the Yi are afflicted.

Psycho-emotional signs:

  • Obsessive thoughts and repetitive thought patterns
  • Worry, obsessions and a continual focus and brooding on one’s own problems
  • Excess thought and cogitation and insufficient movement or action
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binges
  • Muddled thinking; an inability to make logical connections between ideas or to order thoughts in logical patterns
  • Over-nurturing of others to avoid one’s own responsibility and growth

Spirit-level signs:

  • Stagnation in the zone of manifestation, inability to transform ideas and thoughts into commitments and actions
  • Continually generating new ideas but not taking action on any of them
  • Problems with the Yi are actually problems of “psychospiritual digestion,” a disturbance in our soul force’s ability to digest experiences and impressions and transform them into values, ideas and actions. A block has formed where spirit is attempting to enter into manifestation in our lives.

Probable Causes:

  • Constitutional issues that begin in utero or stem from genetic makeup and karmic issues that become central psychological problems needling work over a lifetime
  • Excess worry, excessively thinking about the needs of others at expense of one’s own self
  • Improper eating habits
  • Anemia and vitamin deficiencies
  • Excess sugar. Sugar does give an energy rush but weakens endurance over time so thevibration of the self does not get firmly planted into matter
  • Codependency. Early childhood exposure to alcoholism and family dysfunction can result in a coping strategy of attention focused on others. People who are forced to be overly involved in other people’s stories will not be able to hear the sound of their own heart’s voice
  • Exhaustion and long-term strain. The Yi are also impaired by any weakness in the Shen or in the Hun, so if the Heart or Liver is under strain, the Yi will have difficulty standing by the spirit’s vision.

+Writing by author Lorie Eve Dechar from her book “Five Spirits: Alchemical Acupuncture for Psychological and Spiritual Healing.”