In traditional Chinese philosophy, natural phenomena can be classified into Five Elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These elements were used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. Diagnosis from a five element perspective is based on a person’s color, sound, odor and emotion. A trained practitioner is able to determine the subtleties and begin a treatment plan from that place. It is believed that treating the root of the imbalance will alleviate current symptoms as well as the prevention of new symptoms or disease.
Water manifests the energy of winter. It is a time of storing, preserving and getting back in touch with the seed. It is a time of quietude, contraction and rest, reflected in winter, in order to build up the reserves for the bursting energy of spring. The ability to endure this season depends on the stores and reserves that have been carefully set aside from our previous harvest. It is about our energetic reserves, power and innate potential inherited at birth. Water energy determines our ambition, will power and drive. Water can flow easily like a babbling brook or it can freeze like a pond in winter. Water can have power and a determination to get where it needs to go. It can be ambitious and can be deep and with an ability to go in. The Water Element governs the urinary system and all aspects of the distribution and storage of water; it supplies fluidity, cleansing and rejuvenation. The emotion associated with this element is fear. Survival can be threatened by a shortage or overabundance of water, releasing fear, anxiety, and panic. Denying fear also can be reckless and dangerous. A balanced cultivation of one’s resources reassures and allays fear from overwhelming the wisdom, inner calm and sense of safety inherent in this Element. The virtue associated with the water element is wisdom. “Wisdom is the virtue that empowers us to stand firmly in the face of the unknown and chart a steady course through uncertain waters.” –Lonny Jarrett ”
Wood manifests as the energy of spring. It is a forceful, bursting forth energy, demonstrating birth, growth, enthusiasm, re-awakening and upward, forceful movement. Imagine that blade of grass busting up through the pavement to get to the light. This upward motion is full of creativity and growth. It has vision and determination with hopes and goals toward a bright future. The wood element organizes and helps with the rhythmic flow of the body and it’s systems. This energy focuses on decisions to make and plans to enact. This energy in excess pushes and in deficiency is pushed. The emotion associated with the wood element is anger and it is often the impetus for change. Wood energy is pushing and can often be seen as frustration but with proper vision and creativity this energy can find an alternative to the push that may be the correct alternative to the daily obstacles we face. The virtue associated with this element is benevolence. “Benevolence is the virtue that emerges when the sage embraces his elevated perspective without being arrogant, using his all-embracing vision to promote the evolution of humanity through the elevation of their own perspective.”-Lonny Jarrett
The fire element manifests as the energy of summer. It has warmth, expression, expansiveness, light, transformation, and joy. It is a time when potentials are realized, life is matured and activities are at their peak. In our bodies this energy manages our temperature and circulation. The fire element with its heat and warmth has the transformative power necessary for physiological processes. In our relationships, it provides intimacy and compassion. Fire brings us joy, humanity, fellowship, equality and passion. When the fires within burn out of control it may feel chaotic and destructive and when the fires are low it may feel cold, joyless and unhappy. This energy has a lot to do with relationships and control. This element illuminates awareness, learning, reason, intuition and insight. At a deep level, it reveals our capacity to feel warm and connected to all things. This elemental energy has the capacity for being at the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. Being present in the heart enables us to be true. The virtue associated with this element is propriety.
The earth element corresponds to the energy of late summer. This is the time of the harvest. It is a time of abundance, of having enough. It is the energy of the mother and provider of all nourishment. It is a time of contentment, security and achievement. Imagine the locusts buzzing in that thick, warm, late summer air when the fruit of one’s own labors comes to fruition. This energy can feel fulfilling or it can feel empty depending on how much care and planning went into our harvest. Physically, the earth element is responsible for digestion and distribution of the food and drink we ingest. It maintains the processing and transfer of information and ideas that feed our mind and spirit. The emotion connected to the earth element is sympathy and can manifest as a caring for others, generous giving, supporting, sustaining, and embracing unconditionally. The Earth Element fosters our ability to appropriately care for oneself and others, creating and encouraging, security, understanding, contentment, satisfaction, abundance, unity and peace. The earth allows us the power of stability and grounding and keeps us centered so that we may meet the needs of others and self in a balanced way. The virtues associated with the earth element are integrity and reciprocity.
The metal element is associated with the season of autumn. The crisp, cool air and decaying leaves characterize this season. This is a period of receiving and letting go. Receiving the inspiration and clear illumination while letting go of what no longer serves. Imagine the beauty of the leaves of fall in the Northeast. The brilliance of the colors can take your breath away but in a few short weeks as the trees need to prepare for winter and a season of rest, the leaves turn brown, crinkle and die. The tree must let go, as must we, with what needs to pass. This Element regulates respiration and elimination, giving us the ability to breathe and dispose of waste and toxins. Pride, vanity, arrogance and filth can contaminate the body, mind, and spirit. Metal exemplifies quality, purity, precision, brilliance and richness. The Metal Element is seen around us as the air, stones, metals and trace minerals which enrich the soil The emotion related to the metal element is grief or longing and as when someone dies or something ends, we must grieve and let go in order to make space for what will come in next. Letting go of the old is necessary for new energy, inspiration, value and a sense of higher purpose to enter. Metal commands honor, virtue, respect and defines a sense of self worth, granting us the ability to acknowledge and appreciate our talents, unique gifts, nobility and humility. The metal element is also related to air and breathing and helps to inspire us. The virtue associated with this element is righteousness.