Hello lovely people
As a Five Element acupuncturist my focus when I am treating is to restore the energetic (or ch’i) balance of the five elements within my patients. But what are the five elements? How do they effect you? How can you live in harmony with the elements to help support, nourish and protect you?
What are the Five Elements?
Every living thing on the planet is a unique mix of the five elements, wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each of these elements represent a phase in the cycle of life, there is no beginning or end, just a continual movement through the elements and energies. The picture of the Five Element chart above shows how one element moves from one on to the next. If all is well with the elements the flow of energy that connects them will continue unencumbered but if illness or upset occurs in one element all of the other elements will be effected as a result. We can help achieve balance and harmony in our lives by honouring and respecting the transition of the elements and the different energies each element brings with it. In order to understand how the elements relate to ourselves it is useful first to look to nature as we can see them very clearly here and how they are linked with the seasons.
Wood Element – spring
During spring we see the energy and character of the Wood element. The energy of Wood rises upward, outwards, just like in spring where we see new buds push through from bare branches. It is a time of growth, expansion, new life, new beginnings, new thoughts, new challenges. The energy of the wood element is youthful, like a young child and it is helpful to see the energy as such – rushing forward, no holding it back, coming towards us. It is a time of new possibilities. The Wood element is a ‘doing’ element, it needs a plan, an action. Wood needs to see, to envisage the way ahead so the action plan or to-do list gets completed. The Wood element loves teamwork, everyone pulling in the same direction and it has a ‘lean in to life’ or ‘go-getting’ character. The emotion associated with the Wood element is anger but don’t get caught in the negative sense of the word, this also means passion for life and assertion.
Fire element – summer
After the upward movement of spring the season move forward to summer and the Fire element. This energy has a maturity to it now, the pace slows and the Fire element focuses its energies on plants flowering and the growth of crops, the energy is more internal to help with this process. Again, nature guides us here, spring blossom is followed by developing fruits and berries. The young, vibrant green buds of spring mature into a profusion of flowers, colours, fragrances, tastes, expressing who they truly are. Instead of the surging upwards growth of spring, Fire’s energy is one of expansion, opening outwards, turning towards the sun. We can feel this in ourselves as we turn our faces to the sun on a summers day. The movement of energy is focused on absorbing, connecting, relating and this is also echoed in how we socialise, using the long summer days to meet up with friends, family, holidays, picnics, barbecues, summer parties and gatherings. The Fire element is connected with communication, love, relationships, warmth, sharing and joy. The emotion associated to the Fire element is joy.
Earth element – late summer
Ever moving the seasons continue forward again to late summer – although we do not classically see this as a separate season it is obvious that it exists when we look at nature. In late summer, the time of the Earth element, there is a dip from the zenith of the summer with the energy now going internal. At this time nature is ripening all that it has put its energy into growing throughout the year. It is harvest time, a time when we see Earth’s bounty all around us. The fruits of Earth’s labours are gathered and storehouses are stocked to provide nourishment for the long winter months ahead. Earth’s provision of nourishment does not just relate to food, as the proverb goes, ‘man does not live by food alone’. The purpose of the Earth element is to provide nourishment, support and security on all levels of body, mind and spirit. The Earth element is very much the Mother of all the element. The Earth element in balance epitomises this, it provides, supports, guides, nurtures, comforts and it has compassion. The emotion associated with the Earth element is sympathy.
Metal element – autumn
From late summer to autumn, it is now the time of the Metal element. In nature during autumn we see decline and a letting go of life. It is obvious why some countries refer to autumn as ‘the fall’. It is the opposite to spring, and like spring it is a key transitional season and can be a challenging time depending on how you deal with knowing winter is round the corner. The Metal element is the bridge between late summer and the winter and the emotion associated with the Metal element is grief. For some the letting go of the late summer energies can be felt as strongly as grief itself. In autumn, leaves fall from trees, plants die back and the earth reabsorbs their energy. The air becomes heavy with mists, dampness and rain which all helps cleanse, purify and accelerates the rotting process. Of course, letting go means that we can also make way for taking in the new. If we can’t let go of the past, or of what no longer serves us we cannot take in and we cannot continue to grow and thrive. The Metal element needs inspiration, respect, quality, self-worth and enrichment in order for it to flourish. It is a ‘contained’ element but what you get from it, if in balance of course, is purity, clarity, precision and a meticulous attention to detail. The Metal element is the Father element and as such connects deeply with the heavens.
Water element – winter
When autumn has done its work winter’s yin energy takes over, it is now the time of the Water element. Winter is a time of hibernation, it is hidden and elusive. Trees are stripped back to their skeletons, plants are still living but only far below the earth. Nothing is happening on the surface, but everything is happening deep below. The days are short with limited sunlight and the nights are long. Winter is a time of restoration but there is strength and sense of galvanisation in the stillness. The Water element shares the same qualities, it is a true survivor and has determination and power. There is a resilience to the Water element, it must endure and to help itself do this it must pare back and only do what is necessary in order to survive. The emotion associated with the Water element is fear, winter is a trying time and the reserves must be eked out to last through to spring.
Living in harmony with the elements
Seeing how closely connected the seasons are to the five elements gives us a greater understanding of how we can use the energy of the season to assist us in life. In spring make changes, in summer spend time connecting with friends and family, in late summer look after yourself, nourish your ideas and thoughts so you can help support the people you love, in autumn let go of things that are not working for you, trust that this release means space for better things to come in to your life and in winter slow down the pace of living, restore, recuperate, learn to economise what energy you give out so that you have enough reserves.
Do you prefer a certain seasons more than others? Why do you think that is? Does understanding that we need all the seasons equally in order for there to be harmony help you connect with them more. There are no good or bad seasons, we need them all equally in order for there to be balance. They all bring different qualities and characters to our lives and for that we should be grateful. If you are struggling in a particular season take a more thorough, look at nature again and try to realign your energies to what is happening there, this will help restore balance and harmony. A life of variety and change is the perfect springboard for us as we too can use the seasons and the elements energies to change, grow and move forwards.
Much love to you