Introduction to the Five Elements - Wood

Spring has sprung!

The vibration is in the air. A warm breeze is encouraging the seed to burst forth and make its way to the light.

From the dormancy of Winter, the movement of Spring takes us up and out!

We have entered Spring, the season of WOOD.

Wood ’s color is green, its sound is shouting, the odor is rancid, and its emotion is anger.

What does this all mean?
Again, like in our reading on Metal and Water, it is a resonance. The color green represents the budding leaf. It is the color that reflects off of one’s skin who has a constitution heavily influenced by the Wood element. It is usually seen around the temples or sides of the mouth. It is the color reflected, not absorbed.

A Wood person’s voice will have a shouting quality independent of the content of the words. "Hey! You! Let's Go!" The sounds have a pointed direction.

The odor of Wood is rancid. Not in a bad smelling way, (again so much is lost in translation) but in the way the smell of fresh cut grass directs its way to the back of your nose.

There is an up and out to Wood Spring. Spring is our time to move from the dormancy of Winter and burst forth with change. Wood is a living element that of change and creativity.

How do we embrace the change of Spring?
We have our clarity from Autumn in what we truly value. We have conserved our energy during Winter. Spring is our time to charge forward and use the resonance of the season to evoke movement forward, towards the light.

Confucius speaks of the transformation of virtues for each element. Wood is the transformation from anger into benevolence. Anger being the acute awareness of injustice. "This isn't right and it's pissing me off!" The virtue in that fervor transforms through change. The energy of Wood is the superhero who says, "This isn't right and I'm going to do something about it." The benevolence comes from that act of change, which not only helps the person doing the changing, but when brought with Heart, benefits the whole community.

Physically, when we don't change (e.g., change our amount of sleep, of exercise, our diet, etc.), the lack of needed change can cause stagnation. This stagnation can manifest as headaches, sciatic pain, insomnia, frustration, etc. Luckily, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can effectively treat these and many other conditions.

An exercise for strengthening our Wood in spring.

I encourage you to experience change in ways we can embrace. Try re-arranging your furniture. Explore a new route to work or school. How can we be flexible with change? With a new arrangement or route, we are opening our eyes to see the same things differently. This in the comfort of our own home, our own car. This conscious and welcome change opens us to seeing the newness and possibilities of some perhaps unwanted change.

Introduction to the Five Elements - Water

Water is the seed of life.

When searching for the ability for other planets to sustain life, researchers look for evidence of liquid water.

The Taoists see water at the ultimate potential. Who we are at our most fundamental root; what is in our bones, our DNA.

We have entered winter, the season of WATER.
Water’s color is blue, its sound is groaning, the odor is putrid, and its emotion is fear.

What does this all mean?
Again, like in our reading on Metal, it is a resonance. The color blue represents the sea. It is the color that reflects off of one’s skin who has a strong Water constitution. It is usually seen around the temples or sides of the mouth. It is the color reflected, not absorbed.

A Water person’s voice will have a groaning quality independent of the content of the words (think Marge Simpson..."Oh Homey...rrmm") .

The odor of Water is putrid. Not in a “ewww this person smells putrid" (so much is lost in translation) but in the way an ocean leaves its mist in your nose or a pond makes the surrounding air moist.

There is a sinking direction to Water. Winter is a time to hibernate. Where we do less and rest more.

How do we settle into winter?
We have our clarity from autumn in what we truly value. We have purged what is not serving us and what is not important. We are left with our essentials to survive winter. How well we come through the darkness relies heavily on Who we are, as individuals. What grit are we made of? How does what we value feed our ability to sustain the winter?

Confucius speaks of the transformation of virtues for each element. Water is the transformation from fear into wisdom. Fear being the acute awareness of what we don't know.

Fear can bring us into our bones and test what we are made of. Through surrender we transform fear into wisdom. Wisdom is not an "I know more then you" or a collection of data points, but as the ability to navigate the unknown. The ability to sit in the darkness and simply be present, using our own internal light as our guide.

An exercise for strengthening our Water in winter.

"We often think of rest as something that will come when everything else is complete, like when we go on a holiday or when our work is done. We imagine that we can only find rest by changing the conditions of our life. But it is possible to discover rest right in the middle of chaos. It is experienced when we bring our full attention, without distraction, to this activity. This place of rest is always available. We need only turn toward it." --Frank Ostaseski, Alaya Institute.

I encourage you to experience rest when times are quiet and when they are busy. To reduce the multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time. Pay attention to how we are habituated to have a gazillion things happening at once. How there may be mental, even physical resistance to the slowing down. I urge you to stick with the discomfort, a greater sense of peace and internal quiet is your reward.

Discovering What We Value and What We Don't

The Metal element doesn't just highlight what we value
but also helps us rid ourselves of what we do not.

Autumn is a time for paring down. As we bring our energy inward and downward in preparation for the hibernation of winter, we need to bring in what we value and release what we do not.

The previous exercising of bowing to beauty helps us physically identify what we value. What is beautiful to us. The outward nodding of our head, or more yet, a bending at the waist, sends a physical cue to our mind and spirit to take pause and acknowledge beauty. This effectively slows time, and brings in a sense of awe.

How do we figure out what we do NOT value?

The ability to become clear about what is important and what is not important is a liberating endeavor. Are we going to spend our time laboring over that one piece of hair that refuses to conform with the rest? Is it important if your sister approves of your children's clothing choices?

Thea Elijah, my mentor says, "Understanding what doesn’t matter to us can open up so much breathing space, so much freedom to pursue what is truly important. It’s like getting all the clutter out of the house. Bow to everything -- and then release from your considerations anything that doesn’t actually serve 'a good life.'"

What things create a "good life" for you?

Health? Love? Delicious food? Silent moments in nature? Now is the time to honor yourself and in service to your Heart, hone in on what is really worth it.

Five Elements - Metal

Though we cannot speak of the Tao...

we can speak of the Five Elements composing the Tao - Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood.

The Five Elements give us a map on how to look at the universe around us
and a language to describe it. We can speak of how external / seasonal
changes influence our internal landscape. We are able to create a
dialogue based on these elements that describe the body when it is in
health and when it has fallen out of health. 

We have entered autumn, the season of METAL.

Metal’s color is white, its sound is weeping, the odor is rotten, and its emotion is grief. What does this all mean?

It is a resonance. The color white represents the color of the metals of
earth. It is the color that reflects off of one’s skin who has a strong
Metal influence. It is usually seen around the temples or sides of the
mouth. It is the color reflected, not absorbed.  A Metal person’s voice will have a weepy or breathy quality (think Marilyn Monroe) independent of the content of the words. 

The odor of Metal is rotten. Not in a “ewww this person smells rotten” but
in the way autumn leaves begin the process of adding minerals back into
the earth. 

There is a downward and inward direction to Metal. Fall is a time to come in-doors, cozy up by the fire, prepare for the
winter to come. 

How do we prepare for winter in autumn?

Do we strip off our clothes and run around outside? Or is it time to come
in, internalize, begin the layering to keep warm. It is the time when we
determine what is important. What do we need to make it through this
winter? What do I truly value? 

Confucius speaks of the transformation of virtues for each element.  Metal is the transformation of virtue from grief to righteousness. Grief being the acute awareness of what is not beautiful, what is not heavenly. Grief highlights for us
what is important, and what is not. Through acceptance we transform
grief into righteousness. Righteousness is not, “I am more lofty and
closer to God then you” but as having the ability to see beauty in all
things (even death). It is the ability to see the divine in ALL things. 

An exercise for strengthening our Metal in autumn. My mentor, Thea Elijah, gave this exercise that I love doing and thought I would pass it on. An
attribute of Metal is to have clarity on what we value. For the next
week, whenever you see something of beauty, stop, and bow. If bowing
“randomly” in public when you see a beautiful leaf makes you feel a bit
self-conscious, simply stop and feel that sense of deep internal
gratitude. The physical act of bowing may help make those moments more
obvious, but play with doing both. How does physically bowing feel
different from an internal bow? Can you have that sense of deep heart
without physically bowing?