As I was sitting in my first feng shui certification class I was gob smacked! We weren’t talking about chi and balancing yin and yang…we talked about ourselves! And then it hit me.
Feng shui isn’t just about the harmony of our physical spaces, it is also about the harmony of our inner spaces.
The teacher went on to tell us about the Five Elements of Eastern philosophy: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. This was an entirely new concept to me, but it made complete sense and I was riveted to learn that I am Wood and a bit of Fire.
So, what does that mean? We’ll get to that shortly, but first let me explain a bit about the Five Elements.
The ancient Chinese developed feng shui principles to help them find the best places to live. Feng shui includes, but goes beyond the basics, like clean, abundant water, rich soil for crops, and protection from harsh weather.
From its origins, feng shui was developed within a Taoist culture, which lent important concepts, including the understanding that we should live in harmony with nature for greatest success. Because we are nature, of course. They observed the natural world and its patterns of change and recognized that all life follows these patterns, including us.
The ancients learned the wisdom of how nature works and how energy transforms from one “phase” to the next. They studied how those Elements support, drain, control, or dominate each other to create change. And this transformative process always seeks balance and harmony.
For example, we can see the wonder of a long-awaited rainstorm on parched land (Water controlling Fire). Plant life springs into life (Water supporting Wood); their leaves green and shiny, healthy and strong. Their color and scent are most vibrant.
Or how a lava flow consumes everything in its path, including buildings and vegetation (Fire drains Wood). Then, after centuries, the hardened lava breaks down into soil (Fire supports Earth).
It is the chi (life-force energy) of each of these five transformations (or stages of energy) that feeds, balances, and harmonizes our universe.
Everything that exists can be classified by these Elements, and each has inherent qualities that can be used to describe it. These dominant characteristics are evident in our bodies in health and illness. And they are active in our own unique personalities, drives, ambitions, and motivations in life.
It’s fascinating stuff! We have characteristics of each Element within us. But there is one, sometimes two, Elements that are our primary motivating drivers in life.
Acupuncturists Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold created user-friendly names for each Element in their book Between Heaven & Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine. These names are archetypes, identifiable across all cultures.
Curious to learn what Element you are? Let’s go into each Element and see if you gravitate to one of them:
The Wood Element
Wood is the archetype of the Pioneer - an independent, driving force. A love of adventure, courage, and competitiveness gives Wood the motivation to spring forward into action. Wood strikes out on its own, exploring new territories, forging new boundaries. Wood is restless and always on the hunt for new things to try.
The Fire Element
Fire is the Wizard. Fire is entrances us and takes center stage. Its enthusiasm and excitement compel people to gather around. Fire connects us and binds us. It bring ideas to fruition. After the seed on an idea (Water) and the emergence of the tender young shoot (Wood), Fire makes things happen! Ever the romantic, Fire is in love with love!
The Earth Element
Known as the Peacemaker, Earth needs to bring balance and harmony into the world. Also known as the Mother energy, it is the stabilizer in all human interactions. It reminds us of obligations and responsibility. Earth craves community and is a strong team player. Earth allows us to acknowledge our right to be fully alive and to engage in happiness and love.
The Metal Element
Metal is the Alchemist, with the magical ability to transform ordinary “base” metals into gold, the “noble” metal. This purification and perfection of the earthly materials extends to our environments, as well as spiritual awakening. Metal is also known as the organizer and planner, a true natural leader. It believes in structure and authority, equality and justice. Metal processes and refines, filtering out what is no longer needed.
The Water Element
Water is the Philosopher, who loves quiet and contemplation. In a culture that glorifies the activity and competitiveness of Wood and the showmanship of Fire, Water gives us the space for stillness and opportunity to replenish our energy. Water can give us a feeling of security (womb) and the ability to process fear from the past, present, or future. Water is independent and prefers to work alone on her own time.
What I’ve Learned
When I heard about Wood, the Pioneer, I immediately connected with its energy. Being a solo entrepreneur, I can do my own thing, follow the beat of my own drum. I realize that it’s okay that I’m not in lock-step with others, following their process. And Fire? While I’m striking out alone, I also crave community and connection. My Fire drives me to seek out like-minded souls, and yes, sometimes even the stage!
Connecting with the ways of nature can help with your journey of self-discovery. It is an insightful path for conscious living and connecting to the natural world.
You may learn at a much deeper level, what is going on inside of you—who you are and what your needs are—crucial to greater spiritual consciousness. This system connects you to nature and can give you a renewed sense of wonder and joy.
It links the shine in your eyes to the golden shimmer of dawn.
Read my post on the Five Element Theory.
Photo credit: Pixabay