The Five Element Theory (part 1)

By Milos
Imagine if you took a day to observe the workings of Nature in the Spring. You are walking through the woods on a beautiful April day, watching the first blooms appear and bright green take over the mountain covered with forest. You can smell the air, observe the birds move. What are you feeling? Are you aware of the enormous power of Nature, waking up from winter slumber, “exploding” in unison, responding to the warm wind that engulfs everything. Are you being moved to action too? Are you feeling inspired to change things in your world? Chances are you that you are, just like the rest of Nature is. This inspiration may be unexpected to us but was very normal to older cultures that had a better connection with Nature. Ancient Chinese would have predicted your feelings based on the Five Element Theory. According to it, Spring belongs to the Phase of Wood, when everything emerges and flourishes and when we Humans respond to that energy as well. Wood is the Phase of Action and of us coming out into the world.
Chinese have observed for hundreds of years that same patterns repeat in Nature. They saw same cyclical movements come over (and take over) the world and they found that same forces and principals apply to everything that is a part of Nature, including humans. The discovery and details of this Theory of Five Phases (or Five Elements) is profound and lies at the core of Eastern Philosophy, Medicine, Martial Arts, Feng Shui, etc. It is interwoven into their poetry and art, into folklore and even nowadays, into the daily life.
The Five Element Theory offers a glimpse at the cyclical nature of the Universe and provides answers to how things evolve. It presents a system that can be applied (with very few exceptions) to most every living thing we can think of. It offers us a tool to really understand who we are as well. This Theory is the main diagnostic tool used by an Acupuncture practitioner.
Five Element Theory offers five phases (elements, steps, movements) that explain  the process of change that effects everything in the universe. The phases are:

Wood        Fire        Earth        Metal        Water

Every part of the Universe passes through the phases. A day starts as Wood, turns into Fire in the morning, reaches Earth at noon, declines through the phase of Metal into the evening which is Water. A human being follows same steps: from unstoppable and rapid growth (Spring), through expansion of young adulthood (Summer) to maturity (Late Summer), respect of authority and order in our later years (Autumn) and understanding and acceptance of our ultimate end (in the Winter of) our life. The element names of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water are even a better way to describe the core of elements and demonstrate their connectedness:
- Wood grows and expands and also feeds Fire;
- Fire (along with Water) can be out of control but when balanced, provides light and warmth and by burning, creates Earth out of ashes.
- Earth is what we stand on, live off because it provides abundance and what gives us Metal;
- Metal supplies structure and order, cuts and separates and provides minerals that make Water the way it is;
- Water is the source of mystery, deep and unfathomable, it changes shape and forms (steam, liquid and ice) and feeds Wood to complete the cycle.
No Element is better or stronger than others, they are all different forms of the same thing – Qi energy. Every element appears in different shapes, here are some:

Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Spring Summer Late Summer Autumn Winter
Birth Growth Maturity Degeneration Death
Green Red Yellow White Blue
Anger Joy Rumination Sorrow Fear
Shouting Laughing Singing Weeping Groaning
Sour Bitter Sweet Spicy Salty
Expansion Completion Transition Contraction Consolidation
East South Center North West
Nails, hands, feet Complexion Flesh Skin Head hair

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