The Five Elements

An Introduction to the Five Elements

The Five Elements philosophy is one of the underlying principles of my life’s work and is a core influence in all of the Inner Journey Seminars Programs.  We apply this model to deepen facilitation and coaching work, to diagnose, analyze and coach businesses, and to create workshops and seminars. Overall the teachings help us learn to live a life in harmony and balance, or as the ancient ones called it, a “life in the flow”. 

What is the philosophy?

In ancient China, Taoist scholars and mystics developed a profound understanding of life based on minute observation of nature. They understood that everything in the Universe comes out of the ‘unnamable’ , the TAO, which manifests as the dual principles of Yin and Yang, i.e. heaven and earth, day and night, masculine and feminine energies.

Along with the law of Yin and Yang, the ancient Taoists observed a pattern of expression in nature that they interpreted as and named, the Five Elements or Five Phases.

These elements, or energies, were described as Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water and were understood to be the prime energetic building blocks from which all material substance in the phenomenal world is composed.
The Elements are representations of the transformation that occurs in the world around us; they are metaphors for describing how things interact and relate with each other.

Everything is made up of some combination of these elements: people, companies, games, plants, music, art and so on. All can be examined and understood from the perspective of the Five Elements.

Why are the five elements important?

Although the insights of the Five Elements are thousands of years old, the teachings can be applied to our modern day life.  

Below a short Introduction to each of the Five Elements:

Wood Element           

Archetype: The Pioneer and Strategist/Directing

Wood Element Chinese 5 ElementsIt is yang/masculine in character. The predominant attributes are considered to be strength and flexibility, as with bamboo. It is also associated with qualities of generosity and idealism. One quality of the Wood element is leadership. It is the leader within us, that can take charge and determine a plan of action. The wood is one that seeks always to grow and expand. Wood heralds the beginning of life, springtime and buds, sensuality and fecundity.

Wood type people are often aggressive or assertive, direct, and can have a strong temper and a lot of drive. They are usually outgoing and socially conscious and can be insensitive.  The Wood element is associated with negative feelings of anger, and positive feelings of patience and altruism.

Fire Element

Archetype: The Wizard and Socializer/Marketing

Fire Element Chinese 5 ElementsFire is yang/masculine in character, its direction is upward and its energy is expansive. In Chinese thought Fire is associated with the qualities of dynamism, strength and persistence; however, it is also connected to restlessness. The fire element provides, warmth, enthusiasm and creativity, however an excess of it can bring aggression, impatience and impulsive behavior. In the same way, fire provides heat and warmth, however an excess can also burn. Fire is the Element responsible for the passionate resonance when you are following your life's calling. It is the joy and laughter associated with playfulness. Fire type people are charming, fun, mischievous, easily excitable, and change emotional states rapidly. They love change, bright colorsand environments that stimulate.The negative emotion is hate, while its positive emotion is joy.

Earth Element

Archetype: The Mediator and Peacemaker/Human Resources

Earth Element Chinese 5 ElementsEarth is a balance of both yin and yang, the feminine and masculine together. Its motion is inward and centering, and its energy is stabilizing and conserving. It is associated with the turn of each of the seasons and with damp. In Chinese thought Earth is associated with the qualities of patience, thoughtfulness, practicality, hard work and stability. The earth element is also nurturing and seeks to draw all things together with itself, in order to bring harmony, rootedness and stability. Other attributes of the earth element include ambition, stubbornness, responsibility and long-term planning. On the shadow side, the earth element can represent selfishness and self-centeredness. Earth type people are usually warm, kind and supportive. They can be overprotective and tend to merge with their environment, having difficulties with boundaries. The negative emotion of the Earth element is worry and its positive emotion is empathy.

Metal Element                   

Archetype: The Alchemist and Judge/Organizing

Metal Element Chinese 5 ElementsMetal is yin/feminine in character, its motion is inwards and its energy is contracting.Metal represents the minerals, crystals, and gems of the world. The metal aspect is the diamond found within each one of us. It is similar to the Air Element found in western paradigms.  The Metal Element is the breath of life. When you are connected to that experience, you know your own self-worth.   You respect others and yourself; you are willing to give and receive acknowledgment for the magnificent being that you are.   The qualities associated with metal are unyieldingness, rigidity, persistence, strength and determination. Metal type people like minimalism. They are organized, clean, and contained. They can be controlling, ambitious, forceful and set in their ways as metal is very strong; and they are self-reliant and prefer to handle their problems alone.The negative emotion associated with metal is grief, while the positive emotion is courage.

Water Element

Archetype: The Philosopher and Thinker/Innovation

Water Element Chinese 5 ElementsWater is yin/feminine in character, its energy is downward and its motion is stillness and conserving.
In Chinese Taoist thought, water is representative of intelligence and wisdom, flexibility, softness and pliancy; however, an over-abundance of the element is said to cause difficulty in choosing something and sticking to it. In the same way, Water can be fluid and weak, but can also wield great power when it floods and overwhelms the land.

When your Water Element is in balance, you use your resources of energy, time, contacts, and money wisely, neither hoarding nor squandering that which gives you life.  Water is also the element of stillness and rest, taking time to rest and rejuvenate yourself. It is in the Water element that all great innovations and ideas are birthed.                                                                       

Water type people appear a bit reserved, yet are often very creative, sometimes even eccentric. They can appear cool and stoic, yet have the capacities to be still and deeply reflect.     The negative emotion associated with water is fear, while the positive emotion is calmness.

"The five Skandas, which may be translated into english as the five heaps, or five aggregates, are the five elements of that comprise the human being.....In fact, these are really five rivers flowing together in us: the river of form, which means our body, the river of mental formations, the river of feelings, the river of perceptions and the river of consciousness. They are always flowing within us... Arvalokit looked deeply into the five skhandas... and discovered none of them can be by itself alone....Form is empty of a separate self, but it is full of everything else in the cosmos. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. Thich Nat Hanh The Heart of Understanding" The Method of Zen