Five Elements

“The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three;
Three produced All things. All things leave behind them the Obscurity
(out of which they have come), and go forward to embrace the
Brightness (into which they have emerged), while they are harmonized
by the Breath of Vacancy.”

Verse 42, Dao De Jing, Legge translation



In Chinese philosophy, energy is always moving. The Tao produces Wuji (Infinite Space) and Wuji produces Yin and Yang. Then Yin and Yang produce the Five Elements or Phases from which all form is created.  Yin is female, cool, receptive, dark and hard while Yang is male, warm, expanding, light and soft. These are not static states, but always moving, always folding one into the other. In the Yin/Yang Symbol (also referred to as the Taiji Symbol) there is always Yin in Yang and Yang in Yin. This is represented by the dot of white in the black area and the dot of black dot in the white area.
Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water are the names of the Phases which come from Yin and Yang.  These elements or phases have specific qualities all their own. When thought of in relation to life on earth, or form life, these elements create the form and function of the bodily organs and parts of nature.
There are Yin organs and Yang organs:
  •   Wood—(Yin) Liver-(Yang) Gall Bladder
  •    Fire—(Yin) Heart-(Yang) Small Intestines
  •    Earth—Yin) Spleen-(Yang) Stomach
  •    Metal—(Yin) Lungs-(Yang) Large Intestines
  •   Water—(Yin) Kidneys-(Yang) Urinary Bladder
Just as Yin and Yang are always moving one into the other, the Five Elements have a dynamic relationship one to the other. The relationships are either constructive (Yang) or Destructive or Controlling (Yin):

The Constructive Cycle:
  • Wood feeds Fire
  • Fire creates Earth
  •  Earth creates Metal
  •  Metal enriches Water
  • Water makes Wood
If this cycle is reversed, each element is then reduced or destroyed by another element:
The Destructive Cycle:
  •  Fire destroys Wood
  • Wood consumes Water
  • Water destroys (rusts) Metal
  • Metal consumes Earth
  • Earth smothers Fire
If the cycle is seen another way, the elements can be seen to control one another:
The Controlling Cycle
  •  Fire controls (or melts) Metal
  •  Metal controls Wood
  • Wood controls Earth
  • Earth controls Water
  • Water controls Fire
These relationships are at the base of Chinese Medicine. No system or organ operates without affecting all the others. When one organ is out of balance, it affects all the others. The balance can be determined by hot, cold, damp, dry, Yin or Yang. Emotions, diet, environment and genetics can affect the way the organs function.
Based on the Five Elements, each element gives rise to a different energy or frequency in the body. During gestation, these energies guide the fetal organs to be formed, supported by the mother’s energy channels. As the new Soul inhabits the body, these qualities also form spiritual qualities housed in and guarded by the Five Yin (solid) organs.  The relationships between the organs and the emotions form the basis for the integration of Body, Mind and Spirit in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The emotional/spiritual qualities of the Five Elements are:
  • Fire—Order—the Heart
  • Earth—Trust—the Spleen Liver
  •  Metal—Integrity—the Lungs
  • Water—Wisdom—the Kidneys
  • Wood—Compassion—the  Liver
After birth, these pure qualities must struggle to manifest in the human being because, as we live our lives, we inevitably encounter difficulties, traumas and hardships which cause other energies or frequencies to manifest in our bodies in the form of toxic emotions and thoughts. The organs are thought to hold these toxic thoughts and emotions. These strong emotions cause Qi stagnation which can lead to disease.

In TCM, Qi or vital energy moves the fluids in the body (blood, lymph, waste products). Therefore, as the Qi is stagnant, so the movement of vital fluids is impeded. As the Qi is impeded, the organ’s function is diminished.

Each organ holds different emotions. These emotions have different frequencies and affect the Qi differently:
Fire—Heart—Anxiety, Over-joy
Earth—Spleen—Worry, Mistrust, Obsession
Metal—Lungs—Grief, Sorrow, Shame, Remorse
Water—Kidneys—Fear, Loneliness
Wood—Liver—Anger, Rage, Resentment
The Five Elements also form channels along which energy in the body flows. These channels link all the organs and tissues, feed the organs and help send toxins and turbidity out of the body. These channels are called meridians and points of these meridians are used in Qigong treatment as well as acupuncture.
In the environment, the elements form Mountains, Lakes, Wind, Thunder, Fire, Water, Heaven and Earth. The cycle of these Elements is known as the Bagua. To read more about these elements in the Bagua, click here to view the section on Feng Shui.
Every year, each organ system will have a high point and a low point at different times of the year varying according to the seasons. Have you ever heard of someone doing a liver cleanse in the Spring? Guess which organ has its high point in the Spring? The Liver!
Each organ also has a high point and low point every day. The cycle is guided by the energy flow along the meridians or energy channels that feed each organ and connect one to the other. These 20 meridians include the “twelve regular channels” or “ meridians”, with each meridian corresponding to each organ; nourishing it and extending to an extremity. There are also “Eight Extraordinary Channels” or meridians, two of which have their own sets of points, and the remaining ones connecting points on other channels. The daily high points (most full of energy) of these meridians are as follows:
1. Lung Meridian (3am—5am)
2. Large Intestine Meridian (5am—7am)
3. Stomach Meridian (7am—9am)
4. Spleen Meridian (9am—11am)
5. Heart Meridian (11am—1pm)
6. Small Intestine Meridian (1pm—3pm)
7. Bladder Meridian(3pm—5pm)
8. Kidney Meridian (5pm—7pm)
9. Pericardium Meridian (7pm—9pm)
10. Triple Warmer/Thyroid Meridian (9pm—11pm)
11. Gall Bladder Meridian (11pm—1am)
12. Liver Meridian (1am—3am)
It is beneficial to purge an organ during its high tide and nourish it at its low tide. (NOTE: Never use Daylight Savings Time to work with the meridians)
Medical Qigong treatments utilize the flow of the Qi through the organs and meridians. Often, treating the emotional aspects of a condition will be the key in successfully reversing the progress of a disease. There are many ways to successfully address these emotional issues energetically using mindful breathing, specific movement, sound, color and intent.

To attain knowledge, add things everyday.

To attain wisdom, remove things every day.

Lao Tsu, Dao de Jing




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