What are the Five Elements?
By Deborah Valentine Smith

    Five Element theory is a metaphorical description of various attributes of matter, energy and spirit. Ultimately, all is one: the Tao. But to have
    subject and object, the opportunity to play with the stuff of the universe, the One differentiates into different qualities that may then interact
    and create existence as we know it. The ultimate division is into yin and yang. But even yin and yang must begin and grow and diminish. The
    five elements - or, more accurately, phases - describe the beginning of yin (Metal), the fullness of yin (Water), the beginning of yang (Wood),
    the fullness of yang (Fire), and the midpoint, the transition between them (Earth).
    (To purchase a guided meditation through the five elements on CD, go to Resources.)

    The South, Summer, Blossoming
    Heart and Small Intestine Meridians: Sovereign Fire
    Pericardium and Triple Warmer Meridians: Supplemental Fire
    Fire, expanding, the energy moving up and out; light, warmth, brilliance.  The heart is the emperor.  When any other official is in charge, it is
    by definition out of balance.  The Heart issues the commands based on attunement with the Tao.  Supplemental Fire carries out the
    commands through the circulatory system (pericardium) and the cycles of energy transformation (Triple Warmer).  The Small Intestine
    determines what will enter the blood stream from the outside, and thus come close to the emperor.  The amplifier of the emotions, the Heart
    stores the Shen, or the Spirit, and unites all the emotions.  The healthy heart reaches out in Joy, Compassion, Creativity, Relationship.

    Middle, Indian Summer, Maturing
    Stomach and Spleen/Pancreas Meridians
    Earth, grounding, the energy of the middle; the stillness at the extreme of the pendulum swing, the balance in the transitions from one thing
    into another. The "officials of the public granaries" (Nei Ching).  Responsible for nourishment at all levels, for digestion of raw materials into
    absorbable chunks, be it food, ideas, emotions.  The  organs  break food down physically (stomach) and chemically (spleen/pancreas) into
    such small parts that everything is reduced to the same few basic building blocks.  The emotional and spiritual functions break down the
    complexities of the individual into the universal qualities shared by all.  Understanding.  Sympathy.  Recognition. Connection.  Home.

    The West, Autumn, Pulling In, Letting GoMetal/White
    Lung and Large Intestine Meridians
    Metal, crystal, the treasures of the deep earth.  That which gives shape and structure to things so we know what  is inside, what is outside.  
    The breath, the skin, the Protective  Qi.  Metal grasps what is precious, like gold, and eliminates what is not. The lung eliminates carbon
    dioxide, the Large Intestine eliminates solid waste.  They both take in water.   Holding on and Letting go at the emotional level reveals what is
    important to us; grief allows us to pull our energy back from that which is no more.  The spiritual aspect of metal is the animal spirit that holds
    on to the human body so that the spirit may manifest in it.  It is revealed as our physical energy, our instincts, our sense of preservation and

    The North, Winter, Keeping Still
    Kidney and Bladder Meridians
    Water, most receptive of the elements, moves only when moved, finds the shape of its container, and by the completeness of its passivity,
    becomes powerful.  As it falls down the mountain it gains the power of gravity, as it absorbs the warmth of the sun, it gains the power of heat
    and light.  It stores energy.  It takes in.  The Kidney monitors the levels of many necessary electrolytes in the blood stream, including calcium.  
    If that mineral is lacking, the kidney function stimulates its release from the bones.  And so the water element governs the bones, the core, the
    essence, the reserves. Fear is mobilization of  the reserves, Will is the gathering of them. It monitors the metabolism of water - the medium in
    which most chemical reactions take place.  The Bladder stores, holds, puts away, puts things behind us.   In the Winter we let drop away what
    is non-essential, store what is essential and conserve our Qi.

    The East, Spring, Sprouting
    Liver and Gall Bladder Meridians
    Wood, growing, moving relentlessly through or around obstacles toward its vision of the light, the sun, the Shen.  The ability to move with
    strength and flexibility, the meridians govern the tendons and ligaments, both stabilizing the joints and causing movement of the bones
    through their connection to the muscles.  The Gall Bladder influences all the other organs of the digestive system by a simple "yes" or  "no,"
    releasing or not releasing the bile into the Small Intestine.  On the emotional level it also governs decision-making, while its partner, the Liver,
    governs planning and synthesizing.  Growth, development, becoming our potential through movement of the body, the emotions, the spirit.
This site was designed by                      and last updated on 9/16/16.
Tao Te Ching quotations from Stephen Mitchell translation
Site ©2000-2011 by Deborah Valentine Smith

Site ©2000-2016 Deborah Valentine Smith