When I first arrived in Sedona, Arizona, I was blown away by the red rock views and powerful vortex energy. I thought it might be the perfect place to build a home base in the United States. But I hesitated. Sedona’s red rocks hold earth energy, as well as the fire energy of their red color and the metal energy of the iron that creates it. The evergreen juniper and pine trees give it wood energy. Being a desert, however, I was afraid it might not have enough water energy. Was the area too out of balance to settle there? Then I discovered the rolling water of Oak Creek that cut through the rocks and was assured: Yes, this was the right place.
A harmonious balance of energy allows steady energy flow in our lives and endeavors, with no one aspect being too weak or too strong. Different types of energy support and restrict each other, allowing the whole to thrive. I knew that if I wanted to succeed, I needed to find a place where the energy was balanced.
Many ancient peoples, exposed to the forces of nature, realized the importance of harmony and balance. In Eastern Asia, as they studied these forces, they classified them according to two opposing but equal forces that they called yin and yang, or the passive and receptive versus the active and providing. They represent contrasts such as day and night, heaven and earth, dark and light, male and female, inside and outside, heavy and light, long and short, and motion and stillness.
Further characterization developed into the Five Element Theory, which describes five types of energy—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water—and how they interact with each other.
Wood: properties like that of a tree, growing and developing
Fire: properties like that of fire, hot and passionately vigorous
Earth properties like that of the ground, embracing and accepting, forming a foundation for new life to sprout
Metal: properties like that of metal, cutting and binding, organizing, attacking and defending
Water: properties like that of water, cool, flowing and mixing.
Among the five elements, there are also energies of yin and yang. The energy in which the character of yang is the strongest is that of fire—hot and moving intensely. Water is the most yin—cool and flowing to the lowest level. The energy of earth contains equal parts yin and yang. Metal and wood energies also contain a mixture of yin and yang. However, wood energy is a little more strongly yin and metal energy is a little more strongly yang.
The characteristics of yin and yang and the five elements were applied to everything, from time to organs to colors to personality traits. We can’t help but live in the midst of these five elements. Here are some examples:
Wood: Thursday, sour, gall bladder and liver, loneliness, eye, tendons, east, germinate, green/blue, wind, anger, shout, spring, Jupiter, signs of the tiger and rabbit, scholarly, conservative, generous, relationships, children, creativity, intention of creativity
Fire: Tuesday, bitter, heart and small intestine, tongue, blood vessels, sadness/joy, south, grow, red, summer heat, laugh, summer, Mars, the Sun, signs of the snake and horse, hysteria, intellect, education, fame, reputation, courteous, honest, intention of expression
Earth Saturday, sweet, spleen and stomach, mouth, muscle, center, transform, yellow/brown, late summer, dampness, pensiveness, yellow, sing, Saturn, signs of the dragon, sheep, dog, and ox, introspection, depression, melancholy, trustworthy, dependable, home, real estate and property, intention of harmony
Metal: Friday, pungent, lung and large intestine, nose, hair/skin, west, reap, white, autumn, dryness, grief, pungent, cry, Venus, signs of the monkey and rooster, round, surgery, wounding, commerce, trade, success, justice, quick, decisiveness, the arts, intention of order
Water: Wednesday, salty, kidneys and bladder and genital organs, ear, bone, fear, money, black, north, to store, black, winter, cold, groan, Mercury, Moon, signs of the pig and rat, irregular shapes, movement, travel, communication, writing, intention of curiosity
From this theory, you can observe the interconnectedness of everything and how they relate to each other. The five elements interact with each other in different cycles: a generative or nourishing cycle and a controlling or overcoming cycle. You can see the cycles illustrated in the image above.
The generative cycle shows which element each creates or supports. The previous element in the cycle provides a foundation for the next one. As you can see from the circle in the image above, wood generates fire, which then turns into ash, or earth. Over time, metal comes together in earth and itself supports water, which in turn nourishes wood. It’s possible for this cycle to overact, resulting in an imbalance of too much of an element.
To keep the balance, there is a controlling or overcoming cycle in which the previous element breaks up, restricts or dampens the element after it: wood, earth, water, fire, metal. Metal can cut up wood while the roots of a tree can break up earth. Earth can block the flow of water, and water can put out fire. Fire can melt metal. This cycle can also turn into over-controlling, and an element can be subjugated too much. For example, wood may control earth too much, resulting in too little earth and too much wood. While metal would normally control wood, if wood becomes too strong, it will rebel against metal and weaken it as well.
This balancing act is the basis of Feng Shui and traditional medical practices such as those in China and Korea. It is an important aspect of natural healing. If you apply these two cycles to the organs in your body, you see:
Generating: liver heart spleen lung kidney liver
Controlling: liver spleen kidney heart lung liver
Armed with this knowledge, you can thrive by fostering harmony and balance in your life. The first step is observation. What elements were you born with or are represented in your name? Which do you tend to demonstrate in your usual thoughts and actions? How is the condition of your organs? Then, what is missing? Once you discover what elements are too weak or too strong in your life, you can compensate by bringing in missing elements or elements that feed or restrict weak or strong elements respectively. You can wear different colors, eat certain foods, or tap particular meridians to rebalance the five elements in your life. With balanced and harmonious energy, you can flow easily, fully, and softly toward a happy and bright future.