Qi is the vital force or the energy of manifestation. Qi is substantial and insubstantial. Qi is indestructible but transformable. Qi is the basis for all phenomena in the universe, which means that the Five Elements all possess Qi. If we view the universe as the macrocosm, we are the microcosm. All of the elements are their energies are within us, just as it is within the universe.
The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Everything in the natural world is made up of these five elements and each element is represented in nature. The ancient Chinese viewed each element as unique, one of no more importance than any other. Each element is dependent upon another for its existence; the elements are continuously creating one another. Furthermore, the elements can be infinitely divided into its component parts. The elements transform into each other, as do the seasons.
Each of the elements is associated with a season and a climate. Water is associated with winter and cold. Wood is associated with spring and wind. Fire is associated with summer and heat. Earth is associated with late summer, the equinoxes and solstices and humidity. Metal is associated with autumn and dry.
Nature and the seasons teach us that each of the elements is associated with a power. The power of Water is emphasis. The power of Wood is birth. The power of Fire is maturity. The power of Earth is decrease. The power of Metal is balance.
The elements are also associated with odors and tastes. Water is associated with a putrid odor and salty taste. Wood is associated with a rancid odor and sour taste. Fire is associated with a scorched odor and a bitter taste. Earth is associated with a fragrant odor and sweet taste. Metal is associated with a rotten odor and a pungent taste.
The elements are all associated with parts of the body. Water fortifies the bones and teeth. Wood fortifies the tendons and ligaments. Earth is associated with the muscles. Fire fortifies the arteries/vessels. Metal fortifies the skin and hair.
The elements are each associated with a unique sound and emotion. Sound follows emotion. Water is associated with the sound of groaning and the emotion of fear. Wood is associated with the sound of shouting and the emotion of anger. Fire is associated with the sound of laughter and the emotion of joy. Earth is associated with the sound of singing and the emotion of sympathy. Metal is associated with the sound of weeping and the emotion of grief.
These associations teach us about the elements within humans. The color, sound, odor and emotion are of great importance as they serve as the diagnostic tools five elements acupuncturists use to determine the Causative Factor within an individual. Causative Factor is essentially the one element that is the foundation of the imbalances that a person may be experiencing.
The interdependent relationships between the elements offer insight into how the energy flows around the system and how the elements are in a continuum of flow. The Sheng, or Creation Cycle, is a continual loop in which each element’s existence is based upon the previous element in the cycle. All the elements have their place in nature and fill the roles of mother to the following element and child to prior element. For example, Water is the mother of Wood. The Sheng Cycle is naturally occurring and is continuous within nature and within us. The Sheng Cycle can be likened to the rim of a wheel.
The Ko, or Control Cycle, is the stabilization that part of the Five Element Cycle that keeps elements from from going out of control. The Ko Cycle only controls when it is required to. The Ko Cycle can be likened to the spokes of a wheel.
Perfect harmony is all of the elements within possessing the same amount of Qi. This is the epitome of health where disease could not exist. Disease is the manifestation of the energy within one or more elements out of balance with the harmony of the whole. Based on the continuum of the elements, when one element becomes diseased or out of balance, the other elements can become affected in time.
As acupuncturists, we can use our knowledge of the Causative Factor and the Sheng and Ko Cycles functionally to understand, determine, and treat the cause of the imbalance within an individual. We can touch and impact the Qi in an element by inserting a needle. The Sheng and Ko Cycle reflect how futile it is to treat only the symptoms, rather than the cause of imbalance. Returning to the source is key.
The Elements accessed in the body through meridians or energy channels. These energy channels are where the acupoints exist. There are twelve primary meridians in the body. These meridians are associated with organ systems or functions of the body and an element. The ancient Chinese believed that the organ systems are functions represented far more than the physical systems, but rather the body, mind and spirit.
The Lung and Large Intestine Meridians are associated with the Metal Element. The Urinary Bladder and Kidneys are associated with the Water Element. The Liver and Gall Bladder are associated with Wood. The Heart, Small Intestine, Heart Protector and Triple Heater are associated with Fire. The Stomach and Spleen are associated with Earth.
The organs / functions associated with each meridian are known as Officials, each has a specific role in creating harmony within the body, mind and spirit. Metaphorically, the body, mind and spirit can be thought of as the Kingdom within. Each Official performs its specific roles innately. All 12 ministers are as important as the others. They cannot take over the roles of each other. Qi flows from one meridian to another in cycles. These cycles, Horary Cycles, can be broken down into 2 hour segments where meridians are most active.
3-5 am is associated with the Lung Meridian which is when we naturally are taking the deepest breaths during sleep, the Lung is known as the Receiver of Heavenly Qi. 5-7 am is associated with the Large intestine Meridian which is when we generally move our bowels, the Large Intestine is known as the Official of Drainage and Dregs. This flows into the Stomach Meridian from 7-9 am, a time when we usually consume a meal, the Stomach is known for its role in Rotting and Ripening of Food and Drink. It grants us the five tastes. The Spleen is associated with 9-11am and it is referred to as the Official of Transportation and Distribution, everything that moves in the body does so by the grace of the Spleen Official. The Heart is known as the Emperor or Supreme Controller and is associated with 11-1pm. The Heart has the role of being aware of all and assigning roles to the other officials. The Heart leads. The Small Intestine, 1-3pm is known as the Separator of Pure from Impure, which demonstrates its physical and energetic properties. It can be thought of as the Alchemist extracting pure essence from foods and energies. 3-5pm is associated with the Bladder Meridian, the Official of Water Storage, ensuring fluid balance within the body. The Kidneys, 5-7pm are known as the Official the Controls Waterways. The Kidneys filter blood physically, but they also control growth, development, maturation and reproduction. 7-9pm is the time of day associated with the Heart Protector, the organ function that serves as the emotional guard of the Heart. Also known as Circulation Sex, the Heart Protector is responsible for arterial and venous flow as well as sexual secretions. The Three Heater, 9-11pm is responsible for the three burning spaces, the jiaos, respiration, digestion and elimination. 11-1am is associated with the Gall Bladder, the Official of Decision Making and Judgement, providing wise judgement for all in the Kingdom. The Liver, 1-3am is known as the Planner, providing harmony and order within specific parameters. The Liver, flows into the Lung and the cycle continues.
Qi flowing freely through the meridians is indicative of a healthy state of being and a state of balance among the Five Elements and each Official performing its role optimally. Our health and wellbeing is dependent upon the flow of energy within our body, mind and spirit.
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Wood. Fire. Earth. Metal. Water. The Five Elements. Curious about the what the elements are and what they mean to our everyday life? This class breaks down each of the Five Elements and helps you to discover the traits, characteristics, and symptoms associated with the balance of each element. We discuss how to utilize this knowledge for day to day life, as well as share practices, crystals, oils and other activities to support the uniqueness of each element.