The Five Elements of Nature each have a unique vibrational signature to them (Donna Eden calls them the Five Rhythms for this reason). If we look at those rhythms in the wild we can see how each vibration influences and interacts with the others, creating the world that we see and experience. When we fine-tune our awareness and bring the elements into sharper focus we begin to see how everything in creation – including our own psyche and body-terrain – is influenced by these elements in nature.
The Five Elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine are: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. Other traditions identify the elements slightly differently, but this is the model that I work with.
After studying the theory of the Five Elements for over 36 years, I found that when I look to nature first and see how an element presents in the wild it becomes much easier to recognize the vibrational signature at play in my own being, in someone I’m interacting with, or in the rhythm of the season.
Each element is associated with a different season, and since it’s now spring in the northern hemisphere I want to talk a bit about the Wood Element (one of my favorites).
Like any gift or talent, each element has positive and negative aspects associated with it (the proverbial double-edged sword). I like to start with the positive aspects and work backward.
In the wild (so to speak – could be a city park or your backyard) you’ll undoubtedly find a tree or other growing thing. In the spring, the energy that’s been dormant through the winter months begins to quicken and the tree starts to stir. Buds are forming and its branches reach for the light of the longer days. If it’s an acorn that’s sprouting, or a sapling, that young wood energy is eager to get things started. There’s a pushing energy, fueled by enthusiasm. Sometimes there’s a momentary burst of energy as the sprout breaks through its shell or the dirt, or the bud on the tree branch unfurls. The tree has a mission to grow, expand and manifest its potential. It has a purpose and a vision. When it has achieved success it has much to share with the community in the environment: shade, food, shelter, perspective. It has a willing and generous presence.
When a tree (or other growing thing) is well-hydrated through its relationship with Water, and deeply rooted in its relationship with Earth, it can bend and sway and be flexible in the face of challenging winds. But when wood has become dry and brittle, or its roots are shallow, that same wind could snap off branches or even blow it over. This breaking of dry, inflexible wood generally comes with a loud crack and a crash which could potentially injure anyone in the way.
Now let’s look at how this vibrational signature shows up in a human or in a phase of life. Birth has the same pushing, purposeful energy that the early stages of spring brings to the acorn, sapling or bud on the branch. Childhood carries a similar vibration of eagerness and enthusiasm. In our early innocence we see the world’s unlimited potential and we reach for it. We have a vision and we aim to unfurl it into reality. As we age we develop a plan and we are willing to put in the work to see it through. We take on leadership roles and organize a team to work together to bring the vision to fruition. If we can stay hydrated so to speak, we can sway and bend and face our challenges with responsive flexibility.
Speaking in terms of the psyche and the influence of this vibrational signature; a person with balanced Wood energy will have access to enthusiasm, inspiration, vision, willingness, boldness, generosity, inclusion and flexibility. The now-famous quote that recently came out of the US senate “and still she persisted” describes the determination of Wood Element’s energy.
When Wood Element is out of balance in a person’s energetic make-up (which can be in the short-term or long-term), they will not be flexible and they might lose their patience with a loud burst (like the cracking of the tree branch). While in-balance they may be kind and inclusive, out-of-balance they may react with frustration, impatience, and even disdain and judgement.
While kindness, patience and inclusivity are the positive aspects of Wood Element in the psyche and personality, anger is the default emotion when the element is out of balance. This makes sense because anger is a catalyst for change, and when Wood energy comes up against something that’s holding it back (remember that sprout that needs to push its way up through the ground) it needs that burst – that mustering of force – to break through the limitations. This can come out as an angry outburst – the energy is wanting to provoke change.
If we recognize that we are inflexible and tend toward being angry and reactive often, it likely means that our Wood vibration is not balanced or flowing. We need metaphorical hydration. Literally drinking water would be a place to start. Going outside and doing the exercise Expelling the Venom can be helpful. Looking at what change needs to happen in your life – what different choices might be called for – can be harder, but may be fundamental to your further growth.
Enjoy the spring – walk in the woods and drink in the energy of Wood Element. Reach your arms up toward the canopy and wave your hands back and forth evoking the image of yourself as a strong, rooted, flexible yet persistent leader of your own life.