Bringing in the New Year with TCM’s Five ElementsLana Marconi December 1, 2014
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an ancient concept used today is Five Elements or Five Phases of Energetic Transformation. The Five Elements puts into perspective the relationships and interactions of the microcosm (human) and macrocosm (Nature). It is a system based on observing life, and it incorporates Medical Qigong’s sound therapy. Below is a brief description of the elements and their relevant modern day relationship to human organs, emotions, and even foods.
It’s important to be aware of the cycle of the elements in terms of how they give birth to one another. Here is the generating cycle: Wood generates Fire, Fire generates Earth, Earth generates Metal, Metal generates Water (Water generates Wood as the birthing cycle begins again). There is also the controlling cycle whereby Wood controls Earth, Earth controls Water, Water controls Fire, Fire controls Metal, and Metal controls Wood. The controlling and generating cycles balance one another.
The element of Wood corresponds with the organs, liver (yin) and gallbladder (yang). Wood is associated with the spring season and the colour is green. The quality of energy is growing and developing, much like a seed sprouts and leaves bud in the spring. Foods symbolic of this type of young, growing, and green energy include greens – lettuces such as kale and spinach – and vegetables like cucumbers. Eat foods that are literally sprouting during this season.
The taste associated with the element of Wood, sour, is assigned to the liver and gallbladder. If you excessively gravitate toward sour foods, you could be compensating for an energetic deficiency in these organs. Having said that, eating sour foods, when appropriate, can nourish the liver.
The key positive emotion (or spiritual virtue) related to the wood element is kindness – the negative emotion is anger. The body sound is shouting (makes sense given the anger energy). The healing sound used to calm the liver is: ‘Shhhhhhhhh’. You can put your hand on your liver and mentally visualize sending it green energy while inhaling a breath; when you exhale you can verbalize the sound ‘Shhhhhhhhh’ to break up any stagnation (repeat several times). It’s important to feel your negative emotions instead of suppressing them, and to transform your negative emotions so that energy does not remain stuck (stuck energy can lead to stagnated blood flow, which can lead to inflammation and pain).
Taking control and making decisions are functions of the liver and gallbladder.; when it comes to being indecisive – that’s the gallbladder energy out of harmony.
Observe signs of health problems in the eyes and nails, two body areas associated with the liver and gallbladder of the wood element – for example, brittle nails.
Since meridian clock hours related to the liver are 1:00 am to 3:00 am, it’s vital to rest the body during this time in order for the liver to rejuvenate. Gallbladder hours are 11:00 pm to 1:00 am.
The element of fire corresponds with the organs, heart (yin) and small intestine (yang). Fire is associated with the summer season and the colour is red. The quality of energy is expanding and radiating. Foods have a blooming quality here, such as fruits (certain fruits only bloom in the summer). Many fruits have a cooling effect on the body; in the hot summer months it’s beneficial to eat cooling foods, while in the winter it’s better to eat warming foods because the environment is colder.
The bitter taste is linked to this element. If you excessively gravitate toward bitter foods, you could be compensating for an energetic deficiency in the heart and small intestine organs.
Positive emotions here include: joy, love and respect. Negative emotions include: hate and impatience. When you feel hatred and/or impatience, the associated organs are affected. The associated sound is laughing; when a person laughs abnormally, he/she can actually be suffering and is likely masking deeper emotional issues. The healing sound is ‘Hawwww’. You can put your hand on your heart and mentally visualize sending it red coloured energy while inhaling a breath; upon exhaling you can verbalize the sound “Hawwww” to purge stagnated energy (repeat several times).
The heart opens to the tongue, manifests on the facial colour, and houses the shen (spirit) which can be seen through the eyes. If the eyes are glazed over, the person’s shen is weak. If a person’s eyes are glowing and full of life, the shen is strong and the heart is happy. Intuition is also a function of this element.
Meridian clock hours related to the heart are 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Small intestine hours are 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Nurture these organs with the healing visualization and sounds during these times for peak performance.
The element earth corresponds with the spleen (yin) and stomach (yang) organs. Earth is associated with the Indian summer season and the colour is yellow. The quality of energy is ripening and harvesting. Look to yams and other yellowish coloured foods during this season.
The taste – sweet – is assigned to the spleen and stomach. If you excessively gravitate toward sweet foods, you could be compensating for an energetic deficiency in these organs. Too many sweet foods can hamper the function of these organs, resulting in damp or phlegm accumulation in the body.
The key positive emotions are fairness and openness. The negative emotions are worry and anxiety, which deplete the spleen organ and impair its ability to function properly.
The body sound is singing (we often sign or hum to mask worried thoughts). The healing sound used to calm the spleen is: “Whoooo.” Put your hand on your spleen and mentally visualize sending it yellow energy upon inhaling a breath; then verbalize the sound ‘Whoooo’ on each exhalation to purge stagnated energy (repeat several times).
Intention is the function of the earth element. When we worry too much, that energy overrides our ability to intend what we want – which is usually the opposite of what we worry about. Spleen is responsible for producing blood; when it is deficient we can feel fatigued; emotions can drain us. Look to see signs of health problems in the lips and mouth, two body areas associated with the spleen and stomach of the earth element.
Meridian clock hours related to the stomach are 7:00 am to 9:00 am. The spleen hours are 9:00 am to 11:00 am. During these hours you can meditate on these organs and send them healing energy, along with their sounds.
The element of metal corresponds with the organs, lung (yin) and large intestine (yang). Metal is symbolic of the fall season and the colour is white. The quality of energy is contracting, as seen in the once expanding green tree with growing branches experiencing its leaves falling and its branches becoming bare. Root foods such as onions are typical of this season.
The taste, spicy/pungent, is assigned to the lungs and large intestine. If you excessively gravitate toward such foods, you could be making up for an energetic deficiency in these organs.
A key spiritual virtue is righteousness. Negative emotions include sadness and depression, which deplete the organs and impair their ability to function properly. Sadness consumes qi.
The body sound is weeping (we often store grief and loss in the lungs). The healing sound used to calm the lungs is ‘Ssssssss’. You can put your hand on your lungs and mentally visualize sending it white light upon inhaling a breath; then you can verbalize the sound ‘Ssssssss’ on each exhalation to purge stuck energy.
Strength is the function of the metal element, which can be impaired in depressed persons.
Look to see signs of health problems in the nose, skin, and body hair – areas associated with the lungs and large intestine of the metal element. For example, dry skin is linked to energetic disharmonies of the lungs.
Meridian clock hours related to the lungs are 3:00 am to 5:00 am. The large intestine hours are 5:00 am to 7:00 am. When you awaken in the early morning for example at 5am, you can focus your attention on these organs and send them healing light, along with vocalizing their sounds.
The element water corresponds with the organs, kidney (yin) and urinary bladder (yang). Water is symbolic of the winter season and the colour is dark blue or black. The quality of energy is conserving or gathering, as seen in the seeds that fell from the tree during the cycle of the metal element and are now buried in the ground. Leeks are a food found during this time and seafood such as bass, salmon, and tuna are associated with the water element.
Salty is the taste assigned to this element, meaning if you gravitate toward salty foods and eat them in excess (e.g., salty potato chips) you could be making up for an energetic deficiency in these organs. Too much salty food can dry up the blood.
While willpower is a function of the kidneys, a key positive emotion for the water element is gentleness – executing one’s will with gentleness. The negative emotion is fear, which depletes the organs and impairs their ability to function properly.
The body sound is groaning (we often groan when frustrated and in conflict from fear). The healing sound used to calm the organs is ‘Wooooo’. You can put your hand on your kidneys and mentally visualize sending it dark blue light while inhaling a breath; then you can verbalize the healing sound ‘Wooooo’ on each exhalation to purge stagnated energy.
Willpower/ambition is the function of the water element which can be impaired during fearful moments. Release your fears for optimal organ functioning.
Look to see signs of health problems in the ears, bones, and teeth as well as head hair – body areas associated with the kidneys and urinary bladder of the water element.
Meridian clock hours related to the urinary bladder are 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. For the kidneys the hours are 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Nurture these organs during these times using the above meditation that incorporates visualization and sound therapy.
The healing sounds for the five elements of the body can also be used to strengthen the function of the related organ by ‘softly’ making the sound while focusing your attention on the energy being stored in the individual organ. This visualization method not only strengthens the organ but also increases the spiritual virtues to create a more harmonious emotional outlook; thus the individual is awakening him/herself to endless possibilities in the miraculous unfolding of life.
There you have it – four seasons and five elements that provide an ancient way to harmonize oneself with Nature and cultivate a healthy mind and body all year round.