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Five Elements and Yin and Yang Theory
Yin and Yang are such familiar terms these days and the depth and simplicity of their meaning is fascinating. This is a model for how things relate to each other. That is all. However this relationship is used in Taoist philosophy and Chinese Medicine to understand the universe, be it the one of planets and star systems or the atom. We use the philosophy of Yin and Yang to describe different states of the world around us, but because it is a relationship no one thing is either just Yin or just Yang. For example, the different states of water molecules from freezing to steam can be described in this way. Ice is more Yin than water or steam, water is more Yang than ice but more Yin than steam and steam is more Yang than water or ice. This idea can be applied to many situations. There are no absolutes. When we add in the five elements, we add in the transition points between states. E.g. Ice becoming water at 0 degrees and water becoming steam at 100 degrees.
In an ideal world the elements are in balance and the natural order of Yin and Yang occur. There are two diagrams for the five elements and both are equally useful. The five element model is one for looking at the world from a practical and emotional/psychological perspective. For the purposes of Tai Chi, Qi Gong and meditation, we use the format shown where Earth holds the centre and its nature is one of trust, serenity, balance and grace. It is the energy of transition, every transition that we experience: waking/sleeping, in breath/out breath, life/death etc. The nature of the seasonal attributes of the elements can be used also to describe how the transition between yin and yang relates to the five element model
.As we begin to understand and experience greater harmony in our relationships; with ourselves, others and our surroundings, we have a greater capacity to settle in our livess.
Earth represents the smooth transition between the other four elements. We can use this analogy for any situation, however we do not want to fix the concepts or philosophy. We endeavour to keep the mind open to all possibilities and maybe one day find that it is no longer useful.
• Water = Winter = Full Yin
• Wood = Spring= Yin moving to Yang
• Fire = Summer = Full Yang
• Metal = Autumn = Yang moving to Yin
• Earth = Transition = Centre
However in the 2nd five element diagram Earth is positioned between Fire and Metal and represents late summer or harvest time.
Five elements and Yin yang theory represent the truth of how everything changes in this world and how nothing is fixed even when we would like it to be. Our home, families, jobs, cars, age… all change, quickly or slowly, but change is ever present. As understanding of this concept grows, we begin to lose attachment to the before and after and have more involvement and attention in the now.
When I look at a client, couple, house, group or business through this particular philosophical lens, it enables me to see where the sticking points are and where transition is not occurring smoothly. This model gives us all the tools for engendering harmony.