The Cycle of Life & The 5 Chinese Elements

It’s very easy with our western education and culture to see life as straight linear line – you are born, you do this and that, and then you die. Bit like one of those books about 501 places to see before you die, treating life as a series of tick boxes. But to our ancestors and indeed in many cultures of the world see life as a cyclic process, very much like the life cycle of a plant. The Chinese have an interesting way of expressing this through the system of the 5 elements. These elements (better described as phases) are:  Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal.

Water element is like the seed lying dormant in the soil in winter time. Quiet, hibernating in the darkness. A phase of deep introversion.  Time to contemplate the past and dream about the future. The potential to be reborn.

Wood element is the seed germinating and starting to sprout out of the soil. Phase of growth as the energies of life in the spring time is moving and shaking off the dross of winter. Don’t we talk about having a spring clean? Young and vibrant growth needs to be looked after though.

Fire element is like the plant that is come into maturity, flowering in full blossom. This is summer time, the most extrovert phase of the cycle. Time run around and fully express yourself, for example going to the beach, attending festivals and having barbeques.

Earth element represents the harvesting of fruits and seeds, and can be seen as the phase of life where we can enjoy the fruits of our labours. Understanding what really nourishes us, not just physically but on mental and even spiritual level.

Metal element is condensing down into autumn time. Days are becoming darker and more introverted. Time to prepare for the winter ahead; storing food and supplies for survival. The leaves on the trees are falling. Are you too letting go?

Then back to the Water element and so the cycle goes around and around…….

The 5 elements are not cut in stone, but are relative qualities to bring prospective to the world that we live in. Going against the nature cycle of life can lead to physical and psychological illnesses, whether eating out of season foods like salad in the middle of the winter, or artificial light keeping us up late when it’s time to go to bed. Understanding that our lives go in cycles that we eventually age, our bodies change, but hopefully grow into wisdom.

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