Harmonizing the 5 Elements
The Five Elements is a system of diagnosis and treatment in Taoist medicine that’s been developing for the past few thousand years. Whether it’s through acupuncture, herbal medicine, the movement arts (Qi Gong and Tai Qi), astrology, or Feng Shui, Five Elements has a lot to teach us – practicing physicians, martial artists, Bazi practitioners, and interested amateurs, lend an ear to this tale.
I’ve developed an intimate familiarity with my own Five Elements through years of meditation, practicing Chinese medicine, learning Bazi astrology, and finally by having a near death experience. The Five Elements are a representation of our body and mind’s relationship to each other (here on Earth) and with what’s above and around us – the weather, society, the universe, and ultimately how are mind connects to it all (Heaven). Heaven and Earth are not religious terms, but fingers pointing at the moon. Don’t spend too much time staring at the finger when the moon is beaming gloriously in the sky above you!
Learning, practicing, and direct experience are all valuable resources in the search for harmony. Allow me to break down my personal findings on this matter.
I remember one public talk at the Los Angelas Dharma Zen Center, where my root teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, was saying that you had to cut off thinking in your practice. He was laughing and tapping his head with all ten of his fingers, “Human beings have many thinking!” He was giving the advice to say your mantra continuously, even while falling asleep.
Five Elements theory teaches us that the Earth element controls Water. The banks of a river give the river a way to flow – Earth controls Water. The Earth element is the home for discursive (random) thinking. When your mind is full of thoughts it makes it hard for your Will to manifest. Will, or Zhi, in Chinese, is the Spirit of the Water element. Continuously reciting mantra cuts off thinking, reduces Earth’s control of Water, and allows your Will to grow.
At the same time, this practice forms a mantra consciousness. Earth generates Metal. Consciousness is another word for the Po, or the Spirit of the Metal element. Metal, the home of the Lungs and Large Intestine, controls Wood. Making your consciousness (Metal) stronger allows for a control of one’s Wood element, allowing a state of benevolence to manifest. Wood is the home for our feelings and the Hun, the Wood’s Spirit.
Unlocking Wood’s Insult
Two years into my stroke recovery I started experiencing a breakdown in my consciousness. I was going through a breakup with my girlfriend and starting to uncover some hidden truths about myself, my family, and the community that I had been building my whole life – and the icing on my cake was a skin condition.
One of the Po Spirit’s organs, the Lungs, displays disharmony through the skin. While I started seeing a Chinese medicine herbalist and diligently drank the decoctions he prescribed, I started to notice that the cure for my condition was intimately woven with my feelings. They had been turned around and skewed for some time now.
The Po is meant to control the Hun. My Hun had been insulting my Po since I was a little kid. I was born with a Po that is quite deficient and a Hun that is excessively raging. It only took a little flick of the wrist, let’s call it fate, to set my elements topsy-turvy.
Disturbing your consciousness is another way to say insulting the Po.