Chi Energy transformation within the Five Phases or Elements is central to Chinese tradition.
Five tastes of pungent, salty, sour, bitter and sweet are used in everyday cooking to affect the flavour of food, and five tones in music make music sound truly Chinese.
Melting and mixing of colours white, dark blue or black, green, red and yellow are used in chi energy transformation if something disagreeable is sensed in the environment.
The Five Phases or Elements of Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth are regarded as five features inherent in all living things and should be understood as processes or tendencies in chi energy transformation rather than concrete physical manifestations.
The processes express the interdependence and restraint that is evident even in tiniest particles of life. The Five Phases are one with the natural progression toward balancing Yin and Yang, while each phase simultaneously represents its own related functions and qualities.
Nature is intelligent beyond our comprehension through its constant chi energy transformations. We can only fathom that within every cell of each living organism is a ‘Tao code’, which determines the form, function and quality of the cell’s unique expression of life.
And that expression, when not interfered with from its alignment with Tao, is always life-giving and harmonious, even in time of decay as the beauty ‘burns’ to ashes and nourishing continues in a new way.
The Interaction of Five Phases within the Body
The cyclic interaction within the body mirrors that of the Five Phases in greater nature. In the practice of Chinese Medicine, they are used in diagnosis and treatment.
Metal – Lung/Large intestine – represents autumn, decline but also substance, strength and structure. The colour is white, the flavour pungent and the negative emotions are grief and sadness; positive courage, dignity, appropriateness.
Water – Kidney/Urinary bladder. The associated season is Winter when nature is at rest before starting another cycle of growth. The colour is black or dark blue, the flavour is salty and the emotion fear or fright, which through the chi energy transformation becomes alert stillness and gentleness.
Wood – Liver/Gall Bladder – is associated with spring and activity, constantly growing and rapidly changing. The colour is green, the flavour sour and the negative emotions, when Chi is not flowing naturally, are anger, resentment, jealousy; positive are kindness, forgiveness and assertiveness.
Fire – Heart/Small Intestine and Pericardium/Triple Warmer – is associated with summer. It represents a function which has reached its maximum stage before it begins to decline – Fire is dynamic and moving, brilliant in its activity. The colour is red, the flavour bitter and the negative emotions are hate, impatience; when transformed they are love, joy, gratitude, creative enthusiasm, honour, etc.
Earth – Spleen-Pancreas/Stomach – is associated with the harvest time. It is the patient and nourishing mediator, it represents balance and neutrality. The colour is yellow, the flavour bland or sweet and the negative emotions are worry and over thinking; positive is fairness and openness – and singing is associated with the free flow of spleen Chi. You can learn more by watching the following short video. The Five Phases correspond to each other through nourishing and controlling cycles. Metal nourishes Water, Water nourishes Wood, Wood nourishes Fire, Fire nourishes Earth, Earth nourishes Metal.
In the controlling or destructing cycle Metal shapes Wood, Water quells Fire, Wood controls Earth, Fire forms Metal and Earth controls Water.
Each element within the phases relates to the functioning and chi energy transformation of the internal organs. It promotes the following element and controls the element across the cycle.
However, if the organ function is unbalanced, that organ, not being able to complete the chi energy transformation within the natural meridian circuit, may act adversely across the cycle.
For instance, if Chi within the heart is unbalanced it may overact on the lung (since fire controls metal) causing congestion. This results in a lack of oxygen, which can lead to congestive heart failure.
The law for nourishment and control is an important consideration in any treatment plan. “In order to bring the body into harmony, one observes and keeps constant the standard of the Five Phases of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal.” – Neijing.
In this constant chi energy transformation, we could describe Chi as matter OR matter as Chi. Divisions dissolve . . . AHA! Could we correlate this to the ongoing quandary about quantum objects which Einstein described as being light waves OR particles?
“The cosmos itself is an integral whole, a web of inter-related things and events . . . Within this web of relationships and change, any entity can be defined only by its function and has significance only as a part of the whole pattern.” – ‘The Web That Has No Weaver’ by Ted Kapchuk.
When we habitually attune to the unseen, unified dynamics of life we learn to understand the interrelationships or patterns within the web of our wonderful creation.
By doing this we can knowingly assist Mother Nature in her constant chi energy transformations, and balancing Yin and Yang, not only within our own being but also within the greater cosmos.