Wow, I’ve blogged about a lot of aspects of feng shui, but not until this moment have I attempted to blog about the entire Chinese 5 element system and how to apply it to your home. That’s because – even though I use this tool quite frequently in my feng shui practice – its dynamic nature makes it somewhat more complex than some other feng shui tools. It’s like a language, and it takes just a little getting used to. But hang in there! Once you learn about it, you’ll start to see it everywhere, and if you continue to consciously apply your new found knowledge to the world around you, before you know it, you’ll become fluent in the “language” of the elements.
For this introductory blog post, let’s talk about each element individually. In subsequent posts, we’ll talk about how each element interacts with each other element, and how you can employ this interaction in order to establish a sense of balance and harmony in your home.
For now, suffice it to say that in any given room, it’s ideal to have at least some representation of each element somewhere in each room. And, if you read the DIY posts for each bagua area (DIY Feng Shui, parts 9-17) certain areas of the bagua feel best when certain elements predominate.
The earth element represents stillness, solidity, nurturing, and receptivity. It shows up in the physical world in the colors yellow, orange, brown, tan, and terra cotta as well as square, rectangular, and cubed shapes. Horizontal lines and flat expanses of space are also representations of the earth element, as are photos and images of meadows, fields, and dirt. Actual dirt (as in flower beds and pots) also brings in the earth element, as do items made with clay of any kind. It’s rare for a room to lack the earth element, since squares and rectangles show up so often in our modern architecture. More often, there can be too much earth, which creates a feeling of stagnation and a lack of motivation to move out of one’s comfort zone.
The metal element represents inward movement, thought, intellect, science, cleanliness, and precision. It shows up in the physical world in the colors white, off-white, and grey as well as circle, oval, and elliptical shapes. Crystal, stone, and actual metal bring in the metal element, as do any synthetic materials such as plastic or vinyl. Actual machinery or technology, or photos of same (computers, cars, bikes, tractors, wheels, geers, keys, etc.) also represent the metal element. Quite often walls are white or off-white, which makes it rare for there to be no metal in any given room, but when a room lacks metal, it can feel hard to focus. Too much metal (or metal that is not properly aspected by the other elements) makes it hard to relax the mind and allow emotions and passions to flow.
The water element represents downward movement, feelings, flow, poetic sensibilities, and emotional depth. It shows up in the physical world in the colors black and deep blue, as well as asymmetrical, tear drop, swirls, or wavy shapes. Actual water in the form of small fountains or water features, or water-representatives such as river rocks or sea shells also bring in the water element. Mirrors, glass, and photos or artwork depicting water are also powerful water symbols. A lack of the water element in a space can feel parched and draining, while an overabundance of water (or water that is not properly aspected by the other elements) in any given area can lend itself to a feeling of drowning in one’s emotions, and an alignment with one’s depth without a satisfying outlet for self-expression.
The wood element represents upward movement, personal growth, learning, self-improvement, exercise, and health. It shows up in the physical world in the colors green, teal, and light blue, as well as vertical stripes and floral or plant-based prints. Actual wood (wicker or wood furniture), flowers, living plants, or imagery of flowers, plants, or trees also bring in the wood element, as do fabrics made from plants such as cotton or bamboo. Columns are also wood representations in the way that they mimic tree trunks. Not enough wood in a space can have a negative effect on one’s motivation and sense of general well-being, while too much wood (or wood that is not properly aspected by the other elements) can lend itself to feelings of annoyance, anger, and impatience.
The fire element represents outward movement, passion, socializing, celebrating, and shining your light through expressing your unique talents. It shows up in the physical world in the colors red, bright orange, and bright pink, as well as radial shapes (such as sun, star, or daisy shapes), diamond shapes, and triangular shapes. Pictures or people or animals also bring in the fire element, as do animal prints and animal-based materials (or materials that are created to look animal based) such as leather, feathers, and fur. Actual fire in a fireplace, candles, and lighting are also physical representations of the fire element. Not enough fire in a space can snuff feelings of passion and vitality, while too much fire (or fire that is not properly aspected by the other elements) can lend itself to addictive behavior and explosive interactions with others.