As you can see from the diagram, in addition to the nourishing cycle, the 5 element system also features a diminishing cycle. This means that each element is destructive toward, or mitigating, one other element. This doesn’t mean that the presence of a diminishing element completely erases an element’s potency, but it does mean that it lessens it and tames it a bit. This will be helpful to know when seeking to aesthetically and energetically balance out an environment that is characterized by an excess of a certain element.
The diminishing cycle is as follows.
Water Extinguishes Fire
In this photo, notice how the fiery red palm trees, reminiscent of fireworks, the diagonal slant of the brick, and the pyramid-shaped top of the light all combine to create an extremely fiery elemental expression. Indeed, if these aspects were in the desert, rather than overlooking the sea, you’d feel so parched that just looking at it would require a tall glass of lemonade on ice. However, because it is overlooking the sea, notice how tolerable and even pleasant it appears, albeit extremely dynamic in its extreme presence of two elements that interact in a destructive way. Similarly, fireplaces can be elementally balanced quite easily by hanging a mirror or an image of water just above them, and a dry desert landscape can be transformed into an oasis by the simple addition of a fountain.
Fire Melts Metal
This interior is quite metallic: the white, clean lines and metal accents all bring in the metal element, as does the white snow out the window. However, the fiery accents – the lighting, diagonal orientation of the hardwood floor, and the diagonal slant in the chair, as well as the actual fire in the fireplace – all bring a sense of warmth to the room. See how, visually and energetically, it’s like a warm, fuzzy melting of the cold, precision of metal? Imagine a straight chair, no fireplace, and a hardwood floor oriented in straight rather then diagonal lines. That would sort of make you want to do your chemistry homework, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, the melty fire gives you a bit more passion and emotion: it makes you more likely to want to entertain guests or curl up for an intimate night with your partner (both fire element activities).
Metal Cuts Wood
This environment is extremely woody (with accents of fire), but also features the strongly metallic fireplace (stone, as well as round and oval shapes, bring in the metal element) and the metallic light (round, related to machinery, and actually made of metal). When you imagine the image without the fireplace or light, the predominance of the wood element would be overwhelming, which would probably make you more likely to want to run outside and train for a marathon (as the wood element relates to movement and nature), and less likely to want to hang around and do anything else in the space. Notice also how the presence of the metal element lends the mind more of a sense of focus and precision (both metal element aspects).
As a side note, this environment is devoid of the water element almost completely, which makes it feel parched, unemotional, and overly masculine.
Wood Covers Earth
The terra cotta color of these rock formations, as well as the flat expanse of earth beneath them, are powerful representations of the earth element, while the trees and greenery are powerful representations of the wood element. Notice how by simply covering the earth, the trees bring a freshness and an upward movement rather than the stillness and desolation that would be present without them. A similar effect takes place in your home when you temper too many squares, rectangles, or earthy colors with flowers, plants, floral prints, forest pictures, wood furniture, plant-based fabrics, or any shade of green.
Earth Dams Water
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, although it can happen, there is rarely an overabundance of the water element in a space. Still, it’s good to understand the diminishing cycle, even in this case, so that you can avoid overly inhibiting the water element when you want it to be prominent in a certain area (such as the career area). With this in mind, notice how, in the picture, the flat expanse of the yellow earth (yellow is the earthiest of earth colors) strongly diminishes the sense of emotional fluidity of the water element. Similarly, earthy elements in your home (yellow, brown, tan, terra cotta, squares, rectangles, things made of clay, images of flat expanses of earth) will, through diminishing the potency of any watery representations, create more of a solid, still feeling and less of a fluid, deep, emotional one.
Elements in Harmony
In conclusion, the idea is to establish a harmonious balance of all five elements, and to look to the bagua to see what element or elements you might especially emphasize in any given area.
Now that you know about the elements, and how they interact, see if you can notice them all around you, both outdoors and in. Also notice how images and settings (such as the one at left) that feature representations of all five elements feel the most livable, comfortable, and inspiring.