How to Utilize the 5 Elements in Everyday Life:
Fire, earth, metal, water and wood do not only indicate the physical elements abundant in nature, but also five different patterns in which these manifest. We can associate each and every object and process we come across with one or more of these five patterns. Utilising the power of these five elements in our daily lives can be very important – as has been done since about 500 BCE, the time of the Warring States in China, by warlords and nobility. For example, in the Chou Dynasty, white coloured banners representing the metal element were widely used. The first emperor of the following Qin Dynasty, employed black banners for the water element &ndash just as in the constructive elemental cycle earth gives birth to water, so the Chou dynasty gave birth to the Qin.
In traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture the human body is considered as composed of the five elements. It is understood that when they are in balance good health will result and an imbalance will give rise to health problems. This works very much the same way in a Feng Shui context. Once we know our self-element, for example, and determine its strength, we can chose our favourable elements and try avoiding the unfavourable ones in our living and work spaces. This self-element is found in the Tung Shu, a Chinese almanac, as the Heavenly Stem of the day on which we were born.
Consider a person born on a yang-earth day in a spring month. Without the support of fire and earth in the four pillars, we can determine that this person’s self-element is weak earth. In this case the most favourable element will be fire. Earth is also beneficial, befriending the weak self. Wood will be very useful, supporting the weak fire. But the metal and water elements should be avoided, since these would drain the energy of the already weak earth. So, we could try to incorporate the missing elements in the surroundings, to bring out the much needed balance.
For a start, we could say that a warm climate (fire) will be more suitable for this person than a cold (water) climate. We could advise chosing a house in a wooded area if possible, to support the crucial fire element. The house could be painted outside in a red (fire) or yellow (earth) colour. For the interior design, the choice of colours, decorative objects, furniture, soft furnishings, lighting, accessories and even paintings on the walls can all be expressions of these missing elements and hence bringing more balance and well-being to this person’s life. This is the general idea. However, one needs to be cautious about the influence on the Flying Stars at the same time. In this case, your favourable Fire may not really work to your advantage, if it is used in an area with an active 2 Yellow Danger, sometimes called the Sickness Star. Fire supporting this bad earth star will cause more problems than good.
In Flying Star Feng Shui we can use the five elements as cures to diminish the bad effects of harmful stars and to enhance prosperous stars. For example, in our current age eight, No. 6 metal star is considered to be a dated star, bringing legal issues and respiratory problems when it is active. To remedy the negative effects of 6 metal star, we mainly have to use the water element as a cure. If we refer to the two cycles of the interaction of the five elements, we’ll see that the water element and wood element drain the metal element. Therefore water features and fish tanks, representing the water element, and freshly cut flowers or bamboos in a vase, representing the wood element, will make suitable cures.
Even though plants represent the wood element, they are not fully appropriate for curing metal stars. As they mostly come in pots containing earth, they will be more earth than wood, and as the earth element supports metal and strengthens it, this in turn can aggravate metal problems.
Consider that we have an 8 earth star at our front door. This is very prosperous in itself during age 8. If we want to activate this star further to increase prosperity, we could support it with the fire element. As a practical solution, we could paint the door red, install a bright lamp above or at the side of the door and place an attractive potted plant or flower by the door, representing the fire and wood elements. (The lamp and the red colour of the door will represent the fire element.)
In the constructive cycle of the elements fire supports earth, but in the destructive cycle, wood attacks earth. But, it cannot destroy it. Earth under attack wakes up and starts fighting back. Therefore, the use of a potted plant here will actually kick-start the earth star and will be very beneficial. This is also the reason that bad stars are “drained” rather than being directly attacked in the practice of Flying Star Feng Shui.
I should also mention another excellent way of benefiting from the use of the five elements in our daily lives. In a system of Chinese astrology called the four Pillars of Destiny, we seek to bring the five elements into balance in our charts by supporting the weak elements and draining those that are too strong. This can be done on a more personal level, by means of clothing and jewellery.
In this astrological system, if any of the five elements are too strong or too weak this is bound to cause problems, such as feelings of restlessness, unease, depression and even sickness. Of course, Chinese traditional medicine and acupuncture can deal with these issues properly. But every little bit helps, and sometimes small things can have a huge impact. Try incorporating your favourable elements (elements that you need in order to control any that are in excess and to support the weak elements) in your clothes as textures and colours, and you will see the difference it makes.
The same goes for jewellery. Wearing gold and silver jewellery can indeed be another efficient way of draining and balancing an otherwise too strong earth element and supporting the water element.
Now, let us examine each element and see what else, other than the classical cures, can give expression to that element as a contemporary twist and what type of clothing and jewellery can express the energy of that same element.
On the matter of traditional vs. creative remedies, it should be remembered that the latter can be more challenging. Traditional cures have been tried and tested over a long period of time, and they work. For example, an all-metal wind-chime can cure an inauspicious earth star, because it has pure metal energy. Similarly, a red lantern will have pure fire energy to remedy 3 and 4 wood stars. When we use a more creative remedy, we have to make sure that the curing element is “pure” in order that it will have an impact. I have seen too many times a floral carpet with some red in it used as a remedy for a 3 wood star. This will only work to a limited extent, if at all. Yes, there is a bit of fire in the background muddy red colour, but the wood quality is so overpowering in the floral pattern that it will only aggravate the 3 wood star.
The colours that represent the water element are black, very dark blue and grey. The characteristics of this element are that it is wet, slippery, transparent and reflective. So, all soft furnishings and clothes made from silks, chiffons and satins or sheer fabrics in general, especially if they have water colours as well, will have a strong water energy.
As a pattern, horizontal stripes are very much water, and so are weavy patterns. A highly polished, low-lying coffee table, even if it is made of wood, will have a strong water energy, because of its reflective finish and low shape. All things that come from the sea – such as pearls and mother of pearl – will represent the water element, even when they are white, a metal colour.
Classical water cures are fish tanks containing black fish, fish paintings, ponds, pools and still and moving water features.
Personal clothing style will properly express the water element if you use clothes in black and navy satins and chiffons, and strings of pearls as jewellery.
Wood colours are all shades of green, blue and brown. The obvious representations of the wood element are woods, forests, trees, plants and cut fresh flowers in a vase. Paintings and photographs of all these will also have a strong wood energy.
The traditional shape for wood is an upright rectangle. All furniture and items made of wood will have wood energy, especially if they have a tall and slim shape.
All textiles are of the wood element. Vertical stripes and floral patterns, including paisley, for example, will have a strong wood presence.
To enhance the wood element in clothing is easy, as all natural fabrics and some man-made fabrics such as viscose and rayon, are made from wood. Just using the wood colours can be sufficient. As jewellery, again there is fabulous wooden ethnic jewellery available, to boost your wood element.
Colours representing Fire are red, bright reddish-orange, purple, fuschia and all bright pinks. The most commonly used representations of this element are red objects, lamps, candles and lanterns. More rarely used expressions could be the Sun, Moon and stars.
Traditionally, triangular shapes are associated with the fire element. So, fabrics with triangular or zig-zag patterns in shades of red, and sun-moon-stars patterns will all have a strong fire energy.
In terms of clothing, evening wear in fire colours with sequins, and glitter in general, will signal strong fire. Clothes made of leather are considered fire as well. As jewellery, red sparkling stones such as rubies and garnets will do, even though precious and semi-precious stones are generally considered to be more of the earth element.
In ancient I Ching texts, earth is said to be “square and yellow”, and so traditionally, the colour yellow and square shapes represent this element. Other colours such as mustard, orange, amber and terracotta are also rich in earth qualities.
Earth is also very generous, it is plentiful, it can spoil and pamper like a mother, it accommodates and nurtures all beings. Therefore, all soft and comfortable cushions, quilts, mattresses and carpets are expressions of the earth element in our homes.
I Ching also says “Heaven bestows and Earth receives”. The second hexagram in the I Ching is earth and the name of this hexagram is “Receptive”. So, all bowls, urns, especially if they are earthenware and used in identical pairs, will have a strong Earth presence. Other materials representing earth would be porcelain (china), stoneware, glass and crystal.
Earth textures are not smooth. They are rather coarse. Think of coarse weaves such as coarse linen or hessian. Most typical earth patterns are checks of all types, including harlequins.
Clothes made with richly textured textiles in yellow and burned orange shades, combined with jewellery made of precious and semi-precious stones can complete your earth look.
All round shapes and the colour white are associated with this element. Other colours representing metal are lighter shades of grey and all metallics, such as gold, silver, copper and bronze.
Metal wind-chimes are the traditional and most commonly used remedies of metal. I have to say that I find it difficult somehow working with wind-chimes in contemporary living and work spaces, without creating the much-dreaded “Chinese restaurant” look. I much prefer using furnishings in crisp white colours and metallic objects with round shapes instead.
I once used a more creative metal cure successfully for a corporate client, quite a few years back. They were so conservative that a wind-chime was totally out of the question. I suggested using six identical metal bowls in a row as a display, instead. Six here representing the metal element. While the metal was doing its work in the boardroom, draining the 5 Earth star, the clients loved it thinking this was a cool and edgy design statement.
Another traditional and popular remedy for this element is six metal coins, tied with a red ribbon. The red colour doesn’t actually do much here; the Chinese simply love red and believe it brings luck. Again, in I Ching texts, the metal element is associated with the hexagram of “Heaven” and the number six. Hence, the cure of the six coins. In Chinese metaphysics, the harmony of Heaven and Earth is much emphasised. This is also reflected in the shape of the Chinese Emperor coins. The coin itself is round, for Heaven, and the hole in the middle is square, symbolising Earth – it thereby embodies them both.
Circular designs and all dotted and polka-dot patterns in smooth, shiny, metallic fabrics carry a lot of Metal quality in them. So does chunky silver and gold jewellery. My personal favourite to boost my metal, to cool down the intense heat of tropical climates, is simply to dress all in crisp white. And it works…