We all want to get more out of life.
We want to have a happy, loving family.
We want to be able to provide for our family so that we can feel safe, secure, and stable.
We want to enjoy more out of life; maybe travel a bit, get out in nature, and enjoy some of the luxuries that life has to offer.
We also want our life to matter; we want to contribute to our community, be appreciated, and feel respected as a human being.
But what’s holding us back from getting and enjoying more out of life?
The ancient Chinese believed that there were five “elements” and that those elements were qualities that influenced our lives;
- Earth – grounding, centering, stable
- Wood – growth, vitality, clarity
- Fire – energy, resolve, passion
- Water – gentleness, resourcefulness, nurturing
- Metal – rationality, intuition, discipline
They also believed that there were cycles, rhythms, and flow within the elements that would wax and wane.
Where each element would support one or reduce one.
You can see from the image that fire is reduced by water but strengthens metal, as an example.
And to that, none of the elements are good or bad, right or wrong; we need a balance of all of them and when we have a deficiency in one, the whole system suffers.
This traditional wisdom is even more important today, in our modern society.
Modern Version of the Five Elements
When I share the Chinese five elements to my American friends, it can seem esoteric or culturally irrelevant, so I’ve learned to frame it differently.
- Physical Vitality and Ability
- how strong are you, could you physically assist someone in an emergency
- how flexible are you, can you move your body without straining or injuring yourself
- how much stamina do you have, could you run into or out of a situation if you need to
- Mental Curiosity and Clarity
- Emotional Openness and Resilience
- how open and connected do you feel with those you care about and those you meet
- how emotional literate are you; being able to discuss your emotions openly and honestly
- do you practice emotional regulation to avoid damaging your relationships with those you care about
- Spiritual Connection and Awe
- is your life connected to something bigger than you
- do you have any desire to leave a legacy that serves your community
- do you connect daily with a sense of awe and wonder for the world you live in
- The energy of Time, Resources, and Space
- do you feel rushed and harried or are you able to enjoy your day
- do you feel that there are an abundance of resources available to help you achieve your goals, dreams, and desires
- do you give yourself the space needed to be alone to rest, recuperate, and connect with yourself
These five areas, like the Chinese elements, can support or diminish your quality of life.
Maybe you know academics who are intelligent, well-respected, and talented; but who neglect their physical and emotional health.
What about the spiritual healers, who in a desire to not be attached to the luxury and trappings of the world, are always struggling to pay their bills or live a life of, not even abundance, but sustainability.
Then there are those people, who are living fully in all five quintants;
- they exercise regularly
- they nurture and support their relationships with themselves and others
- they are life-long learners investing an hour a day in learning
- they’re on a mission to make the world a better place
- and they are able to enjoy the benefits of their service, living well and taking care of themselves
What’s holding you back from living fully?
What could you do to change that?
What would be the consequences if you don’t?