Thoughts on the Five Elements and Society

Energy invades everything and everyone.  The principles of Feng Shui discuss the same elemental properties as acupuncturists use.  One talks about the environment, the other discusses the body.  Why wouldn’t these same elements be used to describe society at large?  Heart centered people are those who draw people to them.  Fire leads to connection.  Earth people are those who mother and offer compassion.  Metal people are those who make the hard decisions and, if not the leaders, are those invaluable thinkers who understand how to get where they are going.  Water people are the wise thinkers who probably counsel caution.  They are the ones talking about “Should we?” while scientists ask “Can we?”  Wood is the creative leader who is making things happen.

Socially each person connects, mothers or allows themselves to be mothered, creates, reflects and collects (and let’s go) throughout their lives.  In a healthy community there is enough collection to get through hard times and enough connection to create empathy for all.   The community is growing but only so far as it can be sustained.

Culturally, the US is out of balance.  For the last few decades, the people of the United States have come to embrace a sense of “doing it yourself,” ignoring the need for strong ties in a community.  Each person should go out and get what they want.  It has underrated the element of fire, which creates connection.  Ignoring the connections that would be built by a healthy fire element and minimizing the importance, the people of the United States increasingly show less and less compassion.

If someone can’t make it in this world, people angrily state that they shouldn’t have to pay their money for the bad decisions of others.  They didn’t make the mistake. Someone else did.  That person should pay.   Political rallies bring out the bullies who yell that someone who is sick and doesn’t have health care should just die.  How much less compassionate can a society get?

Additionally, there is a fear that someone will take what is theirs. Fire is not around to control metal.  Everything is precious and nothing is being let go of.  It is my money.  My property. My country.   Nothing is shared.  The government, which is a collective of the people, and therefore probably falls largely under the element of fire (connections) is supposed to be shrunk. No new taxes because taxes will take away that which is seen as precious.  No longer is it important to have close friends.  It is only important to have lots of money, to care for oneself by hiring people to do those things that would be freely given in a community based culture.

Enough money is not enough.  Riches are enough.  We see that on television in shows like American Idol. How many young people see that as their only chance at a “good” life because otherwise they work at a low paying job that may offer satisfaction but doesn’t offer great wealth and fame?

Underlying that hoarding, of course is fear.  Water isn’t being fed and metal is too busy hoarding and directing wood that there is no time for wise reflection.  There is only time to act, quickly, out of fear.

Without water to feed it, wood suffers.  There is increasing anger over little things.  Anger drives more wedges between those trying to form community.  Differences are highlighted and commonalities are lessened, making it harder and harder to offer compassion to others.

It seems like it is impossible to start to make changes.  However, each person can work to balance their own energies and that can create a more balanced society.  Awareness of fear based actions is the first step to changing them.  Offering self compassion for the difficulty in making those changes can be the first step to re-awakening compassion.  Seeking true creative expression towards other connections rather than just directing energy towards more money is also helpful.  Rather than rushing through the drive-thru at Starbucks, stop and say good morning and smile.  Such small things can go a long way towards beginning to restore balance.

The big changes need great momentum.  We are seeing, however, great changes being made through people sitting together to “Occupy” their cities and their country.  They are sitting in solidarity, in connection.  If nothing else, perhaps this will balance society energetically so that the bigger changes can come about.  There will be enough fire to constrain the out of control metal element.

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Bonnie Koenig has been a licensed acupuncturist since 1999. She is passionate about helping people find real healing and real health. In the process she keeps asking about our attitudes towards sickness and health. Only by being clear on what sickness is, can we ever find health.

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