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The Five elements

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Long before words like gravity, kinetics, heat or even energy were invented, ancient man knew how nature worked by simple observation of his environment. This was the basis of all philosophy. For instance, he knew that water was very different from fire and that bronze or metal was very different from wood. He knew that the world he lived in was in a constant state of change. Some changes were natural and in harmony, like spring changing to summer, when all life flourishes. Some changes were unnatural, like excessive heat evaporating water supplies. From this understanding, he gained incredible insight into how nature worked and developed a system called the five transformational phases. There is no real name for this process in the west, however the term "five elements" has been adopted. But whereas five elements implies something tangible and unchanging, the five transformational phases are not. This knowledge together with yin and yang principles has formed the backbone of all Chinese culture, including Feng Shui, the I Ching, Chinese medicine and Chinese philosophy for the past 5 000 years.

Basic science tells us that energy cannot be created, only changed from one form to another and this is what the transformational phases refer to. Life flourishes when this happens naturally. When it happens unnaturally through the use of incorrect structures, colours or placement, pressure builds and stress is created. We have already seen that humans absorb this stress as easily as we absorb laughter or other emotions. Feng Shui analyses homes and businesses to find these stress points and by adding simple, subtle cures, feng shui consultants can balance any environment and relieve this stress. The basic tool kit for dealing with this is the Sheng Cycle of the five transformational phases. Literally, everything in our world can be classified according to these principles. Let us look at this in detail.

The 5 Elements are

feng shui water chiWater
In natural terms, water represents winter. When water falls from the sky it penetrates deep into the earth, replenishing water tables and initiating birth for the abundance of life to come. Water Qi therefore is a descending type of Qi. This means that the deeper it goes, the denser it becomes and pressure builds. If you have ever tried scuba diving you will know that you only have to go down 8 feet for the barometric pressure to double. Waters colours are black and dark blue, and shapes are wavy and flowing. People of this type are either very bubbly on the surface or very deep and reflective, with no middle ground. They are outgoing, superficial, adaptable, easygoing, receptive, worrisome, passionate, philosophical, generally unromantic but strong sexually.

feng shui water chiWater gives birth to Wood
After winter, water is deep within the ground and trees and shrubs put their roots deep down for nourishment, enabling growth. Spring is the time when plant life is regenerated and as it re-emerges through the soil it expands, therefore wood Qi is expansive. Colours are green and light blue. Shapes are tall and upright. People of this type are positive, high spirited, always getting into difficulty but they always get out as well. Full of optimism and the spirit of youth, they live for pleasure and fun!

feng shui fire chiWood gives birth to Fire
After spring, comes summer which is hot and bright. Nature reaches its zenith; plants reach their height of growth and become luxuriant. Fire needs wood for fuel and air as a catalyst. Fire Qi is ascending, like a fire where the flames are generally rising, reaching out for fuel. Colours, as you would expect are red, pink, peach, although colours that have a warmth to them are also considered fire. Shapes are triangular. Fire people are artistic with a good sense of proportion, attractive, idealistic, impulsive and outgoing. Generally they have a problem finishing things. They are bright and intelligent.

feng shui earth chiFire gives birth to Earth
This Qi is rotating producing a stabilising magnetic force called gravity which is the basis of all matter. Colours are all of the colours that you find naturally on the earths surface, from ivory beaches, to cream, beige, yellow corn fields, brown and terracotta. Shapes are square and squat. There are three different types of Earth people. Generally they are great supporters, assistants, conventional and conservative, gentle, pleasing, obsessive regarding details, indecisive, tactful, dedicated to the public and service. Some are great defenders of human rights with an inner strength. Some are fatalistic gamblers and always do things the hard way.

feng shui metal chiEarth gives birth to Metal
This represents autumn when the weather begins to turn cold and leaves fall from trees. Metal Qi is contracting, controlling, condensing, cold and cutting. Colours, are white and grey metallic. Shapes are round and curving. There are two types of metal people, like two sides of a coin, one is a great leader, but can dominate and conquer, constantly active with high ideas, ambitious and egotistical. They hate to lose, very self critical, strongly materialistic and can seem stubborn and overly ambitious. The other is a great orator, tactful, elegant and well liked by others. They like to be free, dislike supervision and hate to be ignored.

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The Sheng cycle of harmony will have at least two elements together in this order.
feng shui water chi feng shui wood chi feng shui fire chi feng shui earth chi feng shui metal chi
feng shui water chi
Water creates wood, wood creates fire, fire creates earth, earth creates metal, metal creates water and so the cycle continues.

The Control Cycle

When structures, shapes (or forms) and colours appear in a different order to this, one element will control another, leading to an increase in pressure and stress and causing inherent weaknesses in man made objects. The control cycle consists of the arrangement of water and fire, wood and earth, fire and metal, and earth and water.

Inherent weakness caused by the control cycle

To illustrate weaknesses in man made structures, let us look at the five phases as applied to normal everyday things.

  • Red balloon. The balloon is round (metal shaped), red is fire; this creates an inherent weakness with the result that the red balloon does not last as long as a white one, which is metal shaped and a metal colour.

  • White Doors. (Metal colour) doors (wood shaped, taller than wide), you will find that they stick or have some problem with them. To balance, we paint the door dark blue or we add a water characteristic and as if by magic, the door operates normally.

  • Flat Roofs Particularly garage roofs or any flat earth shaped structure with a bitumen or asphalt roof coloured black (water). The result is that the roof will leak. Some manufacturers are making this roofing material in grey (metal) and strangely enough, they now guarantee them for 30 years.

  • Long and thin double glazed windows. (Wood shape) and double glazed with white plastic coated or aluminium (metal) they will degrade quicker, loose soundproofing ability and create a draft.

  • Cars. Roads are classified as a water element because they allow things to flow, cars are metal. As metal and water are next to each other in the Sheng cycle arrangement, that would appear to work fine. However, red cars (fire and metal) will deteriorate far quicker that black or dark blue ones, because red is fire, which attacks metal and is further attacked by water.

You can apply this methodology to any product just by looking at its' colour, shape and use. The best and longest lasting will be those in the Sheng cycle arrangement.

The Five Elements in your Home

Just by analysing the home and arranging things in the Sheng cycle, immediate results can be made. In the above table we have shown you some colours and shapes for each different element. You should now be able to analyse your own home to see if you are suffering from needless stress. To cure this, simply add the missing element from the Sheng cycle arrangement, either in terms of shape, or colour and you will immediately feel the difference. Just getting this balance right creates a huge difference in peoples' quality of life, just try it and see.

To learn about these principles (and much more besides) at a deeper level, see the highly acclaimed Feng Shui Key Concepts Course. which takes this knowledge to a professional level and allows you to classify everything in terms of the five elements. Further, all energy (elements) are subject to magnetism, which means that certain elements do extremely well in certain parts of your home, whilst others do not. The Key Concepts Course will show you which areas are best for each element and will also allow you to perform a basic consultation in your own home. It is also the first step to becoming a fully fledged Professional Feng Shui Consultant.

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