The Lunar Review

The Fire Element according to the Five Elements Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Five Element Theory is one of the foundations of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This theory explains the correlation between our health and our environment. To start, it places natural phenomena into five categories- wood, fire, earth, metal and water. At any single point in time, one of these elements dominates, depending on the season, time of day and other factors. 

Everyday the angle of the sunlight hitting earth changes slightly, and over longer periods of time these changes produce different seasons. Change is the one constant flowing throughout nature, and the human body follows this Universal Law. Adaptations define our life, and the better we are at it, the healthier we are.

Ancient Taoist wisdom tells us that Human Beings are the root of Heaven on Earth. Our existence on Earth is not random, so not only are we meant to be here but we have the means to thrive at our disposal. 

Our bodies constantly respond to external conditions and stimuli. The responses and messaging received from the outside, in turn, regulate our internal environment. The outer world constantly communicates its secrets to our inner world, stressing the need to engage our senses and observe. 

The Five Elements represent fundamental, organic energies that are dynamic in nature and thus constantly moving. They are the same forces that animate and power our bodies. There’s no difference between the energy causing a supernova or the energy pumping blood through our hearts. At the most elementary level, if only we could actually see it, everything would look the same.  

Often our instinctual nature brings us into balance when signs and symptoms of poor health arise, but at other times we need help determining the correct protocols to follow. Five Element Theory is the guiding system, providing specific instructions about where to aim your focus.

Each element describes a natural energetic force which corresponds to a particular season, sound, taste, color, part of the body, sense organ, direction and considerably more. This knowledge empowers us to diagnose illness, assign cures, and correct other imbalances affecting quality of life. All the elements engender a unique wisdom gracing us with the means to treat our bodies like sacred temples.

The fire element directly initiates the process of transformation. It is the transformative force that imposes its power over all the other elements. Fire burns and consumes wood, scorches and dries earth, melts metal and creates steam when combined with water. 

Given enough time and quantity, wood, earth and metal can exert their will over the others. Trees could, in theory, cover the entire earth and drive their roots downward, essentially devouring the planet. Metal could displace all the oceans and send water flying out of the atmosphere. The earth could cover itself in pure mud, consuming everything with it. Water could also cover the earth, dissolving the land and its creatures. These are however apocalyptic scenarios, only occurring in highly improbable conditions.

There is a natural process of Generating and Control inherent in the Five Element Theory. Each element supports the succeeding element, in effect, giving birth to or mothering it. The power to give life also comes with the power to take away life. Thus each element can control one other element. The point of this control is to make sure one element does not get out of control, throwing off the balance for the entire cycle.

Wood generates Fire, as it is the fuel which can burn. Fire gives birth to Earth, from the ashes of creation comes the substance of the soil. Earth produces Metal, rising from the underground depths of her being. Metal generates Water in the form of condensation on the surface of metals. Water gives birth to Wood, as the substance which nourishes seeds so they will sprout and grow. 

Wood controls Earth, populating it with trees, throwing down its roots into the depths of the planet. Fire controls Metal, melting and turning it into a river of molten ore. Earth controls Water, providing enough soil and land mass so the world isn’t swallowed up by one massive ocean. Metal controls Wood by chopping it with the sharpest, mightiest blade. Water controls fire, by extinguishing its flame. 

Fire burns whatever it touches. It’s instinctual to pull our hands away from the burning intensity of a fire. Under most circumstances we can handle wood, earth, metal and water without any problem. These four elements also take much longer to transform whatever object lodges inside of them. After a few months a body will decompose and return back to the earth. After many years in an ocean, a piece of sharp glass will have its edges smoothed over.

All this speaks to the intensity and passion that is fire! It’s not hard to recognize people imbued with a lot of Fire traits, they are by design, easy to spot. Within everyone’s constitution there is a blend of all Five Elements, but usually one, or sometimes two, elements dominate. The body is a dynamic process, always changing, so Fire, or any element, can significantly impact you under the right conditions. 

Fire corresponds to the summer season, starting in late June, blossoming in July and waning in September. Summertime signals a pause in our business, professional, and academic lives. The pull to let loose, enjoy outdoor activity in the sunshine, socialize, explore and just have fun directs our lives for this time. 

The Fire Element corresponds to the emotion of joy. At this time of year we are supposed to fortify our sense of optimism and joy by engaging with others. This can be achieved through sports competitions, attending parties or any way in which you feed your spirit of adventure. However the potency of Fire pulsates strongly, coloring all our experiences this season, even when we are enjoying solitude.

This element also relates to enthusiasm, connection with others and passion. The flame that ignites our imagination and sparks our intuition. Fire enjoys being in the company of other people, for the warmth and excitement it brings to their lives. When feeling out of balance or lonely, Fire can experience a lack of joy, distress and anxiety.

The corresponding organs are the heart and the small intestine. The heart regulates our cardiovascular system and circulates blood throughout our bodies. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the heart houses the shen- the mental-spiritual aspect of our psyche specifically assigned to Fire. Shen translates as spirit, mind, vitality or presence. It has a direct bearing on thinking, memory, intelligence, wisdom, ideas and even our sleep. 

The Heart proudly bears the title of Emperor of All the Organs. Dwelling inside the heart, throwing its power to the Emperor, we find the mighty shen. This uniquely Taoist concept relates to the numinous and our souls. Right here is the mechanism by which potential manifests as reality. The shen alone holds this divine power to perform this action.

Other interpretations of the Chinese character shen help expand its meaning and stress its importance- to express, stretch, extend, or project outwards. This implies an ability to communicate, relate to others, and to be in fellowship with humanity. On a spiritual level, shen is what connects our soul to the eternal Tao- the infinite dimension of the Universe. Shen is pliable, versatile, extending itself locally, as well as into ever–expanding, unfathomable territory. It is what permits us to be conscious of ourselves, and of our cosmological place in the Universe.

Shen is also an umbrella term indicating the multiplex of the five mental-spiritual levels of a human being. Zhi, willpower, housed in the kidneys and part of the Water element. Yi, intellect, lives in the spleen and connects to Earth. Po, corporeal soul, resides in the lungs and belongs to Metal. Hun, ethereal soul, lives in the liver and connects with Wood.

How well are the zhi, hun, po and yi functioning as a whole directly reflects the state of the shen. A healthy, clear, grounded shen reveals itself through an unmistakable light, shine or glow in the eyes. Other adjectives describing the look in the eyes when shen thrives relay the brilliance of the Fire element- luminescent, glittering, glowing and  flourishing. 

It is in the heart, through the vehicle of the shen, which alone can feel and appraise the emotions. The shen assists in balancing the sentiments of the heart with the rational, mechanical functions of the mind. It utilizes emotions to tenderize  and thaw-out biting, icy-cold logic. This reveals the origin of our humanity, compassion and empathy. 

Only the heart, and none else, can actually feel the full spectrum of emotions, granting it the capacity to assess them. All emotions affect the heart, no matter their origin. For example sadness and grief directly affect the lungs, but these organs don’t actually feel these emotions because there is no shen present.

The wisdom of TCM tells us The tongue is the sprout of the heart- meaning the sense organ corresponding to the Fire element is the tongue. This perfectly explains why the tip of the tongue turns red, and perhaps slightly swollen, when any unchecked  emotion floods the system. Whether someone heavily grieves, flies into an overly excited manic state, or is rocked by mounting frustration, doesn’t matter, it’s the intensity of the emotion that manifests physically in the tongue. 

Inside the mouth, the tongue works with salivary glands to initiate the start of the digestive process. After partially digested food leaves the stomach, it enters the small intestine where the extraction of nutrients and minerals takes place. A crucial part of this  process involves  separating what is useful, or pure, from the useless, or turbid, matter.

Energetically the small intestine performs another function. In the same way it separates the pure from the turbid in the digestive tract, it also separates our pure thoughts from the turbid ones. In essence, this is our ability to know right from wrong, and aptly judge what is good and what is evil. Clear thinking and sound judgment is a joint venture between the heart and small intestine.

The key to healthy Fire energy is engagement with others, while keeping healthy boundaries. Fire is strong-willed and can truly inspire others to follow their own unique passion. Uniting with people in pleasant, constructive ways, helps to kindle their own and others’ internal flame. 

Fire needs to occasionally retreat into isolation, so as not to burn others, or themselves. We know how easily fire can rage out of control, scorching all it touches, leaving only ashes behind. Fire out of balance kicks off sleeping problems, heart palpitations, anxiety, poor blood circulation, manic behaviors, and spontaneous sweating. 

The sound related to Fire is laughing, reflecting the natural state of happiness this element occupies. Hearty laughter physically stimulates the body, and releases endorphins for a natural high. When there is always something to laugh about, and be merry over, deep feelings of isolation and dissatisfaction can never result. 

Occasionally the fire cools down, as it needs to in order for someone to replenish. At the end of the night, when everyone’s left and the party ends, Fire might find themselves alone, enduring times of quiet solitude. It is at these times they must guard against becoming hard-hearted, cold-hearted or bitter-hearted. Bitterness is a state of extreme, condensed anger manifesting as a permanent state of being. Learning to find solace and pleasure in their own company is one of their lessons.

The associated flavor is bitter, believe it or not! The bitter taste stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes and increases the appetite. It is slightly drying and gently cools down the heart and small intestine. Adding a small amount of bitter foods to each meal helps to remove sluggish energy in the Fire organs. Some bitter foods include bitter greens, dandelions, grapefruit, olives, quinoa, citrus peel and chicory. Only a few bites are necessary if eating especially bitter foods like bitter gourd, dandelion greens or arugula. 

The physical traits relating to Fire are broad shoulders, wide teeth, and a slightly pointed head. The hair is curly, and on an older person, the hair thins out earlier in life. The skin tones are slightly reddish. They’re usually fairly easy to spot- that charming person garnering all the attention at a party, a mesmerizing actor on stage or anyone who thrives in the spotlight, are the ones who carry Fire!

Vanessa Vogel
Vanessa Vogel
Artykuły: 7

Dodaj komentarz

Twój adres e-mail nie zostanie opublikowany. Wymagane pola są oznaczone *