Flowing with the Rhythms of Life

Ancient texts from many cultures map our lives and the world into different elements or rhythms. The Five Elements or Five Rhythms, recorded thousands of years ago by Chinese physicians, consisted of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. These rhythms relate to processes that happen throughout nature and explain what happens during the change of the seasons down to the change within a single day.

The Five Rhythms are one of the nine energy systems found in Eden Energy Medicine, and they are studied to understand the strengths and challenges of each and how to correct them through a variety of Energy Medicine techniques. Each person has all Five Rhythms but operates under a primary and a secondary Rhythm. Understanding your Rhythm and the Rhythm of those you are in a relationship with can give you more compassion and understanding for yourself and others. Even as a psychologist trained in different ways of perceiving people , I have found this system to be most holistic, helpful, and hopeful. It offers a compassionate view of ourselves and our connection to nature.

Each Rhythm is associated with a season–the Water Rhythm relates to the Winter, Wood to Spring, Fire to Summer, Earth to the solstices and equinoxes, and Metal to Autumn. Each Rhythm also has physical characteristics, organs in the body, color, sound, taste, sensory organs, body parts, life cycle, and time of day. Each Rhythm is also associated with a particular behavior pattern and emotion likely engaged under stress as well as how they can be corrected.

Curious about your primary element? Lauren Walker, founder of Energy Medicine Yoga, has a short five-elements quiz for people who want a quick idea of their first and second elements. A longer test can be found here. However, tests are only as good as the test writer and may not exactly capture you. Understanding your primary element requires studying the characteristics or through testing by a Energy Medicine practitioner.

Here’s a little chart that might help as well. It lists just a portion of the qualties often associated with each element. And, remember you will be a little of each.

ElementWaterWoodFireEarthMetal
Emotion Under StressFear and hopelessnessAnger and frustrationAnxiety and panicWorry and over-compassion for othersGrief (or not letting go)
Governsbones, teeth, hair, fluidligaments, tendons, eyes, nails, musclesarteries, veins, blood circulationmetabolism, digestion, muscle tone, lymph, blood healthrespiration, elimination, skin, and body hair
WalkFlowing gaitQuick and on a missionBouncing, skippingSwish/SwayRegal grace
VoiceWatery, baby-ish, or groany, breathySpeak quickly and to the point, self-confidentLaughing, animated, expressive, may sighMusical, singsongResonant, low, reflective, deliberate
Body TypeThin, willowy or roundedSolid and sturdyThin legs, express with their handsRounded, fleshy, “earth mommas”Thin, elegant arms and legs, long fingers. Stiff or upright.
ArchetypesPhilosopher, baby, Entitled OneWarrior, pioneerWizard, unconditional loverPeacemaker, “Earth Mother”Alchemist
Lessons to LearnTo not procrastinate, move forward, riskRelax, go with the flow, give slack to othersDiscern what is new and exciting from what has genuine, lasting valueFocus on own transitions, know that change is good. Self-careGive up control, let go, have faith, surrender to spontaneity

Just for fun, you might try to identify the elements of those closest to you as well. Understanding the rhythm that someone dances to might help you appreciate someone even more. For instance, Waters are creative, Woods have vision and get things done, Fires are fun and exciting, Earths are giving and helpful, and Metals are organized and analytic. The Five Elements, by Dondi Dahlin, is a fun book that is easy to read and gives you a lot more information about the elements. If you want to know more, you might pick that up.

I just finished an Advanced Five Elements (or Rhythms) Class as part of my certification program through Eden Energy Medicine. So, I’ve been inspired to focus on them in my Energy Medicine Yoga Classes on Wednesdays in May. We will start with Water and move our way through them all. If you want to learn more, join us at 5:30 p.m. Central Time. Or, sign up and I’ll send you the recording if you can’t make it live. The link to register is here.

These classes will help you balance various aspects of the elements so that you flow with the rhythm of life!