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    Understanding the Powers Within

    Excerpted from
    Chinese Medicine for Maximum Immunity: Understanding the Five Elemental Types for Health and Well-Being
    By Jason Elias, Katherine Ketcham

    Nature's richness lies in its power to nourish oil living things; Its greatness lies in its power to give them beauty and splendor. - The I Ching

    You are a unique individual, unlike any other human being on this planet. Just as your fingerprints are yours and yours alone, so arc your ideas, opinions, and behaviors completely distinctive. Your eyes behold a different world from the one that others perceive. The sound, smell, taste and touch of your surroundings tires your senses in unique patterns and intensities. No one else feels your impulses, thinks your thoughts, or dreams your dreams.

    What makes vim unique? Why does a Beethoven sonata move you to tears, while a Bach concerto leaves you cold? Stricken by fear or grief, why do you seek the solace of solitude, while others crave the comfort of loving arms? Why do you eat nonstop when you're feeling blue, while your sister goes shopping and your brother jogs for two hours? Why is spring or summer, fall, or winter your favorite season? Why do you crave sweet or salty, sour, bitter, or spicy foods? Why do you love the color blue or given, red, yellow, white, or black? Why would you rather sit by a river or a mountain, forest, meadow, or sundrenched beach - than anywhere else on earth?

    The Chinese believe your unique responses to the world are determined by your affinity to certain basic energy forces that How through you in distinctive ways. The balance and interaction between these natural forces determine the risks you take or avoid, the goals you set, the fears and doubts that assail you, the situations that cause you stress or conflict, the talents you have or have neglected, the values that motivate you, and the dreams that inspire vou. Just as you can't change the color of your eyes or the shape of your hands and feet, your nature is part of you - you are horn with it, and every aspect of your life will he shaped by it.

    Thousands of years ago Chinese philosophers created the Wu Hsting (the Five Element System) to explain how the primary powers ol nature - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water ebb and How within human beings. Wood is the restless, aggressive energy that gives a tiny seed the power to develop into a firmly rooted tree. Fire's passionate, radiant energy is symbolized by the sun, which provides life-giving warmth to the world. Earth is the stable, balancing force that keeps us grounded and centered within ourselves. Metal's strong inspirational energy is symbolized by the precious gems and essential minerals that give form and structure to the world. Water's adaptable, infinitely resourceful energy can be seen in the rivers that How to the sea, cleansing and invigorating everything that they touch.

    Each of the Five Elements depends upon the others, and life itself depends upon their intricate balance and interdependence. Water irrigates the fields and forests so that Wood can grow. Wood feeds Fire, which burns to ash, nourishing the Earth. Faith provides a firm foundation and stable support for the mountains of Metal that rise upward toward the heavens. Metallic ores and rocks underlie the river channels that give Water its direction, while minerals and trace elements give Water its nourishing richness. Each element nourishes and is nourished by the others.

    Just as the elements teed and sustain each other, so do they restrain and inhibit each other. Water controls Fire by quenching it. Fire restrains Metal by melting it, allowing it to be shaped and molded. Metal inhibits Wood by cutting it (symbolized by the ax chopping the tree). Wood restrains forth by covering it, literally rooting it in place and preventing erosion. Earth controls Water by absorbing it and forming natural dams and riverbanks to prevent it from overflowing its channels.

    The Five Element System is ancient and exotic, yet it is eminently practical and immediately accessible. If you are energized by Wood, you can recognize the similarities between the force that drives the sap in the tree and the energy that pushes you to seek out challenges and adventures. If you have an affinity to Fire, the power literally burns within you, a steady pilot light that infuses your life with passion and joy. Faith types need only look out their window at their green, growing gardens to understand the nourishing, stabilizing nature of their energy. Metal types (eel a powerful connection to the core issues and underlying structures of life, intuitively understanding that its most meaningful moments occur when movement stills and silence reigns. Water types know from observing the behavior of rivers that their power resides in remaining flexible and adaptable, always yielding to current conditions.

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