Dear Readers: In the USA, tomorrow is a day of Thanksgiving. And while the exact origin of the holiday may be unclear, the intent of the day still rings true: there is always something to be grateful for in our lives. Be that health, friends and family, success in whatever way we define it, or life itself, gratitude is a state of mind that’s a universal part of the human experience. It turns out it’s also deeply embedded in the Five Elements model. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, a model that claims to be no less than a complete explanation of the workings of the universe will have to contain gratitude. And it does.
In the Five Elements model, each element owes its existence and ability to function in a balanced manner to the other four. And in a very profound way, when one element receives help from another, the receiving element pays it forward, so to speak, by doing the same for a different element in the system. If Water is running low, Metal sends energy to Water. And Water will do the same for Wood, just as Wood will send energy to Fire, Fire will send it to Earth, and Earth will feed it back to Metal. It’s a neverending flow of giving that’s a key hallmark of the Five Elements model.
The other hallmark of the model is the ability of each element to ensure that no element overdoes it. If Wood has too much energy, Metal will reach across the model and decrease the excess. This guarantees Wood’s survival and in gratitude for that service, Wood will do the same for Earth, just as Earth will decrease excess for Water, Water will decrease Fire, and Fire will return the initial favor back to Metal. And while our “more is better” culture usually sees a decrease in something as bad, in reality it’s crucial for survival. There is joy in the model at both increase and decrease. But does that translate to people? I can answer that with an unequivocal, “Yes!” Let’s take a look.
Water people need fuel for their big ideas, and the synthesized information Metals provide to Water fits the bill perfectly. Their “gratitude” to Metal is expressed when Waters actually use what Metals provide, thereby acknowledging its importance. Metals like to feel that what they do is important. But if Waters receive too much information, they risk spreading themselves too thin by trying to use everything, and shallow water evaporates quickly. So when Earth steps in and contains Water, Water survives. Water’s gratitude is expressed to Earth though its ability to keep excess Fire from scalding Earth.
Wood people need big ideas to manifest. They get big ideas from Waters and express their gratitude by manifesting something Water can imagine, but never create itself. Waters like to see their ideas come to life; it validates them. But too many ideas from Water can put Woods at risk because they will try to manifest them all. So when Metal steps in and prunes a few of the ideas away, Wood survives. Wood’s gratitude is expressed to Metal through its ability to keep excess Earth from suffocating Metal.
Fire people love reasons to celebrate. They get celebration-worthy accomplishments from Wood and express their gratitude by honoring Wood’s success with a party, a ceremony, or anything that recognizes the importance of what Wood has done. Personal success matters to Woods and they love to have it acknowledged. But too many Wood-driven celebrations can put Fires at risk because they will quite literally burn themselves out. So when Water steps in and dampens down some of the flames, Fire survives. Fire’s gratitude to Water is seen it its ability to keep excess Metal from over-structuring Water.
Earth people need to connect with others. They see Fire’s celebrations as a perfect opportunity to mix and mingle and bond. They express their gratitude to Fire by creating the organic boundaries of the hearth, which allows Fire to burn brightly without scattering. But too much service can put Earths at risk because they lose touch with their own needs. So when Wood steps in to stabilize and ground them, Earth survives. Earth’s gratitude to Wood is seen it its ability to keep excess Water from rotting Wood.
Metal people need support so they can focus on their work. They get this from Earth and express their gratitude simply by allowing Earths to assist them. Earths adore helping people and always appreciate opportunities to do so. But too much adoration can create in Metals a false sense of their own importance. So when Fire steps in and softens this rigidly held belief, Metal survives. Metal’s gratitude to Fire is seen it its ability to keep excess Wood from over-exciting it.
And so it is that the cycles of gratitude and thanks-giving go on and on in the beauty and perfection of the Five Elements model. May gratitude bless us all and last forever.