Winter Solstice and the Five Elements

Dear Vicki: The Winter Solstice is approaching and I’m dreading it as the start of winter. The dark and cold make me very unhappy. But my sister (a writer) loves December: The darker and colder, the better for her. I think she’s crazy, but how can we be so different when we’re just one year apart? Could this have something to do with our elements? I don’t even know what element I am. Signed: Dreading Winter

Dear Dreading: Winter Solstice does herald the start of winter in the northern hemisphere; December, January and February are usually the coldest, darkest months here. But within the Five Elements model, Winter Solstice represents a pause in the constant cycling between light and dark. December 21 is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Beginning the next day, the nights shorten and the days lengthen. So if you hate the dark, Winter Solstice is good news for you because beginning December 22, the days get longer. But the cold? Well, that’s around for several more months.

To answer your question, how we respond to a time of year absolutely can have to do with our element, especially since each element has a seasonal affiliation. On the surface of things, it seems logical that an element would resonate with their own season, and that can be true. But it isn’t always so straightforward. If someone’s primary element is unbalanced, they may not do well with their own season and may really need what another season has to offer. Let’s look at how this might work and perhaps you will recognize yourself.

Continue reading

The Five Elements: Thankful for Each Other

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.

Continue reading

The Holiday Season: What Matters to Each Element

Dear Vicki: “I’m devastated that my grandchildren won’t be here for Thanksgiving. How could their parents decide to take them to Hawaii?”

Dear Vicki: “I don’t want to go to the company holiday party. Can I get out of it?”

Dear Vicki: “My husband is obsessed with finding the perfect gift for his best friend. How can I convince him that’s not the point?”

Dear Vicki: “I want to host the family holidays this year. I throw better parties, but my sister says they’re too loud. Who should win?”

Dear Vicki: “My wife and I have always had a quiet ceremony on New Years Eve, but now she thinks we should go to her best friend’s house instead. Really?”

Etc.

Dear Readers: To paraphrase A Tale of Two Cities, the holiday season is the best of times, and the worst. The holidays celebrated from November through January, replete with tradition and meaning, guarantee that fun and ceremony will likely end up co-mingling with pushed buttons and dashed expectations. “We’ve always done it this way; that matters to me” must dance with “We’ve always done it this way; I think it’s boring.” To help you navigate the holiday season and keep your relationships harmonious, I offer a brief summary of what will matter to each of the elements, and what won’t. There are also a few suggestions regarding ways to keep the season happy for everyone.

Water People: Odd as it may seem, the hustle-bustle of the holidays sits in Water time, which is winter here in the northern hemisphere, a time for quietness and contemplation. This energy of going inside sets the tone for Waters’ lives, so don’t expect your Water friends and family to start acting like Fires just because the holidays are here. On their own, or in quiet talks with others, Waters will emphasize the meaning of the season and how it relates to the bigger picture of almost everything. Ultimately, they might be willing to participate in events they deem important, but you may still need to coax. If and when they do show up, help them feel welcome and part of things by finding a small group of people with whom they can enjoy deep discussions. I know one woman who invites several philosophy junkie friends to her family party every year to help keep her Watery uncle engaged. Be gentle with the Waters and remember that if things get too intense, they might float away to a quiet cove for a while. Let them. And holiday season or not, remember that time alone will still be of paramount importance to your Water friends and family.

Continue reading

A Water Asks: Can I Be Different Elements?

Dear Vicki: I’ve read about the Five Elements personalities and usually think I’m a Water. I spend a lot of time alone, am a fairly good artist, but can’t seem to get anything going with my work. One person I do hang out with sometimes is my cousin Ellen, who I’m pretty sure is a Fire. She’s always happy, busy, and popular. When I’m with her, I think I might be a Fire because I sure have fun, but on my own, it doesn’t last. I’ve also had times when I think I could be an Earth because I often feel a real need to be outside in the garden. Or in the fall I think I could be a Metal because I want to get rid of everything around me and start fresh. But all that seems to go in phases because most days I don’t want to do anything but stay inside and paint. Why do I seem to be different elements at different times? I’ve heard it said that we can’t change the element we’re born with, but I seem to be changing. Is that possible? Signed: Maybe a Water

Dear Maybe: Great question! The short answer is that we can’t change what is called our primary elemental affinity. I think of our elemental affinity as a secret club we’re born into that affects almost every aspect of how we live our lives. I also think we select our club for a given lifetime based on what we want to accomplish during that life and/or what we may still need to learn. And while we can’t change the club membership we are born with, we can – and do – visit other clubhouses during our life. Sometimes we seek out these visits and sometimes life circumstances create the visits. I think this is what’s happening for you.

Liking time alone, artistic talent, and an unfortunate inability to make things happen with ease does sound like Water. And as a Water, you represent pure yin energy. This means you have come to experience the profound depths and imagination of the inner focus so common to Waters, yet learn not to go so deep as to lose sight of the fact that you have to function in the outer world, too.

Give this, it’s probably not a coincidence that Ellen, the person you most like to hang out with, is a Fire. The wild and crazy yang energy of a Fire is the exact opposite of your inner world and therefore balances you. Hanging out with you probably also balances Ellen – you share with each other a perspective on life that’s exotic and strange. Waters rarely experience the warmth of the sun on their own, and Fires rarely experience the coolness of the water on their own. Together, you bring balance and broaden each other’s experience of life, but that doesn’t change who you are at your core. You’re still a Water and she’s still a Fire.

Continue reading

Nurture vs. Control: Nurturing is Best, Right?

Dear Vicki: Your recent posts about how the five elements can feel controlling to us in relationships were pretty good; I learned a lot. But they left me with a question: Should I just avoid close relationships with people who are on my Controlling Cycle? As a Wood, I’m guessing that I’ll always feel uncomfortable around Metals, even balanced ones, so maybe I should go for relationship with the elements that sit on my Nurturing Cycle. That has to create better relationships, doesn’t it? Signed: Catching On in Connecticut

Dear Catching On: Thank you for your kind words about my blog posts. I’m very glad you are learning a lot, and I’m even gladder that you have written in with your excellent question. There is so much that goes into creating relationships that I fear you will be in big trouble if you chose only to relate to Water or Fire people (the elements that sit on your Nurturing Cycle). First, you will probably be unable to accomplish this because some relationships are dictated by our occupations. Unless you work by yourself or own the place where you work, you will likely have little say regarding co-worker selection. Second, when love strikes, I suspect it can’t be relied on to honor your intention regarding Nurturing Cycle relationships. And that’s as it should be; love often provides our richest growth opportunities. Third, and most importantly, the whole point of understanding how the different elements interact with each other is to facilitate our ability to get along with anyone.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please remember that when you understand what’s important to each of the elements, what motivates them, what they need to be happy, what upsets them and why, you have at your fingertips all that you need to get along with them. And while as a Wood you think you may never feel completely comfortable with Metals, I will respectfully disagree. I’m a primary Wood married to a Metal and it’s a fantastic relationship! Do I have to remind myself from time to time that his basic outlook on the world is different from mine? Absolutely! But so often that difference ends up helping me. I’ll give you an example.

Continue reading