Sylvia Watson, FSIA, Feng Shui Consultant Columbus, Ohio
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The Five Elements

“Each of the five elements depends upon the others, and life itself depends upon their intricate balance and interdependence.” - Jason Elias & Katherine Ketcham

The concept of the five elements -- wood, fire, earth, metal and water -- is an integral component of Chinese philosophy. These elements are the building blocks of the universe. Although each element can be defined by specific characteristics, it is crucial that they not be seen as fixed or separate from each other. These elements interact with each other; how they are combined explains why a space feels inviting or forbidding.

Everything in existence, living or inanimate, can be categorized according to one of the five elements. As you learn about these powerful five, keep in mind that no one element is better than any other element; each should be appreciated for the assets and influence it imparts. For this reason, all five elements should be represented within a space.

Although we explain the elements in tangible terms such as color, shape and materials, they have intangible effects on the mood, conversation and even the behavior of occupants.

The Elements: It’s All About Change

Nature is always changing, following a certain order or cycle that explains all life processes. That life cycle is made up of a beginning or emergence; a zenith or most active phase; a waning or slowing down period; and an end or period of dormancy. Each of these phases corresponds to one of the five elements. This change process passes from beginning to end only to start over again.

To help you understand the process, let’s take a look at the life cycle of a perennial flower, the day lily as told through the five elements. Here’s how the story goes.

  • The Wood Stage - In spring the day lily pushes upward through the dirt and sprouts baby leaf stalks. At this point, the day lily is like a baby or toddler, full of energy, bending this way and that way, eager to grow. Learn from wood’s new beginnings: be eager to pursue new endeavors, take a few risks and be flexible.
  • The Fire Stage - It is now summer and this beautiful flower is growing, blooming ever more colorful. The day lily is at this point, like a teenager or young adult, full of life and growing. Learn from fire’s peak performance: stay active, motivated and inspired.
  • The Earth Stage - The day lily has reaches a mid-point, where for a short while, it’s the best that it can be. As part of the life cycle, it is a time of transition and a time for pause. Just as wood is associated with spring and fire is associated with summer, earth’s season is Indian summer; not too hot or too cold. Learn from earth’s stability and equilibrium: stay grounded, centered and balanced.
  • The Metal Stage - Now the day lily wanes, relaxes and starts to loose its color and shape. As fall approaches, cooler weather forces the flower’s roots to contract and prepare for winter. Learn from metal’s preparation, concentration, and order: be focused and let go of what is no longer useful.
  • The Water Stage - With winter coming, the day lily has retreated into the ground where it lies dormant, in a deep slumber. Not to be mistaken for death, this stage of the life cycle is crucial as it allows the day lily the needed nutrients and rest that is needed before emerging again in the spring. Learn from water’s introspection, acceptance and stillness: honor what lies within, meditate and remain still.

After winter passes, spring arrives again and the life cycle repeats itself not once but again and again. Learn to appreciate the process, trusting that change brings about what is needed to survive and thrive. Nature is a wise teacher. Just as the flower moves gently through the change process without resistance, we too need to embrace the inevitable flow of life. We are not meant to remain the same; if we do, we become stagnant, inflexible and unhealthy.

Getting Down to the Facts

The five elements are important feng shui tools used to create desirable living and work spaces. For this reason, you need to know more about them. The more familiar you are about the elements, the more likely you can create a warm and friendly family room, a soothing and calm bedroom or an inviting and alluring kitchen.

Each element can be described in terms of color, season, direction, shape, objects, movement patterns, influence exerted and the list goes on. Below are characteristics that further define the five elements. We also include a way to use each element or what we call a remedy along with a word of caution for each. In this way, you grasp the meaning and essence behind the facts. It’s like learning the definition of a new word. Although you can look it up in the dictionary, it’s not until you hear it used in a sentence that you fully understand how to use it properly.

How do we start our feng shui partnership? Learn more about our feng shui services.


"I never mentioned the Space Clearing to anyone: I wanted proof that it brought results. What a surprise. My clients asked me what I had done. The general consensus was that it felt more positive and comforting; believe me that’s what a therapist wants to hear. What I wasn’t prepared for was the resignation of a problem employee the day after the Space Clearing. Now I know what you mean about the positive pushing out the negative." Tom B.

"Thanks Sylvia! You have had a tremendous positive impact on my life and I'm so grateful!! Before you came into my life, I felt stuck with no sense of direction. Now, I just keep going and going like an energizer bunny Boy you weren't kidding about being in my "fire stage"-.LOL. It has been a whirlwind but many changes and things headed towards the right and loving life. You helped me create a wonderful energy throughout my home. I get compliments from everyone who visits." Marie B.

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