This video is my version of a short Wu Xing (Five Elements) meditation that Master Yang Fukui shared with me. I find it really accessible and effective.
The “elements” of the Wu Xing are not like the elements of the Periodic Table (boron, helium, xenon, etc.). The Five Elements Theory is an ancient Chinese system that describes the relationships and interactions between things, rather than identifying things themselves. It dates back about 2500 years and is woven into Chinese philosophy, medicine, martial arts, and cooking. Each of the five elements–wood, fire, earth, metal, and water– has its own characteristics and associations as well as relationships to the other elements. Charts have been compiled over the centuries assigning the five elements to everything from sensory organs and tastes to colors, numbers, and hours of the day.
One can easily get lost in this forest of information. Let’s simplify the discussion a bit for the purposes of this meditation:
Each element correspond to a season of the year and to a pair of internal organs and their meridians:
Wood: Spring. Liver/Gall bladder
Fire: Summer. Heart/Small intestine
Earth: Late Summer. Spleen/stomach
Metal: Fall. Lungs/Large intestine
The Cycle of Generation is one relationship between these elements. Wood > Fire > Earth > Metal > Water. The seasons follow this sequence, and each one energetically feeds the one that follows (e.g. Water feeds Wood. Wood fuels Fire). In the above meditation, we follow the blueprint of the seasons to use these energies to nourish our internal organs, specifically the Yin organs (liver, heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys). While the “organs” of Chinese medicine/philosophy refer to the organ function more than the physical tissue itself, there is a relationship between the two.
The guiding principle of this meditation is the maxim, “The Yi (wisdom mind, intention) leads the Qi. The Qi leads the blood.” That is, when calm and clear attention and intention are brought to part of the body, the Qi is led there. The body’s resources are drawn there by the Qi. Many people can witness this principle by simply bringing sustained awareness to one hand for a minute. The hand will usually exhibit signs of increased circulation (redness, tingling, warmth, sense of fullness). It is easier to observer the effects of the Qi at first, then gradually attune to the subtle energies themselves as one becomes more familiar with insubstantiality.
In this meditation, we start by feeling the liver (lower right ribcage) and taking a deep breath. It may help to put your hand there to develop sensory awareness of your liver. With some practice, you can learn to feel it “from the inside.” Feeling serves the dual purpose of drawing the Qi to the liver and shifting the brain into a heightened state of coherence by awakening neural connections that have been dormant. The liver’s energy is growth and expansion, Wood (like plants in springtime). Qi is transforming from the Yin of Water/winter and moving towards the Yang of Fire/summer. (See Understanding Qualities of Energy Part 2: Wood.)
Wood element feeds the heart, whose energy is Fire--joy and compassion. Fire is the most Yang of the elements. Feeling the heart (left center of chest), internally or with your hand, brings nourishing Qi there and continues the process of body-mind-spirit integration that accompanies whole-brain coherence. Take a deep, relaxing breath as you feel your heart. (See Understanding Qualities of Energy #4: Fire.)
Next is the spleen, Earth. The energy is calming, grounding, and centering. Qi begins to condense, and move toward Yin. Spleen is located at the upper left of the stomach. It is difficult to sense on its own, but feeling the ribcage with your hand while breathing deeply will lead the Qi to the area. (See Understanding Qualities of Energy #5: Earth)
Metal is the Qi of fall and the energy condenses even more, going from Yang to Yin. The Yin organ is Lung. Metal is strong, directed, and determined, but it is also about letting go, paring down, shedding. Savoring each breath guides Qi to the lungs. Each inhale is strong and directed. Each exhale is an adventure in letting go. (See Understanding Qualities of Energy Part 1: Metal.)
Water completes the cycle. It is the element of winter/kidney, and is the most Yin of the lot. It moves toward stillness, regeneration, and conservation, like a hibernating bear. It is associated with wisdom, flexibility, and fluidity. As difficult as it is for many of us to slow down, winter is the perfect time to do it. Feeling into the nourishment of Water creates a solid foundation for the rest of the elements. Kidneys are located in the lower back, to either side of the spine, between the intestines and the diaphragm. Metal energy from the lung feeds the feeds the kidney. (See Understanding Qualities of Energy Part 3: Water. )
Then the cycle begins anew, with Water nourishing Wood. Each time we bring awareness to this process, the Cycle of Generation nourishes the internal organs and supports inner harmony. Sifu Valarie Gabel says she likes to do it as she goes to sleep, often not getting all the way through. As we become familiar with this pattern, it takes less awareness to keep it going. It becomes part of who we are.
Try this Wu Xing Meditation. I would like to hear how it works for you.