Feng Shui 101: Introducing the 5 Elements
Are you Feng Shui-Curious? Maybe you want to learn a trick or two to enliven your home or office. If you’ve been poking around for answers, by now you’ve probably run across the concept of the Five Elements. Don’t let this mystery scare you away. Many consultants and authors assume you know what the Five Elements are, and why they matter. If you’re new to the idea of Feng Shui and want to understand how to apply some of the principles, you need to understand the Five Elements—they are the building blocks of a well-balanced home and life.
What are the Five Elements?
Very simply, they are the basic elements of life: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. In the ancient practice of Feng Shui, we understand these elements to be more than actual flames, or dirt, or pieces of wood. These elements are universal energetic essences, each with their own flavor of chi. They are phases; how energy can shift in quality and purpose between one state to the next. When you hear the word “chi” (pronounced like “cheese” without the “z” sound at the end) you can simply think of energy. How much, or what type, of “energy” does a person, place, or thing have? When you walk into a room, does it energize you, or make you feel drained? Some days, you may wake up enlivened, full of buoyancy, and other days you may feel like you can barely get yourself to work. Maybe there is a place in nature that has a certain kind of power to it. All these examples can be attributed to chi, and chi guides our practice of Feng Shui.
Practitioners of Feng Shui will talk about each of the Five Elements as having a “signature of chi.” Let’s start by thinking about each of the elements, and how they might make you feel. To understand the energies of each element you need to bring to mind what they are like in nature. Tune into your own experience of the physical representation of the element as we look at each one.
The Fire Element
- Expansive, spreading movement
- Transformative and changeable
- Warm/kind to hot/passionate
- Triangular shapes
- Reds and oranges
The Earth Element
- Stable, grounding, little to no movement
- Centered and nurturing
- Square and rectangular shapes
- Browns, tans, ochre and yellows
The Wood Element
- Growing upward moving energy
- Vital and active
- New growth, flexible like bamboo
- Columnar shapes
- Greens, mid-blues and teals
The Water Element
- Deep, still and wise or flowing, circulating and connecting
- Cool and dark
- Clarity and wisdom
- Formless and undulating
- Black, dark gray and dark blue
The Metal Element
- Contracting and rigid
- Righteous and correct
- Circles, spheres
- White, metallic and pale greys and blues
How to use the Five Elements in Feng Shui and in Life
The practice of Feng Shui empowers us to adjust and enhance chi in ourselves or in the spaces we inhabit. And we can do this by using the various phases of “chi” expressed through the Five Elements. We use the color, shape, or material that represents fire, earth, wood, water, or metal to shift the energy in our home, office, or within our body. The strongest way to enhance and activate a particular type of energy is to bring the actual element in to a space. For example, using candles to bring the chi of the Fire element into your home, or having plants for the vital, youthful, creative energy of the Wood element. Color is another simple yet powerful way to bring an element into a space. Below is a simple chart outlining which items and colors you can use to bring the Five Elements into your space:
Experiment by adding these colors and shapes to your space and observe how the chi changes.
In my next post, I’ll explore how to integrate the Five Elements into your design and decorating!