I may be sitting in my home office, but I still have access to all of the elements of nature. I love watching wildlife when I pause to think about an idea, or noticing the shadows as the sun traces its arc across the sky outside my window. Plus, nature has proven to slow our heart rate, release serotonin (which stimulates the relaxation response), and grant us magical creativity and inspiration. And who doesn’t want that?
Feng shui, also known as the art of placement, has roots in Chinese philosophy developed over 4,000 years ago. Three of the foundational concepts are the concept of chi (loosely translated to life-force energy), the complementary opposites of yin and yang, and the five elements of the universe: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These elements are symbolic as well as physical, and each one represents a different energy as well.
Moving with the seasons
One of the best ways to explore the energy of the five natural elements is through their connection to the season.
- Wood represents spring and uprising energy, such as plants pushing through the soil.
- Fire represents summer and ascending energy, such as flames reaching to the heavens.
- Earth represents early fall with stabilizing, grounding energy.
- Metal represents late fall with contracting energy, such as when trees lose their leaves to conserve.
- Water represents winter and descending energy, such as falling rain.
Like the season, these elements are cyclical. This illustration shows how they work together.
When you follow the black line, you'll see that:
- Wood feeds fire
- Fire creates ash (soil)
- Earth produces metal (minerals)
- Metal nourishes water
- Water feeds wood (plants)
To counterbalance and keep harmony in the natural world, there is also the controlling cycle, which corresponds to the green line:
- Fire melts metal
- Metal chops wood
- Wood (plants) breaks through earth
- Earth dams up water
- Water dowses fire
Thus, every element "creates" another element and "controls" one, too. This ensures that balance and harmony are always maintained in nature.
How to use every element to find balance
The elements are in everything in creation, including us! When we connect to these elements, we also bring ourselves back into balance. Here are a few ways to incorporate each one into your workspace.
Wood is mostly associated with plants, flowers, trees, and of course, the color green. We can place a plant or two on our desk or nearby, which also has a great bonus of improving the air quality in our offices. If we are lucky enough to have a view of trees or plants, this will really be a bonus during the workday.
Wood is about taking initiative on new projects, being competitive (which can make others rise to the occasion), and acting courageously.
Fire is natural sunlight and manmade lighting, as well as real fire. It is the boldness of red and deep orange. If we have a window to the outside world from our desk, it will enhance our feeling of well being. Notice the subtle changes of sunlight throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky.
Fire is extroverted and loves to be with others, sometimes on a large scale. It’s about laughter and joy, as well as heart-centered connection. Fire inspires others to gather and accomplish things together. Fire has vision and clarity. Fire can light the way for others.
Earth is the ground we walk upon. It is the soil and geographic features, such as mountains, valleys, and open spaces. The colors of earth are the colors of soil, from sandy beige to peat-moss brown, as well as orangey clays, and yellow. We can bring earth into our spaces with a bowl of rocks or a crystal, a piece of pottery, or a terra cotta pot.
Earth is the archetype of the earth mother. It is about community and teamwork. The quality of earth is in the background on projects, acting as a valued, reliable, and responsible team player. Earth gets things done with great follow-through.
Metal represents the metals and minerals from within the earth as well as the open sky and air. If we have the opportunity to step out during our workday, we can notice the sky and breathe the fresh air, bringing the essence of metal into our bodies. We can also place a metal object on our desk as a reminder of this invigorating energy.
Metal is about structure and organization. Metal is authoritative and others look to it for leadership. It is associated with precision and refinement. The metal quality will always check and recheck the work, making sure there are no errors. Metal has great confidence and strength.
And finally, water is symbolized by any body of water, natural or manmade. It’s the colors of black and blue. If we are very lucky, we might have a view of water from our office. If not, a water fountain or aquarium will work, too. Even a photograph or artwork depicting an aquatic scene is nice in an office space.
Water represents the energy of going inside and being still. The water quality is reflective and imaginative. Water often contributes to new insights and wonderfully creative ideas. Water can be playful or sometimes prefers to work solo.
When we tap into these amazing qualities of nature we are able to be in harmony in our workplace and become more inspired and balanced.