Lessons from Nature
In this article I will discuss and give you examples of the "creation" and "controlling" cycles in nature. In the second article these cycles will be used to apply lessons of nature to our
Previous articles have noted that the ancient Chinese observed a cyclical pattern of expression in nature, and this pattern was governed by the Five Elements. These Elements or energies are
felt to be the prime energetic building blocks from which everything in the material world is composed. So, every living thing and every person is a unique embodiment and combination of these Five elements. The Five
Elements are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal.
Together, the Five Elements help us to understand the process of dynamic harmony and balance in the whole system of energy.
Sheng ("Creation") Cycle
The solid arrows that are shown in between each of the Five Elements in the image above represents the Sheng (pronounced Shang) Cycle. The Sheng Cycle is a cycle that demonstrates how each of
the five elements is "created" by the element preceding it. For example, Water creates Wood (plants) by providing nourishment, Wood creates Fire by being burnt, Fire creates Earth from the ashes, Earth creates Metal
(think of iron ore, rock, or the minerals in the soil) by being compressed and hardened, and Metal creates Water by containing it (without rocks in a stream bed the water would soak into the earth).
There are many examples in nature of this creative cyclical movement:
- Water creating Wood can be seen as rain provides valuable nourishment for plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other vegetation. If we donít receive enough rain in the Spring and
Summer, the vegetation will not grow to maximum maturity, and will not bear much "fruit" for us to eat.
- Wood creating Fire can be seen at a campfire on a cool, Fall evening. The more wood that is placed into a campfire, the brighter, hotter, and longer the fire will burn. Oh, that warmth
feels nice (and the toasted marshmallows are good, too).
- Fire creating Earth can be seen as the ashes from the cooling fire create new land. For example, when a volcano erupts, the cooling lava creates new land. Also, the summer heat allows
vegetation to grow. Then when the vegetation dries up and dies off in Fall, it creates fertilizer for the earth.
- Earth creating Metal can be seen as downward forces (such as gravity) squeeze the minerals of the earth together to form metal, such as copper. Living in south-central Pennsylvania, veins
of copper can be seen along the sides of the road where a hill had been cut through to create the highway.
- Metal creating Water can be seen as streams and rivers flow in specific pathways because the ores of the earth provide channels for the water to flow within.
All five of these movements within the Sheng Cycle occur simultaneously. Therefore, if one movement is removed, the entire cycle gets stuck. When one element is missing or is over abundant,
nature will show up as being "not quite right". Just think of how nature "showed up" this Spring when it was so cool and wet; or when last Summer was too hot and dry.
Ko ("Control") Cycle
The dashed arrows that are shown inside of the Five Element image represent the Ko (pronounced Koh) Cycle. Can you see how the arrows are drawn between alternate Elements? This is the
"control" cycle that prevents excessive growth of any one Element by allowing mutual checks and balance among the Five Elements. Thus, the Ko Cycle helps to keep balance in the natural world. Water controls Fire,
Fire controls Metal, Metal controls Wood, Wood controls Earth, and Earth controls Water. Water controls Fire by extinguishing it, Fire controls Metal by melting it (iron ore is melted to make something useful like
steel), Metal controls Wood by cutting it, Wood (plant covering and tree roots) controls Earth by preventing erosion, and Earth controls Water by containing its flow (giving it a boundary).
The Ko cycle should not be evaluated as a negative cycle because it "controls." Like the Sheng cycle, it too moves in a positive direction, occurs simultaneously among the elements, and can be
seen in nature.
The element of Water can be seen controlling Fire when it begins to rain on a campfire quenching the flames.
The element of Fire can be seen controlling Metal by melting the metal and making it malleable. Also, it is believed that chunks of metal such as iron and aluminum can be used as fuels by
turning them into powder. On ignition this powder will release copious quantities of energy (www.techno-preneur.net).
The element of Metal can be seen controlling Wood by a lawnmower blade cutting grass so that the grass does not grow too high, or by a saw cutting down an overgrown tree.
The element of Wood can be seen controlling Earth by the roots of a tree holding the soil from eroding away along a streambed.
The element of Earth can be seen controlling Water by absorbing excess rainwater; thus, preventing flooding. Also, a mound of dirt can be used to dam up water control how the water flows
through a stream.
We can see that when the Five Elements are in balance with each other via the Sheng and Ko Cycles, nature will thrive. When it comes to our health, if all Five Elements are in balance within
us, then we are at a state of optimal health/wellness.
Life lessons that we can learn from observing the Sheng and Ko cycles within nature and ourselves.
Examples in nature and our lives of a balanced and unbalanced Sheng cycle.
Water creating Wood
In Nature: can be seen as rain providing valuable nourishment for the growth of plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other vegetation. When out of balance, if there is too much rain, the
vegetation can "drown." If a drought occurs, there will be no new growth and vegetation will become dry and brittle (just look at the Midwest right now).
In Humans: can be seen as the embryo containing the "inherited essence" holding the "blueprint" of a newbornís growth and development. When out of balance, too much water held within the body
causes edema, or may show up as someone "babbling" with nervousness. Too little water causes us to be less flexible, and our limbs may become stiff.
Wood creating Fire
In Nature: can be seen at a campfire. The more wood that is placed into a campfire, the brighter, hotter, and longer the fire will burn. When out of balance, too much wood can cause a fire to
blaze out of control. If there is not enough wood for the fire, the fire will not generate enough heat to be warming or cook food.
In Humans: can be seen as we follow our "blueprint" and create possibilities so that life will be fuller and brighter. When out of balance, a fire blazing out of control (too much planning and
organizing) can end up "burning up" many of your reserves causing you to feel exhausted. Too narrow a personal vision/intention may not allow for a very fulfilling life.
Fire creating Earth
In Nature: can be seen as the ashes from the cooling fire creating new land. When out of balance, a volcano can destroy everything that is in its path, or a prolonged heat wave (like in the
Midwest) will not allow the earth to sustain life.
In Humans: can be seen as we bring warmth and compassion to the world, and are thoughtful and grounded in our interactions with others. When out of balance, we can become "dried up" and act
like a sponge, soaking in as much attention as we can get. Too little warmth will not keep our earth at the right moisture level, and we will feel sluggish, "soggy," and sloth-like.
Earth creating Metal
In Nature: can be seen as downward forces (such as gravity) squeezing the minerals of the earth together to form metals and valuable stones. When out of balance, too rocky of soil will not be
able to provide nourishment to what is planted. Also, when farmers do not rotate their crops there will be a tendency to deplete the soil of the valuable minerals and nutrients.
In Humans: can be seen as we are centered and grounded, thus recognizing the value and preciousness of everyone and everything in the universe. When out of balance, standing on "rocky ground"
may cause us to not feel stable. Also, if we are not well grounded, we may never see our value and let it shine in the world.
Metal creating Water
In Nature: can be seen as streams and rivers flowing in specific pathways because the ores of the earth provide channels for the water to flow within. When out of balance, water could flow
away from where it is needed too easily and not be able to be used.
In Humans: can be seen as we value and respect everyone/everything, thus we are willing to allow things to "flow" as they are and allow others to be as quiet or powerful as they want to be.
When out of balance, if we value ourselves too much or too little, then we could potentially attempt to have too much power over a situation, or not even recognize that we do have power over a situation.
Examples in nature and our lives of a balanced and unbalanced Ko cycle.
Water controlling Fire
In Nature: can be seen as water quenching a fireís flames so that it doesnít burn out of control.
In Humans: can be seen as "cooling off" when we are emotionally "overheated." When out of balance, we could be "cold-hearted" and not have "warmth" toward anyone. We could also suffer from
"burn-out" because we have not "rested" enough.
Fire controlling Metal
In Nature: can be seen as heat melting metal and making it malleable.
In Humans: can be seen as "warming-up" and being less "rigid" in our ways and beliefs so that life is not as "hard." When out of balance we can become so malleable by someone elseís love that
we loose ourselves and our beliefs. We could also be closed off to someone elseís warmth and be "hardened."
Metal Controlling Wood
In Nature: can be seen as a saw cutting down an overgrown tree.
In Humans: can be seen as "cutting back" on overextending ourselves, so that we stay "closer" to home. When out of balance we can "cut down" ideas and suggestions of others, or not be able to
"let something go" and therefore, have no room for new growth and possibilities.
Wood Controlling Earth
In Nature: can be seen as the roots of a tree keeping soil from eroding.
In Humans: can be seen as our "rootedness" keeping us grounded and having a solid foundation to stand on. When out of balance we could have "loose footing" (like walking on sand) and not feel
secure. Also, if we hold ourselves too tightly, we could feel heavy, or strangled.
Earth Controlling Water
In Nature: can be seen as absorbing excess rainwater; thus, preventing flooding. Also, a mound of dirt can be used to dam up water control water (i.e., cranberry bogs).
In Humans: can be seen as our grounding and centeredness prevents us from scattering in many different directions. When out of balance we can be too "boxed in" and not let our potential flow,
or physically hold onto too much water which can lead to edema. We could also not contain our resources well enough and let our energies be spent in too many places.
We can see that when the Five Elements are in balance with each other via the Sheng and Ko Cycles, nature will thrive. When it comes to our lives, if all Five Elements are in balance within
us, then we are at a state of optimal health/wellness.
In the mystery of nature, neither promotion of growth (Sheng) nor control (ko) is dispensable. Without promotion of growth, there would be no development; without control,
excessive growth would result in harm. (Ling Shu; Liu, 1988, p. 53)
Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA. She can be reached at 717-752-5728.