Shen Garden Acupuncture

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The Five Elements

The Five Elements comprise the five energetic forces which make up all living organisms. Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each Element has a unique characteristic nature. The Elements do not exist independently. They only exist in relationship to one another. Their relationship to one another forms a system of checks and balances which is ultimately responsible for our health and development.

When an imbalance takes root in our bodies, illness begins to manifest. By understanding the influences of the Five Elements we can see the way back to health.

Wood feeds Fire, Water controls Fire.
Fire feeds Earth, Wood controls Earth.
Earth feeds Metal, Fire controls Metal.
Metal feeds Water, Earth controls Water.
Water feeds Wood, Metal controls Wood.

These are very simple yet elegant laws of nature that can be used to understand the best place to put that plant, why you can’t fall asleep or what is happening in your marriage. Wherever we look in nature, we can see relationships between the Elements. I have yet to find a paradigm so complete, so beautiful — confirmable by anyone who has spent time walking in nature.


“Love me, love me not.”

fire element

We open our arms like a big mirror and radiate warmth and love out from our hearts.
We open our arms like a big bowl and receive love and warmth back into our hearts.
This is the movement of Fire, establishing and maintaining heart to heart connection.
Do we risk exposure in order to feel and be felt by others? Or do we not take the risk and feel alone and isolated in a cold and indifferent world.
Our Fire Element is where we interface with this present moment. Fire is the “be here now” Element. It is our main point of contact to the outside world. Our ability to show up and be present, and thus be consciously aware of the world around us. How well we take in and sort out all the bits of data that is being received by our senses moment to moment is largely the responsibility of our Fire Element. Are we easily overwhelmed? Do we get lost in details that don’t actually matter?
When our Fire Element is operating effectively, we are able to stay present and filter through the endless streams of incoming data so that we are only conscious of what is necessary and pertinent to the given moment. It is this steady and persistent activity of being present and sorting which produces our stream of consciousness.
So much of our moment to moment experience of this life is hinged upon our ability to be present and sort efficiently. I cannot think of any other pair of faculties that have a greater influence on our overall quality of life. How long can we be present before we are distracted by the endless chatter of the mind? What are we actually sorting for? Are we sorting for love, beauty, kindness, hope, wisdom? Or is it possible that we may be sorting for less noble data. Are we sorting for proof that we are unworthy or undeserving of love? Are we sorting opportunistically for what the mind desires? Or is our sorter taking it’s directives from the deep yearning of our Heart. The Heart has but one desire and one filter setting, Love. How can we love even more? Of all the offerings on the table of Life how can I drink only from the cup of Love and how can I share of this cup with others? Can you imagine a world in which these were the perimeters our sorters were set for? Are you aware that this is not quite the world we find ourselves? Are you able to see how each of us continue to play our part in this awareness? Does your Heart need consulting? Is your sorter in service to the Heart? Or, has your sorter been enslaved by some other part of your being?
The season associated with the Fire Element is summer. Everything we need to know about the Fire Element we can learn by observing nature during summertime. The time of year when everything comes out to play, to be self-expressive, full flower, the ability to shine, playfulness, radiance, warmth, cookouts, the beach, joy, laughter.
The organ systems associated with the Fire Element are the Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium and Triple Heater.

Signs and symptoms that our Fire Element may need support:

The primary emotion is Joy. There may be to much joy, so much that the heart cannot contain it all and thus it feels like anxiety. Or there is not enough joy and we are in a deep state of sadness. You will most likely feel it in your upper chest and heart region.


“Where do we go from here?”

wood element

When we are challenged to change, grow, expand or heal we are engaging our Wood Element. Wood is the whole movement from where we are to where we need to be. The movement from oppression towards freedom. From lost and floundering to goal oriented visionary.
Wherever there is movement, there is opposition, either from within or without. How we deal with opposition depends on the state of our Wood Element. Can we be sleek, graceful, almost effortless in our continuous dance with life? Or does our interactions feel awkward and jerky? Are we fully alive, responsive, and committed to being constructive even if it means giving up being right? Can we find creative solutions to complicated issues?
The interface between challenge and response. Whether it be the challenge of finding a good parking spot or the challenge of figuring out where we are going with our life. Both require keen vision and good sense of perspective.
It is our Wood Element that allows us to meet all opposition as an invitation to grow, maybe in a way we never would of imagined. It is our ability to dance and move responsively to the challenges of this life. As opposed to just digging in our heels, Wood challenges us to find a way where we all get what we need.
Anger is the acute awareness of the need to grow. Sometimes it is we who need to grow and sometimes it is the outer world that needs to change, move, evolve, expand, adapt, heal etc.. Wisdom is knowing the difference. When do we push and when do we yield?
The birthing process, healing old wounds, stepping into the next chapter of our lives, negotiating opposition. Nothing is born into this life without a bit of elbowing and pushing. How graceful we can be with transformation depends on the flexibility and creativity of our Wood Element. Our ability to come back to life regardless of what happened, resilience, choosing growth over death, this is Wood.
The season associated with the Wood Element is Spring. Everything you need to know about the Wood Element can be observed in nature as Spring comes alive. The power of those little seedlings bursting through the ground. The explosion of growth. All that it takes to come back to life after the long cold Winter. The ability to heal, and say a resounding Yes to life even if it hurts.
The two main organ systems that belong to the Wood Element are the Liver and Gall Bladder.

Signs and symptoms that our Wood Element may need support:


“Savor the wine, let go of the cup.”

metal element

Metal is the wildness within us that can only be tamed by the One.
Metal is our animal, instinctual nature, keenly aware of the border between self and other, it is what keeps us real. It forces is to deal with the truth of “what is”.
Metal is what holds us fully in our bodies and makes us animated and responsive.
Metal is our inner prophet. Our connection to the Unity. Our built in honing device.
Metal forms our truth detector, our ability to smell a lie.
Metal forms the structure of our value system. Honor and respect.
Metal is that part of us that still remembers the perfection that we came from and encourages us to hone and perfect our walking so that we may re-enter the Garden.
Metal seeks to find our place among the nature of things.
There is this hum of life. The buzz of careful choreography. Beautiful simplicity. All creatures just being their authentic nature. Birds being birds, trees being trees, clouds being clouds. There is a natural order of things. There are natural laws and hierarchy which give structure and context to this life. All creatures are playing their part not by pretending, rather by being real. When we are true to our authentic nature as it was intended to manifest in us, there is a feeling of correctness. It just feels right. This may take practice.
In nature all the creatures are plugged in. Fed by the same source the trees, birds and butterflies all instinctually know their original nature and their place in this world. They “just do it”, and there is harmony and balance, what I would call the Unity. Everything just humming along nicely. It is the Metal Element that keeps all creatures plugged in so that they never forget their original nature nor stray from their unique authenticity.
When we are in alignment with the Unity and engaging our unique authentic nature we become beautiful. We all know true beauty when we see it. There is something special about it. Something that is awe inspiring when we see or feel it. It seems honest, unashamed, almost unworldly. Grace is beauty in motion.
For many this is the genesis of religion. Regardless of the outer structure of our faith, each has the potential to lead us back to the Unity, the common ground we all share — where there is no separation between you and me. All rivers leading back to the same ocean. Our Metal Element is our oarsmen keeping us on the path, giving us a sense of purpose and meaning.
Right and wrong, good and evil, pure and impure, truth or lie. How do we know the difference? Who am I? What is my purpose? Do the “10,000 things” actually fit together? If so, then what does the completed puzzle look like? The lion eating the baby Gazelle, how does that piece fit? My mother died when I was 6. How could that be a part of any divine plan? These are all the big questions our Metal Element wrestles with.
The primary way that the Metal Element works with these questions is through discipline. Discipline being the continuous cycle of learning, honing and reevaluating and further fine tuning. It requires rigor and a commitment to honesty. It requires that we let go of what no longer serves in order to make room for what is of true importance. Inner cleanliness. Being very clear what we are and are not about. When done well it fosters perfection for the sake of beauty all in response to witnessing the Unity. This is Artistry.
“Give me the essence.”
The two main organ systems of the Metal Element are the Lung and Large Intestine. Together they offer us the opportunity to acknowledge and grasp what is beautiful and precious by teasing out the essence from its wrapping, so that we can drink that essence, that part we have a right to keep and discard the container, the form it came in. Important skills to have when faced with grief and loss.
The deepest teaching of Metal can be summed up in one phrase;
“Savor the wine, let go of the cup.”

Signs and symptoms that our Metal Element may need support:


“Hide and Seek.”

water element

The powers we keep concealed.
Doing more with less.
To see but not be seen.
There is great power in the unknown, when we convert it then it is an asset, when we come up against it out there, it may be feared. That which remains hidden has its reasons.
Water is the qualities shared by both the hunter and the hunted.
Caution, vigilance, night watchman, fearlessness, courage, power, will, endurance, survival.
All of Water can be seen in that silent moment of crouching, the intense concentration, the deep compelling forces, before the tiger leaps.
The ability to be very still, chameleon like.
Stalking is really stillness in motion.
Invisibility cloak.
Some of us stay hidden in order to get close to our prey. Others stay hidden to avoid getting eaten. Which one feels more like you will depend on the strength or deficiency of your Water Element.
It is our ace up our sleeve. Unassuming. Water always is dealing with issues of power or lack of power. Enforcing our will or doomed by the will of others.
Our ability to manage our assets in such a way that will ensure our survival.
How do we resolve our fear of what is lurking in the darkness? By turning on the light. It is the cultivation of wisdom which brings the unseen to light. Knowledge is power. Check mate. Know thy enemy.
The season associated with the Water Element is Winter. Everything we need to know about the Water Element can be observed in nature during Winter. Fundamentally it comes down to ability to survive and preserve as the days grow colder and darker. The ability to control our resources wisely. This is not the time of love and warmth, as in summer. Winter has very different lessons to teach us. Where do we turn as it grows dark and cold out there? What tender fire do we keep lit within ourselves, so that we can endure times of darkness. Will we see another Spring? In a world where so much is unknown do we have what it takes to face into the darkness and venture forth, sustained only by our faith, courage, wisdom and innate will? These are the teachings of Water.
The main organ systems associated with the Water Element are the Kidneys and the Urinary Bladder.

Signs and symptoms that our Water Element may need support:

The predominate emotion of the Water Element is fear which may manifest in any of the following ways:


“There is no place like home.”

earth element

Earth is the glue that holds everything together.
Much of the Earth Element is consumed with the routine repetitive tasks that sustain the kingdom. It is through our Earth Element that we are able to be satisfied, to feel as if we have enough, to no longer be hungry. It also has to do with the ability to stand firm and remain grounded in an ever-changing world.
We all have needs. How we go about satisfying our needs and the needs of others depends largely on our Earth Element.
Are we able to acknowledge our needs? Are we able to ask for help without feeling guilty? Can we take our place in community knowing that “community” means shared responsibilities, shared burdens and shared accomplishments? Can we see that when one hand feeds the other then we all get fed? For such a community there needs to be an equal and free flowing exchange of giving and receiving.
Are we able to receive nourishment from this world, really take it in and break it down so that it can become a part of us and then offer something back in return. The whole movement of the Earth Element is a never ending cycle of receiving, digesting and offering back. On a physical level it is about how we meet our basic needs of home and hearth — ecology. On a mental level, it is about thoughtfulness — the ability to perceive and respond to our community’s needs. On a spirit level, it is about our ability to receive nourishment from and be in communion with the whole of existence. If we are able to feel satisfied on all three levels than most likely owe it to our well functioning Earth Element.
The season associated with the Earth Element is late Summer/early Autumn. The time of year when the harvest is collected from the fields. Everything we need to know about the Earth Element can be observed in nature during this time of year. After the joy and excitement of Summer, the season of Earth brings us back around to the fundamentals of caring for the needs of our community as well as tending to our own basic needs.
The main organ systems associated with the Earth Element are the Stomach and Spleen.

Signs and symptoms that our Earth Element may need support:

The primary issue will have something to do with how we get our needs meet, and our ability to experience satisfaction. Which may show up in one or more of the following ways;

Customer Testimonial

“Words cannot even express how grateful I am to Dan for not only his skill and knowledge as an* *Acupuncturist* *but also for his genuine care and concern for his patients to locate the specific need(s) and address properly! I had nerve damage on my left side (coming from a lower back injury) for the past 13 years – the last three years the pain has been severe. After a second back surgery the weakness, tingling, numbness, burning pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, etc. I experienced in my left leg (on a daily basis) NEVER went away. I was told it could be side-effect that is permanent. The past couple years I have also been struggling with stomach/small intestine issues that brought on, once again, quite a bit of pain. Two weeks ¬ago I made my first appointment with Dan. The leg pain and the stomach pain dramatically decreased the day after our session and by the third day I WAS TOTALLY PAIN FREE and have been since! I have not been able to say this for 13 YEARS! What an absolute blessing to be able to live life to the fullest again! You don’t even realize how daily pain affects your life (activity level, energy, mood, etc.) until it’s gone. What a miracle! I feel completely revitalized – like a new person! I just wish I would have found Dan years ago.”

— Shannon

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