According to the theory behind Classical Five Element Acupuncture, each of the five elements has a particular emotion related to it. The emotion of the Wood Element is Anger. First let me say that all five of the emotions are healthy to feel and express… despite our Western culture being particularly hard on Anger and Fear (the emotion of the Water element). Though like everything else, can manifest to an excessive degree, a deficient or repressed degree, or as we talk about in Zen… finding the Middle Way. So looking at anger for example… anger in excess may come out as sheer rage, or perhaps holding a grudge for too long or have you known someone to just seem angry ALL the time no matter what they’re doing? Unexpressed or what we may term as “lack of anger” isn’t balanced either. Perhaps you know someone who always just appears to be seething underneath, ready to blow their top at any moment. Or on a more a subtler note, we have passive aggression… which was new to me being from NY!
As I said earlier, anger can absolutely be a healthy emotion. If someone steals from you, hurts someone you love, you get wrongfully fired from your job, etc. Of course, no one would expect you to be jumping for joy. If that were the case, I’d be more concerned about how your Fire meridians were functioning, but that’s a whole other story. So when it comes to all emotion I find it helpful to keep two things in mind – how are you keeping your mind and how is the emotion expressing itself? In reality, the former will usually dictate the latter. When the mind is still and not latching onto any one thing (idea, preference, opinion), our situation can appear before us more accurately, then allowing for just the right amount of anger, fear, sadness, etc. to show up, be communicated to those involved, and then let go. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Of course, it’s easier said than done, but this is why it is so important to be engaged in body/mind/spirit practices, because it takes “practice”.
Let’s take a peak at Nature… the tree is a wonderful and ideal representation of the Wood Element. Its nature is to be strong and forward moving, with an energy that is outward and expansive… I liken it to being “assertive”. In the picture below, look how this tree branch has actually split and grown through a massive rock! (click to enlarge)
In bamboo, while possessing many of the great qualities of the Wood element we can also see an assertiveness turning into an anger-like energetic. If not appropriately taken care of or controlled, bamboo can run rampant, often resulting in difficulty for the surrounding plants but also frustration and anger for those growing it! The key here is flexibility – if we hold ourselves too rigid, we will break and crumble… if we are too loose and wobbly, then there is no growth and real potential for change. So a key point to finding the Middle Way within the Wood Element is in our ability to be flexible. Flexible, but engaged.
Remember the Wood Element is also a time for Rebirth, Vision, Planning and Decision-Making… big changes happen during this time of year. So we must be assertive yet flexible, and continuously have our eyes on what is truly in front of us!
bottom-photo courtesy of David Ford