5 Element Patterns and Lessons

Mode Category
Balance Type
Emotions Spirit and Destiny
Balance information
Balance for
limiting beliefsbeliefs

5 Element Patterns and Lessons


Key words

Anger, resentment, timid, over-assertive, perfectionist, judgmental, being right, self esteem, disappointed, courage.


Life does not flow easily for wood types. It may feel like a continuous battle, with nothing coming easily. Alternatively they may decide it is too hard to change and lack the courage to have what they want and as a result feel stuck.

A wood type person becomes either timid and a victim of ‘fate’ or over-assertive in trying to obtain what they want. Anger and resentment results from both patterns. The timid person resents not being able to do what they want most in life. The assertive person resents any impediment to them doing what they want.

Wood relates to how we view ourselves. Do we focus on our actions and created self or are we able to strip away our personality and actions to observe what is underneath. When we focus on our actions we judge them.

Wood types are often judgmental of others and themselves. They see right and wrong everywhere, and try to live up to their own high standards. This constrains their expression.

They try to be perfect. Unable to always be perfect they inevitably disappoint themselves and this affects their self-esteem.

These high standards are applied to others, who continually disappoint them. This can lead to the feeling that if I do not do it myself it will not get done properly.


The key for wood types is to look beyond what is done, by yourself and others, to what lies inside the heart of yourself and others.

If we move beyond judgement we can allow ourselves to just be, and allow others to just be. The objective is to allow our soul to flow without constraint and this comes from fully accepting our soul.

True self esteem comes from viewing what is inside, not from doing something well. We are who we are, not what we do. When this is seen, we become more benevolent, moving beyond judging people by what they do and instead seeing what lies inside.

For example, when we look at a baby we do not judge it harshly because it does not do anything useful. We love it because it is an expression of its own inner-nature and this inner nature is inherently beautiful and lovable. This same nature is in all of us and we only need to view that nature to love ourselves.

Possible Wood Goals

I am accepted regardless of what I do.

I am acceptable regardless of what I do. I accept myself regardless of what I do. I enact the plans of my heart.

I know what is right for me. I do what is right for me.


From 365 Tao pg 182

If the boulders are moved,  Even a river will change its flow.

Once fixed objects in our lives shift, our circumstances change. If we arrange our furniture properly life will be comfortable. If we eat correctly life will be prolonged. The flow of life can be affected and to some extent consciously manipulated simply by altering its parameters.

Life is the flow of energy. It is the air that we breathe, the force that moves the weather, the force of all minds combined. It keeps the rivers flowing, our hearts beating, and the sky blue. This flow of energy moves constantly according to the fixed points that exist at any given moment. Therefore, by manipulating the cardinal points of our lives, we can change the flow. The freedom to choose and to change belongs to us.


Drought burns basins to dust, Light rain is a dew of mockery. Receive without complaint; Work with fate.

When the countryside is gripped in drought it is useless to complain. Even when light rains fail to moisten the parched landscape we should accept what happens.

Acceptance does not mean fatalism. Acceptance is a dynamic act. It should not signal inertness, stagnation, or inactivity. One should simply ascertain what the situation requires and then implement what one thinks is best.

Adapted from: Ming Dao, 365 Tao No 113


Key words

Dominate, submit, I know the right way, no control, surrender, hurt, protection, blame, spontaneous, joyful.


Fire is about how we manifest in the world. What life do we create? It concerns how we let our life unfold. Do we go with the flow? Do we try to control how life unfolds?

Both Fire and Water types have issues about control. Water types in disharmony try to control their environment in order to cope with their fear and to try make it safe. Fire types try to control their lives, and often other people’s lives, in order to make their lives ‘right’. They particularly want to ensure that they are loved and have someone to love. These Fire types will often be very dominant characters convinced that their way is right.

Alternatively Fire types may become overly submissive, ie. Sometimes seeing themselves as the ‘loving doormat’ (everyone steps on them or over them). This behaviour is often driven by their inability to govern themselves, relying instead on other people to control their lives. This surrender can also be a response to a need to protect themselves from hurt, giving in totally to others in order not to have them withdraw their love.

Whether fire types dominate or submit they often end up blaming others for how they feel. The submissive feel their life is someone else’s responsibility. The dominant blame external impediments for affecting their ability to obtain the outcome they desired.

When fire is in balance people are spontaneous and joyful. Life is full of laughter and fun, and there is a real felt instinct for life. You feel in synch with yourself, nature and other people. When you think about life you cannot help but smile and feel blessed.


The key lesson for fire types is that true control comes from living your truth by surrendering to the heart’s innate wisdom. This surrender involves true love and appreciation for what is in our hearts.

It is by loving ourselves that we set ourselves free and meet our own needs for love. Having met our need for love we feel in control and in tune with the rhythm of life.

When we see inside our hearts and the hearts of others it is easy to feel compassion for ourselves and others. Being in contact with our heart enables us to be self possessed, providing insight into ourselves and an ability to govern ourselves. We feel ‘together’.

Possible Fire Goals

I connect to myself and others. I love all aspects of myself.

I am lovable as I am.

My inner self is lovable.

SI: I listen to my heart. I am understood.

SJ: I am intimate with others as appropriate for me.

Pc: I love my inner self. I connect with my emotions. It’s OK to connect with my emotions.

Moving With the Rhythm of Life

Adapted from “Absorption” in 365 Dao pg13

Crimson light through pine shadows. Setting sun settling in the ocean.

Night follows the setting sun, Day follows the fleeing moon.

All too often, we tend to think of absorption as a static thing: water is absorbed into a sponge and there it stays. But true absorption is a total involvement in the evolution of life without hesitation or contradiction. In nature there is no alienation. Everything belongs.

Only human beings hold themselves aloof from this process. We divorce ourselves from the process and others, even as we yearn for love, companionship, understanding and communion. We constantly defeat ourselves by questioning, asserting ourselves at the wrong times, or letting hatred and pride cloud our perceptions. Our alienation is self- generated.

In the meantime, all of nature continues its constant flow. We need to let ourselves go, enter freely into the process of nature, and become absorbed in it. If we integrate ourselves with that process, we will find success. Then the sequences of things will be as evident as the coming of the sun and the moon, and everything will be as it should be.


Key words

Relationship anxiety, needs, resentment, blame, over-active sympathy, protection of others, chronic worry and anxiety, unbalanced giving and receiving, nourishment and nurturing, giving has costs, overly needy.


Earth types main issues centre on relationships. In imbalance their relationship needs are never met, making them often clingy and resentful of the lack of partner support and nurturing. “No one looks after me…I am always doing everything for others.” type thoughts are common. They blame others and themselves for their lack of giving. They often feel they should be giving more.

Earth types often blame others for how they are feeling because other people’s feelings have such a large impact on their own feelings. They feel what others feel because of over- active sympathy. Earth types feel the hurt of others as if it was their hurt. If their friend is unhappy they feel unhappy too.

To protect themselves from this hurt they feel the need to protect others from hurt. They do not feel responsible for their own feelings and thus have little power over them. Their life is dictated by how their close friends and family are feeling. As a result, chronic worry and anxiety about others is common for Earth types.

The motivation for giving is to make others feel good so that they themselves can feel good. Earth type’s primary pattern is unbalanced giving and receiving.

Their greatest imbalance is internal – they are unable to nourish and nurture themselves. Earth types often having dysfunctional eating patterns because eating often represents the only (allowable/controllable) source of nourishment for them.

They often are driven to give and give, feeling uncomfortable about receiving anything from others. If they receive anything they feel they need to pay it back with interest.

When they receive things from others they worry about what it will cost others. The in-built assumption is that if I receive there must be a cost for someone else. They feel this way because their own giving has a personal cost - it is not done through choice as they feel they ‘need’ to give. They give so that others can be happy so that they in turn can be happy.

This unbalanced giving is usually the result of poor self image, feeling unworthy of being noticed and nourished by themselves and others. They often feel that the only purpose in their life is to give or live for others.

Alternatively their lack of nourishment can drive them to be overly needy, craving help, companionship and love. Whatever they receive is never enough as their inner need for nourishment cannot be met by obtaining external things (money, cars, partners, companionship etc.).


Earth types need to act with true intent. True intent means acting authentically – aligning their actions with their core self or spirit.

To do this Earth types need to find a place in their lives for their core self. They need to put that core self first, so that they can give because they choose to give not because they need to give to maintain their false identity. Giving with choice is true giving. True giving allows us to use spiritual energy to help others rather than giving away our own energy.

They need to apply their empathy internally, appreciating their core self, finding nourishment inside. This will transform their ingratiating and overly-giving nature to one of integrity. They will no longer be needy because they can meet their needs by being at peace with what is inside.

By being at peace with what is inside their external needs dissolve. They take responsibility for their emotions and allow others to do the same. This will transform their sympathy into empathy.

Possible Earth Goals

I am authentic.

I have all I need inside me. I nourish my core self.

I nurture my core self.

People love me for being me (not what I do). I love me for being me (not what I do)

I follow my heart’s desire.

My purpose in life is to develop all aspects of myself as appropriate for me. I am true to my core self.


I want to make myself an empty room: quiet whitewashed walls with slant sunshine and a fresh breeze through open windows.

Some days are extremely fluid and all possible courses of action are equally attractive. Rather than do something arbitrary, it is far better to empty one's self completely. Then the more subtle currents of life can be felt. One should avoid the mistake of random action.

Arbitrary action will most likely be out of accord with the times. It is artificial, a structure that we impose from our own thought. Such movements are invariably stilted; they do not have the fresh perfection of the natural.

We do not have enough peace. Yet peace will never be attained by perpetual action and thought. Stirred water never has the chance to settle clear. A tree buffeted by winds can never grow straight. Give up all unnecessary activity. Give up all arbitrary actions. Make yourself receptive. The peace that you seek shall be quickly at hand.

From: Ming-Dao, 365 Tao, No:248


Key words

Grief, guilt, acknowledgment, worth, value, holding on, letting go, longing for connection, disconnected from spirit, unworthy, feeling I am wrong, disconnected from others, need to live up to other people’s expectations, separation, feeling right, reverence for life.


Metal types do not acknowledge their own true worth and are always seeking to establish worth or value. Usually they see their value as a function of what they do - not who they are inside. They try to do things that are acknowledged and valued by others. However, this type of value is transitory.

Metal types are driven to avoid grief. Grief relates to unexpected loss, so they will look to minimise loss. They try to find and retain things of value, whether it is a relationship or money.

Unsure of what is of value they may begin hoarding everything or feel like they cannot hold onto anything of value. They may feel that everything worthwhile gained is subsequently lost. I have had some metal type clients say “nothing is permanent so there is no point in gaining things because you cannot hold onto them anyway”.

This longing for value is driven by their disconnection from spirit – the only thing of true value. Feeling like something is missing, but not sure what, they are always seeking to fill the hole with something external.

They usually feel unworthy of love and try instead to be the image of what they feel other people expect, in order to be worthy of their love. When they receive love they see this as evidence of people only loving them because they do what they want rather than being loved for whom they are inside.

They hide their true self from others feeling that it is unlovable. They feel that no one truly knows them. This disconnection from others is driven by their disconnection from their own core self, usually because they feel something is wrong with the core self. Feelings of guilt dominate this view of the core self. Because they are disconnected they cannot connect truly to others.

So the irony is that they feel they cannot connect to others and be themselves, so they pretend to be what others want and then feel that any connection they gain with others is based on a lie – so is not true connection.

They usually see themselves as different or separate from others. Sometimes they may think that they are better than others, but not able to connect because to connect they must come down to the same level – and be like other people. The pattern is the same whether they feel inferior or superior – they need to wear a mask to be loved.


The key for Metal types is to re-connect with their inner self and spirit. In connecting with this original nature they can appreciate their true nature and value what is inside them. When they value themselves they will no longer need to seek to be someone else when relating with others. They can feel worthy of being loved and connected.

The key lesson is that spirit is the only thing of real value in life. Since everyone has spirit everyone is of equal value. When we learn this lesson we understand the process of life in a different way. We connect with the bigger picture - see the natural order to the universe, sense the natural justice to all life. People are born, live and die; everything has its place. We have a reverence for spirit and life – the whole process from birth to death.

We understand that existence has more meaning when we connect with spirit – the connection we had at birth and have again at death. Pursuing individuality, seeing ourselves as separate, ultimately lacks purpose and meaning. It makes us feel incomplete. It means we seek to establish our value independently of spirit, through deeds and actions. We act in ways that we think that other people will value.

Actions that are independent of our spirit are ultimately meaningless for us. The lesson we need to learn is to let go of this individuality and just be.

Possible Metal Goals

I express the beauty and truth of my core self.

I value my true self.

I am worthy of love.

I am worthy of love regardless of what I do.

I connect with my inner self/spirit.

I am connected to God.

I am a part of God.

I am at peace with the process of life and death.

I am my spirit.


The monk shaved his head as a symbol of renunciation; but now he goes nowhere without his little cap.

It’s funny to see someone who says that he renunciates, call childishly for his few meager possessions.

Before you say that you are spiritual, ask yourself if you can give up worldly desires.

Adapted from: Ming Dao, 365 Tao

You can be attached to being detached. Some people are attached to the notion of being enlightened or being detached from worldly desires.

It is our attachment to outcomes that causes us stress. You can only lose what you are attached to. The less attached we are to others the more love we are able to show. When we love without attachment there is no fear of giving too much or being “bled dry”. We can give more because we do not require an outcome from giving.


Key words

Fear, anxiety, control of external environment, will, wisdom, distrust of instincts, untapped potential, impotent, thinking small, withdrawn, safety, focus and concentration, driven.


Water types react to and try to control fear. Fear either makes them overly driven or overly impotent (fighting or frozen).

If impotent they will feel that fate dictates their life and they can do to nothing to change or control it. They may try to minimise their presence in order to make themselves as small a target as possible. They can try to be invisible or feel that they are nothing.

If they withdraw, they tend to withdraw from themselves as well as others. They particularly withdraw from unpleasant feelings and for this reason often seem to cope very well with stress. They particularly withdraw from feeling withdrawn, ie. not readily acknowledge the pattern of withdrawal in their lives or downplay its importance.

They may also mask the withdrawal by being friendly with lots of people but without ever having any or many close intimate relationships. Alternatively they may lead quite separate lives, feeling alone.

If driven, they never find rest. They feel they must manifest their inner purpose regardless of the consequences. They are often controlling, trying to control the external environment to make it safe – to limit their fear. They try to think their way to safety, a safe environment or safe solutions. They work and work and work feeling that to stop is to die.

Either way there is often a great fear of death, agitation and a distrust of their instincts. Water types are often clever and use this cleverness to control others and their environment.

If they become very disconnected from the world they can become paranoid and see danger everywhere.


The key lesson is for them to listen to their innate knowing. It is our instincts that keep us safe. Water types need to trust their instincts rather than react to fear.

True power to manifest what I want comes from wisely cultivating my own inner resources, rather than focussing on over using my brain or burning myself out prematurely.

Possible Water Goals

I trust my instincts.

I trust my intuition.

I do what is appropriate for me.

My instincts/ intuition keep me/ are safe. I follow my destiny.

I live my truth.

I follow my instincts.

The Story of Water

(Sourced from 365 Tao pg.349)

Water Drops Water cleanses

Gathers in the earth Tender. Invasive. Subtle Emerges a shining river When small, it is weak

When great, it tumbles mountains Rendering great cliffs


Classic wisdom says that there is nothing weaker than water, yet when united it can become a titanic force. Like a tidal wave. Or a river that cuts through gorges. This is called the yielding overcoming the hard.

Let’s look at it another way. Water does not overcome because it yields. It overcomes because it is relentless. It perseveres and does not give up. It is constant. Rock can block water. Rock can even hold water in a lake for thousands of years. Why can’t the yielding overcome the hard then? Because it cannot move, it cannot work its magic of being relentless.

Just as water must be able to express its true nature in a relentless way, so too must we simultaneously and relentlessly express our true natures if we are to be successful in like. Otherwise, we will find ourselves hemmed in by the hard walls of reality, and we will never be able to break through.

But how do we acquire such perseverance? We start small, as drops.