It’s spring. Here in Colorado we’re grateful for every drop of rain, and we’ve gotten many wet days recently. Once the trees are all in leaf it will be the greenest time of year. So it’s also time for my annual tradition of teaching our readers about the wood element from the perspective of Chinese five element philosophy.
The qualities of wood (I’m italicizing it to distinguish it from wood, the substance and building material) are seen in the characteristics of plant growth, especially in spring, the wood season. They’re within all humans as well, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the individual.
One of the first things we notice as plants come back to life is a certain toughness, a determination to rise, to grow, and to break out of the dormancy of winter. A few weeks ago there were lots of little flowers and tree buds everywhere and I was feeling enchanted by it all. Then we got several heavy snows and hard freezes and I said dramatically to my wife, “It’s not fair! Those tiny baby leaves and flowers! They barely got a chance!” But a week later they were back at it, all the tougher for it.
Within every plant is the gift of vision and a plan. Plants have the “vision” of phototropism, meaning they sense and grow always toward the light. This forms their plan (along with producing new plants that will do the same) and they adhere to it unwaveringly.
Bamboo is considered the quintessential embodiment of these virtues. Not only does it grow rapidly toward its destination without any distraction (no branches), but it remains flexible. That is, despite its determination to get where it wants to go, it doesn’t become rigid or brittle in this pursuit. It’s strong, but it bends in the wind. In addition, its hollowness is considered symbolic of its ability to remain open and unattached to its goal.
A person with healthy wood has a clear vision of where they’re headed in the short term and the long term. They know the plan that’s going to enable them to make their vision a reality.
One of my favorite tools for clarifying your vision, crafting your plan, and staying on track with it is our Dreambook + Planner. It’s on sale now for 50% off.
When needed, someone with healthy wood energy employs the spring qualities of vigor, determination, decisiveness, and tenacity. Yet, there’s nothing ruthless about the pursuit of their plan. Another of wood’s virtues is kindness, specifically the kindness of mutual support which emerges when we recognize that all plans can peacefully coexist.
When we encounter obstacles, healthy wood helps us to not lose sight of where we’re headed. In fact, when I said, “It’s not fair!” previously, that was completely untrue. Fair and unfair are meaningless in nature. Obstacles happen. Little obstacles, like traffic that interferes with one’s plan to be at work on time. And big obstacles, like a fatal illness that interferes one’s plan to live a long life and change the world.
The typical wood response to an obstacle is anger. Ideally, we feel the anger willingly, let it move through us, and even allow the surge of emotional energy to reignite our vision, attain perspective, perhaps modify the plan, and keep growing.
Other (less pleasant) options are to resist, deny, and/or amplify the anger, leading to rage or numbness/depression. We might insist (often subconsciously) that the obstacle shouldn’t have happened. A plan that started out as “to get to the finish line and have fun along the way” might become “to fight this obstacle for as long as it takes” or “to have no plans because what’s the use?” This is what happens when we lose our vision.
In such cases, it’s important to remember that humans, too, have phototropism. Like plants, we also have a natural inclination toward the Light (however we define it). It’s how we orient our vision. When shined inward it may reveal that the personal plan which seems to be lost, stolen, or thwarted is but the spark of a greater soul plan, such as “to fully experience human life, to transmit the light, and be of service to the world.” I believe our soul plan can’t be thwarted because it doesn’t depend on the specifics of our circumstances but on who we choose to be.
I encourage you to spend some time in nature and bring your curiosity. What can you learn about life from the dynamics of the natural world? For extra support, consider a healing session with me and use our acclaimed Dreambook + Planner.
Dr. Peter Borten