Tigers and Dragons and Turtles, oh my!
In my last newsletter I talked about the energy of the Five Elements — Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth. In this newsletter, I’d like to introduce you to the Five Element spirits.
But before I begin, a few words to put you at ease. This is an exercise in storytelling intended to help you connect with your “self” at a different (perhaps deeper and more compassionate, or more amusing and fun) level. Stories, afterall, are arguably the best teachers, and if you know me well, you know stories are among my first and life-long loves. And so, in the words of a character from an unlikely story that has informed my life again and again in times of confusion and turmoil, “Take something useful from it (this story) and go about your day.”
Once upon a time, a long, long, long time ago…
There was nothing, and this nothing was filled only with infinite possibilities. As with all infinite possibilities, something began to stir until it became something. That something spun faster and faster and faster until in a flash, it split in two. These two became Yin and Yang forever circling each other, one always becoming the other. And as Yin and Yang transformed again and again, they formed and flung out into the void the Five Elements—Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. With infinite possibilities all around them, the Five Elements began combining in infinite combinations to create the 10,000 things.
Now, the 10,000 things is a poetic way to define all physical things, which include you and me and all life which is why (if you try) you can understand a flower, a bird, the sunset or indeed anything made of Nature.
And yet, the Five Elements live in each of us in unique combinations, and so bring to life infinite gifts designed to help the entirety of Nature become it’s highest version for the good of all as we each become the highest version of our “self.” These gifts exist in each of us in infinite manifestations delivered by Five Spirits, each related to our unique Five Element composition determined at the moment of our birth.
Po is the spirit who helps you bring your dreams of a better Way into reality through courage and taking the right action. Envisioned as a pure white tiger who resides in your lungs, Po brings you gifts of strategy, planning, and organizing so that you don’t waste time and effort on infinite possibilities. Po roars ferociously in the face of fear to clear the path and knows that only by being true to your unique Five Elements will you find your Way. Indeed, when I need a little extra courage, I’ve always found it helpful to imagine a white tiger roaring and growling as he sits on my shoulder. (Or a Panda named Po guiding me along.) Po is the manifestation of the Metal element.
Zhi is the spirit who cares most about your spiritual well-being. Zhi aligns your intentions to the will of Heaven by bestowing gifts of wisdom and perseverance. Envisioned as a dark blue turtle who resides in your kidneys, Zhi is often said to be accompanied by an exquisite black snake (or eel) named Kundalini. Zhi’s impenetrable shell protects our spiritual will while Kundalini’s ability to ride our spine connects us directly to Heaven so we can understand our spiritual quest. (Interestingly, in many Yogic meditation traditions, Kundalini is the means of deep meditation and is often portrayed as a blue-black electrical current that rides up the spine.) Zhi is the manifestation of the Water element. Often when I’m stuck, I find myself holding or rubbing my kidneys waiting for random wisdom to pop into my awareness. And often, indeed it does!
Hun is your ethereal soul and will exist long after your physical being has ceased to exist. Hun resides in your liver, but is the only spirit not constricted to your physical body. Hun can time travel, astral travel and thus gives you the gift of knowing without knowing how you know. It’s said that Hun (envisioned as a green dragon) is the ruler of your dreams, showing you subtle and esoteric knowledge, stoking creativity and providing out-of-the-box solutions to your problems. Hun is your General spirit inspiring and directing you to achieve your Earthly mission. Personally, Hun is my favorite Five element spirit, but that wouldn’t be surprising as it is associated with Wood, my most predominant element.
Shen is your Emperor spirit and is envisioned as a roc—a huge, mythic red bird believed to guard a secret valley filled with immense treasure. In Asia, the roc is often found as the logo or gargoyle for banks. Shen spirit manages your emotions—which are considered your truest treasures because they tell you your deepest truth. You cannot fake or trick your emotions like you can your thoughts. It shouldn’t be a surprise, therefore, that Shen “lives” in your heart. Shen also rules over the other element spirits as a kind of conductor ensuring everyone is playing the same song in the same key with the same rhythm. Shen is the manifestation of the Fire element. When I feel overwhelmed by emotions, I picture a beautiful massive red bird encircling me with her wings—a kind of tent and hug all in one where I can safely get myself under control.
Yi is your sensual spirit and is envisioned as a golden phoenix, maturing, burning, rising from the ashes again and again and again throughout your life. Yi resides in your spleen and brings you the gifts of intelligence (physical intelligence, or body knowing) and intention. As your physical being experiences life (primarily through your senses), your intelligence and intentions will grow, burn and rise again. What did you know about life when you were a child? Is it still what you know? Or do you have a different understanding? What about 10 years ago? Or 5? Or 2? And what were your deepest intentions at each of those milestones? Are they the same? When you learn to listen to and trust the wisdom of your body, it’s said you’ve made friends with your Yi—a manifestation of the Earth element. In my darkest hours, I have imagined my Yi burning into a pile of ashes and watching as a beautiful hatchling emerges. Then I remember, I too, will emerge anew and renewed.
And live happily ever after, thanks to the gifts and guidance of my Five Element spirits.