When I was taking Psychology of the Five Elements at Naropa, one of our assignments was to make a creative representation of our officials of the Five Elements. I chose to do Chinese style paintings of mine, intended to show the Spirit, Mind, and Body levels of the officials. Artwork is a great way to interact with the Five Elements in a non-logical way, using feeling and holistic understanding to see how the phases generate and control eachother. In modern Traditional Chinese Medicine, which was altered by the communist party to a more secular, atheistic world view, much of the spiritual and psychological aspects of the medicine were taken out. Instead of being alternative and catered to individuals, it became more formulaic like Western Allopathic medicine. Each ailment was like a symptom which could be treated in a prescribed way. In the more recent Five Elements school, started by JR Worsley, there is an attempt to reclaim the spiritual and mystical aspects of the medicine. The officials are recognized as part of the living system. The have a part of the entire consciousness, and emotional preferences which either serve the whole, or fall out of balance. Knowing these interactions and the concept of Yin and Yang creates the bridge between classical Chinese understanding, and the modern anatomical structure. The diagnosis of too much or too little Yin or Yang is tied into the generative and controlling Five Phase interactions, and subdivided amongst the officials. The system becomes about treating the whole person, which extends into their whole life. The teacher I learned it under also mixed in the shamanistic practice or Plant Spirit Medicine. Plant Spirit Medicine involves journeying to the spirits of Plants, which serve as a reflection of the nature of imbalance, and the Five Element treatment that is complimentary and restores balance. Plants like people are living systems connected to the whole and the Five Phases which occur on Heaven and Earth, and can thus offer a holistic mirror. The Plant's spirit may give you its medicine which can be transferred like energy healing, thus performing healing in the vein of Chinese medicine without the use of acupuncture, moxa, or herbs. As these therapies seek to restore external or internal balance by changing the interaction of Qi, the same change can be caused spiritually. The animal I used for journeying was the Owl, which is why it is also painted in this series. I contributed to Marlow Brook's book on the Five Elements which can be found here:
The Five Elements class taught me how important the Spirit's health is to overall well being, its image forms the matrix of the body which yields a feeling of well-being or imbalance. Art, Play, Nature, and other things you might not expect can be an important part of medicine and healing. While I don't practice Plant Spirit Medicine, it taught me an important concept for use in Reiki and Energy Work, that the changes desired occur in energy primarily, and body second. Reiki can work like Plant Spirit Medicine to restore the balance that Chinese Medicine or any other form of healing seeks to establish. Our bodies are just the flesh covering of our soul, as are the officials and their physical manifestation. The Function (Yang) is expressed in Form (Yin).
After having watched my series on The Five Elements, you can attempt to do these kinds of pictures on your own, drawing the living mandala of your psyche.