5 Element Cycle Healing Past, Present, Future




By Pat Gorman with Stephen Flores
Photos by Stephen Flores

How an ancient Chinese perspective can help us in our fast-paced lives.

Have you ever wanted to live a life more closely attuned to nature, free of the regrets of the past, living more in the moment, and envisioning a positive future?

Most of us would answer a resounding “yes.” We’re not quite sure how everything has built up to such a pressure, but often long for a simpler, more stress-free, happier life. If we think of our lives as linear—that is, having a beginning, middle and end—we can often feel trapped as events unfold, by what’s already happened, and all the responsibilities we’ve taken on. The open doorway to the future that we gazed through as teenagers seems to have closed, along with our options and dreams. Now, we often ask ourselves, “How can I get through this day?”

It is often how we look at life that dictates how we behave and whether we will give ourselves what we really need to thrive. Our culture teaches us to have people or things other than ourselves as our focus and goals: “It’s for my children;” “It’s for my career;” “It’s for my retirement.” But we wonder, when will we be allowed to really support ourselves, our needs, visions, and dreams? When will it finally be our turn? Sometimes, after a good vacation, one with enough time to relax and begin to recharge, our inner voice begins to whisper dangerous thoughts: “I’d like to live like this all the time…What if I didn’t have to go back to that job?” Longingly, we pack up our dreams on the last day and reenter our pressurized world.

But silencing our inner voice has consequences: we can lose our vision of the future, and our hope; we can squelch our happiness and joy; we can block out that voice and force ourselves into a life we’re not really happy with, and wind up deeply depressed. In our privileged society, we are reaching for anti-depressants in record numbers, while TV ads for everything from giant 4 X 4’s to alcohol and shampoo offer to help us in “Body, mind, and spirit.”


What if there were another perspective? Another way of looking at life? A way of living that would gradually free us, unbind us, allowing more possibilities? And, what if it turned out that we were especially designed for this, so that things became easier and more rewarding as we moved through life?

If we view humanity across time, we know humanity is the sum total of eons of nature’s development. Our bodies, minds, and spirits have been shaped by nature, attuned to nature. It is only in the last few hundred years—an infinitesimal moment—that our connection to nature has been ruptured. On a deep level, our bodies, minds, and spirits still have the strong desire to be nurtured and supported by nature’s rhythms. And nature is most certainly not linear; nature is cyclical, nature is circular.

How can this small thought help change our lives? We know from the Judeo-Christian bible that, “To everything there is a time and a purpose under heaven.” Sadly, most of us no longer have any sense of when specifically, that is.

What if we could harmonize again with the specific rhythms and powers offered in the course of the circle of a day, the circle of a year? What if instead of thinking of nature as other than us, we thought of ourselves as part of nature, and could be supported by it rather than have it as an adversary? What if we began to look at the circle rather than the straight line from birth to death?

I was raised in both worlds—the circular one of nature and the linear one aimed at success and achievement. My father grew up on the Lakota Sioux Rosebud Indian reservation. My mother was an Irish Catholic. If there was a drought in Queens, we kids would be out in the backyard doing the almost-forgotten rain dance and my mother would lean out the back door and shout, “Now, you’re not doing that Indian stuff again with the children, are you?”

Fortunately, we kids did get enough to connect us to nature in a deep way. After my father’s death, however, I found nothing in the western side of our culture to further this connection until I met Professor J.R. Worsley, a charming and brilliant Englishman who was teaching a system of acupuncture known as Classical Five Element.

Here, I found an extraordinary view of the world—so similar to the rich one I explored with my own father—and inside this view, a way to heal and be healed on the deepest levels, from the physical to the depths of damaged spirit. This perspective opens a window through which we can begin to see, connect, and change.


The Chinese have a special name for the cycle that repeats itself daily, yearly, and in the course of a life. They call it the “Sheng” or “creative” cycle. As this cycle progresses, life itself is created. And because it is being constantly re-created, small changes on our part, made to harmonize with the cycle of life, can have enormous effects.

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