The Five Elements by Louis Parsons

coming full circle

During times of our life when we feel stuck or uncertain of the future, Nature offers profound, yet simple, wisdom to  guide us. To find our purpose.

Each year, new life begins in spring, eventually blossoming into the fullness of summer, ripening into the harvest of late summer, returning to the earth in autumn, then slipping into stillness of winter.  In the Chinese wisdom tradition these five seasons represent Nature’s natural cycle of life. Each stage of this cycle offers insight and opportunity for us to grow. It is the great turning of life, full of brilliance and wisdom for a life well-lived!

A practice called “Walking the Circle” is an example of how we be guided by the seasons to reflect and uncover new possibilities. To come full circle in our understanding. To feel complete.  It can be used at times of letting go, celebration, or as a guide when we are feeling lost. Doing this practice is as simple as asking yourself five questions, each tied to a season.

For example, if you are feeling uncertain about a business or project, ask yourself these five questions in this order and see what shows up…

  • What gives you joy in the work you are doing? (joy of summer)
  • What have you accomplished so far that you can be proud of? (fruits of late summer‘s harvest)
  • What do you need to let go of so this work can thrive? (letting go in autumn)
  • What is still unknown? What are you looking forward to? (reflection of winter)
  • What would you like to do next? (new growth in spring)

Walking the Circle, Wu Hsing

More about “Walking the Circle

How does it work? When we are stuck, wanting to reflect on life, uncertain of the future, or even looking to make a big decision, we can find insight by reflecting on the qualities and questions that represent each of the five seasons. Reflecting on each season will allow you to come full circle, revealing new possibilities and epiphanies, and leaving you feeling whole.

How is it used? “Walking the Circle” can be used as a touchstone across all aspects of our life. This practice has been used in business board rooms of fortune 500 companies, in the classroom with our children, or even used to commemorate special events like birthdays, anniversary’s or death.

Getting Started Start by identifying something you’d like to explore.  You can use the circle to reflect on any aspect of your life, whether that is an area where you seek guidance, a milestone in your life, or a loved one you want to honor. Pick 1 question from each of the five seasons that resonates with you. Begin with a question from Summer (Fire), then move on to Late Summer (Earth), then Autumn (Metal), and so on, until you arrive again at Summer. Observe how your body feels as you move from one season to the other (does it change?). Observe what new feelings arise in your body (lightness in your head, pressure in your chest?).

When you have walked the full circle, write down and reflect on how you feel. Did you learn something about yourself or the other person you did not know? Is there deeper understanding or new ideas arising in you?


In Summer, the sun sits highest in the sky and all around things are growing and ripening. The heat and light of Summer allow Nature to mature. The warmth of the sun burns inside us like the radiant glow of a campfire.  Fire illuminates and permeates everything bringing passion and joy to our life, but too much fire will burn out and leave us scorched.

The wisdom Summer has to offer us can be found in the gifts of warmth, laughter, joy, passion, lightheartedness, love, intimacy, lightness, opening up, laughter, shining, smiling, vulnerability, and spontaneity.

When reflecting on Summer, begin by asking yourself one or more of these questions:
What are you passionate about?
Where do you feel you are really able to make a difference?
When do you experience true and unfiltered joy?
What are you doing when you find yourself being playful?
Where do you feel most at ease in your life?
When do you allow yourself to be vulnerable, to reveal your tender side?


The halfway point between summer and autumn is like a well-ripened piece of fruit. With the harvest now at its peak, the fruits of the earth are coming of age and hanging heavy with abundance. Growth slows almost to a stop and Nature takes a pause. With the harvest now complete, we can now take a moment to take in and be generous with the gifts we have been given.

The essence of late summer is found in nourishment, abundance, thoughtfulness, self-care, giving/receiving, transformation, supporting, savoring, concentration and gratitude.

When reflecting on late summer, ask yourself:
What aspects of your life are deeply fulfilling?
What is the one thing you are most proud of?
What gifts have you been given?
What are others thankful for about you?
How do you tend and nourish yourself? Are there areas you could do more of this?
What do you need from others at this time?
How are you transforming?


Autumn ushers in a season of letting go as the leaves and seeds begin to fall back to the earth. The growing season has come to an end and the land, once alive with teeming life, is settling down and inward. The sap in the trees has dropped to the roots and leaves begin to fall. This is a natural time of decline, a time where pruning and death makes room for new life. The air is fresh and crisp and the trees are bare. Deeper breath, inspiration and a wider world view all come at this pivotal time of year.

The gifts of Autumn are found in letting go of what is no longer needed, deep breath, inspiration, honoring, sacredness, acknowledgement, grace, dignity, structure, and loss.

When reflecting on the wisdom of Autumn, you can ask yourself:
When are you most inspired and in awe of life?
What is most important to you above all else?
What story about yourself could you let go of in order to truly thrive? What would help you let that go?
How do you acknowledge the gifts and skills of others?
What resistances, resentments, angers, and jealousies could you acknowledge and let go of for the sake of a larger vision?
Is there grieving to be done before moving on?


During this time of year the daylight hours grow shorter until Winter Solstice when the cycle of the sun shifts and the days grow increasingly brighter again. Temperatures fall and Nature begins her period of hibernation, a time of great stillness and regeneration. It is an opportunity to gather our reserves of energy and power, full of unknowing and potential. At a time of year filled with celebration and activity, the gifts of winter stand in contrast with religious and secular calendars. Instead, the peacefulness of winter calls us to pause and listen for the wisdom buried deep inside us. It is a time to be gentle with ourselves, a time for rest and reflection. Knowing how to do this is essential to the health and well being of all living systems.

Winter symbolizes our reservoirs of power, strength, commitment, courage, wisdom, reflection, patience, listening, potential, hibernation and determination.

When reflecting on the gifts of Winter, ask yourself:
Do you give yourself sufficient time to rest and be still?
What is still unknown?
What are you looking forward to?
Do you have the resources you need?
In what ways can you access the depths of yourself — through writing, drawing, journaling, meditation?
What are the sources of your power? Where do you find yourself giving your power away?
Who do you consider mentors in your personal and professional life?


As winter begins to melt away, Spring marks the time of year when the living world is resurrected and stirring with new life. Crocuses and daffodils burst out of the once frozen ground. Trees burst with new buds, growing and taking on new form. Spring is the time of new life, rebirth, and rapid growth. Teeming with new life, we begin fresh and full of new possibilities. After the stillness of winter, Spring’s pace of change and growth beckons us to take swift action and grow.

Spring’s wisdom allows us to reflect on ways we can be bold, take quick and decisive action, create a shared sense of vision and direction, hold your ground, feel anger, adapt, organize, be creative, open to new possibilities, strategize, and have hope.

Completing the circle with Spring, ask yourself:
What new things are emerging in your life?
What are the goals and dreams for your life, your family, and business?
What are you doing to achieve your goals?
What else is possible?
What would you like to do next?
Where in your life do you take a stand, hold your ground?
In what ways are you flexible and resilient?


The above wisdom from each of the five seasons has been compiled by members of the Maryland University of Integrative Health class of 2015 (Angela Hodge-Jones (KoKo), Amy Loder, Ayanna Holcomb, Gale Poore, Jacque Hammond, Jim White, Osunmuyiwa Olosun (Ayo), Suane Loomis) with the guidance of our professor, Tom Balles.

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