The Five Elements For Change & Progress

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Are you consuming life, or is it consuming you?

At our end of year talks it’s only natural to discuss refection. The answer to the above question is only available to you upon clear and honest reflection. Did last year turn out the way you had hoped when it was fresh and new like the new year upon us?

And the real question: Do you want more of the same?

Was it a good year? Would more of the same be a blessing or a curse? Only you can answer that for yourself.

Is your life consuming you? Are you feeling older, stiffer, more fatigued? Is frustration building? Or, are you feeling energetic and more excited to get up every morning?

Living a conscious life requires reflection – the kind that can call up many demons, or the things you really don’t want to think about. That is why, as Blaise Pascal once said,

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”


We don’t like the company.

A practice I’ve kept for many years is upon lying down to go to sleep, I mentally review my day. I visualize all I can remember from the time I awoke in the morning to this very moment.

What made me smile? What made me sad? What could I have done differently? Did I get done what I set out to do? And, most importantly, did the actions I took bring me closer to the life I want? Were my actions and reactions in line with that life? Was I fulfilled? Do I want more of the same?

Is my life consuming me, or am I consuming my life?


In the Five Elements of Chinese philosophy, Wood represents the changing, growing, or expanding phase of any given cycle. It is the morning. It is the Spring. It is one’s youth. It is any time we start something new; a new day; a new relationship; a new job or business venture.

It is the stage of vision and planning. And let’s not forget… desire.

Wood creates Fire.


Next must come the action stage – the Fire Phase – and this is the phase of consumption. This is where the most energy is spent.

The size of the vision, plan, or desire determines how much action or energy will be needed – consumed – in the process of making that plan a reality.

Too much Wood can result in too much Fire, one so big that it consumes all in it’s path and more than was planned for.

Is the machine – all that you have taken on – requiring an amount of fuel that is ultimately consuming all that you are or hope to be?

Can you, should you, keep it going as is? Is it worth the cost?

The mouse on the wheel cannot go forever, and unfortunately, lab studies for various reasons have actually times just how long is a similar set up: in a tube of water. They set out to test the effect of various things such as stress, nutrition, etc. to see how long the poor animal can last.

Horrible, I know, but are you essentially doing the same thing to yourself? How long can you keep up what you’re doing before it takes you out?

It has always intrigued me when I learn of studies that show how the poorest people on the planet are also the happiest, most sincere, most helpful and caring. They are humble, accept their place and are less likely to infringe on others.

Where there is money to be made, on the other hand, we frequently find the sharks with an insatiable appetite and little if any regard for who gets hurt during or after that devour their prey.

Insatiable is the key word here. Fire is insatiable. It will consume anything and everything in its path. As long as there is something to burn, it will.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with money. There are plenty of happy people who have it as well. But there must be balance.kung fu for teens bergenfield

So how do we find that balance? We must figure out how to control Fire.
How do we do that?

We step back to reflect and take a breath (Metal) to consolidate and bring all this outward attention inward – to settle the mind (Water).

By settling the mind we also address the source of the Fire – desires, goals, plans – with more clarity.


You may be saying to yourself, “But I am happy. How does this apply to me?” Which reminds me of a story:

There was a fisherman lying on the shore with his hat pulled over his eyes and a cooler full of fish from the morning’s work. Tied on the the dock was his small boat.

Another fisherman came upon him and said, “Look at you. You are so lazy! That’s all the fish you caught today? And you lie there like a lazy bum when there’s plenty of time to catch more fish! Why don’t you get yourself a bigger boat so you can catch more fish, make more money, and enjoy life?”

Hearing this, the first fisherman tipped his hat off of his eyes, looked around for just a moment and replied, “What do you think I’m doing?”

Okay, back to the Five Elements. So what is Earth? Earth is what’s left after the Fire goes out. It is YOU, after all the plans you plan and actions you take – after all your effort, all your successes and failures – what is left? That is what you can, and should, review.

The Metal Phase is that time to take a breath, reflect and review.

If you like what you find – stay the course! If not, it’s time to figure out what you can do to change it.

The wise look within.

All that we do here at the Blue Dragon School is to that end. We take on adversity in its many forms – from the basic movement that challenges coordination, balance, endurance, focus, flexibility, etc., to sparring with all kinds of people, to the most challenging: sitting still in meditation – and learn to face it all with a quiet calm; a settled, patient mind.

If you don’t know who you really are how can you possibly know what it is you really want? And not knowing is how so much time and effort is spent in vain. Whole lives are wasted with no direction.

This training, done right, leads to clarity – about who you really are. And this clarity leads to peace.

Would it be accurate to say that all you really want is to be happy, healthy, and confident? To live your life your way… in peace?

Let us know what you think below.




Shifu Ahles
Shifu Raymond Ahles, the owner and Chief Instructor of the Blue Dragon School, is a certified instructor of Ba Gua Zhang Kung Fu & Chi Kung and a 7th Generation Lineage Disciple in the Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang Association. In addition to his 30 years plus teaching experience in the martial arts, Shifu Ahles also holds a B.S. degree in Exercise Physiology, he’s a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has an extensive background in the healing arts of Oriental Medicine including certifications in Advanced Amma Therapy, Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture. He is a licensed Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist in NJ.




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