Why the name, fiveminds? First, the number 5 refers to the 5 phases of Chinese medicine. Each of the 5 phases reflect distinct qualities or manifestations of natural phenomena. The seasons, winter, spring, summer, and fall, are examples of climactic representations of four of the five phases. The Chinese believed late summer was a distinct season, the time of the traditional agricultural harvest, and it represents the fifth phase, from a seasonal perspective. There are also examples of the 5 phases in the realm of intellectual phenomena. I will describe them (in a minute) because they are one of the more philosophically captivating aspects of Chinese medicine, in my opinion.
The 2nd meaning of the name is a poetic reference to all the minds that have in the past, and to those minds which will in the future teach, inspire, and challenge me. Thank you! Gracias! Arigato Gozai Mashta! Xie Xie! In this respect, the number 5 is merely symbolic. There have been and will be many more of you! But perhaps your wisdom can be described as filtering through one of the wise domains of the 5 phases: some teach through earth, others through fire, others through metal, or wood, and others still through the magical reservoirs or moving bodies of water. I am enthralled by the observations of these elemental qualities in the world around me.
In Chinese medicine, as in Taoist philosophy, there is no split between mind, spirit, or body. This radical wholism resonates on a deep level with my sense of being–I flow in and out of different types of energies, but I am none of them. I am all of them, together. Like most adults, I have learned our language of separation, and can thus identify and talk about different aspects of myself as if these aspects were something separate from the whole that is me. I chose the word “mind” in the title of this blog because writing this blog engages aspects of self that are intellectual and reflective. In the spirit of Chinese medicine, however, mind is not separate from other aspects of self. It is the reflective, wise, knowing part of ourselves, as that aspect emerges in many different coats–intellectual, spiritual, intuitive, emotional and physical–which I invoke with the naming of my blog. The mind, in this context is not synonymous with brain. It points instead to wisdom in all its varied domains.
Descriptions of the 5 phases are always metaphorical, meaning each phase is likened to something else, often to something in relation to something else again. For instance the Water Phase (which itself is a metaphorical name) is likened to winter, an intellectual concept we understand as much from our experience of other seasons as from our experience with winter itself. Far from being a non-rational and imprecise way of defining concepts, this non-linear, system-oriented approach to organizing information is merely based on a different sort of rationality than western medicine. It’s based on the rationality of wholeness and interrelationships. Hopefully, this pep-talk of a paragraph prepares you for the metaphorical description I am about to give of 5 minds (spirits) of the 5 Phases.
If you’re new to this, the 5 Phases (sometimes called Elements) of Chinese medicine are given metaphorical names: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. These are metaphorical names because the phase named after any one thing is not the same as the thing itself (which is also why I prefer the word phase to the word element: element is thing-like, phase is more process-oriented, encompassing movement, transience and flow). The 5 Phases in relation to the 5 minds (or spirits) are described by Lorie Eve Dechar as:
- Fire: Shen: Thought, consciousness
- Wood: Hun: Vision, imagination
- Earth: Yi: Ideation, intention
- Metal: Po: Emotion, instinct
- Water: Zhi: Will, wisdom
from “Five Spirits, Alchemical Acupuncture for Psychological and Spiritual Healing” by Lorie Eve Dechar.
So that’s my long-winded answer about the significance of the name 5 minds. This is a very personal blog containing a record of some of my thoughts, visions, intentions, emotions, instincts and (perhaps) even a wee bit of wisdom. But if I have any of that, I owe it all to my acupuncture clients. If my practice really is a wisdom school (I like to think of it as such), then my clients have been my most inspiring teachers. Thank you!