Category Archives: Gift

Trump and the Earth Imbalance

NarcissusOnce again Earth’s short season of Late Summer rolls around to the southern hemisphere. Meanwhile in the northern hemisphere an unprecedented political Earthquake has occurred, throwing up a world leader who seems to offer a masterclass in an Earth Element imbalance.

Most people who have an Earth imbalance at the psycho-emotional level are those who give to others at the expense of themselves, draining their own resources to their own detriment. This behaviour can become a kind of compulsive giving, out of a need to feel liked, loved, needed or valued.

Less often we see the imbalance at the other end of the spectrum, the person who cares only for themselves, is untouched by the needs of others, and lacks empathy for the suffering of anyone but themselves. This is narcissism which, when it becomes extreme, is known as narcissistic personality disorder. As has been noted widely elsewhere, the new president of the United States, Donald Trump, amply demonstrates these characteristics.

In my book The Way of the Five Seasons, I referred to this pattern as the yin response in Earth:

Lack of Sympathy, Demanding Attention

A famous phrase that sums up the pattern of the yin response is, ‘Enough about me, what did you think of my performance?’

This imbalance in Earth is characterised by a focus on our own needs at the expense of others. We are all familiar with the person who dominates a conversation with talk about himself. He steers the conversation in such a way that the focus remains on him. He may ask questions of others but only so that it shifts the topic to something he wants to talk about. In short, it’s all about him.

If a person has this orientation to the world, when sympathy is offered, the response is a pulling for more sympathy. To the sympathetic listener this can feel like being ensnared in a sticky web of attention-seeking need. Eventually the behaviour of the attention seeker causes his listener to withdraw, reinforcing the feelings of abandonment.

Taken to the extreme, this becomes narcissism. Here, the person is grandiosely self-important, exaggerates his abilities, has a belief that he is special and has a sense of entitlement, but most importantly, he lacks sympathy for others and is unwilling or unable to identify with their feelings.

This behaviour is almost always unconscious. The person is frantically trying to meet his own needs, which effectively blinds him to the needs of others. He is actually incapable of seeing their needs and responding to them. Like Narcissus of the Greek myth, he looks at the world and sees only a reflection of himself.

I wrote this long before Donald Trump began his run for the White House, but on rereading it, I am struck by how accurately this pattern describes him.

So here we are bemoaning and bewailing, gnashing and railing at the accession of Trump, all to little avail. For three months now I’ve been pondering the question, ‘How is this the perfect unfolding of True Nature? How is President Trump perfect for the world?’ If we see all the world as a mirror for our own self-work, what is Trump teaching us?

As long as our enlightenment is not complete, as long as we have any aspect of our ego structure unresolved, there will be narcissism. The ego is by its nature narcissistic. It wants what it wants in order to feel safe and secure because it believes it is separate. Narcissism arises from loss of contact with the truth that we are not separate, but arise out of an indivisible, indestructible oneness.

When all shreds of our narcissism have dissolved, our Earth Element is in perfect balance. We live from the place of total altruism, because all others are actually who we are.

Almost all of us find ourselves on a continuum which includes various proportions of altruism and narcissism. What Trump offers us is the opportunity to examine the ways in which narcissism is an obstacle to altruism.

Next time you find yourself tearing your hair out at the latest impossible thing to come out of his mouth, I invite you to take a look in this mirror.

We’ll have fun fun fun

(till her daddy takes the T-bird away)



In the final blogpost for 2016, we look at one of the gifts of the Fire Element. Fun!


Years ago I made a new friend and early on in our friendship she asked me, ‘What do you do for fun?’ I had never been asked that question before and it actually took some thought to answer it. Lately, as I’ve been thinking and writing about the Fire Element, I have been asking others the same question and they, too, have to think about it for a while. First of all we have to think about what fun means. Something amusing, pleasurable and enjoyable. Something that is entertaining, diverting or comical. But above all something that is light-hearted and brings happiness. Then we think of the ways we seek to bring this sense of fun into our life.

In our fast-paced modern world, we can sometimes get very serious about taking care of the many strands of life and forget to have fun. The Heart needs to be tended and one of the ways to do that is to engage in activities that bring pleasure, amusement, laughter and light-heartedness.

Five Element acupuncturist Neil Gumenick offers this advice:

Have fun on a regular basis, even if you have to work at it at first. Make it a priority – schedule your fun, if that’s what it takes. Don’t compromise. Consider fun as important to your well-being as work or anything else you do.

Summer is a great time to work on your fun. For one thing there is just so much fun stuff happening in the summer, from parties and barbecues to fairs and festivals everywhere you look. Haven’t you noticed how many events there are on the same weekend in summer? The energy of the Fire Element simply suffuses summer. It calls forth and supports anything that sustains and heals the heart.

Here’s a suggestion: find one thing that you’ve always wanted to do for fun but never got around to and find time to do that this summer. Your heart will thank you.


All You Need Is Love

As we move fully into the Fire season of summer, here we look at one of Fire’s greatest gifts: love.

Shanzhong – Within the Breast – Conception Vessel 17

4-17Perhaps more words have been written and spoken about love than any other subject. Certainly it is a major focus in books, movies and popular music. There is no simple definition of love because it has different meanings in different contexts. There are many kinds of love.

We can say we love certain foods like ice cream or chocolate, we love our hobbies or our work, we love our pets, we love our neighbours, we love our family, we love our partner, we love the earth, we love God.

Whichever culture or system you look at, there seems to be universal agreement that love is associated with the heart. Whatever kind of love we are talking about, it is a state that is perceived by and expressed through the heart centre. Love is often experienced as a warm or expansive feeling in the chest. This is a direct experience of the fact that the heart is the primary organ of the Fire Element. The extent to which we are able to feel love, receive love, give love or express love will indicate the health of our Fire.

The Fire point that lies in the very centre of the chest is Shanzhong – Within the Breast. While it lies on the Ren Mai (Conception Vessel), it is the mu or alarm point for the Heart Protector. This is where the shen, the spirit of the Heart resides. It coincides with the heart chakra or heart centre and is the place where we most feel our heart feelings. It is where we feel the pleasurably warm, glowing feeling when we fall in love and also where the pain is felt when our heart is broken.

Shanzhong is a point that activates the shen. It facilitates the communication of feelings from the Heart to the outside and helps to settle the spirit when the person has been exhausted or betrayed by relationships. When the heart has gone cold, it opens the Heart Protector to new possibilities of engagement with others.

At the physical level, this point strongly activates Qi in the chest, affecting both heart and lungs. It treats tightness in the chest, chronic cough and shortness of breath. Because it quells rebellious Qi in the middle burner, it aids heartburn and acid reflux. It also facilitates lactation and treats mastitis.

While this point won’t guarantee you’ll find the love of your life, it can help you to open the conduit for communication of feelings and for the giving and receiving of love.

Location of Conception Vessel 17

4-18The point is in the centre of the sternum in a shallow hollow. On men it lies between the nipples. It is at the level of the fourth intercostal space which is  located by counting down four rib spaces from the underside of the clavicle. The point can be held with gentle, direct finger pressure, or more gently still by placing the palm on or over the point.


This is an extract from The Way of the Five Elements by John Kirkwood, a book that might make a lovely gift for someone you love.