The Five Phases of Transformation Pt. 1: Water

May 26th, 2014






In this world, there is nothing softer or thinner than water. But to compel the hard and unyielding, it has no equal. That the weak overcomes the strong, that the hard gives way to the gentle — this everyone knows. Yet no one asks accordingly.

Laozi (Lao Tzu)


NASA satellite view of Mississippi river delta

NASA satellite view of Mississippi river delta



The five phases of transformation is the alternative title given to what is more commonly known as the Five Elements in Taoism and traditional Chinese medicine. Elemental systems are not exclusive to the Chinese however. The ancient Greeks had a 4 element system. The Vedas of India had a five element system and so on. Even Western astrology features different elemental archetypes.



These are not the elements of the periodic table. They are a system of correspondences demonstrating the interaction between the microcosm of human life and the macrocosm of universal forces. This interaction is a spur to the eternal, existential question: “Who am I?”



Modern critics of such systems view them as ancient primitivism or magical thinking before the advent of scientific method. What is important to remember is that they are descriptive models of observable reality, not literal proofs of anything.



If they appear to describe the outside world it is only as the symbolic backdrop on which the cosmic drama of the Self plays out. They always point back to an inner truth in an endless evolutionary spiral towards self knowledge.




Phase relationships


At the level of energy-consciousness the five phases of transformation demonstrate both the endless shifting of our energy software through the transitory world of material form and the potential for personal evolution as we transition through these phases. This week, we will examine the transformation phase of the Water element.




The Water element phase of transformation



In nature the Water element describes the hidden depths and silent reserves of winter. Much of its activity happens below the visible line. It is the time of hidden potential; the seed under the snow; the growing fetus in the secret, salty sea of the uterus.[1]


The Water element in deepest winter appears inert and frozen. Do not be fooled by appearances however. It is the height of Yin energy. The quality of Yin is deep, inwardly focused, hidden and cosmically feminine in nature. She works by night, guided by mother moon just as mighty seas and tides are moved by her invisible hand.


Water is a highly creative or destructive force. The night belongs to the artist…or criminal. At the most basic creative level it is our sexual energy; the sperm and egg that brings us into physical manifestation; the desire of becoming. Organic planting cycles are based around the moon’s fecund forces.




‘Ice, ice baby!’ [2]


Fox ice


This phase is governed by the will. There is a saying: “Water always finds a way.” It represents both our survival drive and our curiosity to explore and experience. The challenge to this phase of development is fear.



Fear can freeze us into forgetting ourselves. It halts our potential. It is the mind killer (click here for more on this). In this state our individual will can become corrupted and steered by the will of others. This is why fear is so often used as a tool of control.



‘Everybody talkin’ at me’[3]


Duktig flicka 2


The lesson of the Water phase is to stay true to our Self; to ride its Yin, inward flow and seek inside for hidden resources; to contact our reserves of power and listen to inner guidance. It is the essence of trust and self belief.



When our will is strong we will not be swayed by the static of changeable opinion or the bullying bark of those that would seek to control, dominate or steer us for their own purposes.


Muhammad Ali, a famously strong-willed individual, reportedly received a phone call during an interview. It was from boxing promoter Don King who had become notorius for manipulating boxers for his own ends. His voice was heard shouting down the line:


“Hey champ! You gotta get down here and be at this show. It’s important champ! You gotta be there!”

Ali looks into the earpiece as if looking at King directly and shouts back:

“Yeah, important to you, sucker!” – and hangs up the phone.




Let’s get physical[4]



In the microcosm of the body the Water element controls the following structures and functions:


  • The kidneys and adrenal glands
  • The bones and bone marrow
  • The teeth and head hair
  • Sexual and reproductive function (fertility/potency)
  • The central nervous system
  • Hearing and balance
  • Youthfulness and aging
  • Regeneration, recovery and healing



The more observant reader may have been wondering about several connections here. For example, the connection between aging and the bones, teeth, head hair, fertility, potency and libido, hearing and balance.



Think of this kidney/adrenal system as our battery pack. As it slowly runs down the structures and functions it controls reflect that.







Stress can also have side effects on these functions. Many of us may have experienced dizziness and poor mental function after sustained periods of stress. Prolonged fear states, stress or exhaustion can also show up as weakness in the low back leading to lumbago, disk prolapse or sciatica.



In traditional Chinese medicine the kidney/adrenal gland complex is seen as one energy system. This represents our reserves to handle stress, trauma and recovery. It is the water of life; the energy of renewal that makes up the shortfall when outward resources are lacking – but we cannot live only on this credit card energy forever. Eventually the piper must be paid.




The will of water and its effect on collective survival



Earth Globe


Aside from the sexual organs and what they produce,  stress and sex hormones (often the same hormones) are primarily produced in the adrenal glands by both genders and supply our two first drives:


  1. The drive to survive
  2. The drive to reproduce so that our genetic line survives. (for more on this click here)


Humans are one of the few species that do not regulate their own breeding habits. Yes, we have contraceptive devices but not always the sense of restraint to realize when we are collectively threatening our survival by creating more life than we can sustain with the resources we have.


It is an egoistic use of the will. Growth without self regulation invites external forces to regulate us. Subjectively, we experience it as suffering:



  • Disease
  • Famine and starvation
  • Wars over resource shortages
  • Plundering and destruction of nature’s reserves



In others words death will be called in to regulate life until a balance is restored. The alpha drive for war and destruction is often talked about and rightly criticized. Less so the equally alpha drive to reproduce. In the light of nearly 7 billion humans on our finitely resourced planet having children can hardly be considered a right anymore.


They are our responsibility however. This often emotional argument (we are talking about the deep water of our alpha drives here)  needs to have a higher profile in the public debate about our future direction just as much as climate change, the environment or sustainable energy.




“Me. We”


This spontaneous poem by Muhammad Ali to a group of university students [5] is widely, if unofficially, regarded as the shortest poem in history after the previous winner “Adam had ’em.”[6]


The negative potential of our watery will is towards egoism. The positive potential is to create a more enlightened state – from ‘me’ to ‘we’. It will not then allow fear to split our nature into phony illusions of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Water after all, is the origin of life on our beautiful blue planet. It knows there is only us.



The way of water





What health lessons can we learn from the Water phase of transformation? Here are a few tips:


  • Replenish energy regularly:

o   Develop the art of the power nap

o   Take some time out every day to sit quietly in meditation

o   Renew energy through regular contact with water: Baths, showers, wet saunas, swimming, surfing and so on.

  • Avoid habitual use of stimulants like coffee. Drink more pure water instead.
  • Stretch the water meridians (back of the legs, either side of the spine and neck vertebrae)

o   If a back injury prevents forward bending then isolate the leg by placing it on a bench/table/chair while standing upright.

o   Wait 5 minutes till we feel a tingling sensation all the way down the back of the leg to the sole of the foot. Repeat for the other leg

o   Notice the relief this gives to the back without having directly stretched it at all.



Wash up


That should do us for now. Stay tuned next week when we flow on from the Water phase into the Wood/Tree element and its role in physical and spiritual health.



Till a new wave of consciousness breaks upon the shores of another Monday,




[1] I much prefer the Swedish term for the uterus (‘livmoder’) which literally translates as ‘life mother’

[2] Apologies to just about everyone for the use of anything Vanilla Ice in these blogs…

[3] Everybody’s Talkin’. Written by Fred Neil. 1966.

[4] Let’s get physical. Written by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick. This does indeed seem like a blog for musical apologies.

[5] It seems like this is also Muhammad Ali week for the blog. He is a very good example of the strong reserves of will – perhaps too much for his own physical wellbeing – but that is another blog

[6] The title of this poem is ‘On the antiquity of microbes’. Author unknown.



© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:






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