The 5 Elements in the Helios Overture

Pink sunset reflected in the surf at the beach

Anybody who lives on this orbiting planet experiences seasons in one way or another, but we also go through many seasons in a day. We wake up in the morning and it’s Spring: a new beginning. We receive a call from a friend, canceling our plans, and suddenly it’s Autumn, the season of grief. We dose off for a quick nap at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and suddenly it’s Winter, and we are hibernating. Yes, we move through many seasons in a day.

I was beautifully reminded of this last weekend, when I took my son to see the Everett Philharmonic performance of the Helios Overture, written in 1903 by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen. The piece was inspired on a trip to Greece by the sun rising and setting over the Aegean Sea.

The overture began with the deep, groaning opening notes of the Water element resonating in my bones, and slowly moved into Wood as the dawn arrived, the sun rising, more instruments joining in. Wood moved into Fire as the day reached its zenith, vivacious and busy. Then, as the music hall collectively realized that this fanfare could not last forever, the lingering sweetness of Late Summer arrived. Then the aching goodbye of Autumn, as I found myself valuing the experience, thinking, “I must remember this!” And finally, as the sun sank back into the Aegean of Nielsen’s imagination, the deep, groaning surrender to the Water returned, and became silence again.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the way the 5 Elements of nature according to Chinese Medicine manifest in the emotional body can make an exercise of listening to this overture (below). Notice how the passing seasons of the day, as imagined in this composition, affect you; notice where you feel the changing moods in your body.

The well-equipped 5 Element practitioner is deeply attuned to the way the seasons manifest in the whole person-- to where someone is stuck in the Grief of Autumn, or where they avoid engaging in the Passionate Determination of Spring. These phases are the gifts of our nature, and acupuncture treatments in this tradition can help the client bring all of themselves to the table, eliciting balance, healing, and the resolution of any number of troublesome mental, emotional, and physical symptoms.

To the uninitiated, it can seem like magic, but as creatures of this earth, these dynamics are very simply inborn. Thin acupuncture needles (or skillful needle-free stimulation of points) are like pitch-pipes that "true up" these elements in us when they go out of tune, often experienced as distress or pain.

Appointments available Wednesdays ongoing in Lower Queen Anne, and Thursdays in Wallingford starting the first week of June. Call 425-306-1616 or email