Yesterday in the first part of this discussion of maintaining sanity, I discussed the roles of Wood, Fire and Water in creation and resolution of the problems that often plague many of us who take in, and take on – way too much. I’d like to talk now about how I’ve used the symbolism of Metal and Earth – the densest of our elemental phases – to help me see a way out of the chaotic world I sometimes live within.
Earth has taught me immensely important lessons in my quest to overcome overwhelm. Though it probably isn’t fair to lay the whole blame for this situation on Wood energetics, it is convenient in terms of looking at the Wood-Earth relationship.
When we push too much, when we try to do everything and be everyone, usually the very first thing to suffer is our self-care. Right behind it is our home life. How many of us, when we have massive deadlines piling up on us and the pressure at work or school seems almost to intense to bear, start treating our bodies terribly and snapping at our loved ones? In my humble opinion, this is a perfect example of Wood overacting on Earth manifesting in human life. So what to do?
Earth is the province of the Spleen and Stomach, the home of nourishment and care. Importantly, this is where the transformation and transportation of what we take in takes place. In some real way, we cannot properly assimilate all of the great information we’re trying to absorb without paying close attention to our Earth-bound needs. Careful attention to nutrition, plenty of rest and relaxation and special attention to the creation of sanctuary for ourselves is essential to making great use of what we are privileged to be learning. It is the soil from which our life grows.
This goes for the human element of Earth, too – our friends and family. We need to be especially careful to reach out to those who love us and those whom we love. We need to understand their essential role in our development and our responsibility to be what they need us to be. We should guard against self indulgence, of course, always remembering the vital role that the Emperor plays in reminding us of our purpose – but we MUST care for ourselves, or nothing will come of our valiant efforts.
Finally, Metal. Metal has taught me the hardest lessons, and the control cycle of the five elemental phases is a perfect analogy to use in this situation. Metal has the job of controlling the overgrowth of Wood. Where Fire gives the Wood something to reach towards, Earth gives ample nourishing space within which Wood can grow and Water ensures that everything stays supple and moving – Metal has the vital job of cutting off something gone wildly out of control. It is the pruning shear principle in our life and it *must not* be neglected if the Emperor is to maintain her appropriate place as undisputed ruler of our lives.
Sometimes you just have to say no. Even worse, sometimes you have to back out of something you erroneously said yes to at some point in the past. Metal, empowered by the animating principle of Fire and guided by the deeply connected force of water, knows when to say when. This is the hardest part to act out because there are no short cuts, and no way to make the impact less difficult.
Some of us can get a little panicky when we know we are going to have to say no to something or someone. This is the edgy force of Wood wanting to grow ever more! We must have the strength to wield metal for the sake of our whole being and just cut ourselves off from overcommitment and information overload. I promise you, you will not die if you fail to read the newspaper today. You will not become a pariah if you say no to the latest committee assignment offered to you at work. You will not fail utterly in your quest to become a great practitioner if you say no to that seminar or elective class.
If you simply let the Emperor be the Emperor, pay close attention to the guiding method of Water, nourish your whole being deeply with Earth and learn when to say when with the cutting force of Metal you will flourish madly in this world and do it with your sanity intact.
About Eric Grey
Hi - I'm the founder of this site and the primary master of all functions here. When I'm not writing, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.