After the heat of summer and the abundance of harvest, we begin to look inward, reflect; prepare for winter.  Fall is the season of Metal.  This phase is about dying back, just like the plant life in fall.  Upon first look, that can seem harsh, like the sharp blade of a sword- and metal is this.   However, the metal phase also contains air: light, fresh, clear, allowing us the space to move forward.  The dichotomy and cooperation between these two aspects of dying back and moving forward explain the basic characteristics of the Metal Phase, its responsibilities, strengths and weaknesses.

Metal governs boundaries and definitions of self and other, making sure we take in and keep only what is essential and suits us, trimming back, rejecting or cutting out what is not essential, authentic and likely to help us grow in the future.  Given these responsibilities it makes sense that within the body, the systems that pertain to Metal are the Lung and the Large Intestine.  We breathe in air, but our lungs only take in certain things from the air.  If they are working efficiently, we take in what we need and breathe out what we don’t need and what we’ve already used.  Likewise, the Large Intestine, when working properly, quickly and efficiently eliminates solid waste from our body.  Most of this is what we have not taken in from our food and drink, and some of it could be quite harmful to us if not eliminated.

Another organ pertaining to Metal is the skin.  This illustrates Metal’s function in defining boundaries and identity, as well as its role in the immune system.  Allergies, some autoimmune disorders, frequent colds, dry skin, and rashes all can be linked to dysfunction within the Metal phase, and they commonly affect Metal Type people.

The same links with skin, breath, boundaries and identity also illuminate the Metal phase’s connection with spirituality and its emotion, grief.  Many religious practices use breath and meditation to help us connect with the Divine.  Indeed, our sense of our self as being separate and having boundaries from one another and from the Divine is what makes so many of us seek out religious practice.  It is also so often the reason we feel grief.  When we lose a loved one, a relationship or anything else important, we may feel alone or cut off from life.  The Metal phase regulates how we react during this time: commonly, we either stop breathing (which helps numb the emotions) or cry to express our grief.  Then, once we are ready, we seek to understand the world anew, to redefine ourselves, our world and often our deepest beliefs in the new space created by our loss.

Properly functioning Metal Phase people help us all see life from a healthy perspective: each person is valuable not just intrinsically, but because of their particular role within the larger fabric of life.  For society to function at its best, and for each of us to achieve our individual purpose, it is important that we understand and value both ourselves and others and be willing to let go of whatever does not serve to strengthen us and help us grow.  Reason, virtue and conscience are the highest values of a Metal Type person, and when all three are well applied a person can be free to rise up to meet their full potential.

But, of course, like the other phases Metal can become unbalanced.  It can grow too hard and sharp, cutting away indiscriminately, imposing rules, boundaries and values without regard to logical foundations, particular situations or respect of others’ needs, beliefs or values.  In this state, a Metal Type person may also have difficulty acting with compassion or emotion or even understanding someone else’s logic or perspective.

On the other hand, Metal can also become weak, frail, even flimsy or brittle.  This causes a great deal of insecurity and self-doubt, which can in turn result in over-reliance upon the opinions, values, rules and values of another person.  Unfortunately, because this unbalanced Metal is not behaving strongly and logically, the chosen leader may be both poorly chosen and unquestioningly followed.

Neither of these extremes is at all helpful to the world or satisfying to the Metal Phase itself, but fortunately there are some simple, effective ways to maintain a healthy, balanced Metal phase, whether or not you are a Metal Phase person.

To begin with, since fall is the Metal season, we must all pay attention to and nurture our Metal phase during this time of year.  It is appropriate that, just as the leaves fall from the trees and the plants and animals prepare for winter, our energy turns inward as well.  This is a good time for self-reflection, more deliberation, and taking a critical look at the past year.  What did you take on during the more social, outward-focused summer that really does not align with your goals and identity?  Is there any way to live more simply and authentically?  Treat yourself well and help your body with its task of sorting out what it needs and doesn’t need by taking in only moderate amounts of foods and drinks that you know agree with you.

Meditate; breathe deeply.  Spend time with yourself: not simple time alone, but time paying attention to and identifying your needs, values, goals and beliefs at this particular moment in time.  Practice and hone your critical thinking skills, learning to separate your thoughts from your emotions as well as separating them from other people’s thoughts and emotions.  Temper these analytical skills with intuition, compassion and flexibility.  With your Metal phase in balance, you will be able to more easily and correctly identify your true self and others, creating appropriate boundaries, standards and goals for yourself.


Posted in Chinese Medicine, Five Phase Theory.