Friday, October 11, 2013

The Metal Element- The Art of Letting Go

Many people have heard the story of the monkey and the banana trap.  If you haven't, here's a quick recap.  The monkey trappers are trying to find a way to catch the monkeys.  So they make a
special box with a banana inside. Now the monkeys, being the banana-lovers that they are, cant resist reaching into the small hole at the top of the box for the treat.  The problem is, with their fist clamped so tightly around the banana...  they can't get out of the box.  They are forever trapped-  but if they could simply let go,  they would be free.

This story is so fitting for the Fall season, because the Metal element is all about letting go.   Letting go of what we don't need.  Letting go of people we don't need. Letting go of thoughts, behaviors, emotions that no longer serve us.

So stop here and take a minute to fill in this statement:  If  I could just let go of ____________, then I could be/ have __________________.

 The problem with the monkey trap story is that- like most of us-  the monkey simply doesn't want to let go.  And why should it? Sure, there could be freedom, but that's a pretty abstract concept to trade in for the ripe juicy banana right there in front of it.  And if you look at your statement above, what you put in the second blank might be just as abstract or conditional... because it hasn't manifested yet.

And this is where many of us get stuck. Sometimes, we know exactly what we have to let go of.  We
even know why.  But the thought of letting it go for the promise of something intangible often makes us hold on even more tightly.  Sure, this anger, this relationship, this clutter, etc (you fill in the blank) might need to go, but without it, what guarantees do we have?  It's a big 'ole mystery to wrap our monkey-minds around.

But nature is endlessly profound in its ability to teach us about life.  We are, after all, microcosms of the macrocosm, each of our cells is a mini-replica of the entire cosmos.  And nature has a wonderful gift to teach us about the art of letting go.

In the Fall, the season of the Metal element, the energy shifts inward.  In plant world, sap (the 'blood'
of plants) is also directed inward, nurturing the roots in preparation for the winter and new life.  The leaves, no longer nourished, turn beautiful shades of brown and rust, and void of life force, ultimately let go of their branches. 

That is the beautiful lesson of the Metal Element.  It's not about just letting go, its about turning our resources to what's essential.  When we give energy to what matters, what is no longer needed in our lives is free to fall away on its own accord.  There is an effortlessless to letting go when we focus on what we DO need, instead of focusing on what we don't.

In Chinese Medicine, the Lungs and the Large Intestine are the Metal organs in our bodies that
govern that process-  and they are paired for a reason.  The lungs support us in breathing in life, energy and inspiration.  And through the large intestine, we let go of what we no longer need. 

We can bring this wisdom of nature and our bodies into our conscious experience.  Instead of struggling  to let go of anger or resentment, we can direct our energy towards forgiveness,  compassion, or change.  Instead of letting go of sugar or coffee, we can focus on the healthy foods we want to incorporate into our diet. We can scavenger our closets for the favorite pieces of clothing, jewelery, art, or pictures that we truly value, allowing the clutter in our homes to fall way.  Instead of focusing on the relationship that is over and done with, we can focus on ways to nurture and honor ourselves.  And as we focus on fulfilling, honest friendships, we find that those that were less so take up less space in our lives.

It's Metal's gift of discernment that makes this process possible. The Metal Element allows us to question- is it really junk, or something that just needs to be polished so that it can shine again? Which is a question as equally valid for a dissapointing relationship as it is for the old silverware that you found in the basement. 

And sometimes, often times, that letting go is painful.  The Metal Element is associated with the emotion of grief, and its sound is weeping.  As we let go, we are called to remember favorite moments with a loved one who has passed or can no longer be in our lives. A wave of nostalgia washes over us as we sort through a box of memories.   

Grief can be undeniable, but when we allow ourselves to honor what has been lost, we open ourselves to the sacredness of each new moment.

So we take a deep breath...  and just....  let.... go.  whoooossshhhh.
Photo Credit: Alvin Ailey


  1. A great piece of writing, Lindsay, and beautifully presented. Thanks for reminding us that letting go can be made more effortless by embracing what's positive and nourishing in our lives.

  2. Thanks Benjamin! This is and all of my writings this year have been inspired through my journey through the Alchemical Healing Mentorship!