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Metal Phase in Dragon Rises Red Bird Flies

April 25, 2017

The Metal Phase transforms bonds, and so it is fitting that this series of posts comes to an end here, transforming this cycle into something, at least for the moment, complete. Our essence of what we might be began in the Water Phase, taking on momentum and direction with Wood, alighting to inspiration of our most intimate and creative self in Fire, maturing into the bonds of relationship between one another in Earth. With the Metal phase we transform the bonds of Earth, ending old forms of relationship and beginning new, where of course this holds not only for relationships with others, but for our relationships to ourselves, to ideas, and to the whole world. Metal is the element of the Lungs, and it is suited then to our inspiration and expiration, and the echo of that whole world breathing that looks to us sometimes like living and dying, but is never other than transformation.

Metal Phase

Tai Chi Sword
A Sword to Cut Through Delusion

Metal Yin Deficiency

DRRBF notes three different ways in which an inability to form and maintain relationships can manifest: as an inability to form new relationships, an inability to hold or maintain relationships, or an inability to direct energies correctly toward suitable and meaningful relationships. A concept that I began to play with in the Earth phase notion of bonds and boundaries is that relationships are not simply between persons, but also within individuals, highlighting the necessity of self-relationship. This space seems a worthwhile one to take that idea forward and further, to suggest that there is, in many ways, no actual difference between interior and exterior relationships, and that the “self” as we experience it in terms of “ego-identity” is in fact not other than a cognitive representation of what is always also or simultaneously a “social-identity.” That is to say that our “separateness” is as much a product of a particular perspective and certain cognitive styles that have shown some degree of adaptive utility in a survival sense, that have overawed us and caused us to participate in a pernicious illusion of our own separateness (certainly here I am echoing my own spiritual tradition’s analysis of the human condition, to some extent). All of that is to say, however, that if we are not ever actually separate in the way we commonly perceive, then where we are most likely to identify ourselves as “individuals” is in reality not other than where these connections come together in nodes, places of crossroads between interior and exterior, the woven patterns of self and other intersecting. Metal Yin deficiency, then, is actually more disastrous to our healthy unfolding as beings than simply finding it difficult to interact with others in a consistently beneficial or mutually supportive way. The difficulty in creating, maintaining, or appropriately selecting our connections and relationships is quite literally a difficulty in constructing a self, if the self is simply a space in which relationship occurs, a node of many connections where the “substance” of the implied self is not more than the overflowing interaction of these many relationships taken together. The “need” here is likely to be different based on the 5-Phase association that is acting as motive-force for the expression of the Metal phase action of relationship-constructing – the Water-in-Metal, Earth-in-Metal, Wood-in-Metal, etc – and why that motive-force is lacking. If Earth-in-Metal is the deficient aspect of the Metal energy more broadly in this case, then even those relationships that are started well enough will not have the substance and durability to hold. Perhaps this is because of a concomitant Earth-phase vulnerability from a less than supportive set of initial family bonds, which has not taught the person how to feel safe in relationship, and needs then to be given a space in which they can allow bonds to mature, to weather hardship, and come out stronger, without the threat of abandonment, punishment, or ridicule.

Metal Yin Excess

As Metal generates Water, we can see the “need for control” that is expressed in a Metal Yin excess as one that echoes the real, underlying Water-phase fear of being out of control. Most tellingly, DRRBF suggests that for the Metal Yin excess person, the bond is more important than the person bonded to, it ceases to have the dynamism and the mutuality that characterize a healthy and living bond. The need to “hold another in place” as it were, to ensure their presence and predictability in the space of the relationship produces bonds that overwhelm, that ossify into structures that are difficult to escape, leading to a stasis in the process of becoming for both partners in the bond. As with Earth Yin excess bonds that need more mobility and pliability, here too the Metal Yin excess bonding needs to become less fixed, but where the Earth Yin excess may have difficulty simply in being adaptable and dynamic in their bonds, the Metal Yin excess person will feel a more active need to control the orientations, actions, and expressions of the being at the other end of the bond that has become less of an invitation, and more of a demand or even a command to order behavior. This need for control in many ways reflects what I take to be a fundamental fear of loss of control, which is a sense of the disorganization of the ego. As the generating cycle through Metal leads us back to the primal and infinitely dynamic font of Life that is Water, so too does Metal’s tendency toward contraction and stabilization quiver at times with the anxiety of its own unmaking that it sees coming, wanting to hold on to the structures it has elaborated. This recognition that the structures and the particular formation of the bonds that it has generated are ultimately temporary and available for transformation and even unmaking in the next round through the cycle of becoming can be difficult for the Metal Yin excess person to grapple with, and they are likely to face this internal sense of their own potential and often coming self-disorganization with great fear, which will cause them to try to hold everyone around them still and in place, as if this could stop or stay for a time their own ineluctable transformations. Fear is being expressed, and what is needed is simply to let go. It is here that Metal’s contraction and self-authority must give way to the Faith of Kidney Qi, to let go of the “self” that has been created in this elaboration of a network of bonds, to be transformed and creatively reorganized into something new and wonderful.

Metal Yang Deficiency

Here we have someone who, in DRRBF’s terms, has an inability to let go, in order to transition to the next step, phase, or mode of becoming, whether personally or in relationship. This person will not be characterized by the more desperate and domineering expressions of a need for control as the Metal Yin excess person might be. Instead, they will simply find it difficult to allow for things that no longer suit their life as they are currently experiencing it to naturally transition away. This makes it difficult for them, then, to have the energy to accept the new when it arrives, because they find themselves still occupied with what is no longer necessary for them. While they may find themselves more comfortable and “secure” in a sense with the known, there will be a dull sameness to their world, as they will have limited energy to nourish their existing relationships, and no energy to let go and take the new. There will be, ultimately, a kind of isolation and loneliness, as relationships and connections will mutate and transition away from their grasp based on the Metal Yang of the other party involved, leaving them with only scraps of memory or withered and brittle husks of once-living connections in their hands, and not the vibrant bonds we each long for. The need here is in many ways for them to simply recognize that the lack of energy that they take for an inability to let go is really just a mis-appropriation of that same energy – the force it takes to hold on to what should naturally have already passed far exceeds the energy that it would take to simply let go. They do not have to do more work. They can be free of their own grasping simply by letting themselves be free of it. There is only an awareness, an awakening that needs to take place.

Metal Yang Excess

If the Metal Yang deficient person cannot let go, the Metal Yang excess person is quite easily able to let go, too easily, moving from one seemingly viable and healthy connection to the next. This is, in some ways, not too terrible a thing, but it ends up producing relationships that are forever in their freshest and newest stages of emergence, with none of the character and depth that is to be found in a matured and developed relationship. In the same way as we have described relationships being the same stuff that in many ways actually give space and rise to what we might describe as “self”, the lack of mature and developed relationships hinders the maturing and development of the person. The difficulty here is that there is, in many ways, a beautiful kind of freedom in the Metal Yang excess person’s life, a constant ability to be engaged with the new and the novel, to take each experience as fresh, to find person after person that they come into contact with fascinating and worthy of developing sincere relationship with. The problem is that in order to always be starting freshly intense relationships, they are forever moving on from established relationships, including relationships with ideas, places, and convictions, as well as with people. The lack of substance in their relationships, owing not to an inability to develop that substance but rather to a consistent lack of allowing for time for that substance to be built, ends up producing for them a “self” that likewise lacks substance or depth, while having, paradoxically, a vast range of experiences. What is necessary in some ways here is for this person to wake up to the reality that each moment is, always and completely, new, and that the most intimate relationships unfold in extraordinary ways, such that there is always something unexpected to discover, something new to create together, some new vista to explore within relationships as they deepen and mature, as well as “outside” in the form of new relationships. This awareness can allow for an opening toward the realization that the new and the dynamic unfolding of the world is not only to be found in severing ties with the old in order to embrace the new, but also in engaging deeply with established relationships to watch as they transform, and find yourself transformed in kind. The roaming, unsettled nature of the mind and spirit that would be characteristic of a Metal Yang excess person, then, can find a stillness that admits of both venturing to the horizon and remaining quietly side by side with another, listening.

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