The Metal Element holds the energy of Autumn: “The weather continues to cool and nature dims its lights, turning inwards after its Summer display and abundance. This is the season of threshing, of cutting through and shedding the waste, of sorting the pure from the impure. Plants get rid of what they no longer need in their dried-out foliage and contract their remaining precious, juicy essence down into their roots for the coldest months.”

Metal (after the stabilizing transitional moment of Earth) is the difficult phase of letting go of Fire’s joyful shining and of turning back inward, towards a quieter place of memory and reflection. It is a time of looking back to extract meaning from all experience – happy or sorrowful – in order to use those lessons to direct ourselves purposefully and resolutely towards a future that is even more joyfully aligned with who we really are.

Daoism recognizes that success has an expiration date, that we cannot stay in the limelight or sustain intense activity indefinitely or we will burn out and lose all connection to our source. So we – like nature around us – need to know when it is time to let go and to focus our attention inward. We can deploy our clear and right judgement in the Metal phase to take an honest look at our lives, to face uncomfortable truths and to resolve the unresolved. And, just as trees release toxins in their falling leaves, we can then shed whatever no longer belongs to us and hone in on what is essential, thus refining our seed.

In this way, the Metal phase is the vital step for our future blossoming in Fire. If this challenging soul-searching is not done, our seed is not refined back to its original truth, ready to be nourished in Winter (Water), to germinate in Spring (Wood) and to flourish into our highest self in Summer (Fire).

In other words, we cannot manifest our truth in the world if we do not know what that truth is. Metal’s cutting energy gives us the opportunity to go digging for the precious and sparkling gold that lies buried and hidden in our depths.

But we tend to skim over this phase, pushing down uncomfortable thoughts when they arise and filling our lives so we can avoid the solitude that might allow for honest reflection and the painful truth it might reveal. Instead, we tend to swing wildly between periods of intense activity (never quite reaching the radiance of true Fire) and exhausted collapse (a distortion of the deep rest in the Water phase that is possible when Metal’s work is done fully).

As Metal’s energy slips out of balance, we may find that its natural discernment gives way to hyper-criticism, directed at ourselves and/or at others; that resolve born of self-love and the joyful pursuit of our destiny gives way militaristic discipline; and that honest directness gives way to detached emotional coldness.

Our Metal energy may also lose its alchemical capacity to transform sorrowful experience into the potential for a brighter future, so we find ourselves wallowing in inconsolable grief, losing our sense of self-worth and sinking into depression.

Metal’s organs are the Lungs and the Large Intestine, which, like the Element itself, are focused on assimilation and elimination, on sorting the pure from the impure. The Lungs mark the meeting point – via our breath – of our internal environment with the environment around us. As such, they are very sensitive organs that are damaged by unresolved grief, which settles within them, creating dark, cold pockets of sorrow.


Some additional Yin Energy Examples: Persistent or absent grief, sadness, longing, depression, denial, lack of self-worth, hypersensitivity, hyper-perfectionism, zealotry, militant discipline, dry, uptight, naysaying, hypercritical, unsparing judgement, lack of diplomacy, ruthlessness, emotional coldness, detachment.


Some additional Yang Energy Examples: Self-transparency, honesty, value/truth-seeking, soul-searching, sense of poignancy, sensitivity, refinement, purity, discernment, reflection, memory, accountability, discipline, resolve, perseverance, sacrifice, seed of courage, self-confidence, direct manner.


***Text taken from The Five Elements and Our Inner World