Monday, November 23, 2020

64. The Metal element 5: Are we living in an age of Metal?

I would recommend all of you to read a book by Andrew Keen, called The Internet is not the Answer (Atlantic Books 2015).  It contains important warnings about the world we live in, and the risks we are running of remaining, not the free agents in a free world we like to see ourselves as, but ever more like slaves entrapped in a world controlled by the large corporations, such as Apple, Amazon and Google, whose power over us grows by the day.

The author points to a worrying aspect of today’s world, our current obsession with ourselves.  The rise of the mobile phone and Instagram have disturbing consequences, one of the most frightening being what he calls our “self-centric culture”, in which “if we have no thought to Tweet or photo to post, we basically cease to exist.”  And “the truth about networks like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook is that their easy-to-use, free tools delude us into thinking we are celebrities.”

I have often thought that the electronic equipment most of us feel to be absolutely indispensable to our modern lives, and which is intended to link us ever more closely to one another, ironically leads instead to our distancing ourselves more and more from each other.  The cameras in our mobile phones are encouraging us to look at each other through a lens, rather than in the eye.  The messages we send are beginning to stop us speaking to one another, voice to voice.  We now text rather than talk.

The young woman sitting opposite me in the cafĂ© a few days ago made no contact with anybody during the time that I watched her, all her human interactions being through her electronic equipment.  It felt as though she lived in a bubble all on her own.  As Andrew Keen says, “The truth…is that we are mostly just talking to ourselves on these supposedly “social” networks…. (It is) an Internet in which the more social we become, the more we connect and communicate and collaborate, the lonelier we become.”  Are we perhaps starting to live in an age of Metal, that element which mourns the loss of what is valuable, and in its imbalance may cut us off increasingly from each other and from the world around us?

Finally, to add to these rather depressing thoughts, a little comment by the writer, Robert Macfarlane, whose lovely books about walking in nature and in the wild all of us should also read.  In an article of his in the Guardian newspaper, I read that the new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary now includes words like “chatroom” and “broadband”, but not “bluebell” or “kingfisher”.  I also read that they are now discussing whether children should continue to be taught handwriting in school, presumably because it is assumed that they will no longer be using pen and paper but tapping away on their keypads to communicate.  All these different developments underline the seismic changes going on around us.  No doubt many of these may herald exciting new departures which we should welcome.  Others, though, represent losses.  I am sad that children’s vocabularies may no longer include bluebells or kingfishers.


Monday, November 16, 2020

63. The Metal element 4: A Metal patient's story

Every day I receive confirmation that the elements do indeed imprint a personal stamp upon each one of us in the shape of one of the five elements.  It is both exhilarating and humbling to receive these continuing proofs of the truth of what I practise.  I received one such confirmation at a fellow acupuncturist’s practice some time ago, when I was asked to help a patient of hers.

A few years ago this patient had suddenly begun to experience severe pains down his body, accompanied by strange involuntary jerking movements of his left leg.   I asked him whether he had been suffering from any particular stresses at the time the pains started, perhaps something which he might experience as a shock to the system.  “No“, he said, but then I noticed his eyes suddenly filling with great sadness.  “Is his element Metal then?”, I began to ask myself, as I saw this look of grief.  We are always being given pointers to the elements if we are sensitive enough to notice them, however slight they may be, little gifts of help.  And then came another gift.  He was silent for quite a while as I took his pulses, and then, out of the silence, unexpectedly he said quietly, “I always wished I had had some relationship with my father.”  Aha, I thought, who but Metal is likely to say this?  For of course we know that Metal has a particularly strong association to the father.

Metal is the “if only” element, the element that looks back into the past, and often thinks more about this past than about the present.  So here was a double pointer to Metal, the grief in the eyes and the immediate connection with a father who, though still living, is as though lost to him.

So I continued with my questioning, guiding it now along a path that my experience tells me that Metal will accept.  It wants to be left alone to make its own connections and assess for itself what is relevant or irrelevant.  So I suggested lightly that maybe something had indeed happened around the time all this pain appeared. “Maybe some stress at home or at work, perhaps?  But only you will know what that might be.”  And I added, “Perhaps the involuntary jerking of your leg is because you want to kick somebody!”  We both laughed, and then he was given his first treatment on Metal, just the source points, and I left him with this rather light, almost joking remark hanging in the air.

 A few hours later he phoned, and wanted to tell us something he had never told anybody else before.  Two years ago his wife had had an affair with his best friend which had devastated him.  They had worked through this now, but he could not forgive his friend, and never wanted to see him again – another great loss in his life.  I suspect that now that he has admitted to his anger, he will no longer unconsciously need to kick out, either at his wife, or more likely at his friend, as good treatment focused on his Metal element helps him gradually heal.

This was further evidence for me that we need only lightly suggest something to Metal, and then stand back to allow them space to work out their own solutions, since Metal is so acute and quick at making connections for itself.

How much we achieved in such a short time!

I’m sure five element acupuncturists reading this will expect me to write about any other signs of Metal I noticed in terms of the other sensory signs.  His emotion I have talked about;  his colour was not very clearly what I associate with Metal.  I couldn’t detect any smell at all, but the sound of his voice was very flat, very yin, dragging me down with it.  This is the sound which I associate with Metal’s weeping tone.  




Tuesday, November 3, 2020

62. The Metal element 3: Metal's two officials

Of all the elements, Metal is the one whose two associated officials, the Lung and the Large Intestine, have the widest reach, spanning the whole body from top to bottom, from the nose and the lungs down and through the colon as far as the body’s lowest point.  The Lung, our organ of intake, is the element’s direct connection to the world outside, and establishes this connection through the act of inhaling air as well as through the pores of the skin, which are called the third lung in Chinese medicine.  The Lung passes oxygen on to every cell of the body, before the Large Intestine takes over to carry out the final processing and elimination of all needless waste material from the body.

When we think of Metal’s season, autumn, we can see that nature’s work at this time is to filter as much goodness from what Earth’s harvests have left behind, before sending all this goodness down to the roots below ground, to the Water element, to feed the next cycle.  Metal not only has to help the Lung inhale life-giving air, but help the Large Intestine sift through and discard all the waste material from the other elements, retaining only those few which are sufficiently pure to support the renewal of life.  If we look at the components listed on bottled water, for example, we can see that they include a great number of essential trace elements, the products of Metal’s work in filtering all the purity from what has gone before.  These trace elements leave no actual trace for the human eye to perceive, but without them no seed will grow.  The Water element will then stores these trace elements as nutrients for the seeds it nurtures throughout the winter.

The process of breathing becomes what we can think of as an act of purification, as the nasal hairs catch as many impurities as they can, acting as filters to remove them, and expelling them in our sniffles and sneezes as we breathe out.  The Lung is therefore one of the body’s purifying agents for all the physical activities involved in breathing, as well as for the deeper mental and spiritual activities for which it is responsible.  It then passes on the residue of these activities which it no longer needs to Metal’s companion official, the Large Intestine.

The Metal element can therefore be seen as bearing a heavy burden, that of being responsible for ensuring both the purity of what we take in and the removal of all the impurities and waste material no longer of use to us.  The wide range of its responsibilities has always made me regard Metal people as having to live their lives under a surprisingly great level of strain, for if they fail in their task, they will allow through that which the Lung should be filtering out.  I remember well one of the most important lessons I learned about this element was from a Metal patient who told me one day, “I feel dirty inside all the time”, a description which could be seen as clearly reflecting her Lung official’s inability to maintain the purity which she craved.  It was very significant that this patient always turned up for treatment to start with in what I could only imagine was a set of fresh white underwear, as if by wearing these she could somehow hide the pollution she felt deep inside her.  I regarded it as visible evidence that her treatment had been successful when, after a few months, she turned up in coloured underwear, as if she now no longer needed to hide her body in what most of us would consider the purest colour of all, white.