When I was in my early twenties, I worked in administration in a large healthcare facility. One day, Sonya from Marketing cruised by my office for a chat and casually dropped this at the end of our conversation, “Gwen in Accounting thinks you don’t like her.” What??? I thought to myself (without any real emotion or drama), well…. I guess I need to spend some time being nice to Gwen. And I did. Gwen and I ended up being great friends, having many adventures together and even orchestrating life so we worked together again, years later, at a different healthcare company.
Fast forward to today… a couple of months ago, in a business conversation I was told “Jennifer (not real name) thinks you don’t like her.”
How many times have I heard that in the last 25 years? Who knows… maybe 25.
Why is this? Am I a mean person? No, that’s not it. Do I not care about people? Of course I care about people.
Do you know what I am? Metal. In Chinese Five Element theory: I am Metal. Metal people are aloof, a little detached. In the metaphor of the Five Elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal), I am dominant in Metal.
The Five Elements are an interesting and telling study from a personality perspective, but I am fascinated by the healthcare side of things. Five Element theory is what ancient Chinese medicine is built on. Every living thing and the planet itself are composed of five elements that are always in a dance of balance. If you want to go deeper, you could say I am an out-of-balance Metal. And my patterns and constrictions in my mind and body cause disease.
Here’s another part of my early story: I got pneumonia for the first time when I was 16. For the next 21 years I had many-times-a-year lung infections, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, and a constant deep, painful cough. In Chinese Medicine, guess what organ/system is associated with Metal. Yes, the answer is lung. For out-of-balance Metal, disease shows up in the lungs. I saw many doctors, took the prescribed drugs and had several emergency room visits due to cracked ribs from coughing. Did any of this work? No. I had to achieve balance in my mind – THEN balance in my body. I haven’t suffered from a lung issue since 2009.
These elements are a metaphor to explain a complex dance of energy and our energy is as unique as our thumbprint. When I was told someone at work thought that I don’t like them, I was calm, detached, and solution oriented. A Water person might pick up their journal, write extensively about everything surrounding the situation and meet people at a coffee shop and philosophize about every aspect of what happened. A Wood person would get angry and probably confront the situation. A Fire person might organize an office party and make sure to be best friends with everyone in the office. An Earth person would worry about what they did wrong and probably bake a cake and deliver it personally with a heartfelt conversation.
Our imbalances and balances show up in how we think, how we feel and what we do. Over time, they show up as disease – high blood pressure, insomnia, respiratory problems, rashes, auto-immune disorders, headaches, anxiety, back pain, infertility, inflammation, joint pain, depression, etc.
Where is the Yoga in this?
Self-study. One of Yoga’s ethical practices is called Svadhyaya and it means self- study. I got myself out of a 21-year battle with my lungs not via a doctor but from consciously becoming quiet and learning about myself. First, I observed my behaviors, reactions, emotions and patterns and did the work to unravel the tendencies. Then my magical body that can heal itself did the rest.