When I was a little girl, I remember I used to get so excited when my father would come home from work. It was like you would see on TV; I would run to him as he walked in the front door. I remember going with him to the park near our home and racing him across the grass. He let me win. In the summertime, I remember getting up in the wee hours of the morning to go with him to work. We would stop at Winchell's to pick up donuts for the employees, and one for ourselves of course!
Eliot Cowan says in his book Plant Spirit Medicine, "A father is the one who shows us the way through the world; through him, we come to know what is of value in life. His hand on our shoulder gives us the feeling of dignity and self-worth. He is the first and greatest authority. Because he respects us, we respect ourselves, we respect others. The father's role is to recognize our essence, to encourage and instruct us so that it may come forth and bless our life with its unique quality".
In the Chinese 5-Element philosophy of Plant Spirit Medicine, metal is the element having to do with the father energy. Metal expresses the season of autumn, our connection to Divine, how we relate to authority, what we value, and our expression of grief. We feel grief when there is a loss in our lives. When we are able to express grief, we are able to soften. In turn, "we are more authentic, more powerful, and ultimately more authoritative" (Plant Spirit Medicine, by Eliot Cowan).
Do you remember good times spent with your father? At that time, what was your relationship like with authority? What was your sense of self worth? What were your values? What was your relationship to Spirit?
What if our fathers were not present in our lives? Then we experience a great loss.
My parents divorced when I was 7 and my father's role in my life became less prominent. We had visitations every other weekend and then, after a few years with my parents arguing a lot, I didn't see him at all for a while. My life with just my mother and I was less stable. They had a custody battle that my father won when I was 12. By that time, my relationship with authority had gone down the tubes and I rebelled whenever I had the chance. In my teenage mind, my own parents couldn't even get their stuff together. How was I to trust other authority figures?
There were some rocky teenage years. It felt like my spirit had been broken. In search for what was missing, I went back to living with my mother for a few years. I dabbled with drugs. I dated men, but didn't know what I was looking for. Once again my relationship with my father had become sparse.
But then, there was something new. Something different about him. I had heard that he and my stepmother and my sister had been getting some type of healing… Something called Plant Spirit? Plant Medicine? I should try it, they said.
Well, I could see that something about them was certainly different. An openness perhaps? I couldn't quite put my finger on it but our relationships were benefiting from it! So, why not? I tried it. It brought me back to myself. I had been lost, but there I was again! Where had I been? Not connected to Divine. Not connected to myself. I could grieve the loss of myself, the years that felt wasted from being disconnected. And I valued more than ever my own essence, my own self-worth. Thanks to my father, stepmother, and sister for shining light on this important path of rediscovery, I was back! And thanks to my healer and teacher Eliot Cowan. And even more importantly, thanks to the plants themselves.
So I ask you again: Do you remember a time when you did not have your father in your life? What was your relationship to Spirit? What were your values? What was your relationship like with authority? Have you grieved the losses you have experienced in your life?
We find ourselves now in the autumn season, the season of the metal element, and we notice the days getting shorter. We grieve those warm summer days. The leaves display their gorgeous colors of red, orange, yellow, then fall to the ground. They are a metaphor for what we value. As they say, you don't know what you've got 'til its gone! As Eliot says in his book "Grief gets our values straight. It teaches respect. If grief has been deeply felt, a person who has just lost a loved one is clear about what is important and about how precious human life is. Our main problem with grief is that we don't like to feel it. We think we have to be strong in the conventional masculine sense instead. This type of strength is not really strength at all, but rather a pathological refusal to let go. Before the essence of the Father can inspire us through our lungs, we must be clean, pure, and empty inside".
So let's all grieve our losses together! Let the rain inspire our tears. Let us clean ourselves out to welcome in our true inspired selves. And let us do this in preparation for the next season, winter, whose element is water, and whose own essence encourages us to be empty inside in order to build up the energy inside ourselves which will then burst forward in the spring!