AUTUMN is the season of Metal which is the season of Lung and Large Intestine in Chinese Medicine. The Work of Autumn is cleaning out old "Stuff."
Nature instructs us about our own cycles of creating and letting go. Autumn marks the end of the growing season- a turning inward. Trees in autumn don't stubbornly hold onto their leaves because they might need them next year. Yet how many of us defy the cycle and hold onto what we've produced or collected - those decayed leaves, that old way of thinking, those stuck emotions? How can we hope for a harvest next year unless we let go of the old and start afresh?
The energy of this season, more than any other, supports our letting go of the waste, the old and stale in our lives, leaving us receptive to the pure and new, granting us a vision of who we are in our essence. Autumn returns us to our essence, moves us to eliminate what we no longer need, reveals again what is most precious in our lives.
In Chinese medicine, autumn is the season of the element Metal (or air). Grief is the emotion of the Metal element. We all experience loss, separation, and “letting go,” and we appropriately feel grief or sadness at those times. But when the energy of Metal is blocked or imbalanced within us, our expression of grief likewise becomes imbalanced and inappropriate. It may be excessive and ongoing. Or, in the other extreme, it may be absent, as in those who cannot express their grief.
The Colon and Letting Go
The Colon, one of the two organs in the Metal element, has the function of eliminating what is unnecessary or toxic from our bodies. But we are more than just physical bodies. Think of the daily onslaught of “garbage” directed at our minds and our spirit. We need to eliminate mental and spiritual rubbish, lest our minds become toxic and constipated, unable to experience the pure and the beautiful that also surround us. The Colon function on the mental and spirit level enables us to let go of all this waste.
The Lungs and Inspiration
When we hold on to grief, sadness, grievances more than is necessary, the lungs can create pathologies to mimmic this congestion. Too much grief can create conditions of congestion in the lungs. But there is more to this season than “letting go” - it is also a time to take in the pure. The air in autumn takes on a new crispness. Think of waking up on a brisk fall day and filling your lungs with that clean, cool autumn air. The Lung, the other organ contained within the Metal element, enables us to take in the pure, the new. It grants us the inspiration of a breath of fresh air. In classical Chinese medicine, the Lung is described as “the receiver of the pure Chi from the Heavens.”
The Lung and Colon work together as a team, one taking in the pure, the other eliminating waste. If these organs failed to do their jobs, imagine what might result. We might experience physical ailments of the Lung and Colon such as bronchitis, shortness of breath, cough, allergies, nasal congestion, emphysema, colds, sore throat, constipation, diarrhea, spastic colon, and abdominal pain. But what happens to our mind and spirit if waste keeps building up and we are unable to take in purity? Instead of tranquillity and inspiration, spontaneity and freshness, we feel depression, stubbornness (inability to “let go”), isolation, negativity. We see the dark side in everything, all the things that could go wrong. Of course, we would not choose to act and feel that way any more than we would choose to have constipation - but in this condition of imbalance, that is what we are choosing.
Our body is a community of different organs and functions. It is easy to see how any organ could break down if its waste was not carried away and allowed to fester. In this view, we can see how foolish it is to simply treat a symptom. We must find the cause. If the cause is an imbalance in Metal - if the Lung is unable to take in the pure, or the Colon unable to eliminate waste - we must first restore that function. Then the resulting symptoms will improve, regardless of how they manifest.
Just as metals give value to the earth, the Metal element within us gives our sense of self-worth. Each of us is a miracle of creation, more valuable than anything we could ever pursue. Each of us has a unique and priceless contribution to make. Yet when our Metal energy is imbalanced, we cannot sense our value. We compensate by seeking what we think will add to our worth: status, money, power, conquest - none of them bad or wrong of themselves, although our pursuit of them can be a symptom. Once we have acquired these things, however, we remain strangely unfulfilled. Persons with a Metal imbalance seek respect, quality, and recognition from the outside because they feel the lack of worth within. These are people who have difficulty “letting go” because they identify their own worth with “things” - achievements, attachments, collections, possessions, attitudes stored in the cluttered attic of the mind.
As Nature moves into a period of rest, we too take the opportunity to rest. The time for “putting it all out there” - the summer - has passed. Now is the time to contain ourselves, acting and speaking only when necessary, behaving with economy, exerting our will quietly and calmly. Those of us in the “autumn of our lives” must protect ourselves from the extremes of hot and cold within this season.
Suggestions for living in harmony with the autumn season:
• Go through your closet, desk, garage, medicine cabinet - any cluttered storage area-and discard what you no longer need. Then donate, sell, or otherwise circulate what might be of value to others.
• Do a mental inventory: Examine attitudes (prejudices, envies, hatreds, jealousies, resentments) stored within your psyche. When possible, contact those with whom you harbor old "stuff." Attempt to resolve the hurtful old issues, and then let them go.
• For issues you cannot resolve directly with others, or for old issues with yourself, write them on paper, being as specific as possible. Then burn the paper, symbolically releasing the content.
• Take time each day to breathe slowly and deeply. As you inhale the clean autumn air, feel yourself energized and purified. Feel the old negativity, impurity, and pain leave your body and psyche. Then contemplate briefly who you are without these identifications.
Come for a Sound Therapy Session to help with Release!
Thank you to The Institute of Classical Five Element Acupuncture for this inspiration!