The change of season is now here and in its full force. The late summer period of the Earth element has passed and there is now crispness in the air in the mornings, shorter days and even more of a majestic blue sky. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is there are five elements rather then the four in the Western world with Metal being the element in TCM that governs Autumn. Metal gives us our sense of value, quality and integrity, so that we may look beyond our day to day existence and provide us with the power to let go of what no longer serves us.
Autumn marks the end of the growing season, a turning inward from more outgoing yang energies of Spring and Summer. The trees start to shed their leaves and those leaves go back to the Earth so it can become rich compost used to feed the next generation of plants. Nature instinctively informs us about our inner cycles of creating and letting go. Metal in nature allows us to take in the richness of life and let go of the old, so that we can move on. You don’t see the trees stubbornly holding onto decayed leaves for the following year. This is the same within us! How many of us go against the rhythms of nature and hold onto what we have produced and accumulated, not just physically but also on mental and emotional levels. Sentimentally clinging on to attachments and emotions accumulated in Summer can produce feelings of melancholy, grief and anxiety which may manifest themselves into breathing difficulties, skin problem, chest pain and a lowered resistance to flus, colds and other respiratory conditions.
The energy of Autumn is supporting letting go of the old and stale in our lives more than any other season. This is so we can deeply connect with all that gives life its meaning and significance, whether it would be people, animals and even fresh insightful ideas.
The two organs in TCM that govern Autumn and the Metal element are the Lungs and Large Intestine (colon). The Lungs and Large Intestine are closely connected together as they allow us to ‘take in’ (Lungs) and ‘let go’ (large intestine). The energetic properties of these organ systems control our breath, pores and our waste. This shows the importance this element plays in cleansing the body. Imagine they failed in doing their jobs and the amount of physical ailments that may occur as a repercussion.
The Lungs are the organ that assists in taking our first and last breath in life. The movement and rhythm of the breath provides movement and rhythm to the entire body. If your breathing is even and regular then healthy ‘qi’ will flow freely throughout the body via the dispersing and descending action it has on ‘qi’.
According to the ‘qi’ cycle, the hours of 3-5am are Lung time, a spiritual time and ‘yin’ in nature. The Lungs are known as the upper source of water and the Kidneys the lower source. Together they assist in water metabolism which is why someone lacking in ‘yin’ may find themselves waking at night and/or with night sweats. The Lungs are a fragile organ due to being the upper most organ of the body. This makes them easily invaded by pathogens that cause infections like colds and influenza. When the Lungs are deficient not only are you vulnerable to these infections but your skin and hair may look dull and skin conditions may arise. When the Lungs are strong your skin looks vibrant, hair is glossy and you have strong immunity.
The ‘corporal’ soul is the spirit of the Lungs. This gives us the ability to feel bodily sensations and make a good connection with the world. If it is strong, then you will have a strong connection to the world and be able to take in all the information that comes via the five senses. When the Lungs are not functioning strongly then the senses will dull and there may be an inability to feel sensation or emotion. At the extreme we may tend to alienate ourselves from those around us and the world at large. You may even have a feeling of something is wrong but can’t put a finger on what it is. Physically the Lungs protect us from infections. Mentally and spiritually the Lungs when strong protects us from psychic attacks and helps us to deal flexibly with any emotional issues that arise.
The ‘yang’ organ of Autumn the Large Intestine eliminates the waste matter from the body. It has an important role to play because if you do not have good elimination then you are unable to take anything in. The time our ‘qi’ passes through the Large Intestine is between 5-7am, the best time to clear our bowels and transform ourselves. Waking up during this time is ideal as its sets up the energies of our body for the rest of the day. If we are not moving our bowels during this time it may indicate that the Large Intestine is not functioning as well as it should. When this happens, ailments such as constipation, loose bowels, abdominal pain and other issues to do with elimination may occur. Mentally and spiritually you may feel ‘mentally constipated’ bringing an inability to let go of emotions and feelings. This creates a build-up of psychological waste matter in the form of resentment, guilt and anticipation of undesirable outcomes. It’s the energies of the Large Intestine that enables us to let go in order to move forward and create change in our lives.
You can check to see how balanced your Metal element is by observing if you have chest complaints, coughs, bronchitis and if you easily catch flus and colds, have rashes, poor quality skin, feel emotionally fragile, voice feels weak, have swelling in the face or have bowel problems. You may also feel mentally constipated and find yourself easily overloaded.
One way we can help ourselves is through learning about the season and acting in harmony with its spirit. When you look at nature around us it is beginning to rest and we too should do the same. Go through your house and discard, donate or even sell any clutter that you don’t need anymore (it may be valuable to others). Mentally bring awareness to attitudes that you’re holding onto. Attempt to resolve them and then let them go. For those issues you’re unable to resolve directly, write them down on paper and burn the paper symbolising the release of the content. You can use the breath as a strong tool at this time by breathing in all that life has to offer and with the breath out, releasing anything that does not serve you anymore.
‘’Breath, relax, here and now’’ Dan Millman