With the fall equinox, the days become shorter as we prepare to move into the strongest yin aspect of the Five Elements in Chinese Medicine. Seeds planted in the spring grow and develop through the warm summer months and become nourishment in mid-autumn. We witness the beautiful plants and flowers and trees of spring and summer begin to wilt and transition into their next phase of life, as they return to the soil. As is true in nature, so also within each of us. A kind of harvesting takes place within us. We take stock in how we have grown and developed throughout the year and begin to assimilate those changes into our new way of being. Perhaps we are still in a process of discovery about who we are becoming as a result of the things that have occurred in our lives over the past year. In the autumn we begin to turn inwards towards ourselves, our projects, our relationships, and our health.
Autumn is associated with the element of Metal in the Five Element system of Traditional Chinese Medicine. When we think of metal, we usually think of it’s cold and hard qualities, reasonable for us given our New England weather patterns as the weather patterns bringer cooler air and the promise of winter. However, Metal in Chinese Medicine is not cold and hard, or un-nourishing, it represents minerals in the earth that provide substance and richness in the soil. Metal includes the ‘salt of the earth’ and all the ores that give us fuel, structure and strength as well as gemstones and diamonds that offer beauty and fascination.
The Metal element is associated with the Lungs and Large Intestine in Chinese Medicine, therefore is reflected in the human body through the air we breathe and the way in which we process, assimilate and eliminate the food we eat. The emotions of worry, grief or sorrow correspond to this element. These feelings can be a healthy response to changes in our lives, the various transitions of a relationship coming to an end, the passing of a loved one, changes in our work or home life, and so on. Extreme or prolonged worry, grief or sadness can injure the Lungs or Large Intestine. Shallower breathing or holding back of proper elimination may occur, both functions of these organs and meridian systems.
With these reflections we can think of Autumn and Metal as representing substance, structure, strength, and beauty as well as connections, assimilation and letting go. Balanced Metal energy is manifested in self-confidence, contentment, caring for yourself and others, doing things that benefit you and the world around you. By being in touch with your feelings and sharing them with others, you counter a sense of loneliness and isolation that so often accompanies our experiences of loss.
An imbalance of Metal may manifest as a problem with structure, a problem with the strength inherent in our body-mind complex, or as excessive sadness or even depression. Symptoms such as headaches, digestive upsets, diarrhea or constipation, lack of emotional resiliency, persistent coughing or difficulty breathing generally may manifest when Metal is weak or in excess. The Lungs are vulnerable to cold and damp weather, keeping ourselves warm and well guarded against wind invasions will help keep us strong.
According to the Nei Ching, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic, “Soul and spirit should be gathered together in order to make the breadth of fall tranquil.” Writing, meditation, time spent alone, gathering our energies, communicating with ourselves and those around us more openly and honestly, finishing projects and letting go of things hanging around as unfinished business, are all wonderful ways to greet the autumn season. Much like the gathering of our harvests, the gathering up of our own energies, developing clarity around the natural progression of transitions in our lives, are all ways to come into harmony with Metal. Take time this season to tune into yourself and listen. Keeping your mind open and letting go of what you no longer find helpful will make way for clear, positive thoughts and feelings to arise.