FIVE ELEMENTS: METAL - AUTUMN IS THE SEASON OF REFLECTION
THE METAL ELEMENT
In Chinese Medicine, Autumn is associated with the Metal Element. This is the time of year when the leaves fall to the earth and are recycled into rich humus. In the garden, we have been busily tending to our compost pile. As the crops are finishing their final show, gifting us with their last fruits of the Late Summer, we are carting the old beanstalks, tomato greens and manure from the chickens to the compost bins. There, the microbes and worms will do their work to break down the discards from this year’s crop down to its essences and into usable nutrition for next year’s soil. The energy of Autumn is all about letting go in order to create fertile ground for the new.
Similar to Late Summer, the Autumn season is about taking in the abundance the earth has gifted us. However, the energy is a bit less frenetic than it was in Late Summer. The heat and motivating yang energy of Summer is pivoting and transitioning in this season as the world slows down to prepare for cozy cultivating yin energy of Winter. As the garden’s production is starting to slow down, it gives us the time and space to reflect. This is why it is so easy to access gratitude during this time of year. This is also the season of sorting as we start to think about what we need to retain from the dwindling harvest and what needs to be recycled into the earth to fertilize next year’s garden.
Autumn is a time of transition. It is the juiciest season for self-examination for many because it is the time when everything is laid bare. We cannot hide behind the bright foliage of Springtime, the busyness of Summer or the blanket of snow in Winter. Because the outward expansive energy of Spring and Summer is pivoting to a turning inward as the Earth readies itself for Winter, it is hard to avoid the introspective energy of this Season.
In nature, Metal gives value to the Earth in the form of precious metals and trace elements. In the human expression of Metal, this Element within us gives us a sense of self-worth. If someone has a lack of self-worth, they will pursue external forms in various ways to fill this void, seeking material possession, accolades from the outside, and unhealthy attachments that leave them feeling no more valued than when first started on their journey towards fulfillment.
Each Element governs an aspect of the emotional and intuitive aspect of human nature. The emotion associated with Autumn/Metal is Grief. There are no emotions that are considered to be “negative” in Chinese Medicine. Any emotion can be manifested in a healthy and unhealthy way. During its infancy a few thousand years ago, Chinese medicine was developed by philosophers and practitioners who were in direct contact with nature. They assigned the emotion of Grief to the Autumn season because it is the season in which they acutely experienced death on a yearly cyclical pattern. In ancient China, prisoners were sentenced and executed in the Autumn so they would not be a drain on the food supply for the population. As I see in my own garden today, the plants are now done with their productive output and are now going to seed to birth the next generation of crops. My beautiful green garden has now taken on the new cloak of browns and ambers of autumn. The chicken farmer next door is busily harvesting her flocks before the Winter rains settle in. Grief has a natural cleansing effect because it allows us to examine what is no longer needed in our lives. In healthy expressions of grief, there is an acknowledge and honor of the passing of what has been.
Someone who has an imbalance in the Metal Element may feel stuck in the cycle of grief and unable to compost it into personal growth. This can manifest as dwelling on past experiences, being unable to let go in order to allow the fresh and new energy in. Metal imbalances can also manifest as being too brittle and being unable to access grief in an appropriate manner.
The organs of the Metal Element are the Lung and Large Intestine. The Large Intestine’s role is to eliminate what is unnecessary for our bodies. Similarly, it is up to the Large Intestine to let go of thoughts that are toxic to us.
The next time you step outside on a crisp Autumn morning, take a moment to breathe in the medicine that surrounds us all the time. The Lung is assigned to the Autumn element because it allows us to take in the purity of fresh air.
The Large Intestine and Lung must work in concert with each other. One letting go, the other taking in the pure. Without the Large Intestine’s ability to eliminate, we would be unable to experience the pure and beautiful that we need to be grateful for on a daily basis, not just during the Thanksgiving season.
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE METAL ELEMENT
Sweating disorders (too much or too little)
Low self-esteem/ Lack of self-value
Obsessive Compulsive Behavior
REFLECT WITH THE METAL ELEMENT
Practice Boundaries: As we start our foray into the holiday season, we must stay mindful of the obligations that we have to our traditions and families, but also to the obligations that we have to ourselves to keep us healthy. To avoid Empty Cup Syndrome, practice mindful boundaries that demonstrate compassion to yourself so you may show up to holiday celebrations fully present.
Reflect on Gratitude: Practicing gratitude is simply acknowledging what is pure and true in your life. My incredibly simplistic meditation practice is to take moments in my busy day to sit with my breath. Even if all I can afford is 3 minutes at a time. This is the gift of the Lungs. They give you the ability to take in the pure and acknowledgment of purity is where gratitude is born.
Let Go of the Old, to Allow for the Cycle of Rebirth: Use Nature as a mentor. The trees do not stubbornly hang onto their leaves because they might potentially need them to photosynthesize next year. In our own lives, how often do we hold onto old “stuff” whether it be storylines, material goods, relationships or excuses? If the “stuff” no longer serves you any longer, it is time to let it go so that you can have the space for renewal. Instead of hanging onto their leaves, trees will shed them to fertilize them for the next year. When you shed the things in your life that no longer are of service to you, reflect on how that energy can serve you in the future.
EAT FOR AUTUMN/METAL
Check out the recipes section of the Acubalance website for ideas on fun meals to cook at home. During the Autumn months, it is best to stick to a diet that emphasizes these key points:
Eat Spicy and Aromatic Foods
Are you ready for cold and flu season? Since our Lungs are most vulnerable this time of year, it is important to eat foods to help protect them. The spicy flavor is particularly helpful in helping ward off the dreaded sniffles. Drink ginger and turmeric tea. Incorporate some cardamom and cloves into your stews. At the very first onset of symptoms of feeling sick, chew down a clove of raw garlic. Splurge with a Chai tea latte.
Eat Your Minerals
Cultivate the healthy minerals in your body through food. We all need balanced levels of trace minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and potassium. Here is a list of my top favorite ways to get these essential blocks of our nutrition: beans, lentils, dark leafy greens, fish, and seeds.
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