Experiencing the Element of Metal in autumn. Kathleen MacGregor L.Ac.

Autumn has arrived in Southern California with rain that is welcomed by the thirsty earth. We find joy in the cool air and the sound of rain on the window but there is also a touch of melancholy that is felt. The year is ending. Winter is coming.

The Five Elements of Chinese Medicine; Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood are expressions of the natural changes of energy throughout the day, seasons and our lifetimes. These changes are apparent in nature and in body, mind and spirit. Autumn is the season associated with the Element of Metal. Metal expresses itself in us through the process of letting go of the old and taking in the new. The leaves fall and decompose as the year ends. They enrich the soil with vital minerals and nutrients allowing for new growth in the spring. Without this cycle the earth would be barren.

Loss and change are a part of life. We are constantly called on to let go of beloved people, pets, material things and parts of our lives. Grief and sadness are our natural response to these losses. The expression of that grief is healthy and allows us to let go and eventually to let new people and experiences into our lives.

When the Metal Element is out of balance we can become so mired in the grief that we are unable to move on. We live always looking back with regret and sadness. Or we may be unable to express our grief at all, becoming cold and rigid inside, holding on to the sadness and limiting our ability to let in anything new.

The organs and meridians associated with Metal are the Lung and Large Intestine. The Large Intestine disposes of all the waste and toxins our body produces on a physical, mental and spirit level. When Metal is out of balance toxins and negativity accumulate. The build up of waste can be seen in our internal and external environment. People can become hoarders filling their home with debris. They can let go of personal hygiene becoming smelly and unclean.

Large Intestine 4, Joining the Valleys, is used in acupuncture to treat this kind of imbalance. It removes blockages and releases toxins in body, mind and spirit. It empties and relaxes which allows for receptivity. Combined with Lung 7, Narrow Defile, which is used when things are too tight and constrained, room is allowed for breathing in. The strength of the Metal Element is exemplified in these two points that empower inspiration and letting go.

The Lung is responsible for taking in the new be it oxygen, new ideas or inspiration for the spirit. The ancient Chinese Medicine textbook, the Nei Jing, describes the Lung as the “receiver of pure Qi from the Heavens”. The Metal Element is our connection with the divine. This is why most meditation practices include a focus on the breath.

Without that connection to the divine – that spark of inspiration – we are left adrift, without guidance and stuck in grief, the emotion associated with Metal. We may spend our lives seeking, always looking on the outside for that missing connection with spirit.

To treat this imbalance Lung 9, Great Abyss, can be used. This point unites Heaven and Earth bringing the nourishment of Earth to the dark pit of grief and joining it with the precious spark from the Heavens. We regain a sense of quality in ourselves and the self-esteem that Metal provides.

The season of autumn is the time to celebrate the qualities of Metal in our lives. The pure essence of the divine spark we breathe in that provides us with enrichment and wisdom, and the self respect we build when our lives have a sense of quality. It’s a time to let go of things that are holding us back, an opportunity to allow our life experiences to turn into a rich compost, ready for the spring and new growth to come.

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