I learned about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Chinese 5 Elements from my yoga teachers. It treks with the seasons, with the idea that everything is born, flourishes, retreats, and finishes. This cycle is evident pretty much everywhere, from flowers to ideas, so it resonated with me.
I really like Neil Gumenick’s writings about them, because they are straightforward and applicable.
Here is his entry on Metal, or Autumn/Fall: http://www.5elements.com/docs/elements/metal.html
Cleaning out old negativity … what a time to start an inventory of resentments, old people places and things I’m clinging on to. What a time to clean out my summer wardrobe and put away the light airy clothes and shoes, and bring on the boots and layers. What a time to reevaluate my schedule, who and where I am spending my time. And, finally, to start truly examining my health (my FitBit came in last night.)
To look more closely at what Neil discusses:
“In autumn we learn more about ourselves, perhaps, than in any other season.”
Having provided the harvest, Nature now makes everything bare.
In this season Nature lets go of its abundant creation of the past year in a grand final display.
Autumn marks the end of the growing season – a turning inward, a falling away of outer-directed energy.
Nature instructs us about our own cycles of creating and letting go: 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 negativity? 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.
Communing with HP
Where am I grasping?
Grief! I had an epiphany after my meditation intensive that my sadness and the day-after depression came because I have a lot of stored grief, fear of the pain, lack of understanding of how to deal with it.
We all experience loss, separation, and “letting go,” and we appropriately feel grief at those times. Grief cleanses us of what is no longer needed in our lives.
He then goes into some overview discussion about the colon and lungs, not yet discussing the acupuncture points.
The Colon – at first I wanted to wrinkle up my nose: please no more discussion of cleanses or fiber or, ick, elimination. But he’s so eloquent: 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.
This treks with what I learned from Max Strom: if poor sleep is an epidemic (acc’ing to the CDC!), if you are anxious: stop reading the news. Stop drinking caffeine. Acknowledge the source of heightened emotions, and question their necessity.
it is also a time to take in the pure. That crisp autumn air is a favorite, and again, my FitBit pedometer’s arrival is perfectly time.
In classical Chinese medicine, the Lung is described as “the receiver of the pure Chi from the Heavens.” How beautiful is that?
In, Out: The Lung and Colon work together as a team, one taking in the pure, the other eliminating waste. […] But what happens to our mind and spirit if waste keeps building up and we are unable to take in purity? How are we apt to feel? 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 how we must be.
we can see how foolish it is to simply treat a symptom. We must find the cause. […] 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 (gold and silver, minerals and trace elements), the Metal element within us gives our sense of self-worth. Each of us is a miracle of creation, more valuable and special 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; so 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. And the key to this season is letting go ~ or in yoga terms, Aparigraha.
Restoring our Metal
In the season of autumn, the Metal element is at its peak and particularly amenable to treatment. Fortunately, using the system of Chinese medicine, we can resurrect and rebuild the Metal within us – in its physical expression as well as in mind and spirit. Acupuncturists help restore our Metal using needles and their knowledge of energy. We also can help ourselves by learning about the nature of the season and then acting in harmony with its spirit.
As Nature moves into a period of rest, we too must be cautious not to overexert. 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.
His analysis of the meaning of the acupuncture points is quite poignant, further down in the article.
Finally, some suggestions for living in harmony with the autumn season:
- Declutter and organize physical spaces: I’m going to do this in my clothing and shoes, and could also do it in my personal paperwork, front closet, cupboards, and at-work office files. Donating can bring good to others. Minimalism is best!
- Mental decluttering: 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. Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve properly done a full inventory like this. I spot check resentments daily, but I like this.
- Resolve any outstanding issues | Lord knows I have enough to-dos, but there’s some old attitudes I could resolve.
Write unresolved issues on paper and burn them | This seems easy enough! As usual, it’s the “doing the work” part that’s annoying.
Inhale some of that crisp autumn air daily. Exhale the old, inhale the new and pure. Then contemplate briefly who you are without these identifications.