Autumn Element: Metal
Organs: Lungs, Large Intestine
Our Winters here on the Sunshine Coast are quite mild, but in other climates, Winter was a season where survival was not always guaranteed. Autumn was then the pivot between the Yang heat and activity of Summer and the coming Yin stillness and cold of Winter. It was a time of preparing for the Winter ahead; where crops were gathered, sorted and stored, a time of ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’, deciding what was no longer useful and keeping only that which was necessary to survive the Winter. In Spring, the movement of Qi (energy) was likened to that of a young sapling, its growth rapid, outwards, expansive and in all directions. The energy of Autumn is the polar opposite of this; it is a time of ‘letting go’, where our Qi wants to begin the natural process of drawing inwards for the Winter. In Autumn, trees ‘let go’ of their leaves, which fall to the ground, gifting the Earth with minerals (Metal Element) and other nutrients that will provide the nourishment for new life in the Spring. This movement of Qi is also reflected in other ways in nature around us; days become shorter as the the Autumn nights (Yin) begin to draw in on the daytime (Yang).
We can work with the energy of Autumn by contemplating what it is in our lives that it would benefit us to let go of at this time. What dreams or aspirations never really came to fruition? What old wounds remain unhealed? What past hurts or grievances remain unresolved? What losses have not yet been fully mourned? And, by holding on to these things, what new experiences are we not allowing into our lives? The energy of Autumn provides us with the perfect opportunity to ‘let go’ on a Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual level.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Autumn is associated with the element of Metal and the organs of the Lungs and the Large Intestine. The Metal aspect of Autumn relates to the changing ‘bonds’ and connections that we have in life; the new friendships that come into our lives, the old friends that we lose contact with, the loved ones who pass away. When viewed in this context, the relationship between the Metal Element and the Lungs and Large Intestine becomes quite apparent.
The Lungs inhale and extract Qi from the air, then exhale the waste out of the body. They are often referred to as the ‘delicate organ’ as they provide a direct connection to the outside world via the air that we breathe. The inhalation and extraction of Qi from the air around us enables the Lungs to carry out its functions, which include assisting the Heart with blood circulation, influencing the skin and playing an important role in the movement of fluids around the body. The Lungs are greatly affected by sadness and grief. When we experience extreme sadness or grief - such as with the loss of a loved one - in the initial shock, the breath is held and Qi stops moving, for to breathe fully and deeply is to experience fully and deeply what is occurring for us. The loss of someone close to us is probably one of the hardest experiences that we will have to endure in life, and, in the ensuing grief, Qi is said to ‘disappear’, leaving a void behind, indicative of the emptiness and loss of direction that many feel in the wake of a personal loss. If uncorrected, a weakening in Lung Qi can result in tiredness, a weak voice and slight breathlessness. Shallow breathing will also weaken the overall Qi in our bodies, and even sitting for long periods with hunched shoulders (for example, at a computer) can lead to a weakening of Lung Qi.
The Large Intestine is part of the bodily system that takes in food, extracts nourishment and then removes the wastes from the body. Once again, it is easy to see the parallel between taking in life events, assimilating what is required and then eliminating what is no longer needed. Both of these organs are about receiving, taking in new energy and new experiences and letting go of what is no longer required. When in balance, the Metal Element represents an ability to feel the pains and losses of life, yet still be open to taking in new experiences. If we are unable to do this, we may feel empty and life may lose its quality and meaning (Lungs). If we are unable process the events of our lives and let go of what we no longer need, we may literally become congested with waste (Large Intestine).
The notion of Autumn as a time of preparation for Winter also applies to our bodies. In Five Element Theory, the Lungs are said to be the ‘Mother’ of the Kidneys. Just as a mother nourishes, feeds and cares for her child, so too the Lungs are responsible for nourishing the Kidneys. It is important to care for the Lungs during Autumn so that the Kidneys will be strong for their Winter season, a time which we usually associate with being ‘run down’ and getting colds or ‘flus. This can be done with a healthy diet, exercise and incorporating some breathing exercises into your daily routine. A simple breathing exercise is to lie flat on your back, a cushion under your head, and cross your legs. Place a light object (such as a book) on your abdomen and focus on deep abdominal breathing which forces the book to rise up and down. There are several other breathing techniques that you can learn from a yoga class or in books which will also greatly benefit the Lungs and the nervous system. Such breathing exercises will not only help to strengthen the Lungs, but they will also help to prepare the Kidneys for Winter.
Traditional Chinese Medicine may also suggest pungent foods to benefit the Lungs during Autumn, although this would depend on your own individual constitution and circumstances. Such foods would include chillies, onions, garlic; ginger, turnips, radishes.
Suggested Crystals to work with during Autumn:
Rose Quartz: Soothes and comforts the wounds of the Heart, thereby assisting the Lungs.
Smoky Quartz: Helps us to process life events, assimilating what is needed and helping to let go of what is no longer required for our own growth.
Citrine: Also helps to digest and assimilate life events.
Enjoy your Autumn!