Of the Five Elements fundamental to Chinese philosophy and medicine, Fall is the one closest to my heart. The energy of the natural world is plummeting from its summer peak toward the depth of winter. Turning its gaze inward, nature is letting go of all that no longer serves it in service of surviving the winter. The trees lose their leaves, the landscape shifts from green to brown, the mornings are crisp, and the days are getting shorter.
We have so much to learn from Fall. Its gifts of impermanence, letting go, and grief are concepts that we are often taught to avoid in modern day society. How often do we hold on to relationships, habits, and ideas that no longer serve us? A tree does not hold on to its leaves all year just to make it feel beautiful and worthy. Instead, it sheds them in service of surviving the winter and thriving in the year ahead. The discarded leaves become a home to overwintering insects and then decompose to provide nutrients for the earth in the year ahead. What a lesson nature teaches us.
Fall is the element of Metal and is associated with the organs of the Lung and Large Intestine. An imbalance of the Lungs can include symptoms such as asthma, coughing, frequent colds and illness, seasonal allergies, and skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema. An imbalance of the Large Intestine can show up as symptoms such as constipation or diarrhea. Emotional imbalance of the Metal element includes unworthiness, fixation on perfection, inability to let go of things/relationships/ideas that no longer serve us, feeling uninspired, or being excessively judgmental and rigid. Metal in balance shows up as the feeling of awe, inspiration, acknowledgement of the gifts of self and others, and the ability to recognize the gem and the lesson in an otherwise undesirable situation. The Metal element teaches us to not flee from the emotion of grief, but rather to acknowledge its presence and allow it to move through us as we do other, often more comfortable, emotions.
Practices to nourish your inner Metal can include:
Decluttering and minimizing. Just as the trees shed their leaves, we can shed that which no longer serves us. Now is a great time to donate or discard clothes and miscellanea that no longer bring us joy. Marie Kondo’s bestselling book “The Lifesaving Magic of Tidying Up” is a veritable ode to the Metal element.
Breathing practices. Strengthen your lungs and calm the nervous system with a breathing or meditation practice. Breathing reduces stress and anxiety and as a result can help improve imbalances of the Large Intestine, such as IBS and constipation.
Subtract, not add. As we seek joy and wholeness, we often choose to add new things and practices to our lives. A new workout class, a new supplement, a new outfit. Instead of adding, try subtracting something that is preventing you from being fully present in the moment. For example, you can choose to be present with your meal today by not working while eating. Or maybe you choose to set your phone aside for the evening to be fully present with your family, friends or pet. There is no need to commit to a lifestyle change just yet, this is a practice that is about playing around with the possibility of being fully present in a way we often don’t ask of ourselves.
Connect with what inspires you. It may be music, poetry, nature, dance, baking… anything. Set aside any distractions and submerge yourself in the experience. Challenge your sense of observation by using as many of your senses as you can. Include the sense of touch if appropriate as it is very Metal in nature.
Allow yourself to experience grief and tears. If you are moved to cry for any reason, welcome the tears. Sadness and grief are emotions that move through all of us. It may be uncomfortable to be present with these emotions, but discomfort does not mean that the emotion is inherently bad. Some of us may notice we feel more sadness and grief during this time of the year, and that is natural.
Acknowledge someone, including yourself. Take the time and effort to acknowledge someone for something specific you appreciate about them. Do the same for yourself. The world is full of unspoken acknowledgements. Observe your body and what comes up for you as you give this acknowledgment.
And finally, consider tuning up your Metal element with a visit to your acupuncturist. Acupuncture, with its metal needles and its ability to declutter the mind, clarify Qi, and nourish the essence of the mind and body, is a beautiful Metal practice.
Author: Ashley Paraiso LAc, DiplOM
This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.