Autumn and the Metal Phase of the YearIssue: Section:
Autumn is officially here. The days become shorter and there is less daylight. In the world of elemental phases, Metal takes over. The organs associated with Autumn and Metal are the Lung and Large Intestine. With the Lung, we take in the heavenly, nourishing air that initiates the movement of qi within us. When the Lung is healthy, our protective qi is working properly and keeps us from getting sick and protects the body from wind and cold invasion. The Large Intestine is where we let go of the trash that accumulates. When Large Intestine is functioning properly, we are able to let go of the garbage that our bodies hold on to and make room for this protective qi to enter and nourish us. The emotion associated with Autumn/Metal is grief, which can come when we see foliage begin to change and die or we can’t let go of the elements of Fire and Earth and the joy of yang. The spirit of Autumn and Metal is Po, the animal spirit within us.
In nature when the seasons change from the Earth element in late Summer to Metal in Autumn, the foliage of Summer begins to turn color, fall to the ground, and rot into the earth. This process provides the nutrients in the soil that will nourish it for the next growing season in Spring and Summer. These nutrients are precious and essential to new growth. Within people, we change with the season and the precious gems within us begin to nourish and prepare us for the time of yin. In Autumn, yin begins to take over, just as in Spring and Summer yang take over. This is a time of change and new growth within us, even though the season doesn’t appear as such when the leaves begin to fall and old crops begin to rot. But these occurrences in nature are indeed change and optimally should not be viewed as a time of death. It is the time to begin storing that which we have gained from the bounty and yang of Summer.
Some people, who experience an imbalance in Metal, or imbalances in the Lung and Large Intestine, may not be able to let go of the Summer season. They long for return to warm sunny days, strolling along the beach, and all the activities that come with Summer. Of course, we can participate in some of these activities in Autumn; nothing is stopping us. But with the shortening of the days, some people experience grief from the change.
The spirit of Po is what animates us and drives us to be active. It is the animal spirit within us. It gives us “the capacity of movement, agility, balance, and coordination of movements’” (Macciocia, 1994, p. 205). Activities that create movement and awareness of our senses nourish the Po spirit. This can be an uplifting time if we don’t let the grief take over.
To keep your Metal element in balance, take a hike! Take in the beauty of the colors of change that Autumn brings. Don’t let the changes in daylight and temperature stops you from participating in life. If you feel grief, try a meditation practice. Sitting for even 5 minutes and focusing on the breath, the function of Lung can go a long way in calming and uplifting the spirit. Acupuncture can treat these imbalances and assist in the functions of Lung and Large Intestine, so the body can properly take in the air of heaven, and let go of the garbage.
Jessica Towery, MS, L.ac.