If you think of the seasons fitting into a single day, then Chinese medicine considers Autumn to be the time when the sun is moving towards the horizon after a long, sunny day. It's a kind of a twilight, an interim season, with Spring functioning as the flip side of that: the dawn of a new day. Deep Winter is considered the darkest part of night - the time we're lost in dreams that delve down into our psyches - and Summer, of course, would be high noon.
The energetic of each season is different and as such, the Chinese medical correspondences vary between them as well.
This medicine is incredibly mindful of the entire human system. It considers the mind (thoughts) and the body (actions) as one.
The element associated with Autumn is Metal.
The corresponding Metal organs are the Lung and the Large Intestine.
Viscerally, what do these two organs have in common?
They both take in and they both release: peristaltic movement is the lifeforce of both.
Both ancient Greek and Chinese cultures believe the spirit to be imbued into a person upon their first breath. Religiously, the Greek word ‘pneuma’ means spirit and physically, the word means ‘breath.’ In Chinese medical theory, the spirit for the Lung, the Po, comes alive with our first breath and it leaves the body with our last. It is a corporeal spirit, one that is specific to this particular life and yet interestingly enough, for all of its physicality, the Metal element is the closest to the Heavens.
Breathing is a gift and an ethereal experience, making Metal the most spiritual of the elements.
The emotion associated with the Metal element is Grief.
Grief has to do with holding on to the value of something lost - allowing oneself to be imbued with the goodness of what the experience was previous to the loss - and letting go of what is no longer relevant.
Real World Example: Hoarding.
You don't often think of hoarding when it comes to grief, but this behavior can be a Metal issue when it's an outcropping of an untethered grief. Everything kept is perceived to be of value and therefore cannot be let go. (Hoarding is more commonly considered a pathology of the Earth element because of a separate pattern - more on that in a different post.)
The really Metal thing about hoarding (and I'm not talking Metallica, guys) is that there actually are valuable things found within the fray of the situation, but the pathology comes from it being a fray. It is toxic and dangerous to hold on so deeply to things/ideas/thoughts/relationships when they no longer serve you, but an imbalance in the Metal element sometimes paves the way for just that thing to happen. When Metal is out of balance, the lens through which value is perceived is decidedly skewed. That life-force that is so particular to the health of the Metal organs - the taking in and releasing - has been thwarted.
Negative thought patterns.
Do you ever find yourself suddenly feeling not so great about yourself? If so, welcome to being human! Chances are, there's a little dictator inside your head, spewing lies about any of the following: who you are, your level of worth, some nonsense about love or lack thereof. So the first thing I want you to do when you notice a thought process is harmful to you is to tell it, simply, that it does not serve you:
"Not useful. Hey, thought: you're not useful."
But here's where it gets tricky. Sometimes, there's actually a kernel of truth in all of that negativity. You may spiral into "I'm the most hated person at work" because you actually did screw up something at work! Let me assure you that you are not hated because of it. (And let's be perfectly honest: I will also take this time to warn you that hiding from anything is a breeding ground for shame.)
The health of the Metal element is in its ability to delineate between self and other, what is and what is not, Truth and what Obscures the Truth. The Metal element rides the fine line between the physical and the spiritual.
Within that space lies the Truth.
During this spiral. it's merely a time when you, for whatever reason, are unable to differentiate between the negativity coming from you versus the possibility of it coming from your coworkers. When Metal is out of balance, negativity gets projected onto other.
From that shame, and instead of accepting responsibility and moving on, you may find yourself suddenly hidden under an avalanche of negative self talk. (After all, if you're suffocating, taking responsibility for that one thing for which you actually should take responsibility is the least of your worries.)
From there comes the guilt, and that guilt kind of feels, dare I say it? ...good. Because deep down you know none (mostly none) of it is true so it's backwardly validating. It gives you a sense of righteousness that, within this avalanche, you're actually wearing an oxygen mask. Teasing that out and bringing reality back into it, you seemingly magically can dismantle the avalanche quite easily. You've had control of it all along. I'm not a terrible person! What was I thinking??
It's actually not magic at all.
It's seeking out the Truth and accepting it responsibly. But within a Metal-Gone-Wild situation, you actually hold on to that mental mess, reveling in the avalanche, seeking the thrill of feeling shitty about yourself, connecting the fray to the one thing that actually is true so that with that connection, the responsibility is lost.
When it all seems so ridiculous and has become one homogenous monster, surely you are no longer responsible for that one thing.
Feeling that guilt, you trick yourself into thinking that you've taken responsibility when in fact, you've obscured it.
What you've done is lie to yourself, moved further from the Truth in yourself, and denied yourself that growth.
Accepting that Truth and being responsible for it means doing the energetic hard work that comes with grief: taking the good and accepting it as it is, and letting go of what no longer serves you.
Value and beauty.
Value and Beauty have a lot to do with the Metal element, which makes sense in terms of grief: grief allows you to derive value and beauty out of a situation that otherwise needs to be released.
Physically, a Large Intestine impacted with feces has not let go and will become toxic. Let's bring the energetics - that mind/body connection - into it as well: being 'emotionally constipated' is toxic, too. It prevents you from living in the moment, which means you don't experience fresh emotional nutrients. Without a fresh supply of nutrition, things fester and get nasty.
Who can relate to an emotional experience akin to that?? I know I can!
It's the same thing with the Lung: without oxygen, body tissue will die. Physically, this is a fact. Emotionally too, if you're not open and accepting of inspiration, you can feel as though all the oxygen has been taken out of your life. And that, too, feels like a physically irrefutable fact. A body without spirit, breath, inspiration, feels like a lifeless body. And from there, the Po may leave.
Let me ask you a few questions.
Does it ever hurt to breathe? Oftentimes, it's physical. And sometimes that physical issue is due to an underlying emotional deficiency. What I'm saying is, that pain could be a spiritual pain.
Do you have persistent lung problems?
It might be a good time to check in with your acupuncturist.
The Fall is a time of introspection - both somatically and energetically. It’s a time to reevaluate how we feel about ourselves. Do I love me? Do I accept me? In a recent interview, the volleyball legend Gabby Reece said, "Let's not be afraid about what's uncomfortable and messy about life. I'm actually not interested in perfection. I don't find it interesting." For out-of-balance Metal, the lack of perfection is all you can see. But what's interesting and life-affirming about that?
So, let's each do ourselves the favor of finding daily beauty in our everyday lives. The Metal element has to do with beauty and value precisely because perfection isn't interesting.
I'll end it with this. Jean Vanier is a theologian, philosopher, and humanitarian. He states that “we will continue to despise people until we have recognized, loved, and accepted what is despicable in ourselves.” What is 'despicable' if not another word for 'not perfect'? Out of accepted imperfection, i.e. self-acceptance, comes love.
Out of self-acceptance comes the ability to let go of what is toxic and not useful.
Learning that skill affords you the ability to feel like you deserve, and from deserving this basic human need, you can then take in your humanity: what is fresh, what is nourishing, what is life-promoting.