Autumn is my favourite season. As the daylight comes later and the rains return here on the NorthWest coast, I can feel autumn laying it’s cloak upon me, it is thick and cool made of fog, wind, dimming light and vibrant decomposing leaves. It reminds me that nature is preparing for its winter slumber and urges me to do the same. Everything needs time to rest and rejuvenate, to return to source and realign with who it is and how it serves. With modern technologies and our seemingly never-ending drive to do more, be more, have more, we no longer allow ourselves to enjoy this movement inward, as our ancestors, not so long ago, did. I, for one, wish to reclaim the powers of the seasons and not become another burned out, frustrated, hormonally imbalanced, directionless human. I want to live a life in alignment with my natural cycles and spirit and working with the seasons aids me in doing that.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the transition time moving from the hot fiery yang energies of summer to the cold watery yin energies of winter. It is governed by the element of metal that allows us to cut away what no longer serves, just as the trees drop their leaves and these will decompose and become the fertilizer for the new growth of spring. The Metal element helps us discriminate what is precious and what needs to go. It shows us, if we are listening, where the golden nuggets lie and which are the real gold, nourishing our self worth and connection to spirit and which are fools gold, hiding our dragons of self-deprecation, arrogance, self-destruction, martyrdom,…… Shamanism also sees the fall as a time of letting go and of great dreaming and if we can let go of feeding our dragons, we can dream a new dream that serves our highest purpose and all that live on this planet with us.
In our bodies, Metal is reflected in the paired organs of the lung and large intestine. They are the organs that filter the precious from the waste. Our lungs inhale clear qi from the heavens and exhale old turbid qi. They are connected to the skin, body hair and nose and protect us from external pathogens. They are also responsible for grief. The lungs capacity for grief allows us to honour and have gratitude for what we are letting go of and recognize that our lives will be transformed by this process. This is the gift of grief and how the decomposing of the old becomes the new life of the spring. If we do not allow our lungs to inspire and expire and move through grief naturally, our lung qi becomes stagnated and we may produce excess phlegm, become short of breath, get sick frequently, have chronic nasal issues, asthma or a chronic cough. On the other side if we get rid of too much and see nothing as precious our lungs may become deficient and we can have similar problems marked with more dryness and weakness.
The large Intestine also acts as a discriminator for us, when our colon is healthy we are able to reabsorb the precious minerals and water we need and expel the waste. When we can’t let go we become stagnated with toxins, emotions, and old habits and these can show up as pain in the lower abdomen, constipation or weight gain and just like with the lung when we let go of too much we become depleted of our own nourishment.
In the five element cycle, healthy metal nourishes our water, which is reflected in our kidneys and bladder and controls our deepest resources, our ancestoral essence/genetics, as well as our fear. Metal also helps control the wood element, preventing our livers from overacting on our other organs with anger, aggression and fire. When we work with our metal it assists us to make the long stretch of winter with ease and strength, which encourages a fertile and vibrant spring guided by spirit.
There are several things we can do to nourish our metal during this season:
- Slow down and take stock of our lives, reflecting on what no longer serves and what is most precious in our lives and begin to release through gently cleansing our bodies and minds, saying goodbye to relationships and old stuff, creating a simple releasing ritual to honour this process and your grief.
- Allow grief and sadness a place in your life. When it comes up recognize it and let it flow through you, letting it go through breath, crying, movement
- Eating warm, seasonal, easily digestible Pungent foods. These help promote circulation and digestion and release excess phlegm, Such as: ginger, onion, leeks, green onion, black peppercorn, garlic, celery, cilantro, fennel, spearmint, radish, chile pepper, sweet pepper, turnip, taro, cinnamon, cabbage, cardamom, cloves, oregano, mustard seeds, wine. Also eating yin nourishing foods to help protect against the dryness and winds of the fall, such as: pears, apples, mushrooms, tofu, seaweed, almonds, pine nuts, oils (olive, grapeseed, coconut, sesame), pork. As with any eating make sure you don’t over do it on any one kind of food.
- Wear a scarf to protect yourself from external pathogens, especially wind
- Take herbs that clear, moisten and nourish the lungs and intestines: A simple tea made of some of the pungent herbs above to clear phlegm and warm the body like the always classic lemon, ginger and honey or a nice moistening blend with slippery elm, marshmallow and licorice root.
- Practice gentle movement practices to keep your qi moving but also build your qi and strength for the winter like qi gong, yin yoga, tai chi, walking,
- Spend time outside breathing in clear qi from the heavens
- And of course get some acupuncture! For low cost acupuncture, check out the local acupuncture schools or community acupuncture clinics in your area. For more psycho-spiritual assistance look for a five element or alchemical acupuncturist.
If you wish to go even deeper into your process and the process of the cosmos, the autumn/metal time of year is supported by three primary astrological signs:
- Libra- Sept. 23 to Oct. 22- the sign of balance, justice, beauty, truth, perfection and relationships. A wonderful time to delve into your relationships with self, other, spirit, work, body and the planet.
- Scorpio- Oct. 23 to Nov. 21- the sign of self-will, taboo, secrets, transition. A time to go deep within and look at our shadowy places around emotions, love, sex, secrets and taboos. What needs to be brought up to the light and what needs to be let go.
- Sagittarius- Nov. 22 to Dec. 21- The sign of higher knowledge, learning, wisdom, spirituality, philosophy. This sign helps us to start to dream a new dream and find the wisdom in all of our letting go, helping us to make the transition to winter.
Wishing you all a gentle, nourishing and deep Autumn,
Marika Reid Hall
References and Resources to go deeper: