By Dr. Kachina L. Smith, D.Ac., L.Ac.
Chinese medicine is deeply rooted in nature. Each element is associated with a a season (there are five, the fifth being late summer) and uniquely shows up in the natural world and is associated with an element as well as an organ in the body and even with a time of day. This complex web is used as the basis of acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Elementally Fire creates ash that becomes Earth, and from the soil we mine precious gems and minerals. We take a few moments to sort what is valuable and can leave behind what is not. This process of holding on and letting go is the essence of Metal. Of the five elements in Chinese medicine Earth is the soil, the trees and plants growing from it are representative of the Wood element, and rocks, riverbeds, ore, and crystals are the Metal.
This time of year the air is cool and crisp, sunlight is pale but golden, leaves change color, and nature begins its transition for the next season of Winter. We also call Autumn “Fall” because the trees are letting go of their leaves. Like nature we make choices of what to keep and what to let go of. It is no coincidence that this time of the year many of us get the urge to clear our homes of stuff to make way for the holidays and…more stuff. We also tend to do this the opposite time of the year at Spring, the other big transitional season.
How have you practiced the Metal element in your life? In our bodies, the Lungs and Large Intestine do this for us. The Lungs continuously cycle between inspiration, taking in oxygen, and exhaling the carbon dioxide we don’t need. Our Large Intestine “holds” until it’s time to let go of what we also don’t need anymore.
We practice this ritual of taking in, making choices, assigning value to things, and letting go frequently in our lives.
We’re always faced with holding on or letting go and there is no in between. It’s the more difficult choices that many of us struggle with the most. The passing of a loved one, the grief that follows, and process of moving on is an example of the Metal element as a life experience.
What have you experienced recently that has made you reflect, evaluate, and change? In the spirit of the Metal element, pay attention to what’s important and treasure it. Find what inspires you. For what you find no longer serves you, appreciate its former purpose in your life and let it go. It could take a few days, months, and for some, years before you complete this transition into the unknown and uncertainty of what’s to come. However this season holds the unique energy to help you with that process: nature is on our side.