= Menu

Transitioning Through Autumn - Metal the Element of Inspiration & Grief

by Sharon Gordon

This year the Autumnal equinox falls on September 23rd. This is an important transitition in Five Element Philoposphy.  The long days of sunshine slowly peaks and gives way to a time of decrease.  The leaves turn color, fall from the trees and  decay to replenish the earth.  Daylight hours shorten, the weather turns cooler.

Autumn is the time to harvest the bounty that grew during the summer so we can store up for the cold winter ahead. It is a time to organize, work hard, and finish projects you began in spring and summer.

Chinese medicine recognizes the change in nature and gives us practical tools to live in balance with this season according to the laws of nature. Ancient Chinese physicians observed the natural cycles of the season and have given us tips for the best daily practices for staying healthy and harmonizing our own energy with that of the environment.

The Organs Associated with Metal are the Lungs and Large Intestine.

Dr. Worsley, my teacher, spoke of the lungs as "the Official who receives the pure Ch'i from the heavens".  The first breath at birth sustains our life force  throughout our lives until we take our final breath.  The Chinese view the the Lungs as the receiver of energy and the Large Intestine as the "Dust Bin Collector, the Drainer of the Dregs" where its main functin is to store and eliminate waste.   These two Officials when balanced work beatuifully together to allow us to "take in" air, chi, inspiration and "let go" of waste, and negativity.

Autumn corresponds to the lungs, skin (considered the 3rd lung in chinese medicine) and large intestine.   The lungs and large intestine are in charge of respiration, digestion, and elimination. When we don't pay attention to subtle changes in nature during this time, we may feel out of sorts.  Symptoms may include: coughing or respiratory problems such as asthma or shortness of breath. Our bodies naturally feel the effects of Fall's transition so sinus infections, frequent colds, a hoarse or weak voice, dry mouth and throat, as well as constipation/diarrhoea and skin problems may also surface. On an emotional level one may experience difficulty dealing with loss/grief and maybe vulnerable to outside criticism.    

Here are simple ways to strengthen the Lung and Large Intestine as one transitions through Autumn.

1.  Awake during Lung's peak time, between 3-5 am.  Practice 30 minutes of Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or Yoga, meditate or just breathe deeply.   Deep breathing stimulates the Large Intestine to eliminate (good for those with constipation) between 5-7 am, it's peak hours.

2.  Use a Neti pot with a saline solution to irrigate your sinuses.  This simple habit can be incorporated  into your morning routine and acts to prevent sinus infections and sore throats.  I use a Neti Pot during Autumn to help alleviate seasonal allergies.  It works, along with taking 500 mgs of Quercitin-C.

3. The gift of the Metal element is the ability to inspire.   Hike or drive to the mountains and renew what inspires you.  Grief is the emotion associated with Metal.  Extreme grief can injure the lungs but can be processed through the awe-inspiring reach of the great outdoors.   Nature herself is healing and transformative.

Fall Seasonal Eating

Eat fewer cold, uncooked foods - such as salads, and more warm, cooked foods. Switch from salads to soups and steamed vegetables such as winter squash, winter peas, broccoli, sweet potatoes and yams. Incorporate yellow and red foods into your meals. Start your day with hot otameal. Adding more nourishing yin foods to your diet can promote body fluid, soothe the lungs and protect you from dryness.

Warm and Nourishing foods and herbs to add to your Fall diet:

Apple, Banana, Beets, Bell pepper, Bok choy, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Cinnamon, Cranberry, Figs, Garlic, Ginger, Grapes, Horseradish, Leeks, Pears, Persimmons, Plums, Pomegranate, Pumpkin, Red Cabbage, Rosemary, Sage, Spinach, Thyme, Whole grains, Wild rice, Winter squash, Yam

Eat mildly spicey foods to help support the Metal element.  Tai, Indian, and other Asian foods try and balance the five flavors of bitter,sweet, spicey, sour and salt.  Try combining all these tastes at EVERY meal instead of dieting.  Our modern diet has too much sweet (in the form of refined sugars) and salt and too little of bitter, sour and spicey.

As is true in nature, Autumn is a time were we consolidate our energies and prepare for the austerity of Winter.  When that breaks down, so too, does our ability to preserve what is nourishing to the body, mind and spirit.