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Autumn: the Season of the Metal Element

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Within the metaphors of Chinese Medicine, we see life as a garden which changes constantly, but most obviously with the seasons. As an acupuncturist I look at patients in a number of ways and on many levels. I see them as they present themselves with their symptoms and take into account their personal affinity and constitutional type. Equally important is seeing people as a greater part of nature for everyone navigates the seasons within themselves. By creating a greater consciousness of these forces which are always moving within us and outside of us, we are able to gain better understanding and control over our health and our lives. In doing this we are able to give up resistance which allows us to connect with and embrace the natural forces within and without. Flow and health return and prevail. In the garden of our selves each season is necessary to complete the full circle of life.

Autumn is the season of the harvest, in which we reap that which was planted in the Spring. Externally it is the time to gather nature’s bounty, the fruits and vegetables, the grains and nuts. We consume them with gratitude and begin to can them to persevere over the winter months which will soon follow. The colors change and the sky is at its most brilliant blue and the leaves create a beautiful myriad of color before falling from the tree. The air becomes cooler and drier; and there is more clarity of vision, both pragmatically as well as spiritually.

It is interesting to note that the celebration of the Jewish new year, Yom Kippur, takes place during this season. To me Autumn has always felt like a new year, with the end of the languid summer and a return to our more rigorous rituals and routines at school and at work. I believe it to be the perfect time to make resolutions for the coming year. On Yom Kippur the tradition is to fast and cleanse the body and mind of toxins; remembering the past year and critically looking at what in our lives we choose to nourish and attend to, and those habits and behaviors which can be seen as negative or destructive which we can choose to eliminate. It is a time to evaluate and create a strategy for moving forward.

Letting go of the old so that the new can be born is the core of Autumn often leaving us with a feelings of sadness, nostalgia and sometimes even depression. This sadness and grieving are the feelings the Chinese associate with Metal (Autumn) and are quite natural even though our skewed culture has labeled these feelings as ‘negative’. Instead of judging your Autumnal feelings, I urge you to respect and honor them for they connect to our depth and will pass into something else as surely as the seasons will seamlessly pass one into the other. The key is to express your feelings, allow them to flow. If we don’t they will simply get stuck and stagnation is the root of all dis-ease.

Autumn reminds us that flexibility and adaptability are crucial for staying healthy and balanced during the difficult months ahead. During these months you will want to prepare for the challenges of winter by completing unfinished projects, clearing away clutter and debris, setting extra food and fuel aside, and making sure that you are physically and emotionally prepared for the cold, dark months to come. For Metal types, Autumn is often the best time to do “spring cleaning”, getting rid of all extraneous and unnecessary items in your life (see the “Get organized” section).

As you work to organize your life, try to focus on what you have accomplished rather than fretting about all the work that remains to be done. Give yourself a task that you can finish in less than an hour, and then chip away at the mess and clutter one step at a time. Lists are also a wonderful tool for clearing. When you make daily to-do lists (common among Metal types) don’t expect to cross off every item by the end of the day. Congratulate yourself for finishing three or four items on the list.

The organs associated with Autumn are the Lungs and the Large Intestine which reflect the spiritual nature of the season, letting go and receiving. It is common for people to be more vulnerable to colds, bronchial infection and sinus issues in the cooler days of Autumn. Many people also tend to experience bowel disturbances, particularly constipation, as our bodies and nature become dehydrated. The pollens and mold in the air, as well as the cold winds of Autumn stress our immune reserves, making it a good time to support the immune system with a few herbs and supplements. It is also important to nurture yourself, making sure to dress with warmth for the season. The Chinese are particularly aware of the importance of wearing scarves to cover the neck, especially when wind is present. In Chinese medicine the wind is known as the ‘carrier of one hundred and one evils’ and invades the body through what are called the ‘wind’ points which are located on the neck and shoulders. (For more information on herbs, diet and supplements, see “recurrent cold and flu’s”

In the Autumn remember to:

  • Practice letting go. Release old resentments or hurts. Start anew
  • When feeling sad or stuck, remember that this too will pass along with the season
  • Meditate or pray. This is the time of year when spirit is more accessible
  • Cleanse your body. Support the immune system by doing a gentle detoxification, eat more fresh fruits and veggies and less meat and dairy
  • Drink plenty of water, at least 6 to 10 glasses a day
  • Breathe and smell the scents of nature.
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