Chinese Medicine is based on the notion that humans are connected to the cycles of nature,and that everything that happens in nature also happens with us. Each of our internal organ systems resonates with a particular season of the year (and an element of nature, a color, an emotion, a taste, etc.) In the season of autumn, the days grow shorter, the weather gets cooler and the leaves begin to fall off the trees: nature moves from the fullness expression of yang to yin. In our bodies, the season of autumn, the Metal Phase, resonates with the Lungs and Large Intestine, those organs in the body responsible for letting go of what we no longer need. The Lungs breathe out carbon dioxide which allows us to take in fresh oxygen, the Large Intestine eliminates the waste products from digestion. To do this requires discernment: knowing what is valuable and what is not, which is another virtue attributed to and empowered by the Lungs.
So right now, nature presents to us the opportunity to discern what is the essential sap we’d like to bring down into our trunks to nourish us through the winter, and what aspect of our lives, belief systems, and behavioral repertoire can we drop like the autumn leaves? This process can be helped along by being a little less busy, as we begin to gather our energy inward for the winter as nature herself is doing.
Autumn is nature in decline, slowing down, letting go, dying. The emotion associated with the phase is sadness, loss, loneliness – -what we often feel when we have to let go of an experience or a person we have cherished. (And, incidentally, what many people are currently experiencing without knowing why, simply because it’s part of the qi of the season.) As emotions are all simply qi, feeling whatever comes up, experiencing it, crying it out or otherwise expressing it, and letting it go allows the sadness to move through and not weigh down the Lungs.
But there may not be sadness; there may be gratitude and joy. There’s a lot to appreciate about the Metal Phase, the season of decline and death: I’m grateful for the death happening within my body: right now, cells that have mutated or dysfunctional are dying off. (Cells that do not die are cancer — hooray for cell death!) My immune system (aided greatly by my Lung qi) is killing off viruses and bacteria to keep me healthy. I appreciate that I as pay attention to what thoughts cause me stress — usually old beliefs that I no longer need, I am able to weed them and let them go with mindful exhalation. And I’m grateful for the finiteness of life that gives meaning to how I spend my limited time on the planet.
May you receive the gift this season has for you.