AUTUMN: THE ART OF LETTING GO
Autumn is a time of withering and decay. It is the end of the growing season when Nature makes everything bare after a final grand explosion of red, gold and orange hues. And then, the leaves surrender graciously to the earth.
When we are aligned with Nature’s rhythm, autumn is the season when we, too, will naturally release the summer’s more outer directed energy, and gather our focus inward. There is an inherent trust that by releasing the old worn-out pages of our lives, like Nature shedding her old leaves, we are enrichening the ground of new life that comes from this composting process.
So it is an art to learn about our own human cycles of creating and letting go! The energy of this season, more than any other, supports our letting go of the waste, the old and stale in our lives, leaving us receptive to the pure and new, granting us a vision of who we are in our essence. Autumn returns us to our essence, moves us to eliminate what we no longer need, reveals again what is most precious in our lives.
In Chinese medicine, autumn is the season of the element Metal (or air). Grief is the emotion of the Metal element. We all experience loss, separation, and missing of what once was in our lives. It is appropriate to feel grief at those times. Grief cleanses us of what is no longer needed in our lives. When the energy of Metal is healthy in us, we have the capacity to feel and express loss and to move on. This gives us the ability to take in quality and richness in what completes us from within. But when blocked or imbalanced within us, our expression of grief likewise becomes imbalanced and inappropriate. It may be excessive and ongoing. Or, in the other extreme, it may be absent, and our hearts feel numb and paralyzed.
The Colon and Letting Go
The Colon, one of the two organs in the Metal element, has the function of eliminating what is unnecessary or toxic from our bodies. But we are more than just physical bodies. Think of the daily onslaught of “garbage” directed at our minds and our spirit. We need to eliminate mental and spiritual rubbish, lest our minds become toxic and constipated, unable to experience the pure and the beautiful that also surround us. The Colon function on the mental and spirit level enables us to let go of all this waste.
The Lungs and Inspiration
There is more to this season than “letting go” – it is also a time to take in the pure. The air in autumn takes on a new crispness. Think of waking up on a brisk fall day and filling your lungs with that clean, cool autumn air. The Lung, the other organ contained within the Metal element, enables us to take in the pure, the new. It grants us the inspiration of a breath of fresh air. In classical Chinese medicine, the Lung is described as “the receiver of the pure Chi from the Heavens.”
The Lung and Colon work together as a team, one taking in the pure, the other eliminating waste. If these organs failed to do their jobs, we might experience physical ailments of the Lung and Colon such as bronchitis, shortness of breath, cough, allergies, nasal congestion, emphysema, colds, sore throat, constipation, diarrhoea, spastic colon, and abdominal pain.
Psychically and spiritually if waste keeps building up inside us, we are not able to take in the pure life energies which sustains and nourish us even more than on the purely physical level. This can affect us adversely so that, instead of tranquillity and inspiration, creativity and spontaneity, we feel depression, stuckness, stubbornness, isolation, and negativity. This makes us only see the dark side in everything, and think only of all the things that could go wrong.
Also, since the whole mechanism of our bodies is actually an inter-related community of different functions, organs and systems that must work harmoniously together, if we do not let go of toxicity and waste material, we need to treat that imbalance and restore the functioning of the metal element.
One final thing about metal as an element in TCM: metals give value to the earth (gold, silver, minerals and trace elements) but metals are also derived from the earth as a pure substance generated by a process of reduction. In TCM, the Metal element within us gives our sense of self-worth. Each of us is a miracle of creation, more valuable and special than anything we could ever pursue; each of us has a unique and priceless contribution to make. Yet when our Metal energy is imbalanced, we cannot sense our value; so we compensate by seeking what we think will add to our worth: status, money, power, conquest – none of them wrong of themselves but once we have acquired these things, we might remain feeling unfulfilled. In TCM, it is said that persons with a Metal imbalance seek respect, quality, and recognition from the outside because they feel the lack of worth within. These are people who have difficulty “letting go” because they identify their own worth with “things” – achievements, attachments, collections, possessions, attitudes stored in the cluttered attic of the mind.
Let us practice the art of letting go this autumn and appreciate this time to cultivate a deeper self-awareness of our lives harvest! Those of you who are in the ongoing Seasons of Breath classes are receiving practices for this. But individual sessions are also available for you if you are not part of our ongoing series. Contact us for more information.