At the beginning of fall you may feel the need for routine and structure in your life again. This is not only a logical reaction after the summer time of a more relaxed attitude towards work and obligations; it is actually an energetic predisposition. When you look at animals in the wild, they do the same thing; they are getting their “affairs” in order by collecting seeds, nuts and other nutrition to be prepared for the winter. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”) fall is associated with Metal: the element of structure.
As I have written in an earlier blog (read it here) TCM is based on the Five-phase theory (sometimes called: Five-element theory). This theory suggests that there are five elements in nature that cycle in phases through the seasons and our organs: Earth, Water, Wood, Metal and Fire. The five elements represent energies that succeed each other in a continuous cycle. Being aware of this cycle and recognizing the relationship between the elements is essential for maintaining (or creating) optimal balance in our physical body as well as for mental and emotional health. In order to maintain this optimal health we also need to support an unobstructed flow of life force (Chi) through the energy channels (meridians) in our body, and keep a generative balance between the elements. This is why it is helpful to have an understanding of how the seasons and the elements are related.
Fall is a common time for people to get sick. It may therefore not surprise you that the lungs and large intestines are the organs associated with the metal element. Metal governs our respiration; the lungs “grasp” Chi from the heavens and draw it inward for our body to use. It also affects our immune system that protects us from pathogens in the air. The lung meridian opens into the nose, which is the doorway into the lungs.
The characteristics of metal are hard, strong and precise. It is the metal in the earth that gives it its inner structure and value. Metal allows us to shine, to be brilliant, to inspire. Metal also has a component of flexibility as it can be remolded many times. When metal gets too strong, however, it becomes rigid, and when metal gets too hard it breaks. Balanced metal allows for healthy boundaries, an easy routine, and inspiring rituals, whereas too little metal will lead to sloppiness and numbness. When metal becomes overbearing we will have difficulty with expressing ourselves, with intimacy and spontaneity. This can also result in issues with the respiratory system, the skin, elimination, and with the lymphatic and immune system. The emotion connected to the lungs and large intestines is grief. When we suffer a loss this can affect our respiratory system: I’ve heard multiple stories of elderly people getting pneumonia right after their better half passed away.
To keep metal balanced we need structure and routine equalized with an ability to let go and allow ourselves to be supported. We need to soften our boundaries to connect with others, to be social and spontaneous, and give ourselves the time to follow our passion.
A yoga practice with clear and precise instructions that includes many chest-opening poses will support the metal element. Outdoor activities are a good way to strengthen our immune system.
Moreover, using essential oils* is an effective way to manage our emotions and wellbeing. Cypress essential oil is especially helpful for those who are mentally or emotionally stuck, stiff, rigid, tense or have perfectionistic tendencies. The chemical compounds in this oil affect the brain to allow us to let go of control, embrace the flow of life, and be more adaptable. Wild Orange essential oil supports a positive mood and invites us to live with a child-like sense of openness. These oils can be inhaled straight from the bottle or diffused in a diffuser. Rubbing a drop in your hand and inhaling is an effective use as well.
As is true in every season, when you understand how your system is affected by it you will be better able to take care of yourself. Listening to your intuition is an important aspect thereof (so yes: get back into a routine, but do it with kindness!). Combined with my suggestions above, you’ll be ready to embrace fall with open arms.
* Always make sure you use essential oils that are Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade. I love working with dōTERRA oils for their purity and the humanitarian work this company does. To order your oils, and learn more, click here.