As a life-long New Englander (minus the 7+ years out West in my 20s), I feel extremely connected to the changing seasons. They are important to me for various reasons, but not until recently has it become something I have connected to my physical and emotional self. This year, 2020, the cycle of Fall seems ever more important to sit with.
In Chinese Medicine, we talk about organs and their connection to the 5 elements - metal, water, wood, fire, earth. Each element has their categories of connections. I am here to talk to you about Metal.
Metal is the element of Autumn. It is connected to the Lungs and Large Intestine, to grief, to contracting, to letting go. Here in Vermont we experience the same thing every year: deep harsh winters that seem like they will never end, followed by the slow opening of spring time when the forest floors begin to thaw and breathe in fresh life, continued by the most vibrant green summer you have ever seen, into the letting go of autumn.
It has always been my favorite time of year: I was born on the autumnal equinox, I am an avid skier so the turning season gets me excited, yet still I lavish in the beauty of Fall until it's gone. I am also Jewish, and this time of year has always been one for introspection. Our New Year is right around the equinox as well, and along with celebrating the sweetness of our year's harvests, we also take time to repent, to let go of sins, to ask for forgiveness, to make space for a new year ahead and let go of the one that has passed.
Our lungs breathe in fresh air. They literally inspire. They grasp and let go of CO2. They are the most exterior of the internal organs and therefore are typically the first internal organ to be affected by anything pathogenic coming into the body. The lungs are directly connected to our skin, our defensive qi, the suit of armor we wear every single day. We must work hard to keep our lungs healthy always, and certainly during this time of year.
The lungs work hand in hand with the Large Intestine- the lungs inspire clean air/qi to the body, the large intestine eliminates turbidity. We see this in nature as well - the air becomes crisper and lighter, the trees begin to shed the leaves they have been growing since Spring. They let go.
If summer is the peak of movement, of Yang energy, when everything is moving fast and days are long, then winter is the peak of stillness. Fall, therefore, is the beginning of this Yin cycle, the beginning of the great letting go, the turn inward, the quietness of the dark. There is beauty in this stillness, even if it is hard for you, even if it scares you.
Grief is letting go of the stuff we do not need in order to see more clearly, and to make room for that which serves us. It allows us a clearer understanding of Self. Grief is not something to hold onto. It is something to let pass. The trees don't stubbornly hold onto their leaves because they don't want to pass into the next season, they let go in order to turn inward. We make room in our digestive tract so that our body can continue its normal functions.
This year, 2020, has given us a lot to let go of. Humanity is fighting a virus that goes after our respiratory system, that is spread by breathing virus-ridden air particulates. Our political system in the United States is full of superfluous turbidity. We haven't fully acknowledged the history of systemic racism in the United States- holding onto ways that continue to marginalize BIPOC and serve the white patriarchy - allowing one system to function while another fails.
In reality, we are one system, one "nation", and in order for it to wholistically function, all people must have interdependence. I am not here to speak Politics, per se, but want to acknowledge how we can relate this systemic turbidity to our bodies, the autumnal equinox, and the nature of letting go. People must not be reduced to numbers or race or religion (we see this in history multi-fold - the holocaust, in the slave trade, in the taking of indigenous land, etc). You are in the same wholistic body system as your neighbor, as your senator, your president, your mother, your yard, your favorite mountain, and the city in the state you have never visited. We are all one. We breathe the same air. We must let go of the turbidity that doesn't serve our nation, we must take care of the earth that provides us so much, and we must care for each other. We are all connected.
So let's take care of ourselves and others. Let's take care of our lungs, our immunity, our neighbors. Let's let go of the stuff that no longer serves us, and begin the turn inward. Let's get introspective, even if it hurts, so that we can grow new leaves next year.
Thanks for listening. I would love to hear your thoughts.