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The Autumn Element - Metal

Urban Nun ZENDO

Photo credits: MZMikos

Six elements of the periodic table account for 97 percent of our body's mass: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and phosphorus. But it is not just us who are based on it. These elements exist in all other life forms and are also found in great abundance in the Milky Way and beyond. Human beings are, as a saying goes, stardust. Although different life forms have different combinations and distributions of these elements, notwithstanding this difference, however, it remains the same that for optimal functioning of each of these forms, all elements must be in proper balance and flow without restrictions.

Also ancient teachings refer to 4 or 5 elements as building blocks of all existence. In Taoism, these were associating to different type of energetic states that are in constant interaction and flux with each other. These states are referred to as the Five Basic Elements (wǔxíng, 五行), or Five Phases and are classified into Fire, Earth, Water, Metal, and Wood.

The recognition of the interplay of these elements has been used in Taoist medicine to develop methods that not only serve to heal, regenerate and increase longevity, but also to balance the transition from one season to another. Namely, according to the Taoist Five Elements Theory, each season is associated with one of the elements that shows its effect on all levels: body, mind and emotions. The element that dominates the autumn is the metal.

At the body level, the metal element corresponds to the lungs (yin organ) and the large intestine (yang organ). The people who are predominately of the metal type are particularly susceptible to respiratory problems, such as cold, cough, flu, or pneumonia, and have to take good care of their lungs during the autumn months to prevent deficiency of their respiratory system. An imbalance of the metal element can also lead to intestinal problems, constipation and poor bowel function, so that bowel cleansing in the fall is a must.

After the summer that is ruled by increased levels of activity and life expansion (caused by fire element), we do not always encounter autumn with mental alertness. For this reason, autumn is the right time to clean up the chaos left behind, to organize our life and to put our home in order. This is the time to harvest the fruits of our past actions and discard or keep the seedlings for the future. In other words, to gather everything that will nourish us in the coming cold and dark winter and store it in a safe place.

But sorting out our life content can only succeed if the mind is clear. Again, in autumn, the metal element plays an important role in it by using the overflow of the fire element as fuel to bring clarity to our scattered and distracted mind.

When the metal element is in balance, it acts as a polished mirror, reflecting everything with crystal clear clarity, and allowing intuition and mind to work on their best. Autumn contemplation on questions such as: "What activities have helped me on my Path? " "Which lessons have I learned? " "Am I still on the right track? ", can only be fruitful if the metal is well polished so that answers could reflect on the surface of the mind.

On the emotional level, metal is associated with grief and sadness, as a results of unstoppable changes in nature that remind us that nothing stays the same and that seemingly all things have a beginning and an end. It is our reaction to the fading summer and the darkness of winter slowly creeping in. Autumn gives us the opportunity to welcome those feelings of sadness and grief, no matter how painful they are. Yet, we need to remember that these are normal human emotions experienced by everyone from time to time, either when difficult moments are imminent or when someone we love dies.

Since the metal element is also associated with virtues such as bravery and courage, autumn is an important time to fearlessly face changes and painful events and to accept them as part of the life cycle. If we do not learn how to confront and express grief, our Qi will descend and our lungs will be compromised, causing breathing difficulties, leaving our lungs feeling heavy and deflated.

Wuxing theory teaches that when we deal with pain of loss with equanimity (earth element), without anxiety (fire element) and worries (earth element) we can grow through the moments of mourning and grief without falling out of balance.

And maintaining the body-mind balance is what creates our health and happiness. Unfortunately, in these fast-moving times, this is not the easiest task, and as a result, modern people are often facing seasonal depression and other health issues. It is all the more important to follow the natural flow of life so that we can align with everything inside and outside of us regardless of the season. Thereby, the grief and sadness, that surface in the autumn, is more easily transformed into kindness, purposefulness, compassion, and joy.

Once we have reached that state, the autumn energies will allow us to extend our compassion and joy to the entire existence with which we share this moment on Earth.

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