Healing Grief: Autumn and the Metal Element
Autumn is both beautiful and challenging. All of nature is in decline, bringing an exquisite sadness. Cold, blustery weather sweeps in as the first storms blow through. Trees put on a final flush of orange and gold. Leaves swirl to the ground with every gust. Fungi fruit in the damp forest duff. These humble organisms rot the fallen debris of summer’s growth. Rotting returns precious nutrients to the soil, to be taken up again when the cycle of life starts anew.
At the heart of Autumn and the Metal Element is decline and loss. The old must be let go, broken down into basic elements. This prepares the way and provides the nourishment that allows life to move forward and flourish.
Healing Grief: the Metal Element in the Human Spirit
Grief is a healthy and appropriate emotional response to the loss of something or someone that we care about. When we go through a loss – perhaps a death, or a relationship break-up, or even a wildfire – we are at first devastated. Initially, we find it hard to accept the new reality. We cling to what once was. There is a psychic split between our perception and what now exists. Day-to-day life may feel empty, like we are going through the motions. We’ve lost touch for a time with the divine spark that makes life worth living.
In Five Element acupuncture, grief is the emotional dimension of the Metal element. The process of transformation seen in Autumn in nature – letting go and breaking down of the old, and the recovery of precious nutrients – is also at work within the human body/mind/spirit. Grief, at the right time and in proportion, is part of that process.
Lung and Colon Meridians: Transformers of Grief
Metal energies, in Five Element theory, are governed by the meridians of Lung and Colon. Their functions, in sum, are letting go and taking in – elimination and inspiration. It is easy to understand the process on a physical level. The Colon is the eliminator of waste and toxins at the end of the digestive tract. The Lung, through breathing, controls oxygen exchange with the atmosphere, both taking in and letting go.
A robust and balanced Metal element facilitates this basic process – letting go, eliminating toxins, and taking up precious nutrients to support new growth. When a loved one dies, we grieve, eventually accept the loss, and reconcile ourselves to the new reality. We are able to move forward, taking up what is valuable and precious out of what we once had. We apply it in our lives and move forward.
Stuck in Grief: Metal Element Imbalance
If Metal energy is weak or imbalanced, this process of healing grief slows down or may stop completely. Imagine what happens on a physical level if the Colon no longer performs its process of elimination. Constipation and intestinal blockage are serious health problems that quickly affect not only digestion but every system in the body, as toxins build up.
Likewise, toxins can build up and poison us on an emotional and spiritual level. If the Colon meridian is weak, all the meridians suffer. We are daily exposed to toxic situations that we need to be able to process and let go: foul language, mean words, animosity, fake news, hostility and hatred. We rely on the Colon meridian to eliminate this rubbish and minimize the negative impact it has on our lives. It’s no wonder people become hardened, cynical and dismissive – the Colon has a big job these days!
Moreover, a weak Colon meridian can leave someone clinging to the past, toxic or not. The person may become rigid, stubborn and blocked, unable to let go of old ideas and feelings. He/she may hoard possessions, both trash and treasure. Alternatively, a Metal imbalance may lead someone to let go of things too quickly, a spiritual diarrhea that lets precious nourishment slip away before its time. Either way, the imbalance inhibits future growth.
The Antidote to Grief: Inspiration and Self-Worth
What lies beneath clinging to the past, endless regrets and the inability to move forward? Stuck in grief, there is a feeling of emptiness that comes from within. One’s own life seems not worth living when we are cut off from the divine spark.
The antidote to grief lies in inspiration. Recall that the other function of Metal energy, along with elimination, is inspiration. Inspiration is the divine spark within each person’s soul. It gives us our feelings of connection to life and to higher consciousness. When we are able to find value within ourselves as divine beings, our sense of self esteem is restored. That allows us to find the divine spark in others, and makes life worth living again.