What is your favourite season? Before I started training to become a Shiatsu practitioner, I would have adamantly said – Summer, thinking impatiently of long hot lazy days, the sun on my back, feeling joyful, healthy and ‘full of life’. However, since my studies in Shiatsu and Traditional Chinese Medicine, I have become more and more connected with the Five Element model; the 5 phases of yin and yang energy which rather than elements in a literal sense, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal – represent natural forces that together, form a natural united whole.
I realise now, that we can live our lives by following the dance and rhythm of nature, allowing the elements and seasons to teach us about ourselves, so long as we listen, very carefully. And, I wonder now, that if I had really embraced Metal (Autumn) in my childhood and as a young adult – would I have suffered less with respiratory and skin conditions?
“Fall, leaves, fall” by Emily Brontë:
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
Now in the deep depths of Autumn, everything is moving from withering and decay, to falling – the leaves, the temperature, the angle of the sun – there is a sense of quieting, a turning inwards. Nature is creating space – trees dropping their leaves, leaving bare branches. Fields, allotments and gardens given up on harvest lie fallow and open.
“To fade in order to bloom again.” Lao Tzu.
Space and sense of spaciousness is the quality of Metal – the element that needs room to breathe. It’s our time in the year to eliminate what is unnecessary in our lives, and to store and take stock of what we do actually need. The Lungs, the organ of Metal, help us to breathe in the vital Qi from the air – drawing it in and deeply down into our bodies to nourish our roots and soul with pure Essence. Physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually – let it go – breathe in what we need, breathe out what does not serve us; possessions, thoughts of inadequacy, beliefs or relationships that do not nourish, that prevent us from giving our heart permission to sing.
How do we bring the qualities of Metal into our daily lives? Welcoming, even inviting qualities of space and spaciousness in our mind and body enable us to breathe more freely, move and feel ‘vital’ and invigorated, let go of stagnant thoughts and ‘stuff’ that we fill our lives with, so that be can see with clarity and focus. I recommend 3 effective, powerful and natural tools that can help us to connect to the rhythm of Autumn while as the same time, nourishing, warming, and strengthening our mind, body and spirit:
Essential oils – the natural, living, ’vital‘ power of oils have the capacity to invigorate, energise and strengthen our bodies and minds. There are specific essential oils that embody the qualities of Metal, they are able to support those systems that are under more pressure as the weather takes a downwards turn and temperatures plummet. Using the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we realise that the Lungs, being the primary organ of respiration – ‘governing’ the Qi/Ki – and if working harmoniously, they ensure the vitality of our bodies, protecting us from unwanted pathogenic invasion, from fatigue, frequent colds, impaired breathing, feelings of despair, depression and a tendency to withdraw from society.
Essential oils that help strengthen the Lungs and help them to play their important role are those with a coniferous and/ or camphoraceous fragrance – they open, invigorate, protect and help to rid us of ill health. One of my favourites is Black Spruce – an oil distilled from the awesome North American tree which not only has the capacity to strengthen our immune system, but in my experience, it has offered great comfort at times of feeling wobbly and ungrounded. Other Metal oils to use this Autumn are Eucalyptus (both radiata and globulus), Tea Tree, Scots Pine and Frankincense. Frankincense can also help you find that meditative space, that time for reflection, so important during the ‘downward’ movement of the autumnal months. Here are some ideas on how you could use the Metal essential oils in daily life:
- Blend your favourite combination into a massage blend to help invigorate achy muscles, use a 1-2% dilution in a good quality vegetable oil such as sweet almond (scent is an inherently personal choice – this is the perfect excuse to put your sense of smell into practice!) Get in touch if you need help concocting your blend.
- Use a diffuser to cheer up your home, your little cosy space that you practice in – a wonderfully gentle yet effective way to absorb the magic of oils.
- Using a specially created Metal aroma stick, ‘Clarity’ on specific Acupuncture points (more details on Acupuncture points below!)
- Create a room spray to freshen and ward away unwanted germs using a combination of hydrosols such as Eucalyptus and Tea Tree.
Acupuncture points & self-massage – there are a few very effective acupuncture points that, combined with Metal essential oils and self massage, can help to nourish, stimulate and tonify our immune system. The points, or ‘tsubos’ belong to the associated meridians (energy pathways) of the Metal element, Lung and Large Intestine, both meridians run their course in the arms and chest so these areas of the body are where we can work.
Any self massage, using a blend or Clarity aroma stick, tapping, holding around the chest, arms and shoulders connects with the meridians so please don’t feel intimidated if you are not familiar with the point themselves or struggle to find them. Most importantly, remember the qualities of space, of letting go – breathing life into our bodies and breathing out and expelling what no longer serves us – what a relief! Here are 3 powerful points you could explore:
- Zhongfu, known also Central Mansion and Lung 1. This point helps with any breathing difficulty such as asthma, coughing, wheezing, stuffed up noses, sore throats. This helpful point is found in the chest – to find the point on yourself, here are a few suggestions:
- Find the large hollow directly under the collarbone (the delto-pectoral triangle)
- From here, go down the chest by a thumb’s width and move slightly out to the side of the chest
- Then, roll your thumb around until you find an area of sensitivity and hold, once you have ‘dropped’ into the point, notice your breath, maybe massage around the area, or even when you are familiar with the sensation it opens for you, try some sensitive and rhythmic tapping using the tips of your fingers.
- Hegu, known also as Junction Valley and Large Intestine 4 (do not practice this if you are pregnant). This is the point of letting go – so valuable for supporting our Metal energy, moving stuck energy, mental frustration, restlessness and even grief (an emotion very much linked to the Metal element). I won’t list the gamut of physical conditions this powerful point can benefit; as the list is immense. But, a few very apt for Autumnal support, include pain in the chest, back or neck, headaches, ears, nose and throat. To find the point:
- Firstly hold hands with yourself, quietly, mindfully.
- Then, if you tuck your thumb into the side of your hand, a crease is formed. At the end of that crease is a bulge. Press your opposite thumb into the fleshy muscle at the highest ‘most full’ point of the bulge.
- Then, roll your thumb around until you find a sensitive area. I invite you to spend time with this point, noticing emotions, sensations that may arise – listen to your breath.
- Taiyuan, known also as the Great Source and Lung 9. A wonderful point for those with a sluggish circulation, especially cold hands and feet. This point can benefit shortness of breath, weak or shallow breathing, coughs, asthma, chronic tiredness, exhaustion and depression. My favourite thing about this point is that it can offer profound emotional support, especially when we feel troubled or overwhelmed; it can reach into our inner soul to calm and reassure.
- To find this lovely point, hold your hand with the palm facing you.
- On the thumb side of the wrist crease, find the hollow between a tendon on the thumb side, the artery next to it (on little finger side) and the bone at the base of the hand.
- Tune in to your breath, notice and changes in your body, in your mind. Hold the point with compassion for yourself, as if you were holding a kitten or puppy – with utmost tenderness and care.
Yoga poses – to awaken the energy of Metal and to stimulate the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. This can simply be invited into your home practice or in any classes by taking your awareness to the chest, arms and shoulders; using your breath to mindfully welcome vitality and space in mind and body, to use your out-breath to ‘let go’, to expel negativity, stagnancy.
The Metal energy likes clear boundaries, therefore bringing in structure and routine in your practice can be very supportive, such as an defined time to practice, setting up your space with specific props – bringing clarity and focus to your practice, even if it is only a 10 mins practice. I recommend 3 practices you could try – I leave you to be creative otherwise as I feel it is important to find what works for us individually, to connect in our own unique way with the power of the Metal element. Firstly get together some props including a cosy blanket, bolster, eye pillow and small cushion:
- Yoga nidra. This is such a wonderful practice to help you to connect to the essence of the Metal element. This link takes you through to a collection of free yoga nidras, generously shared by the Yoga Nidra Network.
- Child’s pose, or ‘Hare’s pose’ with knees mat width apart – or in a position that respects your body and bone structure, cross one arm on top of the other underneath you, palms facing up. If it feels good, stay in the pose for 1-2 mins. Then repeat the pose, switching arms. If it feels appropriate, you might like to repeat the whole pose. Connect with the feelings that arise in your body and mind – feel the energy in your chest, your arms, your shoulders. Notice any thoughts, but let each thought pass, let go, create space.
- Restorative chest opener, lying on your back with as many props that help support the structure of your body, helping you to be open and ‘let go’. Place a small cushion in the nook of your neck, or use a rolled up blanket – whatever ‘feels delicious for ’-supports your neck, you might need to experiment what works best for you. Your arms will be forming a T, bending them into ‘cactus’ shaped arms. Keep your hips grounded in your mat, making sure they feel ‘held’, so that you can feel a wonderful opening in your chest. If you would like a bolster under your knees, it might ease pressure from your lower back and allow you to sink more into the pose. Once comfortable, maybe placing an eye pillow on your eyes to quieten your mind, invite the natural rhythm of your breath, and once you feel this connected with your breath. Then, once you’ve found a balanced rhythm, try allowing your exhale or out-breath to be longer than your inhale. Try this for 5 mins, or for as long as feels good. Enjoy the stillness, the openness – the sense of space and spaciousness, into yourself.
Now, inviting Metal into your life…
Before studying, working and bringing the 5 Elements into my life – Metal in particular, I dreaded the onslaught of late Autumn, the inevitable and unavoidable descent into dark, short, cold days. However, with time, I have come to realise; to welcome even – that by accepting and embracing the natural rhythms and unique qualities of Metal, the more at peace I feel, the more rejuvenated and rested. Metal, the season of Autumn, is nature giving us permission to go inside, to quietly reflect – to let go. Hoorah, in a time when we are feeling so pushed and pulled – nature is giving us the peaceful retreat we so desperately need. I hope some of these practices support you too, or at the very least, give you food for thought.
With the greatest respect for the power of the Elements. Namaste. Fen x
“By letting go, it all gets done.” Tao Te Ching.