Do you have any habits or tendencies or an aged collection of things that you used to love, but might be time to let go of? If so, Fall is a great time to let go, just like the (deciduous) trees let go of their leaves. Fall – the season of Metal – has lessons of letting go for the mind.
Classical Five Element Acupuncture is organized around the 5 Elements and their world of correspondences. Fall is associated with the Metal element. Previously I wrote about the Lungs, Large Intestine and Skin (the bodily aspects of Metal and the Fall). Metal also includes the ability to receive inspiration, which can be said to correspond to the mind/spirit aspect of the Lung’s ability to inhale. And just as the Large Intestines have the function of eliminating bodily waste, this function includes “letting go” at other levels: the mental ability to let go of ideas, relationships or habits that no longer serve. When we’re at the end of a challenging conversation or project, it’s natural to reinforce letting it go with a deep breath.
ACTIVITY: Take a few moments to reflect on these questions; they might give you insight as to some of your Metal mind qualities. Remember that there’s a dynamic between taking in (Lung qualities) and letting go (Large Intestine qualities). So these questions reflect both what you allow yourself to take in, be inspired by, be guided by as well as what you are willing to let go of.
- What are some of your long-held prejudices?
- When have you been cutting or dismissive?
- When have you held on to regret or remorse over a mistake?
- What makes you uniquely you?
- Do you have standards that you refuse to compromise?
- What do you value in yourself?
Many meditative practices start with bringing attention to the breath, counting breaths, noting the warmth or coolness of the breath in the nostrils. So here we begin to see the connection between the breath and the mind. Attention to the breath can bring us into the present, providing grounding and stability.
If you are having a freak-out moment (and many of us have had those over the last six months), then stopping and counting your breaths or counting the length of your inhalations and exhalations can put the brakes on and help bring you into the present.
Metal is the element of Fall, and one of the images that comes to mind is swords or knives. When we speak critically, use our words to cut or wound, when we judge others harshly or talk trash, we are experiencing the Metal aspect of mind.
“Discrimination” is another Metal way of describing how we take information in, and then parse it, categorize it, analyze it and determine if or how valuable it is.
As children, we are sponges, taking in words, attitudes and concepts without discrimination or judgment, with fascination. It’s one reason why make-believe is so appealing: we try on different personas and explore what it’s like to be a hero, a villain, something magical, something destructive. After a time, however, some of what we hear repeatedly from the adults around us can leave a toxic residue. It can tarnish the innocent child and undermine confidence, self-worth or trust. Hearing criticism, negative judgment, being exposed to violence and cruelty, and experiencing a negative filter from adults can predispose a child to a pessimism that extends into their teen and adult years. When the mind becomes polluted this way, it may result in foul speech, a preference for dirty jokes, or taking part in gossip and innuendo. The ability to experience potential and positivity is lost in the anticipation that things will “probably turn out badly anyway” or that “it’s all a dumpster fire anyway.”
Habitual negativity is hard for many of us to let go. These mental waste products are a toxic burden to the mind. When our childhood or parents or pivotal experiences have “taught” us a certain response, it can take a tremendous amount of will and humility to re-program. Some people react with fear and a “glass half empty” attitude, while others see possibility and opportunity. Are you thrown to one response or another? Affirmations, mantra, hypnosis, visualizations and meditation are all ways to undo counter-productive habitual responses. They take repetition and practice, but it can be done.
“In the moment between stimulus and response is the opportunity for power and freedom.” – Viktor Frankl
The political climate and upcoming election are generating plenty of cutting, prejudicial and cruel speech, and it’s taking a toll on my psyche. I’m trying to find the balance between staying engaged and informed and staying sane. How are you responding to the vibe in the news and on social media?
In the next two articles, I’ll explore the Spirit aspect of Metal. I hope you’ll keep reading!