The Metal Element, Harvest Time and How to Integrate the Summer Season.

Its that time folks. The chill in the air, the space heater in the clinic room, my hands like little ice packs warmed around a cup of fennel tea. The farm is going to sleep and the wood stove is warming the house while I sit in the quiet listening to the rain on the skylights. It’s the time of introspection, the time to sit and integrate the summer fire and put into practice the clarity of vision we created during the summer months. It is time for the metal element in the Chinese medicine calendar. The metal element is associated with contraction not expansion. It is a time to get more sleep, spend more time at home, put your gardens to bed, read some books, meditate and listening to the innate cycles of our bodies.

Metal is surrounded by and is all encompassed by the earth; it is the minerals that we interact with, the iron of the earth. Due to the nature of the depth of the element, this time can be quite deep and reflective as well. It can lead to an exploration of who we are at our core, an exploration of core beliefs or root issues. You know… the BIG questions, the existential ones. The good news? Metal, being deeply rooted in the earth, allows us the grounding needed to reach up and outside of ourselves to explore the above things in a healthy way if we so choose. To see how our own core wounding can be healed or integrated to help the overall energy of the planet and its systems. The power of metal allows us to let go of the old to make space for the new.

The emotion that goes along with the metal element is grief and sadness and the organs are lung and large intestine. The lung in Chinese medicine is responsible for keeping things moving, bringing in the new. The large intestine is responsible for letting go and for attachment. It is not uncommon for this time of the year to bring up loss and sadness. It may also bring to the surface deep attachment patterns or abandonment. Because the large intestine represents how we are “in the flow” it can be a good indicator if we are holding on to things that are no longer serving us.

What does a non stagnant lung and large intestine look like? Glad you asked. Healthy self image and ability to surrender are important aspects of a healthy lung and large intestine system. A sharpness of mind and clarity is also a good sign. Are you able to move through and integrate the things coming up for you or are you stuck in loops of the same behavior? Can you release what is no longer serving you or are you feeling chaotic or rigid?

Physiologically this pattern can manifest as cough or other lung issues. Stagnation in the large intestine in the form of constipation or abdominal pain and tenderness. Abnormal bowel movements in general can be an issue. We can also start to see runny or loose stools as we change seasons if we are still eating raw foods and haven’t moved to more of a cooked, easy to digest diet.

What can we do to help this along? Come in for some acupuncture. Five Element Theory acupuncture can help balance your own constitution and help your body attune to the new season and winter months. In addition to treatments it is important to help the body transition into the new season. Some things we can do to support our emotional, physical and spiritual well being are:

Diet: Change the diet to a diet of cooked foods, limiting raw cold foods like salads, cucumber, watermelon etc. Go towards stewed apples, squash, slow cooked meats, sweet potatoes, and dark leafy cooked greens. Avoid processed foods, sugar and dairy where possible.

Meditation: The direction associated with this time of the year is the west. The sun sets in the west. A very easy and simple meditation that can be done is to sit and watch the sun set. Focus on your breathing or do some simple mantra. It doesn’t have to be for a long time but this will help you to connect to the changing season.

Breathing: Lets get that vagus nerve stimulated. This nerve is very important in regulating our nervous system and getting our bodies into a space where we can “rest and digest”. A space where we can integrate the days activities. The vagus nerve when stimulated through deep breathing releases acetylcholine which is a neurotransmitter that is essentially our very own built in tranquilizer. Seems important to know especially in today’s world. And its easy to do! Inhale for four count and exhale to eight. You just essentially make sure your breathing into your diaphragm or belly and make sure your exhales are longer than your inhales.

Let go: Easier said then done. But why not clean out the closet and house and donate things that you don’t use that are cluttering up your space. This will help the energy of your body move in that direction as well.

Move your body: Get outside for a brisk walk, ride your bike, establish that gym routine you’ve let slide for the summer. Moving the stagnation in our bodies helps to free up emotional space as well.

Above all else. Enjoy the beauty of the leaves as they change colour, fall off and become the earth once more nourishing the root systems of the trees. This is our own innate pattern as well and watching it in nature can help us remember how to do it ourselves. Happy Harvest time!

Summer Solstice, The Heart and Joy and How The Chinese Seasonal Clock Affects Our Moods.

Hey All! We are officially moving into the element of fire! I am feeling extra enthusiastic and as you will read below, this energy is common during this time of the year. For the record I am completely aware that I put Capital Letters where they don’t belong.  Ha! I’m a rule breaker. Below I will give you a general outline of what is in store in terms of the Chinese Medicine clock as well as what to look for when in and out of balance.  We will be moving out of the Wood element (Spring, Liver) and into the Fire element (Heart, Summer)!  This can be a time of increased energy, joyful engagements, and vitality as wood brings fuel to the fire. 


The Characteristics of a balanced fire element within the body are; being joyful, full of excitement and enthusiasm, feeling active, alive, warm and generous, feeling loving, vital and happy, and needing a constant source of fuel to keep you motivated.  This is time of growth, larger than life thinking and inner joy.  We are at our peak for communication in relationships with others and our ability to self-care and hold ourselves is at a big time high.  A great time to start those self-care routines that you've been feeling would help.  This time of year is nourishing for our arteries and our circulation making things like hot and cold showers and dry brushing actually enjoyable.  The pulse feels like a flower in the summer when in balance; full, heavy and generous.  If it is too tight or too soft it can be an indication of fire imbalance. 


Indicators of fire imbalance are some of the following; cold physically, emotionally and sexually, a feeling like the fire has "gone out".  We can have hot or painful joints and an arid mind body and spirit.  There can be a lack of receptivity and poor circulation (varicose veins, hemorrhoids, heartburn and digestive problems).     


The Heart is called "the monarch who excels through insight and understanding”,  in the Nei Ching- a Chinese Medicine Classical Text.  When functioning well the spirit is bright, we have clarity and focus and the energy to direct that focus towards things that build us up.  When the Heart Fire is excessive or too low there can be restlessness in the spirit, lack of concentration and an inability to stay focused on the task at hand.  


Because the heart houses our "Shen" or our Spirit, mental health comes into play during this time.  It is important during this time of increased light and dark polarity that we stay grounded and direct the excessive energy to things that build up our spirit and bring joy to our lives.  Spend time outside!  Watch things grow, visit the bees, slow down the mind to help the fire energy stay balanced.  


How does digestion play into heart and fire time of the year you might ask?  Each organ in Chinese Medicine has a yin/yang paring and the Heart's partner in action is the Small Intestine.  The Small Intestine separates the pure from impure and allocates nutrients and waste to where they need to go.  What a job!  Arguably one of the most important I'd say.  On a more cognitive note the small intestine does the same with ideas and incoming information as it does with food, absorbing what is needed information and discarding what is not.


When the small intestine is out of balance we can experience obesity, or extreme thinness, toxins can build up in the system causing painful joints and not enough nutrients in the blood.  Mentally the mind wanders and is vague and hard to pin down.  Spiritually we can become scattered in our many forms of new age ways to heal our spirits.  We just cannot seem to get a grip on things.    We can bring this into balance by recognizing our need for information input and just allowing there to be silence in our day.  Don't look at your phone, don't pull a card ;), put that pendulum away! Settle in and connect with how your heart feels and the direction it wants to go.  Use the energy of fire to guide you and provide you the momentum that you need to really rise up (fire rises).  Let all of the stress-y liver wood energy from spring be the fuel to break old patterns and connect with what will drive you moving forward.  


In terms of dietary advice eat energetically cooling foods and herbs.  Some of these include cucumber, spinach, lettuce, greens, broccoli, asparagus and watercress.  Think green and not spicy.  Summer is a time to incorporate raw foods into the diet (do not go overboard unless your body can handle it) and avoid hot and spicy foods. 


As far as herbs go mint and lemon balm are great to just add to water as infusions or to smoothies. Rose has an affinity towards the heart.  It can open it up as well as teach us about protection.  Its thorny nature reminds us to be solid in our foundation when setting boundaries with others.  And its beautiful flower reminds us that when conditions are favorable we can bloom.  Nootka rose time has come to a close but make sure to stop and smell the roses as you pass the beautiful gardens. 


And last but definitely not least.  JOY.  What sets your soul on fire? Go do it.  And then make sure to go to the river for some much needed cooling off! It’s all about balance. 


Happy Summer Everyone.  May it be one of great change and growth.  And of course be joyous.