Tag Archives: chinese medicine theory

Spirit of the Season: Autumn, Grief and The Po

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.” – John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

In Chinese Medicine theory, every season has a corresponding spirit. The spirit of the fall is the Po – our corporeal soul. It is about movement, sensation, and the connection of our bodies to both our minds and to the world at large. It is what gives us animation, reaction, and human emotion. It governs our visceral responses and our capacity for sentiment and empathy.

The emotion associated with fall is grief. In Chinese medicine theory, grief is said to disrupt the flow of our qi, causing us to withdraw and disconnect with the world around us. As I often discuss in face reading sessions, grief is not only about death or the loss of a person. Our face reveals lines my teacher calls “lost love” that show up when we let a talent or creative passion lie dormant for too long. The body expresses this loss physically to illuminate the emotional blow felt by the spirit. There is also a collective sorrow that can be felt universally in response to world events that pull at our heartstrings. Regardless of the situation, in periods of emotional mourning we often go inward, retreating into our sadness as we ruminate in solitude waiting for the feelings to pass.

The Po allows us to receive and process our grief, even as our grief transforms us. It is the ability to both be and feel. By connecting us with our human urges, it lets us bring an experience into our being, receive the essential message, and ultimately move forward. It supports personal evolution within a world or space that might appear to have a very disparate agenda. Though we might experience tremendous change as a result of our own journey, the Po allows us to stay grounded in the world in which we reside and navigate the familiar from an internal place that might feel unchartered and uncomfortable.

While on any given day we are capable of all emotions, the seasonal cycle highlights and brings to the forefront those feelings or urges that can be addressed while we are in the strongest position to handle them. I urge you this fall to look at the things that might be causing you grief and harness the power of the season to catalyze your own personal revolution.

Vision, Action and the Element of Wood

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

In Chinese Medicine theory, every season has a corresponding element, spirit, sound, flavor, network of channels, and set of energetic properties. In Spring, the element is Wood, the spirit is Hun (soul), and the energy is action, renewal, metamorphosis, and growth. Spring is the beginning of the new cycle of life, representing hope, creation, and the manifestation of dreams and potential. Just as the world around us is blooming and flowering, we too are called to express the notions of our souls and actualize the inspirations of our hearts.

The element of Wood, deriving from trees, is the symbol of expansion. With deep roots in the earth, it stretches is limbs far and wide, reaching for the sun, bending to the wind, and winding its way around any obstacles that cross its path. It does not strive for perfection. It simply holds steady through the storms and advances, undeterred, toward its highest potential. The self-assured aspect of ourselves, determined to stretch farther and aim higher, is supported by how much of this element we posses. The strength of our own personal Wood element is what gives us the stamina and resilience to create, self-actualize, achieve, and persist.

The Wood element is directly connected to vision – both literally and metaphorically. When properly nurtured through action, activity and unobstructed expression, our Wood energy provides us with creativity, foresight and clarity. It drives our ambition and provides us with the courage and stamina to implement our wildest ideas and execute our boldest creations. As Henry David Thoreau aptly states, “In the long run men only hit what they aim for.” Where will you set your sights this Spring, and how will you harness the energy of the season to bring your visions to life?

Autumn, Alchemy, and the Element of Metal

mortar-pestle“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

In Chinese Medicine theory, every season has a corresponding element, whose qualities epitomize both the characteristics of that season and the aspect of our personality that allows us to thrive as we cycle through the earth’s energetic shifts. As Debra Kaatz so eloquently states in, Characters of Wisdom: Taoist Tales of the Acupuncture Points, “The element of autumn is metal, the richness that lies within the earth. This is created by what remains of the harvest composting down and enriching the soil with mineral wealth. It also represents the rich gold we have inside that is enriched with the great inspirations of the heavens. Here both taking in and letting go is transformed into earthly gold and inner golden wisdom.”

The metal element is aptly represented by the fall season, the time of year where things return to the earth to be repurposed or recreated. There is a shedding of old ideals, beliefs and baggage, and the powerful transformation that comes with the willingness to reduce something down to its purist form. Metal is often equated with alchemy, defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as 1. a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life; 2. a power or process of transforming something common into something special; 3. an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting. Some of the many powers of metal are its ability to create boundaries, cut away the irrelevant, change shape, and be re-cast into something more purposeful while still retaining its essence. Both the elegance and the magic of metal is its ability to become more valuable and refined through the process of reduction and simplification.

People with a metal constitution tend to be honorable, virtuous, disciplined, and hold themselves to (sometimes impossibly) high standards and values. They appreciate beauty, simplicity, cleanliness, and serenity. A metal person requires minimal sensory input and seeks to clarify truth in its most pure and upright form. They are serious, dignified, and decisive in their actions. While they can often appear as aloof or cold, in fact they are extremely sensitive to nuance and small energetic shifts, particularly to the grief or sorrow of others. Because of their intuitive or empathic nature, they learn to set strong boundaries, and require and enjoy spending time alone in order to rebalance their energy. While their perfectionist nature can sometimes manifest as self-judgment, at their best, metal people will use their idealism and leadership skills to defend virtue and inspire the pursuit of higher standards and truth.

In this powerful season of transformation, it is encouraged that we all take stock of where we are in our journey and separate out what we no longer need to hold, accept, or endure. As we learn from the element of metal, great evolution and mastery can be achieved through reduction. It reminds me of one of my favorite exercises – for which I can’t find the original source – where before we speak we should ask ourselves: “is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”. By revisiting our core values, we can reevaluate and repurpose our pursuits, realigning our actions with our heart’s own truth and living our lives to their fullest potential.