Tag Archives: letting go

Endings

The autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere finds us deep into Autumn and the Metal Element. Their falling energies teach us about how to be true to ourselves in the face of endings.

This blog marks the completion of a cycle of 8 articles over the past year as I’ve marked the passing of two solstices, two equinoxes and the four cross-quarter days that lie between. It seems fitting that we end this series in the depth of the Metal Element which resonates with endings, with letting go, and with dying.

Many people find these subtle autumnal reminders troubling. Western cultures tend not to dwell upon the ends of things, particularly the end of life, preferring instead to focus on the yang, rising side of the cycle, on the explosive upward movement of Wood and the wide, expansive, proliferating energy of Fire.

And yet there can be an exquisite savouring of the Metal phase, with its clear, spacious nature. When all that is superfluous has dropped away, we are left with that which is essential, the distilled essence of things. Like appreciating and valuing a small measure of a fine old liqueur.

I am not far away from becoming a septuagenarian and like most others in my age group I can’t believe that number on the board. Still, the evidence is reflected in the mirror, and in the subtle ways the body is slowing down. I can no longer pretend otherwise: I am fast approaching, if not already in the Metal phase of my life.

Each life stage has its age appropriate activities, and we can map these through the Five Element model. Water is the period of life before conception (wherever it is that we come from), our 9 months in the womb, and infancy. This is a time of potential and patient waiting. Wood is the phase of rapid upward growth that occurs in childhood and adolescence, when we explore possibilities and push edges. Fire is the time of our adult maturity, our blossoming and flourishing. It is usually a busy time of career orientation and/or creating family. Earth is the phase of late maturity when we reap the fruits of our life, and transition into retirement to savour the harvest of our life’s work. The Metal phase is when we naturally reflect on what meaning we have distilled from our lives, on what it is to die, to end, to pass on from the world. We anticipate the next cycle and the movement back to the Water phase, the great unknown that beckons after we take our last breath.

Some, possibly many, find these reflections on death to be uncomfortable, morbid, not a topic for polite conversation. Certainly it is a consideration commonly postponed, pushed off into the long future, when we imagine we will have plenty of time at the nursing home to contemplate our demise; or maybe hope for a quick end so we won’t have to think about it at all.

And yet, in many traditions, contemplation of death is a regular part of spiritual practice. Buddhists in particular meditate throughout life on this inevitable event. Indeed, death is the most important thing about life. Death provides meaning and context to life.

I vividly remember these words of my teacher Hameed, his opening words of the Death and Dying Retreat:

“To die is to live. And to live is to die.’ (He proceeded to elaborate for 10 days!)

This profound thought really communicates the depth of Metal’s spiritual lesson: only by letting go of all that we hold on to, can we truly live the depth of a human life. We are given countless opportunities throughout life to let go of our attachments:  the loss of some prized object, the job we really wanted but didn’t get, a big financial loss, the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, the loss of body function. Each loss is a little death, each a preparation, a training for the big death that will come, when we are called upon let go of it all.

Letting go does not mean abandoning our possessions or relationships. We don’t need to become wandering ascetics. Giving away all we own will not address our attachment to things. Abandoning our relationships does not change our inner relationship to others. Rather, letting go means allowing, surrendering, making space for everything that life brings us. It means living in the present moment, neither hanging on to a past that cannot be changed, nor holding on to ideas about what we imagine the future will be. It means dying to the past. Dying to the future. And living in the only place we have, the now.

AutumnWinter

Last weekend we went for a drive in the Adelaide Hills, as did many others released from Covid lockdown in South Australia. The autumn colours on a bright, sunny day were absolutely stunning, providing backdrops for much photography, and sitting smiling in the sun.

We are witnessing the annual transition from autumn to winter, one which reminds us that descent and decay are inevitable precursors of change and renewal. This year we also have ringside seats to a global transformation that may be the defining event of our lifetimes.

Autumn is the season of Metal which inspires us to let go of those things that no longer serve us, indeed may be holding us back from our development. Letting go prepares us to move into winter, season of the Water Element which coaxes us deep inside. The cold weather persuades us indoors, to warm fires and hot drinks, but it is also an invitation to go more deeply within ourselves, to reflect upon the deep places, often dark, within mind, heart and soul.

I find it interesting that I return to writing this blog after an absence of seven months at the very time when nature is bidding reflection. The call has been irresistible.

A client recently told me that he watched again the Metal and Water videos that I filmed around this time last year, and that he found more within them than he had seen the first time, nuances of tone and inflection, movement and posture. The truth is that each time we come to a season, even though we may have been here 20, 40 or 80 times, we are changed since last we traversed the autumnwinter. Our minds, our hearts, our souls are different and we are truly traversing the season for the first time in our current state.

Watch the Metal Video — Watch the Water Video

In choosing an acupoint about which I haven’t yet written, one which deeply supports this passage into winter, I settled on a point that I use frequently in the treatment room at this time of year.

Kidney 10 – Yingu – Yin Valley

Yingu is the Water point on a Water meridian. Such points are referred to as horary points or Element of the Element points. They have a profound influence upon the Element, in this case, shaking up the Water and revitalising the Kidney Qi.  They have a cleansing, enlivening and balancing effect and can provide treatment of the Element at depth.

This effect is amplified by using the points in their corresponding season, in this case, the winter. If you wish to further multiply their power, hold the points at the time of day when the Qi is at its peak in the meridian. In the case of Kidney, this is 5pm-7pm. I liken this alignment to getting all the winning reels up on a slot machine. And for those people who are of a Water constitution, this point really hits the jackpot.

The name Yin Valley may refer to the location of the point, lying as it does between two tendons of the hamstring muscles. But another interpretation evokes the pathway of the Kidney channel. Having travelled from the foot up the inside of the leg to Kidney 10, from here, the pathway continues up the leg to connect with Governor Vessel 1 at the coccyx, then goes deep into the body, passing through the organs of the bladder and the kidneys before re-emerging, like an underground river, at the pubis and Kidney 11. This deep pathway echoes the invitation of the Water Element for us to travel deeply into ourselves at this time of year, dropping down into those dark recesses of the soul that are often hinted at in dreams.

At a physical level, Kidney 10 is a useful local point for pain and constriction at the inside of the knee. It clears damp heat in the lower burner, thereby treating such conditions as urinary dysfunction, painful or bleeding urination, genital pain or itching, uterine bleeding and impotence. Given the deep pathway described above, it also treats coccyx pain, low back pain and conditions of the bladder and kidneys.

Emotionally, the Water Element relates to fear. While Kidney 10 is not renowned for its effect on the emotions, it is interesting to observe that fear can make our knees shaky and weak, and this point helps treat knee imbalances.

So, for a good cleansing flush of the Water, clearing out debris and dirt in the river and making the water sparkle with freshness, try working with Yingu this winter.

Location of Kidney 10

 

At the medial (inside) end of the knee crease between the tendons of semitendinosus and semimembranosus. If you tighten your hamstring muscles, this accentuates the tendons. As you slide your finger along the knee crease, find  the more prominent semitendinosus tendon, then drop into the hollow between it and the less prominent and more medial semimembranosus tendon next to it. This is easier to find with the knee slightly bent.

Letting go … some more

Shangyang ~ Large Intestine 1

autumn let goIn The Way of the Five Seasons I told the story of an autumnal accident with a knife, slicing through Large Intestine channel, and the subsequent investigation into what letting go was needed. Recently, close to the fifth anniversary of that deep cut, I had another little reminder that perhaps more letting go is called for. This time I was opening a packet on the kitchen counter. The bag opened suddenly and my hand went flying, connecting with a knife. Same knife. Same finger. But this time just a nick, right by the acupoint Shangyang, Large Intestine 1.

In contemplating the process of letting go of that which no longer serves, I realised I had been thinking about a difficult friendship when the little accident happened. Relationships are the crucible in which our deepest issues can be worked out, understood and transformed. But sometimes one has to consider whether the understanding is worth the pain and struggle.

The organ of Large Intestine serves to carry away the waste products of digestion. Daily, we let go of the crap that, if held in, would become toxic. Another of this organ’s functions is to reclaim and recycle water and minerals. It holds on to that which is of value to us. When the Large Intestine is healthy, there is appropriate holding on and appropriate letting go.

Sometimes relationships outlive their value. It is common for humans to stay in relationships longer than is good for them, out of fear, duty or habit. It is no easy thing to decide, should I stay or should I go?

Shangyang is a point that can support Metal’s power to discriminate, to cut to the chase and see what is of value and what is not. This is the editor’s gift of paring away the superfluous, the sculptor’s talent to reveal the artwork in the block of stone. Shangyang is the Metal point on a Metal meridian and can give the Element a good shake out. It purifies the spirit, helps us to let go of the mundane. One of the translations of Shangyang is Little Merchant. A successful merchant knows the value of goods, so does not let things go for a low price. But he also knows when to have a clearance sale to make way for new stock.

Points such as this where the Element of the point also corresponds to the Element of the meridian is known as a horary point. When held in the corresponding season its power is increased. When held at the corresponding time of day, its power is further strengthened. Shangyang will deeply support Metal when used between 5 am and 7 am each day during the autumn. This will support appropriate letting go. It will also help to avoid “accidents” that get your attention.

Location of Large Intestine 1

LI 1

 

 

On the radial side of the bed of the nail of the second (index) finger. Square off the curve of the nail to find the point.