Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. David Whyte in conversation with Krista Tippett, 2017
Given a choice, vulnerability is something most of us would choose to avoid. We would prefer not to experience feelings around the loss of a loved one or something we cherish in our lives. We would prefer to always be in charge and in control of our lives and hold onto the things we hold dearest. We have deep seated fears of losing the people and things we love, of being alone and ultimately, we are afraid of death. What is the purpose of vulnerability and of grief that we inevitably experience with loss?
Grief is the emotion that corresponds to autumn and the Metal Element. It has an importance that is often not embraced in our culture.
The Metal Element corresponds to the autumn. As the days become colder, the leaves on the trees dazzle us with their beautiful display of color before they turn brown, fall to the ground and decay. The rains than wash these precious resources into the ground. Nature’s compost prepares the earth for spring. The seasons of growth, maturation, and harvest have come to a close. Autumn is both a time of letting go and a time of inspiration.
What is the role of grief in our lives? When we experience love our hearts are open. Love is a state of grace between a parent and a child, between family members, friends and partners. Our love can also extend into our community, the arts, sports, nature and our connection with the spirit. Love opens us to be inspired.
When we experience loss, the process of grieving has the potential to transform us. Our vulnerability can create an openness in us that can engender growth and change.
We often think that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. This is sometimes true. When we become stuck in a state of grief, we become emotionally constipated; that is, we cannot process our feelings and we become immobile. In contrast, when we are able to process our grief we become empowered and connected to the greater good. Processing grief can strengthen our values and principles.
The Metal element is responsible for the receiving of inspiration and the releasing or letting go of what is no longer needed – expiration.
The meridians that correspond with the Metal Element are the lung and large intestine. In Chinese medicine we like to say, “With our lungs we receive Qi from the heavens.” On a physical level, we breathe in oxygen that is absorbed into our bloodstream through the alveolar membrane, the lining of the lungs. Intuitively, we understand the importance of inspiration. We cannot live without oxygen. Equally important is the letting go of waste. The blood carries carbon dioxide and metabolites to the lungs (alveolar membrane) where they are exhaled into the air.
The Large Intestine collects the body’s waste products and lets them go. When we compare the large intestine to the heart, liver or kidneys, it is seemingly unsophisticated. In fact, the large intestines role of collecting and ridding the body’s waste is critical to our health.
When the lung and large intestine are working well, they help to nourish us with oxygen and rid the body of waste. What happens when things go awry? Asthma, COPD, constipation, diarrhea, and IBS are just some of the maladies we develop when earth is out of balance. Additionally, in Chinese medicine, the skin is considered to be the third lung as we eliminate toxins when we sweat. Dermatitis, acne and eczema are often Metal Element issues.
One of life’s great mysteries is the subtle and transformative nature of these two aspects of breath – inspiration and expiration. A deep inspiration fills us with vitality – Qi. This Qi or breath nourishes our every cell. With each exhalation we let go of what is no longer needed. The exhalation empties the lungs, ridding the body of waste, creating a void or openness. Exhalation clears the palate, opens and prepares us for something new – inspiration.
The Metal element’s cycle of inspiration and exhalation extends beyond the physical. Emotionally, Metal energy embodies our connection to the father. It is our connection to the heavens, to high ideals, to beauty perfection and ultimately, our connection to the spirit. This “fathering” energy is not limited to men with children, rather it is an important aspect of a healthy human being.
We need this sense of heavenly connection as a part of our overall health. Some find this spirit in a house of worship, some find this connection in nature, some find it in the arts. Anxiety and depression are also often related to challenges within the Metal Element.
Being vulnerable and experiencing loss is an essential part of being human. Typically, we become attached to the things we love. If we are not able to process loss and experience our grief, we become emotionally stuck. It is our experience of these darker emotions that transform us and opens us to the unknown. Experiencing grief helps us to become empathetic to the hardships of others.
Acupuncture is uniquely suited to restoring health by harmonizing the energy within the body. The acupuncturist unblocks and balances the flow of chi/energy in the body to help restore our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Acupuncture helps to balance the function of the Metal Element that includes the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. These meridians have a large jurisdiction that includes respiration, the elimination of waste, and also our connection to the spirit.
Clearly, we need more inspiration in the world. Our vision must extend beyond the acquisition of things, power and control. Our values must serve all who are part of this collective, the planet earth.