Autumn: a lesson in letting go

Autumn is here, as we let go of summer, the nights draw in and the leaves are turning – summer has truly departed us. Writer Juliet Davey talks to Five Element acupuncturist Michael Arnold about the benefits of connecting with this seasonal change...


Autumn: a lesson in letting go

Nature seems to sparkle on a sunny autumnal day. Leaves are saturated with jewelled hues and there is a brightness to the blue of the sky that this season alone can boast. The air is crisp and clear. Acupuncturist Michael Arnold describes it as being, ‘like the sound of a bell’.

We often struggle to let go of summer; it is the season of light and warmth that brings people together. Our culture celebrates fullness of life and unlimited growth, but struggles with the concept of death, and that is exactly what autumn reminds us of, reflected through festivals such as Halloween.

Our resistance to this change may be more than emotional; seasonal shifts can also affect us physically. A scientific study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, found that genes involved with immunity were more active during the colder months. This change is beneficial in fighting off viruses, but aggravates certain diseases especially those associated with inflammation.

But nature is cyclical and with each changing season we have a new opportunity. At the foundation of Five Element acupuncture theory is Taoist philosophy. Thousands of years ago, Taoist monks sat in nature and became skilled at observing its cycles and relating these to the human condition. ‘The trees let go of their leaves because you can’t have unlimited growth,’ Michael explains. ‘They have to make room for next year’s growth, so they will drop their leaves, returning these to the soil which will provide vital nutrients back to them.’

The season of autumn is associated with the metal element. In us, this corresponds to the lungs and the colon. The colon is about letting go of waste matter, so that the lungs can take in new inspiration.

In order to get the most out of this season, Michael suggests consolidating our activities to the ones that are truly essential. ‘There is less energy around so we have to conserve energies; letting go of thoughts or beliefs that no longer serve us. Holding onto to these limits our ability to take in new ideas. This prevents us from moving forward. It is also a good time to go through your cupboards and belongings and getting rid of anything you don't need.’

In clearing away the old, we are now receptive to the new. The lung in Five Element acupuncture is believed to connect us to the ‘divine spark’. And there certainly is something divine about this season. Michael suggests meditation, especially breathing exercises, in order to access our inner calm.

Michael Arnold practices and teaches Five Element acupuncture in London. For more information, see and

Photograph: Corbis