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Large Intestine and Letting Go

What does it actually mean, to let go? Of the past, of regrets, of disappointments, of the imagined future? We hear it all the time as some sort of ideal to aspire to but it can be very hard to access the letting go button. It’s almost as if the act of trying to let go of an emotion or thought or desire makes it adhere even more firmly. It’s a bit like telling someone to just relax, or stop worrying, or a wakeful mind to just go to sleep.

That is because letting go is not really an action but rather a consequence of no longer holding on. To let go fully requires time and attention and ultimately being very present with the thing you have a firm grip on. Being soft with yourself while paying attention will gradually loosen your hold and allow what ever it is to move in the direction it is destined for.

In Traditional East Asian Medicine, the meridian pathway that governs letting go is the Large Intestine. All the meridians are categorised in to yin and yang pairs. Typically, the yin meridian has what we call yin qualities such as being dense in form and generative in function whereas its yang partner is usually hollow or at least less dense and functions more as a processing, sorting and expelling organ. They work together to maintain the dynamic of life which is a continual balance between growth and decay. Unchecked growth or accumulation becomes nodules or tumours and too much decay becomes atrophy and weakness. The yang partner to the yin Lung meridian, is the Large Intestine. A branch of the Lung channel connects with the Large Intestine below, thus forming a pair.

Just as the lungs take in air, utilise the oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, the large intestine receives our digested food, absorbs the nutrients that we require into our blood stream via the gut wall and eliminates the by-products. We are learning more and more that the microbiome of the large intestine forms an important part of our innate immunity. Most of the trillions of cells that make up our microbiome reside in the large intestine, also called the colon. The symbiotic relationship we have with the microbes in our gut enable us to identify foreign substances that may be a threat and eliminate them.

Extracting what is useful and releasing what is not is a strength of the Metal element which corresponds to the Lung/Large Intestine pair. The corresponding season for the Metal element is autumn. Autumn embodies the poignancy associated with loss as leaves and rotten fruit fall to the ground, their minerals being absorbed by the earth below. Dusk comes sooner and the warmth of summer departs bringing its own beauty of crisp air and full autumn moons. Healthy adaptation of our Metal element enables us to witness these small deaths and acknowledge them as part of the cycle of life, knowing that as things break down they impart their own nourishment which in turn gives birth to new life after a period of hibernation (winter).

Checklist for Large Intestine meridian health:

  • Easy elimination via the bowels – not too dry or constipated 
  • Good absorption in the gut – not frequent, loose stools 
  • An ability to let go of what is no longer bringing value to our life
  • An ability to distil value from all of life’s circumstances even the painful ones
  • A deep sense of self-worth as evidenced by what is acceptable and what is rejected

How to keep the Large Intestine meridian healthy
A very important and easy to find point on the Large Intestine channel is called Large Intestine 4. It is more poetically translated from the Chinese as ‘Adjoining Valleys’ which describes its location between the thumb and index finger that form a valley when the digits are apart.

Large Intestine 4

Use the thumb of your opposite hand to feel around for a tender spot between thumb and index finger. Sometimes you have push a bit in to the bone of the index finger to find a sore spot. Hold firm (but not painful) pressure on the point for 60 seconds, one to two times a day or whenever you feel you would like to connect with something you want to release. It is also used in acupuncture treatments when someone presents with congested sinus, tennis elbow, constipation, headache or delayed labour. 

It is important to keep fluids up as the weather gets cooler because with the drier air in autumn we can lose a lot of moisture through our skin and the bowels can become dry. Pears are the ultimate autumn food to moisten the Lung and Large Intestine. They ease coughs from both dryness and mucous. Try them halved and baked in the oven, flesh side up with a little lemon juice. After 15 minutes, add chopped walnuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg and and a drizzle of honey and return to oven for another 15 minutes. Enjoy for breakfast or as a simple dessert. 

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