How the heck is it Autumn already? And why is it still a bazillion degrees outside?
As we welcome the Autumnal Equinox, we see night and day in near-perfect balance and we begin to observe the omens of winter. Even though the temperature is still high, we feel a dry quality in the air and see our shrubs begin to wilt and brown after the second harvest. As the sun wanes into slumber, we give thanks for all the light, joy, and challenge it brought us this summer. But now is a time of gathering and gratitude; a gathering of our second harvest and gratitude for nourishment; a gathering of wood to light the hearth and gratitude for its warmth; and a gathering of loved ones to give thanks for our togetherness and share our abundance.
It's the time of year for gourds and roots; a time for making cider & wine and preparing a hearth; a time for quiet reflection in the woods to absorb the waning summer rays. It's a time to observe the trees, as they show us how beautiful it can be to transform and let things go. It's the time when we fill our noses with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, and sage - the smoky scents that make us feel deep, warm, and ancient.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this is the time of the Metal element
In the three months of Autumn all things in nature reach their full maturity. The grains ripen and harvesting occurs. The heavenly energy cools, as does the weather. The wind begins to stir. This is the changing or pivoting point when the Yang, or active, phase turns into its opposite, the yin, or passive phase
The Metal Element is associated with the "Yin within Yang" cycle - where the bright Yang of Summer beings to wane and the darkening Yin of Autumn beings to rise. It's a time of darkening transition - both in the macrocosm (universe, environment) and the microcosm (our bodies, minds, and spirits).
It's important, at this time of year, to prepare ourselves for the darkness of winter, which inevitably means reminding ourselves that the darkness, our darkness, should be embraced.
This is a time for slowing down, spending more time in quiet stillness.
Getting into this phase sometimes bring on early feelings of depression, shadowedness, and heaviness. Listen to your body - it will whisper before it screams. Do not shy away from asking for more or less intimacy, more or less rest and sleep (just be sure to balance it with ample movement).
Just as the weather in Autumn turns harsh, so does the emotional climate. It is therefore important to remain calm and peaceful, refraining from depression so that one can make the transition to winter smoothly. This is the time to gather one's spirit and energy, be more focused, and not allow desires to run wild. One must keep the lung energy full, clean, and quiet. This means practicing breathing exercises to enhance Lung Qi.
The emotion of Autumn is grief and depression - and as we said above, it's likely these emotions will be more difficult to dance with this time of year. And just as we remind our community every season - emotions are just another form of energy, and energy needs to move. Allow yourself to feel grief, and let it move through you like water. When you do not allow yourself to feel grief or sadness (or any emotion for that matter) that emotional energy stagnates, which ultimately leads to depression. It's hard work and often scary to surrender yourself to grief - but it's there; all we can do is face it head on and move with it.
So, let's get into some things you can do this Autumn to keep your physical and emotional energy moving, so you can feel your best.
Acupuncture: We'd be terrible acupuncturists if we didn't make a plug for our primary therapy. If you haven't had an acupuncture treatment in awhile, now is the perfect time to get your seasonal tune-up to keep your immune system strong through the winter and prevent seasonal affective depression.
Herbs: Herbal medicine is a great way to give yourself nourishing supplementation. This time of year we use a harmonizing combination of tonifying herbs and exterior-releasing herbs (and others, of course, depending on your constitution and needs!) Some of my favorites are: Astragalus, White Angelica, Magnolia Bud, Xanthium, Sweetgum, Mint, Chrysanthemum, Yarrow, Orange Peel, Ginger, and Cinnamon.
Breathwork: If there was ever a time to start breath work, it's today. Breathing exercises are a fantastic way to move emotional energy and meditate. It can calm and balance our mind and spirit via relaxing the stress response and vagus nerve.
Click HERE for our Breath Work Handout for more information!
**A Little TCM "Geek Out" Segue**
When we breathe, we are absorbing "Qing Qi" - the Qi from the air around us. When we breathe it in, it mixes with "Gu Qi" (Qi derived from food) and that mixture combines with "Yuan Qi" (our Original Qi). This creates "Zhen Qi" (True Qi), the Qi that circulates throughout our organs and meridians. I know this is getting a bit technical - but the moral of the story is Breathing Exercises ultimately help keep you balanced and nourished in body, mind, and spirit.
Hats & Scarves: Yes, this old folk medicine has some wisdom to it. In many traditional medicines, pathogenic factors invade our bodies through the neck and head; in Chinese Medicine we call this the "Feng Men" or "Wind Gate." In turn, it is energetically protective to keep these areas covered.
Weather-Friendly Workouts: Movement is always a key component of health and wellness - and this time of year, movement is especially important for immunity and fending off seasonal affective depression. However, with it (eventually) getting cooler, it's important to stay warm and bundled if you're exercising outdoors. If you're exercising indoors, be mindful of the AC (especially if you break a big sweat) and be sure you take time to balance your internal thermostat before going outside.
This is a big enough topic to warrant its own section. One of the key foundational principles of nutrition in Chinese Medicine is to eat what's in season, and to eat food's who's energetics will balance out the climate. At its most basic level, this simply means colder foods in the warm months and warmer foods in the cold months.
By now, the energy that our food-plants absorbed in the bright summer months has settled deep into their roots. This is why root veggies and other "underground" foods are grounding and nourishing, especially during the Autumn months. This is the time of year for roasting potatoes, yams, carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, squash, celery root, yucca, rutabaga, and more. It's time for chili, stews, and hearty soups!
What's in Season? Click HERE for a great list of "in-season" fruits and veggies.
Alright my dear ones, that should do it for now. If I can leave you with anything, it's this
Embrace change. Slow It Down. Just Breathe. Just Be.