As a natural introvert (I recharge in stillness and need time away from the hubbub of modern life and socializing to gather my energy and sort through my thoughts and experiences), there is a natural bit of ‘yahoo’ energy that accompanies the cooler more quiet and indoor friendly energy of fall.
I love the cooler crisp nights and the return to slow cooked and simmering foods like soups and stews. By taking more time to settle inward and be less social and “out in the world” than in the more extroverted summer season, I reconnect to my deeper self and feel myself starting to recharge from the inside out.
The interesting thing about this natural call to go inwards in the autumn is, that according to Chinese Medicine and the seasonal rhythms of nature, this is exactly what we should be doing.
When we surrender to the natural changes that happen within season, and adapt our diet and lifestyle to compliment the changes, rather than resist it or push our agenda and workload throughout the year, we’re setting ourselves up for a natural state of balance that can add significantly to well-being and a nourished state of health and vitality.
It doesn’t have to be a radical change, but more a gentle surrendering to what we might naturally be called to do. Waking early and being more social in the energetic and light-filled summer months and then shifting to going to bed earlier or reading in the winter months. Shifting our diet from the raw foods of summer or the frozen morning smoothie and opting for some warm cooked oats or soups in the winter months. Little things that we might naturally be called to do, but have somehow been disconnected from in this modern world and oh so busy world. We all get in routines and habits of work, but if we can step back and check in, taking a breath to ask “what do I really want” at different times throughout the seasons, you might be surprised to find that what feels good in one season feels completely different in another. Our bodies are wise, sometimes we just need to take a moment to pause and listen.
Each system in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) has a variety of ways that it manifests or shows up in the body. It also is heightened at different times of the year and the day as well. The Autumn season is associated with the Lung system in Chinese Medicine and that means that the energy of this system is heightened at this time of the year. This also means people who have a weakness in this system, may have increased symptoms during this season as well.
This system is linked with the Lungs, both the physical lungs as well as the lung channel in the body. It also shows up in the skin, nose and nasal passages, our voice, breathing and our immune system. This means we can look for a sign of Lung system health in our ability to fight off colds and flus as well as fight off allergens (seasonal allergies as well as skin issues and breathing issues such as asthma flare at this time of year).
The emotion associated with this system (yes every system has a correlating emotional state!) is grief or sadness, it’s not uncommon for people to feel somewhat melancholy or sad and reflective at this time of the year. We’re not taught to value this feeling of sadness in our modern world. In truth, we often avoid it at all costs. But by exploring a little deeper, perhaps the wisdom and benefit of a little grief and sadness may become clear.
As the fruit that’s ripened in the late summer, falls off the tree and decompose, fall energy invites us to perhaps look a little deeper at the things in our lives that are no longer serving us. Perhaps we’ve been operating out of habit and, if we check in, some of our routines are no longer nourishing us the way they used to. Perhaps you’ve grown out of something but not taken the time to let it go.
Each system according the ancient wisdom of TCM, also has an element (fire, water, wind, earth, metal) associated with it. The element associated with this system is Metal.
Metal can be shaped into several different things and therefore can have several uses. For example, we can use this energy as one would a knife, used to cut away things that are no longer working serving you. Does a job need to change, a relationship need to end. Or do you simply need a good trip to the local thrift store to get rid of some of those old clothes that you never wear but are plugging up your closet?
Metals can also be of the precious sort – your inner gold or platinum if you will. What is that deep wisdom that you hold with in? What is the part of you or the people/experiences in the world that you most treasure? When we cut away what isn’t working, we have the opportunity to highlight the things that are. A reprioritization if you will of where we want to spend our time and energy.
The flip side to the grief or sadness, which may come up seemingly ‘out of nowhere’ this season, is actually inspiration. Just as our lungs breathe in fresh new life and oxygen through inspiration, by cutting away and letting go of what hasn’t been working, creates the space for new habits, joys or insights that can serve you in the future.
The metal/lung/autumn is very much about coming home and starting to bring your energy inwards, contracting and cultivating some valuable time with your inner world. It preps us for the darker and still energies of winter where we can rest up and restore our energy so that come spring, we can let the new seeds take root and flourish in the next growing season.
If you really want to embrace this fall energy and nourish your body along with your mind and spirit, there are a few things you can do to support yourself.
Moving your diet towards more cooked and warming foods is a great way to prep for the cooler winter months. Including foods that naturally balance out the dryness that accompanies this season can be helpful as well as ones that help strengthen the lung system.
Include pungent foods (which help to cleanse and protect the lungs) There have been great studies that show that those people and cultures that consume pungent or spicy foods on a regular basis have lower incidence of lung cancer. A great reason to spice it up!
- Moderate use of hot peppers and chilies
- Onions and things in the onion family including garlic, leeks and green onion
- Turnip, ginger, horseradish, cabbage, radish, daikon radish, white peppercorn
Foods to help moisten dryness:
- Carrot, winter squash, pumpkin, broccoli, parsley, kale, turnip, mustartd greens, watercress, micro-algae, nullein lafe and nettles
- green chlorophyll rich foods are helpful to cleanse and discharge any residues from build-up of toxins/smoke etc. in the lungs
- Seaweeds, kombu, marshmallow root, flaxseed and fenugreek are all good to help clear the mucus deposits in the lungs
- apples and pears
Dry Brushing: used to invigorate the lymphatic system and help detox your body through the skin. Always start away from the heart and work your way up legs or arms in circular motions or small strokes towards the heart and for the abdomen work in a counter clockwise pattern. This is not meant to be a harsh painful experience. It is a gentle exfoliation and stimulating exercise.
Move it: Brisk walks to open the lungs, and if you’re able to walk in nature our amongst the trees, that is ideal
Journaling: Journaling is a great tool to help detox the mind. It’s a way to get thoughts and feelings OUT and often people are better able to see patterns or gain insight when they see things on paper. If you’re feeling vulnerable about journaling or having these pages lying around, I often recommend to people that they rip them up, flush them or burn them. You could also think of it as a symbolic ‘letting go’ ritual to work with this fall energy!
Clean it up! De-cluttering and getting rid of what you’re no longer using (life changing magic of tidying up) is a great thing to do in the fall. It’s a way to clear the space and make room for those things that bring you joy. A trip to goodwill or just the recycling bin can be a very therapeutic process!
Note: this Lung or Metal energy naturally happens in the fall, but it can also happen at anytime throughout the year or at different stage in life. So if you feel this energy upon you – at the end of a relationship or work project etc. Applying these principles can be a very helpful process.
Wishing you a cleansing and nourishing fall!