Autumn is the season where the hot summer days gradually become shorter, where the cold creeps in and where the energising energy of summer is replaced by the deeper, more introspective, contracting energies of autumn.
Autumn also governs organisation as well as setting limits and boundaries. It is the season to finish up any projects you started in summer or spring, and to slow down and replenish your reserves.
Chinese medicine associates autumn with the Lungs and the Large Intestines. The theme of the Lungs and Large Intestine is “letting go”, so autumn is a good time to let go of things weighing you down, and to make space for new experiences you can learn and grow from.
The Lungs are the organs of respiration, responsible for supplying oxygenated blood to every organ of the body and eliminating the waste matter from the cells through our expiration. The word used for breathing in is “inspiration,” which is the main function of the Lung, both physically and spiritually. To be properly “inspired,” we must create space by getting the old stale air out, along with old, preconceived notions of reality.
In emotional and spiritual terms, the Lungs balance the ability to yield and demand, give and take, hold on and let go. When the Lung energy is out of balance, order and discipline are rigidly maintained, the emotions are kept under tight control, rules and routines become inflexible, and the body begins to stiffen up. Physically we tend to be more prone to bronchial infections and sinusitis. Our allergies may be amplified and issues like asthma and heaviness of the chest can appear.
The Large Intestines are responsible for helping the body eliminate waste. Irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, flatulence, and abdominal pain, all reflect problems with the function of the Large Intestine. The Lungs and the Large Intestine seem to have little in common with each other, as one is involved with respiration and the other with digestion. However, only when the body is cleansed of toxic matter can it receive the more refined energy brought in by its partner, the Lung. Efficient functioning of the Lung and Large Intestine is also related to the body’s defence mechanism, the ability to create healthy boundaries – both from an immune perspective and an emotional perspective. Clear personal boundaries enable us to form healthy open relationships with others. They provide us with the ability to state our boundaries and communicate them clearly.
The Lungs are also associated with self-esteem, processing feelings of grief, vulnerability, insecurity and morality/injustice. Emotions are a normal part of life, feeling the depth of each emotion is healthy, important and unique to each individual. With healthy Lung functions feelings of grief and sadness can be processed in an appropriate way and time. We are able to let go, forgive and accept. The concern is when these emotions are repressed or go unresolved for a long period creating stagnation of Lung Qi, which can result in poor immunity, lack of vitality, depression, constipation, skin and respiratory conditions.
Acupuncture, herbal medicine and massage treatments can help to move stagnation in the body, strengthen Lung function and assist in the process of letting go.
Here are some additional recommendations to help you live in harmony with the season of autumn:
- Breathe Deeply
One of the best ways to strengthen the Lungs is to breathe deeply. It sounds so simple but most of us do not breathe deeply at all and this can affect things like our immune system, energy, and sleep. When we breathe deeply and with intention, we are flushing our cells with the oxygen needed for all body processes.
- Practice Letting Go
We usually think to de-clutter in spring, but actually autumn is a great time to refocus our lives on letting go of the old and making room for the new. Go through your closet and donate all the clothes you do not wear anymore. Be ruthless. If you have not worn it in a year, you probably never will. Go though your computer and delete files you don’t have need for anymore. Sort and organise clutter.
Letting go of negativity, old hurts and resentments is a good idea at any time of the year, but it’s particularly good in autumn, when the Lungs are at their peak. Negativity can be an extremely destructive force, so makes steps this season to lift it from your life. Sometimes, just awareness can create huge changes in perspective.
- Wear A Scarf
Because the weather is cooling down in autumn, a simple thing like wearing a scarf can ward off cold, which is said to enter most easily through the neck.
- Create a Time for Meditation and Relaxation
There is never enough time in the day to get everything done, so . . . take a few minutes to do NOTHING. If you have learned a meditation technique, use it, possibly in the morning before getting out of bed, or at a time during the day when you can close the door, hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, and for ten or fifteen minutes do your meditation. It makes a difference.
- Drink Plenty of Water
As autumn is associated with dryness, it is very important to hydrate by drinking at least 8 to 10 glasses of fresh water daily. Water also bulks the foods in our Large Intestine and promotes healthier bowel movements.
- Foods to support yourself in Autumn
- Eat plenty of seasonal vegetables, especially steamed and veggies in soups.
- Pungent foods such as ginger, onions, garlic, turnips, radishes, and many herbs and spices are ideal when you are feeling vulnerable to illness, or in the early stages of a cold or flu.
- Fermented vegetables are easier to digest and help protect Spleen Qi.
- Enjoy healthy oils like grass-fed ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil.
- Enjoy seasonal moistening foods such as pears, pumpkin, squash, apples, seaweed, grapefruit, and lemon. Pears are especially good for nourishing the Lung.
- Eat warm foods like bone broth, stews, soups, and hot gluten-free cereals.
- Eat beans, such as lentils, kidney beans, and adzuki beans, always well soaked.
- Herbs and spices that are particularly good for the Lungs are bay leaves, caraway seeds, cardamom, chives, cinnamon, cloves, dill, fennel, leek, oregano, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric.
- Chicken soup is super nourishing, and is perhaps one of the best meals you could have if you are feeling a little run down or “under the weather”. Even if you eat some meat just once each season, or once a month for women (after a period), your health will benefit.
Use this season to sleep a little longer, eat warm nourishing foods and turn inwards. Because the metal element within us gives us our sense of self-worth, this is the time to give ourselves some extra attention and self-love so that instead of seeking validation outside, we can be content inside and know that we have (and always have had) everything we need to be complete, perfect beings.