In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the fall is a time to harvest your energies in preparation for the symbolic death (winter) that's needed before regrowth occurs in springtime. It’s part of the cycle of life, and is a symbolic time for spiritual check-in for all of us! In the book Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements, by Dianne M. Connelly, autumn is a time when “consolidation and strength as well as fragmentation and weaknesses become clear.”
This is especially true when it comes to our personal views of self-nourishment. I've seen a lot of my patients struggle with issues surrounding nourishment, but I always notice that come fall, these struggles are amped up. So how do you honor yourself, as well as your need to consolidate and strengthen, during the fall?
In traditional Chinese medicine, the element associated with fall is metal, and the metal organs are the lungs and large intestine. The lungs, as everyone knows, are responsible for breathing. It's this pulse that I feel the most when I see people people who are dealing with asthma, allergies and anxiety that causes shortness of breath, COPD. But it's also the pulse that stands out when we're dealing with the spiritual aspects of the lung, namely those of letting go and grief. The lungs are also often involved with body skin conditions, since the skin is the tissue associated with metal.
The large intestine is in charge of the elimination of waste. In TCM, we lovingly call it, “The Great Eliminator.” Its physical purpose is obvious, and energetically when we focus on the large intestine, we're helping ourselves take out our own energetic trash!
Here are five things you can do to harvest your fall energies with TCM:
1. Listen to your body’s needs.
Are you having bowel problems like diarrhea, which is symbolic of the body’s inability to collect the waste for disposal? Or are you having digestion difficulties like vomiting after eating, which lets us know that we are not gathering nourishment, or harvesting goodness from food? Indications like these are classic ways the body informs us of our relationship to nourishment, and our ways we ingest it.
2. Allow yourself to release what no longer serves you.
It’s time to re-evaluate what’s going on in your life, and toss out outdated patterns that don't serve your highest good. Do you have a toxic relationship, job, thought pattern or lifestyle? Never mind waiting for a spring cleaning; a fall cleaning may actually be more appropriate, considering that your efforts are backed up by the lungs' need to let go and the large intestine’s need to eliminate what’s unhealthy out of your system!
3. Eat pungent foods to protect and purify.
As you may have guessed, pungent is the flavor of metal. Pungent foods help disperse the stuck, mucus-laden energy of the lungs and colon. Hot pepper and chili lovers, unite! Enjoy white pungents (white is the color of the fall season, to the horror of fashionistas everywhere post Labor Day!). Examples of white pungent foods are: onion, garlic, turnip, ginger, horseradish, radish, daikon, and white peppercorn. In addition, mucilaginous foods, such as seaweeds, kombu, marshmallow root, flaxseed, and fenugreek renew the mucous membranes of the lungs and colon.
4. Combat dryness, the climate of metal, with moistening foods.
Some moistening foods to try are: spinach, barley, millet, pear, apple, persimmon, loquat, seaweeds, black and white fungus, almond, pine nut, peanut, sesame seed, honey (cooked), barley malt, rice syrup, eggs, clam, oyster, mussel, herring, and pork.
5. Eat seasonally and locally.
With the threat of non-labeled GMO foods out there, even in places like Whole Foods Market, it's especially helpful to eat locally grown foods that are in season. This not only helps the body best assimilate, energetically, to the season, but also helps support our local farmers! How are you harvesting your Fall energies? I’d love to hear about it in your comments, below!