The leaves are blowing in the wind. The sun is setting earlier, and the air has a certain crispness to it. The yang, or hot energy of summer has started to wane, and autumn is in the air!
This is an important transitional time from summer, the most yang time of the year, to the densest yin season of winter. Everything starts to slow down and turn inward and descend. Nature is consolidating and disintegrating, returning to the soil so as to nourish the earth and allow it time to become fertile again. The yang energy of summer still hangs in the wind, though, as the harvest begins.
Foods now need to be eaten warm, cooking time is extended, and foods are prepared for the winter. Cooking methods include braising, pressure cooking, or slow-cooking, like for soups.
Vegetables and fruits are being picked and prepared for preserving to make your food last throughout the winter. Food in autumn is warming and pungent. Vegetables like peppers, onions, cabbage, and tomatoes are prepared to be bottled.
Herbs can also be dried, like dill, parsley, and rosemary. Fruits that are ripe in autumn are apples, pears, and figs while vegetables like parsnip, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, and winter squash also come into season.
The organs of the fall season in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are the lungs and large intestine. You can nourish the lungs and large intestine by including mushroom, garlic, sweet potato, ginger, onion, cabbage, pears, walnuts, leeks, radish, miso, soybeans, cinnamon, celery, mustard greens, apricot, apples, grapes, coriander, turnip, taro, Brussels sprouts and grains like quinoa, rice, and oats into your diet.
If you take a look at the nature of the foods that support the lungs, you find that they are a mix of sweet and pungent. While the sweet nourishes, the lungs need pungent foods so as to ensure that chi (energy) and blood are circulating, and therefore the energy doesn't stagnate and produce phlegm.
It's important to remember while the lungs take in the new (fresh air), the large intestine is responsible for eliminating and releasing waste. This is best done by drinking adequate water and adding foods that lubricate.
The element for fall in TCM is metal. As metal is associated with organization, this is a good time to get your life in order and finish outstanding projects.
For those who find it difficult to let go, autumn can pose a problem, as this is a time to "release" the long summer days and outdoor living and move inward, becoming more mindful and reflective.
The summer furniture needs to be packed away. The house needs to be cleaned thoroughly, rid of dust mites, and rearranged for indoor living.
The lungs are the most vulnerable of the organs, as they are superficial and in the closest contact with the outside. The lungs control the Wei Qi, our protective barrier, which circulates on the exterior of the body, protecting us from external pathogens.
A weak Wei Qi allows viruses or bacteria to enter the body, giving us a cold or the flu, so nourish and protect your Wei Qi by dressing and eating warm and ensuring you're sleeping in a clutter- and dust-free environment.
The emotion of the lungs is sadness and grief. Long reflective walks while breathing deep into your lungs will help to release any pressure you have weighing on your chest and give you time to reflect on the past events of summer while working through ways to deal with them.
The lungs are in control of warming the muscles and the skin and has an opening through the nose. Often when we are sad, breathing becomes very superficial and therefore the lungs do not get the air they need. This leads to a constrictive feeling some may feel when sad or grieving.
As the temperature cools, this is the perfect time to go out for a slow jog or a long hike, to breathe deeply into the lungs, so as to release the blocked energy and reoxygenate the body.
Fall requires good planning and motivation as you move into a new stage in your life. Don't look sadly on the cold seasons. This is a time for you to look introspectively and take time for yourself.