I’d like to share with you some tips on how to keep healthy and harmonious during the Autumn season…
You can listen to my teaching on Autumn health here:
You can read the full transcript of my teaching on Autumn health and harmony below:
In traditional Chinese medicine and Taoism the season of Autumn is associated with the Metal element and is physically related to the organ and meridian system of the Lungs and Large Intestine or Colon.
Metal can also be thought of as the small but essential material which, if missing, depletes the quality of the whole, and is often referred to in Taoist teachings as the as the ‘invisible air’, without which our life-force is depleted and vitality suffers.
Taoists teach that you should always align and harmonise your energy with the current season, the translation of this concept in English is being ‘appropriate’.
You can attune to the energies and qualities of the autumn season and the Metal element through three virtues: your lifestyle, diet and spiritual health practices.
So let’s first explore some lifestyle habits…
Autumn is the time that the Yang Qi of the summer transforms and becomes more Yin. The leaves, acorns and conkers begin to fall from the trees offering both seeds for the next generation and material that will rot into the soil and provide nourishment for new plants, as the ‘flow’ of life and energy continues, this is the ‘cycle of life’ that is so pertinent in Taoist teaching.
Many people may experience a sense of loss or sadness at this time of the year, because, after the thrusting of Spring, the growth of Summer, and the harvest of Late Summer, the Autumn is a time of decrease, slowing down, and getting ready for the Winter period.
Although your emotional state and energy levels at this time of year can be affected by the decreasing levels of sunlight and a change in weather (particularly the dampness), an awareness and harmonising with the nature of Autumn will help you manage the impact of this natural and beautiful transformation on your physical and emotional health. As the nights draw in, the temperature becomes cooler and the environment a little damper, you should open your heart and mind and embrace the season.
One way of doing this is by ensuring that you get enough sleep, which is particularly vital during this more Yin time of year. Sleep is deeply regenerative and it helps support and strengthens your immune system. You can attune to the arrival of the darker mornings and evenings by treating yourself to an occasional early bedtime or maybe a longer lie in at the weekend! Or perhaps try some mindfulness meditation or create time for yourself to catch up on some spiritual or personal development reading that you been promising yourself.
Maintaining regular exercise is also important during autumn and through into winter. Exercise promotes the flow if Qi energy around the body, strengthens the Lungs, and releases lots of ‘happy hormones’ to keep your mood balanced and stable. Qigong is a fantastic exercise to practice at this time of year to help move blockages of Qi energy in your Lung and Large Intestine, and to be at one with the powerful transformation of energy that is going on all around you.
If your energy levels decrease you could become physically sluggish and this is when stagnations and blockages of your Qi are much more likely to occur, which can in turn negatively impact your immune system, general health and wellbeing.
Never be tempted to use the more unpredictable colder, damper weather of Autumn as an excuse to become inactive, particularly when there are so many beautiful things to see outdoors with the abundance of Autumn colours all around you… So get out there and let your energy flow and transform, but remember to wrap up warm!
The Metal element is expressed and characterised by the qualities of ‘transformation’ and ‘preparedness’. Relating this to your physical, emotional and spiritual energy, this period can often usher in a stronger desire to reflect and discover who you are and to find greater value and meaning in what you do.
In order for you to be ready to fulfill and embrace this time of transformation you have to be able to consider letting go of old habits and patterns of thinking and doing, and often the physical reminders of the past that you may have been clinging on to but that no longer serve you well.
Having a good clear-out and ’de-clutter’ of your home or personal space can be a great cleansing exercise as part of the process of preparing for and allowing authentic transformation in your life.
‘Allowing’ and ‘Acceptance’ are very powerful spiritual teachings in Taoism and they mean being open and ready to receive Qi, without question or self-doubt, and the abundance of the Universe that is always flowing and is always available to you. Remember this is your birth-right: you do not have to earn love, YOU ARE LOVE.
So don’t wait for the annual ‘spring clean’ – do it now! Release and let go with gratitude the things you don’t need!
Through the process of physically de-cluttering your space you’ll also be making a conscious emotional decision about what should and shouldn’t be in your life right now, and this too can be very healing as the Qi fills the space you have now created.
This therapeutic practice signals to the Universe that you are embracing change and you’re mirroring the Universe by ‘creating the space’, both physically and emotionally. This natural process underlines that you are at one with the Cosmos.
Let’s now consider how you can adapt your diet to the Autumn season…
Eating in accordance with the seasons will boost your ability to ward off symptoms of ill health that may be more prevalent at any given time of year.
In Chinese medicine and Taoist tradition, Autumn has a downward movement, illustrated by the growth of root vegetables, and it’s important to begin to eat warmer, cooked meals, with plenty of seasonal vegetables during this season of change and transformation.
The taste of Metal is classed as pungent, which would be something like garlic, cinnamon and ginger, and eating lots of pungent foods is another great way to boost your health right now.
When a person develops a cold or flu at this time of year this can often be caused by an invasion of the Lung energy by what is referred in Chinese Medicine as wind cold or wind heat.
In both cases, the pathogen is stuck at the level of the skin and muscles and these blockages of Qi energy need to be moved to expel the wind and scatter the cold or expel the heat.
As a traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, this is the time of year when I use the technique of ‘cupping’ the most – this means using small glass suction cups on specific parts of the body, as a quick, painless and effective way to move, expel or scatter the Qi blockages associated with the onset of cold or flu in my patients.
Eating food with pungent flavours, such as a curry or a chilli dish, will also begin to move the Qi in this way and can help produce sweating, which is another great way to release pathogens.
It’s worth noting that sometimes an individual can have ‘weak’ Lung Qi rather than ‘invaded’ Lung Qi, and this is often characterised by symptoms such as allergies and asthma.
For people with weak Lung Qi it would actually be inappropriate to eat excessive amounts of pungent food – so this is when the Chinese medicine principles of appropriateness and moderation should be heeded, and this is the practice of practical Wu Wei – finding the balance and harmony.
Dryness is another characteristic of Metal and this has to be balanced carefully particularly during the Autumn months. Many people can experience dry skin and lips at this time of year, and during the Autumn I treat many more clients with skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis, along with a dryness in their lungs that produces coughs and colds.
Although Autumn is not a hot season, it’s still vital to keep hydrated to combat autumn dryness. Drinking tea, especially green tea, or room temperature water is a great way to help your body stay hydrated. Eating healthy soups and stews will also provide valuable extra fluid for your body. So now’s definitely the right time to dig up those allotment vegetables, dust off the pressure cooker and rediscover for some nutritious and warming treats for you and your family!
Ok, so finally let’s review some emotional and spiritual health practices…
Associated with the Metal element are the emotions of grief, sadness, reflection and “letting go”. If you’re a person favouring the Metal element you’ll need to be mindful of balancing your emotional energy to prevent excessive introspection or melancholy as you’ll be particularly sensitive to this form of imbalance right now.
The Lungs from Chinese medicine perspective receive Qi energy from the heavens and also govern respiration. Physically this is done through breathing, yet in a broader sense it also relates to your capacity to take in and adapt to new things, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
If your habit is to breathe shallowly you are not taking in you full share of vital energy. The Taoists teach that you should be mindful of the ‘quality’ of your breath. You should learn and practice mindful breathing so that it becomes natural for you again, just like when you were a baby! This will allow you to maintain higher levels of energy and be ready to adapt to whatever comes your way.
The mental and spiritual aspect of the Lungs is what is called the Po, and also referred to as the physical soul. As the Lungs are vulnerable to pathogens and infections they are called the fragile organ, and on an emotional and spiritual level you may be correspondingly ‘susceptible’ or ‘fragile’ to external energies.
People who have weak Lung Qi will almost always be more easily emotionally and physically affected or upset by their environment or those around them. Conversely a strong Po means that your physical sensations of vision, sound and body are alert and animated.
If you have a strong Po you’ll be high- spirited, enthusiastic, keen and positive in your approach to life – you’ll be a great person to be around and your vibrant energy will rub off on others!
The Lungs and Large Intestine have opposing but complementary functions – the Lungs are responsible for taking in pure energy and the Large Intestine for letting go of impurities. An imbalance in your Large Intestine energy can easily be recognised if you suffer from digestive or bowel problems but it can also be affect you emotionally and spiritually.
Many of my clients with this form of imbalance have a tendency to hold onto ‘emotional waste products’ in the form of unhealthy feelings and thoughts. Certainly Metal type individuals have greater difficulty in ‘letting go’ and ‘moving on’ from things that have happened to them in the past, particularly if they believe they have been hurt or mistreated in any way, and I have noticed that they also possess a very strong sense of injustice and unfairness.
As I mentioned earlier, a simple way to balance and strengthen your Large Intestine and Lung energy and boost your ‘Po’ is to practice mindful breathing, even if this is just for five minutes a day! Just drop your shoulders, close your eyes…. breath with love, breathe out with gratitude…
On a deeper level, the autumn months are a perfect time for you to work through any unresolved emotional matters attached to past injustices, or feelings of resentment, anger and grief. Can you let them go now? Just as the trees let go of their leaves…
It is not the way of nature to hold onto energy like this and it serves you no purpose or benefit. You are not built with an emotional storage system!
Instead, be at one with the transformative energy of autumn: BREATH DEEPLY….LET IT GO AND LET IT FLOW… THIS IS YOUR TRUE TAO NATURE.
Live in harmony with your divine energy and be at one with the Cosmos.
Taoist blessings for a wonderful Autumn Season
Yi Tao Qi Tao, David