A Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Autumn Alignment

by Sonja Alina denElzen, R.Ac |

A Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Autumn Alignment

The five phases in Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy are a way of connecting to, and acknowledging the transitions between, the energies that the Five Elements move through in the constant transformation of life. Each phase is associated with a season, organ and meridian pairs, moods, colors, taste, energetic directions, and more.

By becoming aware of how the energetics works within all living things, we can:

  • Apply it to how we digest and process life,
  • How we treat our physical well being appropriately in each season, and with our own energetic propensities
  • How we cook for ourselves in each season to optimize our ability to thrive in that season.
From Earth Element to Metal: Your Lung and Large Intestine

While human cycles exhibit the cycles of nature, these show how elements mutate at macro and micro level. The late summer was the Earth Element, harvest time, time for enjoying the abundance of all our spring to summer growth and align with the sift to fall.  As we are moving into autumn, the late summer phase is birthing the Metal phase or Metal Element.

The Metal Element is associated with fall and is the peak time to support the paired meridians associated with this season, the Lung and Large Intestate to support the paired meridians associated with this season, the Lung and Large Intestine.

Autumn: The Season of Letting Go

As red and yellow leaves shed from the trees during autumn, the weather becomes crisper, and the daytime reduces and turns dim, internal, yin time of winter.

In human beings the lung and large intestine represent the process of letting go, exhaling and excreting what we no longer need, leaving room to inhale inspiration and oxygen.

This letting go is a process of discernment, which happens on the physical level and we can also apply it to a mental level. 

Emotional Transformation in Autumn

What attributes, attitudes, and activities in our lives can we drop like leaves because they don’t serve the core of who we are or transforming into?  Being less busy, drawing our energy inward to prepare for winter.  The emotion of the Metal Element, the autumn time, is that of grief: "letting go" can carry grief with it.

We can support this grief process by also holding space for gratitude. Being grateful for how that which we are releasing served us until this time, or of lessons brought by people or situations that have given us an opportunity for growth and reflection.

Aligning with Nature: It's Time to Make Space

Trees don’t hold onto their leaves for next year, they let them go, trusting in the process, trusting that new growth will come when it is meant to.

Take an inventory of what is no longer serving you, to be your most vibrant self, and look at habits, mindsets, perspectives, relationships, and material items that take up space in your living and work spaces. Write down how they served you in the past (did perspectives protect you, provide you with comfort, make you happy, let you believe you were accepted, whatever comes to your mind), pay them gratitude, and move on.

Make space for the transformations, shifting perspectives, and future beautiful relationships to form that are more in line with who you are becoming instead of being stuck in who you were.

Clean your wardrobe and shelves, give away items that no longer serve you, and gift them to someone who needs them. Lungs rule the Wei Qi, which is the protective Qi, the Qi closest to the surface.  Because autumn is the peak time for lungs, if the lung Qi is weak, we can be more susceptible to cold and flu, or as Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis goes, wind cold or wind heat.

We been consuming, travelling, and living according to a pattern which perfectly coincides with current season, and prepares us for the next season. Each season it is necessary to attune ourselves to the energetics of our environment, so moving into the cooler months, diet should reflect what is available naturally around us, what earth is providing us with, is what will help our bodies be able to function appropriately and optimally in that season.

For fall, we can start by gathering our scattered energy as this will make us feel warm on the inside; while, we adhere well to cold temperatures.

Foods That Are Great for Fall
  • Root Vegetables - Radish, burdock root, yams, beets, onions, sweet potatoes, yams, onions, and turnips pungent roots like turnip and onion drain.

  • Nuts & Seeds

  • Winter Squashes - Hubbards, pumpkins, delacata, spaghetti, acorn - high in vitamins C, B1, and B6, niacin, fiber, potassium, folic acid and carotenes – which protect against cancers. They warm the core, drain damp and tonify Qi and their neutral, sweet flavour lends to either sweet or savoury dishes.

  • Autumn Fruits - Apples and pears, pears help the lungs, if you have a cough, make a warm pear compote juice to drink before bed. Apples nourish yin.

  • Lentils and Legumes - Legumes regulate blood sugar, Lentils and Legumes are high in fiber, protein and vitamins, they support the kidneys and adrenal glands and calm the nervous system.

  • Pungent Foods ("Defend")- If you need to induce sweating to expel a wind cold, stimulate and clear the lungs use pungent foods like ginger, onion, cinnamon, horse radish.

  • Sour Foods ("Preserve")- Preserve yin fluids, use foods like lemon, sour apple.

  • Mushrooms - Lots of minerals and great for the immune system

  • Broths - Bring in the energetics of longer cooking, deeper heat into the body to prepare for colder winter months.

Another important practice to stay in alignment with the seasons is to spend time, appropriately dressed, outside. This lets your body stay present in space and time and turns on its natural rhythms of attuning allowing you to gradually acclimatize to each season.

So for fall, put on those beautiful chunky wool sweaters and scarves, protect your neck from the wind, throw on a cozy hat and some hiking boots, and go for a wander, daily if possible, through the forests, or even down the streets as the trees blanket the pathways with their symphony of colour. 

So go play in the crisp beautiful air of autumn, make yourself a delicious squash soup and some ginger tea, go see the symphony of colour that nature gifts us, and let go of whatever is not worthy of what you would like to carry forward with gratitude of what they brought. Breathe, Breathe, Breathe.

Care Consideration: Just a reminder that the above information is not a substitute for medical care and is not a substitute for medical advice or recommendations  from a healthcare provider.  This information is not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease.  That said, we encourage you to connect with an Acupuncturist in your community to learn more about this and other Traditional Chinese Medicine options.  If you’ve got questions about Chinese herbal medicine or getting started with an Acupuncturist, feel free to connect with us on hello@mydaolabs.com

Sonja is a registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturist with over 2200hr of training, licensed Zen Shiatsu practitioner, a 500hr + RYT yoga and qigong instructor and sound journey facilitator. She is passionate about the necessity for humanity to cultivate a co-creative relationship with nature along with being more self empowered in one’s own wellbeing. She is the owner of Cedar Healing Arts in Ontario, Canada. More information about her practice can be found at www.zennomad.ca.

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