Many people find that this time of year comes with conflicted thoughts and feelings.
Think about all you’re handling simultaneously right now:
- You’re cycling down from the excitement of summer travel and high activity, yet you sometimes think this deceleration is a little disappointing.
- You’ve found your groove again at work after all the summer vacations while also beginning to anticipate (or worry over) the many holiday details that will begin to ramp up soon.
- You’re reveling in less extreme weather, even as you try to squeeze as many to-dos as possible into days that are shrinking.
Fall is, by its very nature, a time of change and adjustment.
And so we seek a comfortable balance. Balance is just as critical today as it was for the ancients, but we have an unhealthy modern habit of brushing that need aside. For the driven professional woman (wink—that’s you and me!), imbalances can show up as a lack of motivation, foggy thinking, or unpredictable emotions. Physical signs may include disrupted sleep patterns, an unusually high susceptibility to illness, or weight fluctuations.
Sound familiar? Traditional Chinese medicine offers sensible wisdom for honoring the transitions that come with fall.
In the ancient Chinese philosophy, everything in nature is seen as having two opposite, yet perfectly complementary forces acting upon it. These forces are known as “yin” and “yang.”
For example, autumn is the season during which the yang of summer heat transitions into the yin of winter cold.
Likewise, the Lung and Large Intestine are the predominant organs during fall. Together, they are the yin and yang of the body’s internal systems’ fall season. To be centered and comfortable during this time of transition, one must support both halves of the life balance. Here’s how.
Recognize the yin: Strengthen your Lung qi.
Chinese medicine teaches that Lung qi is closely associated with immunity. This time of year, it is wise to work with the Lung to reinforce your resistance to seasonal viruses and common dry-weather skin irritations.
Respect and support Lung qi through your diet. Warming, rich spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove are so much a part of fall cuisine. Surprise! These seasonal favorites are also harmonious with Lung qi. Many delicious, nutritious vegetables are part of a Lung-boosting plate as well: cabbage, onion, garlic, sweet potato, turnip, cauliflower, pumpkin…and those are just a few. (How about giving a tempting fall recipe a try now? Click for Pumpkin Muffin Mini-Bites.)
If you’re showing some signs of weakness in Lung qi—lingering fall allergies or the beginning symptoms of a head or chest cold, for example—you can treat your body naturally by adding apples, pears, and mushrooms to your plate. For a new twist and an extra warming boost, try your fall fruits cooked rather than raw. Fall is a season for nourishment, flavor, and comfort, too!
Support the yang: Acknowledge natural endings, nurture new beginnings.
In Chinese tradition, the Metal element is very influential in the fall. It is characterized in part by a tendency to organize and plan for the future. But Metal also finds relief in letting go those things that are complete or otherwise of the past. Releasing what we don’t need is, after all, the function of the Large Intestine, autumn’s other dominant organ.
Are there work projects, volunteer or personal activities, or even people that don’t have a critical place in your life anymore? Don’t force yourself to continue with a commitment that has run its course. Doing so will only leave you exhausted, a recipe for depletion and, eventually, poor health.
Then, use this newly freed time to commit to yourself. There’s an old Chinese proverb that cautions, “Outside noisy, inside empty.” What might you do to quiet the external chaos and refill your depleted soul? Consider yoga, meditation, a new activity you’ve always wanted to try, journaling, music, a quiet walk in the woods… Whatever restores your spirit and leaves you refreshed is the right choice.
Fall is a glorious transitional time. Revel in the shifting of the seasons—and honor and embrace the storing, reorganizing, and releasing you sense going on inside yourself, too. And please know that, if you could use a hand sorting it all out, I am here to guide you.
The ripest fruit falls by itself
Nurture the plant one year—ten days of flowers
An inch of gold can’t buy an inch of time
Don’t waste your hour–the sun sets soon
A king’s riches cannot buy an extra year
To know others, know yourself first
No horse can wear two saddles
Outside noisy, inside empty
When the heart is at ease, the body is healthy