“In the end, the treasure of life is missed by those who hold on and gained by those who let go.” ~ Lao Tzu
Cool, crisp mornings, cornucopias of red, orange and yellow hues, all things pumpkin and a reluctant acceptance of shorter days and longer nights. Welcome, autumn. Its been a while since we’ve seen you, about year, I think. Yes, this is season of autumn. In Chinese philosophy, this is the season most associated with the element of metal. Why is this so?
Autumn and its elemental counterpart have everything to do with contraction and refinement…about taking stock of what we have accumulated through the Spring and Summer (literally and figuratively) and letting go of what we no longer need. Just as the leaves on trees fall to the ground to coat and provide compost for the earth and the tree is left bare with the future seeds of possibilities in the space created, so must we allow that which is no longer enriching us to wash away, giving us space to move forward with clarity and order. It is in the letting go that creates this space for something new to be born, whether it is a fresh idea, a new relationship, or wisdom of self discovery. In the process of “letting go” may be a natural sense of loss and sadness. Grief is the emotion of autumn and metal. But with this sadness and letting go comes the acceptance and wisdom that possibilities are created, clarity is gained, and our true essence is revealed. Other virtues of autumn and the metal element include refinement, organization, boundaries, introspection and communication.
As with all elements and seasons, there are particular associations with Autumn: organs, climate, emotions (as mentioned above). Autumn and metal correspond to the Lung and Large Intestine. Both have to do with respiration and elimination and have direct connections to the exterior. Lungs expand to draw in pure air and contract to let go of waste, in the form of carbon dioxide. They also manage the distribution of water through our bodies. Lungs rule the skin and pores and control the circulation of Wei-Qi (the “defensive” Qi that circulates between skin and muscles and protects you from the invasion of flu and colds.) If wei-qi is weak, a person is more susceptible to colds, the flu and bronchitis.
The Lungs are considered a delicate organ. Dryness is the climatic nature of autumn and the Lungs, which require a proper lining of mucous and moistness, may be negatively impacted by the autumnal dryness and can easily be overcome with heat (think chronic dry cough!). On the other hand, the Lungs, also considered the “receptacle of phlegm” can be just as easily encumbered with too much moisture and mucus, leading to a phlegmy cough and bronchitis, especially if the Lungs are weak and are not managing proper distribution of water. Other manifestations of a imbalance in our Lung system include allergies, nasal congestion, chronic cough and shortness of breath. Lungs are the organ affected by sadness or grief which is why long term or repressed grief can also impair lung functioning.
The Lung’s counterpart, the Large Intestine, expands and contracts to eliminate waste… that which is toxic and no longer suits us. This includes eliminating the waste from the food and drink we take in, but also includes eliminating waste from our minds and spirits; getting rid of and excreting toxic waste from our psyche so that we can experience life from a position of clarity. When either our physical Large Intestine is congested, or our minds are congested with toxic waste, we can see imbalances such as chronic constipation, depression, negativity, stubbornness…especially if one has trouble letting things go.
To help keep the Lung and Large Intestines healthy this autumn, here are some tips, including a simple and yummy dish you can make to help keep those Lungs properly nourished and moist.
- Poor diet (too much fried/fatty foods, not eating at regular intervals, eating while doing other things) and foods that are cold and damp (iced beverages, ice cream, dairy, sugar, and even raw fruits and vegetable) can gum up digestion, especially when the weather starts to turn cold, and can result in excess production of mucus…keep the cauldron of digestion at a steady temperature by eating foods that are neither too cold (nor excessively warm) or too phlegm producing and your digestion will thank you.
- Eat foods that are nourishing for the Lungs and Large Intestine: radishes, cauliflower, pears, cabbage, white beans as well as pungent foods (garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish, mustard.)
- Keep your neck covered with a scarf and dress properly for the cool weather!
- Sleep a little longer: during the autumn season the ancients advised people to retire early at night and rise with the crowing rooster. In other words, go to bed earlier than you would in the summer time and get up early. In doing so, we are adjusting and adapting to the season, which creates balance.
- This is not the time to go crazy, exercise-wise. Of course, a healthy, moderate exercise routine is always great to move qi, eliminate toxins and keep joints nice and lubricated, but think MODERATE! This is when we need to start to “reeling” in energy to be in harmony with the season which has a condensing quality.
- Its not so shocking that a Breathing/Pranayama routine would be good this time of year…it IS the season of Lungs.
- Keep nose clear with netti pot.
- And of course….Let go!
Steamed Asian Pears for Lung Health
1-2 ripe Asian pears
2 tsp of raw honey
1 tablespoons of sliced almonds
2 slices of fresh ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamon
lemon juice to brush on pairs to prevent discoloration (optional)
- Slice the bottoms off of the pears so that they can stand upright. Cut the top off each pear (about 1.5 inches) and remove the core and seeds (reserving the tops).
- Arrange pears on a heat proof bowl.
- Place the two slices of ginger inside the pears and fill each with 1/2 tbsp of honey and sprinkle the spices on top of the honey.
- Cover each pair with the sliced pear top.
- Place the heat proof bowl with the pears in a sauce pan/steamer and add an inch of water to the sauce pan. Steam until pear is soft (this can vary depending on how big the pears are)
- Check the water level periodically.
- When soft, remove the bowl of pears, gently peel the skin and enjoy (both the fruit and the delicious honey pear juice inside.)
This is great for chronic lung conditions, to moisten the throat, and to keep you healthy during flu and cold season.
Book an appointment with Dr. Erin Kumpf today – www.jcheightsyoga.com/acupuncture
Erin Kumpf L.Ac, D.A.C.M. is a nationally board certified and state licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist. She graduated from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine with a Doctorate in Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine. She incorporates various facets of this ancient medicine including acupuncture, herbs, tui na, gua sha and moxa. While working as a general practitioner, she also has clinical training as an acupuncturist at the Lutheran Medical Center, working in the Labor and Delivery Ward as well as experience working at the drug addiction treatment center at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers. She is also a Pediatric Acupuncturist, working with all ages from newborns to teenagers. She approaches and respects each patient as a unique individual with unique ailments and strives to help them to wellness with personalized strategies. www.jcheightsyoga.com/acupuncture