The Meaning of Autumn from a Chinese Medical Perspective

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Autumn is the beginning of the yin cycle when daylight begins to fade within twelve hours. It's a time of harvest when we gather colourful fruits and vegetables for winter storage. Pumpkins and squashes are our symbols of plenty. We also gather stores of wood for the fire and get out our warm clothes for the colder, darker days of winter.

In Chinese medicine Autumn is associated with the element of metal and organs of large intestine and the lungs; one eliminates waste, the other receives heavenly Qi.

This need to eliminate is clearly seen in nature. Autumn is known for the falling of leaves. Farmers know how important it is for this year's debris to be recycled, turned into rich nutrients like minerals for next year's new crops. We eat nourishing food, extract what is of quality, and remove what is not needed.

Any inappropriate retention would be seen as prematurely eliminating or holding on too long. This could manifest physically as either diarrhoea or constipation. At the emotional and spiritual level, holding onto old outgrown beliefs, judgements and negative thoughts can pollute our speech, relationships and our basic sense of self worth. If we don't let go of what is now ripe, mature and complete, we will be unable to move on to the next phase.

Inspiration: A divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.

Exhaling and inhaling are necessary functions. We can get by by without food and even water for some time, but cannot last more than minutes without breath. Many ancient cultures, in addition to the Chinese, equate inhalation with inspiration. Life without this divine connection feels empty and dull. The time of day associated with the lungs is 3-5a.m. In many cultures this is the time of early morning meditation, with deep breathing practices. Starting our day with inspiration allows us to better appreciate the glory of nature which abounds all around us.

The lungs govern our body's protective qi energy, helping us to ward off the wind and cold that are ushered in with the seasonal change. When this energy is weak, a body may succumb to colds and flu. The lungs fill with phlegm, coughs occur, the nasal passages become congested. The increased wind can cause dryness e.g. a dry cough. Dry skin, known in Chinese medicine as the "third lung", can lose it’s ability to eliminate, causing acne, psoriasis or eczema.

Autumn is generally a good time to consider cleansing the gastro intestinal tract (GIT). Look at your diet and eliminate unsupportive foods. Perhaps follow a simple detox cleanse or go for a colonic cleanse to further help with elimination.

Steps you can take every day:-

1. Increase your exercise or any activity that increases breath.

2. Hydrate. Drink lots of water and wean yourself from dehydrating fluids such as coffee, black tea and alcohol.

3. Eat foods that are contracting and astringent, to match the seasonal change to draw inwards, eventually leading to winter. Such foods are often sour: pickles, sauerkraut, vinegar, lemons, limes and grapefruit. Others are aduki beans, yogurt, some plums and apples, even rose hip tea. To COMBAT THE DRYNESS ADD WHOLE OATS, MILLET, BARLEY, SWEET POTATOES AND YAMS, SEAWEEEDS, almonds, pine nuts, eggs, crab, oyster, mussels and autumn fruits such as apples, persimmons, pears and loquats.

4. Set aside time to meditate or pray, and connect with the spiritual world.

In general, try to think “less is best". Let the beauty and simplicity of autumn feed the soul whilst appreciating the divine wisdom of nature all around us!
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