Welcome to Autumn
March Equinox to May
"Man cannot discover new oceans
until he has the courage to
lose sight of the shore."
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Autumn is the season of change, of taking in and particularly, letting go. It relates to the metal element and the energetics of the lungs (yin) and large intestine (yang) so, when either of these organs begin struggling we can take it as a sign to look at how we are flowing through life, are we stuck or disconnected or are we able to successfully 'go with the flow'. It is a time of environmental contraction as, like a tree, energy / blood / sap begins retreating into the core of the body in preperation for the coldest months of Winter, leaving the extremities potentially exposed and vulnerable to exposure, partiucularly the drying, cooler wind - thinking here of the falling leaves and exposed trees of Autumn.
Autumn is a time to look at our boundaries. Are we too closed off, preventing new energy from entering into our life, or are we too open, requiring some grounding, settling, centreing & focus as we move on through the next stage of our lives? Are we 'in control', 'controlling' or 'controlled'? Reflecting on these themes through the lens of maintaining or better establishing our ability to flow more easily through the inevitable ups & downs of life.
"Take things as they come.
Be a stranger to care, to anxiety about
what you think is going to happen and, above all,
to regret for anything that has already happened.
Grief and disappointment come from outside of yourself...
Be rid of them."
John Blofeld, British writer on Taoism & Chinese Buddhism.
Sadness and grief are the emotions related to the metal element and the energetics of the lungs (yin) & large intestine (yang). In her book The Joy Of Feeling, Iona Marsaa Teeguarden uses the analogy of wind, appropriate for Autumn, by sharing "When we are in a harmonious state, our emotions flow like the changeing seasons, and there is a joyful ease of being... The natural rhythm is letting things come and letting things go... The turbulent winds of change blow some things away from us, and they blow other things our way." In these sentences, she highlights the taoist notion that emotions are real and important - observing how we feel at any given time through a grounded, centred inner space allows these emotions to pass, just as easily as they arrived. Through a dedicated practise we come to realise that our happiness has less to do with external people and events but more upon "the joy that comes from within." Certainly, an attitude of positive optimism and a life that includes some healthy socialising is one that most benefits the energy of the metal element and the lungs / large intestine.
In terms of the daily cycle Autumn can be realted to early evening, a time traditionally related to completion, when the daylight is fading, the sun's power waning and an entitlement to rest after having put in a long day of productivity. In the lifetime cycle we can think of Autumn as representing that period of early retirement - a time when we are still feeling vibrant and strong with plenty of energy & vitality but also with much more time to spare to focus on doing the things that we love. Having worked hard for most of our lives thus far, we feel that sense of accomplishment and entitlement to allow this special time to be enjoyed and made the most of.
Continuing those practises of Late Summer that benefit the initial stages of the digestive process, the stomach & spleen / pancreas, can be continued here as building contained warmth in the digestive (solar) centre of the belly will also help the efficient functioning of the large intestine during the contracting months of Autumn. Diaphragmatic breathing or 'full yogic breath' (deerga swasan) are beneficial here as are pranayama practises such as kapala bhati (shining skull) and bhastrika (bellows breath) to maintain warmth in the body and movement / stimulation in the digestive (solar) centre of the belly. During the dry months of Autumn we become prone to constipation in the large intestine so drinking enough water and eating fibrous foods that feel moistening to the bowels are also of assistance here.
As in the energetically expanding months of Spring the body, as a product of the environment, really does struggle to maintain balance (or homeostasis) in response to the ever-fluctuating environmental changes occuring around us during these transition months. Some days it still feels like the warmth of Late Summer, others feel as if we were already in Winter. Keeping your lower back & neck covered during these transition months helps to protect you from the negative effects of the cold wind when it comes into contact with and enters the body easily through the skin of these unprotected areas - in response to the lowered defences resulting from the contracting energy & blood which has already begun retreating from the skin and is moving into and residing mainly in the core. This is most important in the evening closest to midnight and the most yin time of the 24 hour cycle - so rug up during Autumn, particularly whenever you are off out for a night on the town!
In yogic physiology the metal element of Autumn is connected to the ether element & the vishuddha (throat) chakra, our centre for acceptance, trust and our ability to express our boundaries, confidently but kindly.