Sunday, September 22, 2013

  Autumn 2013


Greetings and Happy Fall Equinox to you!

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the Fall Equinox signals a time of fruition, maturity and harvest as well as a time to pull inward, study and plan for the approaching stillness of winter.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this phase of change corresponds to Metal, or that which has been transformed within extreme heat.  Dryness is a predominant climate, akin to the desiccated leaves that fall from trees and other plants, to be composted into new substances that nurture next Spring's growth.  White is the associated color for the Metal phase of our yearly cycle.

Autumn's major Yin organ is the lungs, our body's tool for taking in air's oxygen and its additional constituents, e.g., allergens and toxins, as well as for releasing into the air what we wish to exhale.  The lungs receive the Qi vital force (energy) of the air and mix it with the Qi extracted from food, and then distribute it throughout the body.  Indeed, the lungs are considered the master of Qi. 

They are also called the Official of Rhythmic Order, a reflection of the rhythm of the breath.  In practical western medical terms, the “belly breathing” or “Buddha breathing” that involves lowering the diaphragm and thus protruding the belly upon inhalation, and doing the opposite upon exhalation, signals the parasympathetic nervous system that one can relax.  This is an easy and accessible way to decrease feelings of stress.

The Metal phase is about letting go and death, after having integrated the rest.  It's also about completion.  Grief and sadness are the emotions associated with the Metal phase.  The connection between grief and the lungs was vividly illustrated in my life many years ago when I abruptly lost a loved one.  Within a week, I had pneumonia.  Thankfully, a Chinese herbal prescription and acupuncture allowed me to quickly heal from this physical disorder and without the side effects of antibiotics.

If grief is fully processed with felt emotions, tears, talking, and other measures done in supportive environments, it is part of natural life.  The danger is when grief is not fully processed and has only partial expression of its present-moment experience, thus delaying resolution.  It thereby lingers longer and with more intensity than necessary, sometimes coming out in very indirect ways, e.g., depression within oneself or hostility toward an innocent person.  Each person has his or her own timeline for progress within a grieving process.  The important thing is to support it and allow it to fully flow.  A realistic goal is to think of the grief as a point on an every-expanding spiral, with increasingly more time between episodes.  Do the grief work and thereby help yourself truly move on to other phases of life.

Courage is the virtue associated with the Metal phase.  A lovely qigong exercise has one exhale grief while making the designated sound for lungs; then, one inhales courage. 

During Autumn, take care of the lungs in order to keep them healthy, strong and relatively free of dryness, wind, damp, phlegm, heat, cold and infectious pathogens.  Autumn (and even earlier in Summer) is also an excellent time to strengthen the lungs and Defensive Qi that fend off such things as cedar fever allergens that will come in later months.  This preventive medicine can be done via exercises such as qigong, Chinese herbal formulas, acupuncture, and diet.  Singing is also an excellent way to support the lungs.

A few of the foods that support the lungs are:
•    Rice, so associated with Qi that the symbol for the latter is rice.  Whole grain rice provides fiber and vitamins that support the nervous system.
•    Pears and apples for moisture
•    Scallions (for cold conditions) and daikon radishes for removal of mucus and phlegm
•    Many white fish, e.g., cod, flounder, haddock and perch
•    White beans such as navy, great northern, and soy in the form of tofu and tempeh
•    Pungent cooking spices, e.g., ginger, garlic, and hot peppers
Whenever possible, use organic food.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, our skin is considered an outer extension of our internal lungs in that it breathes by taking in elements from our environment as well as perspires and otherwise expels some toxins from our body.  Thus, care of our skin is important for our health.  Dry brushing our body with a brush or luffa before a shower stimulates these processes and increases blood flow to skin.  Brush away from the torso on inner arm and leg surfaces (Yin meridians that end at finger and toe tips).  Brush towards the torso on outer arm and leg surfaces (Yang meridians that start at finger and toe tips).

The associated Yang organ with the lungs is the large intestine, also an organ of elimination.

Some of the things that I enjoy during Autumn are the beautiful colors of the daytime Sky and Earth, and, sometimes, the special meteorite showers during the night. 

Enjoy the season and good health to you!

Janet Lee Cook
Licensed Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Prescriptions