By Shoshanna Katzman
Chinese medicine is a language unto itself. It is a paradigm filled with striking metaphors along with a variety of images with the central theme being that the human body exists as a reflection of the natural world. Learning about Chinese medicine concepts provides greater insight about the energetic impact of nature on one’s health – thereby becoming apparent just how important it is to maintain harmonious flow during changing of the seasons. This may require adjusting daily habits and behaviors according to the associated organ systems and fluctuations of yin (cold) and yang (heat) inherent within a particular season.
As the season of autumn approaches there are several things to be cognizant of to ensure a smooth energetic transition between the heat of summer and coolness of autumn. First, it is important to gather and protect one’s energy. This means becoming more centered by drawing energy inward, as opposed to having just spent the last three months in a period of growth and expansion. It is also essential to build Qi (vital energy) resources of the body through clear and unrestrained breathing. Incorporating gentle breathing exercises daily will be quite helpful in this regard. Breathing in fresh, clean and crisp air of autumn opens one up to living life in the fullest, most inspiring way.
This is more clearly understood by learning that autumn is related to the yin organ of the lung – known traditionally as “the receiver of the pure Qi from the heavens”. As the source of Qi, the lungs distribute a defensive form of vital energy called “Wei Qi” which provides energetic immunity. Therefore, as the weather changes in early autumn be sure to receive an upper back and chest massage to open flow of lung energy. It is also prudent to protect the back of the neck from wind with a scarf or high collar as the weather turns. This helps gather and protect one’s energy in preparation for the approaching cycle of winter.
Re-establishing healthy boundaries is important during autumn, as is paying attention to becoming more organized. It is also essential to let go of whatever needs to be appropriately released, which is a process that is different for each person. It might include letting go of unhealthy relationships, stagnant behaviors or negative attitudes. Through cleansing of what is no longer needed, one becomes receptive to newfound awareness about themselves and what is precious and essential in life. Knowing that this time of year is associated with the yang organ of the large intestine provides deeper meaning to autumn energies creating space and support for letting things go.
The Law of the Five Elements further informs us that the lungs and large intestine are metal elements. This element is nourished by pungent taste, therefore energetic balance can be achieved and maintained through preparing dishes with ginger, onion and/or garlic. Scallions, radishes and horseradish are also on the list of pungent foods. Moreover, the metal element is associated with the emotion of grief which means that one should be on the lookout and have methods in place for processing unresolved, excessive or inappropriately expressed grief. This may include journaling regularly to get in touch with and working through these feelings. Seeking help from a mental health professional may also be an option.
The underlying cause of grief is oftentimes imbalanced or blocked energy within the lung and large intestine meridians – one that can be rectified through acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine. Deep breathing exercises as those experienced during Qigong and Tai Chi exercise also support the physical, emotional, and spiritual awareness necessary for such cleansing, especially when it comes to grief. Remember that repression of grief will lead to health problems, whereas expressing and processing it brings relief and healing. When balance of the metal element is restored, so is one’s profound personal sense of value and worth from both energetic and physical perspectives.
You now have ways of supporting the letting go of the old and making space for the new. You may think of this analogous to the trees letting go of their leaves. Create the circumstances to bring yourself into greater harmony during the inevitable cycling of nature. Allow yourself to go within and stay centered so that you may enjoy the season of autumn with all its colorful splendor.
Shoshanna Katzman, L.Ac., M.S. is an acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and director of Red Bank Acupuncture & Wellness Center (www.healing4u.com) in Shrewsbury, NJ for over thirty years. She is author of Qigong for Staying Young: A Simple 20-Minute Workout to Cultivate Your Vital Energy and co-author of Feeling Light: The Holistic Solution to Permanent Weight Loss and Wellness. Shoshanna has taught Tai Chi for 47 years and is a 6th generation lineage holder of the Guang Ping Yang Style Tai Chi Form. She will soon be releasing a Tai Chi curriculum entitled Center of Power: Life Mastery through Tai Chi. Shoshanna offers weekly Tai Chi and Qigong classes. For more information call 732-758-1800 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.