Autumn Equinox - Yin and Yang Equality - Metal Flourishes
Primary to a healthy path is living and acting in harmony with the seasons and cycles of nature. Autumn is about the out-breath of our lives, a turning inward, and a time for reflection that comes with slowing down. Thank you to Liu Ming on which these teachings are based.
The equinoxes and solstices—which are 4 pivot points—rectify the annual qi. Often, in the West, we think of the Autumn equinox as the start of fall. However, in the Taoist tradition, it is the height of it. (All four of our pivot points are shifted in this way.) The reason it's important to recognize the equinox as the middle of Autumn, rather than the start of it, is that if we are latent in turning our energy inward, we can easily become out of balance with our environment. Not living in harmony with the cycles of nature is the biggest cause of disease in our bodies and on our planet.
During autumn, our environment becomes more and more yin. As harvests are finishing up, a pleasant stillness arrives. It is the time of the Metal element, characterized by cool, dry wind and our vulnerability to lung ailments. It is an excellent time to feel our grief, let go, and allow what is.
1. Turn Inward: Autumn is the time to pull inward and gather our qi into ourselves on all levels. This may include saying no to over-committing your time and energy, taking a nap, avoiding final pushes, and generally slowing down our lives. It is a time to organize the more scattered and spontaneous patterns of the summer months. Eating foods that are sour and astringent can encourage this process of pulling inward towards ourselves and our internal sphere. These foods could include kinds of vinegar, sour plums, sauerkraut, pickles, hawthorn berry, rose hip tea, leeks, yogurt, olives, and grapefruit. 'Tis the season to pickle, ferment and store our harvests for the winter.
2. Timing and your Practice: Optimal qi is at 6 pm. The counsel is for our practices, whether it be yoga, dance, meditation, or qi gong to be done indoors morning and evening in short sessions. It is important not to over-exert and squander our qi as we prepare for the winter months.
3. Nourish with Slow Food: As yin is about to take charge, it is best to eat nourishing foods with a high concentration of jing and qi. Roasted fall vegetables, warm squash soups, roots, and other hearty foods help us prepare for the winter. Generally, cook with less water and at a lower heat for longer periods of time such as in a crock pot or roasting in an oven or low heat on a flame. Cooking food quickly creates more rajas, speed, and business for our minds and bodies. Allowing things to cook more slowly encourages us to focus more internally, slow down, and receive deep nourishment from foods that are simple to digest and assimilate. The more cooked food is the less our own bodies (spleens) need to do the cooking and the less energy it takes for us to assimilate the nutrients.
4. Dress warmly. A teacher of mine, Liu Ming, would frequently remind us, "The weather report is not the Qi report." Even if the weather is warm, we are still vulnerable to common colds and other externally contracted infections. The gates that allow these infections (or Xie Qi) to be carried in by the wind are on our wrists, ankles, and neck making them important places to keep covered and warm.
5. Remember Ritual and the Out Breath. Eight times a year I like to completely undo and redo my main altar. I re-think all of the intentions, flow, important pieces, and prayers for the next 6 weeks. Ritual helps us slow down, make meaning, listen to our dreams, follow the omens, and act from a deeper self. We can run around all day with the to-do list, or stop, clarify and use magic to find our way through the chaos.
6. Encountering Dryness: We can observe the dryness of the season around us in crackling leaves, dry grasses, and crisp air. During the Autumn we are especially susceptible to dryness affecting the body -primarily in the lungs. Symptoms of dryness can manifest as itchiness, thirst, dry skin, and throat. Often people who are thin are more susceptible to dryness. There are ways to mitigate this vulnerability to dryness, by increasing the moistening foods we consume. Moisten the body with spinach, pears, apples, persimmons, loquats, and seaweed. Many of the foods that are in season at this time have this function such as almonds, pomegranates, and pumpkins. Increasing oils such as olive, hemp, borage, flax, and coconut also help moisten the system and mitigate the onset of yin deficiency.
7. Oil Massages: After bathing rub your body with nourishing oils such as sesame, jojoba, or even olive oil. Abhyanga is an ayurvedic tradition where the body is rubbed with large amounts of warm oil that are often medicated based on the individual constitution. This time of year geranium rose, and jasmine spiced oils help to nourish yin and calm the spirit. This is especially useful to bring an aggravated Vata (air) dosha back into balance and mitigate the drying effects of the Autumn environment.
8. Inhale Moisture/Exhale Deeply: Have an oil diffuser going in your home and office to help moisten the air and dispel dryness. Use fennel, geranium, jasmine, and oakmoss to nourish yin. To assist with pulling in rampant summer energy use astringe