As the days darken with rain and night falls early, our moods often wax nostalgic. Nostalgia brings bittersweet memories, warmth, and reflects to us our values. When we allow time to honor reflection in the autumn, we are aligning with the flavor and nature of the season.
Autumn represents the season of the lung and large intestine, also known as the metal element in East Asian medicine. The two organs act as diametric poles, anchoring in inspiration and releasing what we no longer need or is, in fact toxic to us. This action of inhaling, inspiring, expiring, and eliminating works on all level of the body: physical, emotional, and spiritual. The natural energy of the season drifts towards slowing down. The daylight hours wane, the weather turns chill, and if we feel the season, we’ll notice our thoughts turn inward.
Creating time for reflection helps not only helps us feel slightly more sane this time of year, but it also helps our overall health. The metal element represents all that we use metal for in our daily lives, such as valuable jewelry, boundaries made with iron fences or barbed wire, and culinary tools to trim that fat from our meals, or just prepare a mighty fine delight. As such the flavor of autumn imbues that cutting precision of a master chef, trimming from our lives what we no longer need, and creating space for us to bring in something new. It mirrors the cycle of plant life dying off in the autumn in order to provide quality soil for new life in the spring.
The metal element is all about assessing our personal values. What do we value? What lifestyle brings our values directly into our life? What quality of life do we value and how do we attain it? Are we living according to our values? The lungs inhale the heavens into our body, allowing us to be inspired. What inspires us? The large intestine allows us to eliminate what we no longer need. What is no longer serving us? Is there anything in our life, in our home, our belongings, our interpersonal lives that is no longer serving us?
The answer to these questions lies within your heart. It is a deeply personal practice. The only way to access these values is to create time and space for reflection. Creating space to listen to our own values and assess if we are living up to them, allows us to continue to be true to ourselves.
When we avoid reflection or keep ourselves extremely busy throughout the autumn and winter months, it is common for individuals to develop digestion issues. We can struggle with constipation, begin to feel melancholic and depressed, we start to lose the ability to feel inspired, and can start to feel isolated. Respiratory and skin issues can also pop up more frequently.
A simple thing that you can do to protect your health this autumn, is to take time for reflection. That could be by writing in a journal a few times a week or daily. It can be an established time of day to do breathwork or meditation, or a weekly bath with no external stimuli. Find what works for you to let your mind drift and alight on inspiration. Take time to ponder your individual values, and to see if anything needs to be let go of this season. And on the flip side, you may not need to let anything go. You may take the time to reflect on your values, and see that you are actually living in accordance with them. Kudos to you! But without setting aside the time, how will you know? Take time to set the stage to let something new grow into your life this spring.
Lindsey Thompson is an East Asian Medicine Practitioner at the Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic in Walla Walla, WA. She loves growing vegetables, raising chickens, and striving to get the most out of life. Practicing medicine and help people find ways to improve their health at home is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her career.