Are you someone who finds their health and spirits take a dive with the approach of autumn and winter? Or maybe you’re someone who welcomes the cooler autumn air? Either way, Chinese medicine has important and interesting advice to give us about living in harmony with the seasons. So how should we be approaching this quiet shift into autumn?
This extract is from the classical Chinese text called the Neijing, or Yellow Emporer’s Medical Classic, assembled between 200 BCE and 200 CE. This translation is taken from the Essential Texts in Chinese Medicine by Richard Bertschinger , page 62.
During the autumn there are three moons,
This is the time for sizing and settling,
The heavenly Qi is hastening,
The earthly Qi is strengthening.
Go to bed early and rise up early,
Copying the behaviour of the cock
In such a way you enable your will to stay peaceful and delay the penalty of the autumn.
Keep close and take in your mental strength
To enable the settling of autumn.
Do not allow your thoughts to stray without,
To enable the lung Qi to clear.
This is the response to the Qi of autumn,
And the art of caring for closure.
Richard goes on to explain: “How can we sustain mental power and strength? Simply by watching nature. Observe the common pattern: birth and growth in spring and summer, closure and storage in autumn and winter….Through them we learn an added dimension of care – understand the demands of the moment and adapt appropriately to the true but shifting connection with things”
It may be easier to understand the ‘sizing and settling’ of autumn in relation to its place within the annual cycle of the seasons. Autumn is the time when nature is enjoying the fruits of the harvest but preparing for winter. Whilst summer is a season of blossoming and bright excitement, autumn is a more reflective time when we should refine and enjoy the good essentials of our life in a more peaceful and settled way. In this way we strengthen ourselves for winter – ‘the art of caring for closure’. We can see this process most clearly by considering trees in autumn. At this time of year, trees start to direct the lushness of their leaves back into their stems, branches and roots. But as the leaves drop, they retain the beautiful delicate tracery of the veins and shape of each leaf as refined memories and patterns for the future. The tree withdraws some of its outward flowing energy back inside itself and by doing this it ensures a safe winter, an expansive colourful springtime and a long life.
You may find it interesting to reflect on your own activities and discuss this with friends – how best can you enjoy the autumn season in a way that reflects nature? So, for example, you need to keep up some exercise but this may be a good time to explore mind-body exercise such as yoga or qigong. You need to eat healthy enjoyable food, but this is a time to focus more on cooked and warming food rather than summer salads. You will want to continue doing fun and relaxing things, but maybe find you look forward to curling up with a good book or tuning into a creative side of yourself. These are only my ideas – the important thing is that you live your life in balance with your own vision and potential as well as in balance with the seasons.