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Living in Harmony with the Seasons

Blog Post by our beloved teacher Alexandra Donegan


Autumn: Letting Go

After the fun and play of summer and the harvest of late summer, the energetic movement into autumn can feel like a precipitous energetic drop. As we begin our descent into the yin time of the year, you may begin to feel this change even before the leaves start displaying their majestic final show of color.

While many of us welcome the arrival of the crisp, cool air of Autumn (along with an excuse to sprinkle some pumpkin spice on everything), some already begin to grieve, in a sense, the return to the dark and cold winter. From a Five-Element and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, each season reflects the energetic movement of an element. Autumn is the season of the Metal element, and grief is the emotion of Metal. We all experience loss, separation, and letting go. In health, we appropriately feel grief at those times, and when expressed and released appropriately, grief cleanses us of what is no longer needed in our lives.

Think of the falling leaves - as the tree begins to prepare itself for the coming winter, it inherently knows to let go of what it no longer needs. The leaves have served their purpose of absorbing the sunlight of the summer and can now return to the earth for mineralization and fertilization for future growth. The tree lets each leaf go with HONOR and a sense of gratitude. It not only puts on a celebratory display for us all to enjoy but it also gracefully and gratefully detaches from each leaf - a loving last goodbye.

The trees and plants serve as lungs for our Earth, providing us with pure air to breath. Our own lungs are one of the organs associated with the Metal element. Each breath we take brings inspiration to our lives. Think of the yogic breath: inhale love, peace, inspiration, and exhale what is no longer in service to our growth. The paired organ of Metal is the large intestine. Without letting go of our waste (literally and figuratively), there would be no room for growth and prosperity. Working symbiotically, these two organs grant us the gifts of inhaling inspiration and releasing what is no longer needed, just like a tree releases its leaves for future growth.

The next time you are walking to your car, in a hurry to get home, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and be inspired by the awe of Autumn’s glory. Let go with the grace of a tree. Honor the passage of time with a reverence for life, for what was given during the harvest.

Some tips for living well this Autumn:

  1. Do a mental inventory: Examine harmful emotions stored away within you. Choose to either take effective action or let it go.

  2. Prune what is no longer serving you: Create space for new growth

  3. Go through closets, desks, the garage, medicine cabinets. Donate, sell, discard, or otherwise circulate what you no longer need.

  4. Free write/journal about things you are harboring. Symbolically burn or bury the pages.

  5. Practice breathing exercises to cleanse the lungs. As you inhale the crisp autumn air, feel yourself energized and purified. Drain away old negativity, impurity, and pain as you exhale.

  6. Begin to come inside, turn inward, come to center, store up for winter. Nature strips everything bare - we follow suit and strip ourselves for self-reflection.

  7. Go to bed early, rise early.

  8. Eat food that nourish and cleanse the lungs (spicy/pungent foods like ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions, and peppers) while helping you store up for winter: Roots, winter squashes, brown rice, apples, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, chards, collard greens, kale, grapes, green beans, ground cherries, kohlrabi, leeks, mushrooms, onions, parsnip, pears, potato, pumpkins, chili peppers, purslane, quince, radishes and the amazing array of the many fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme, sorrel, parsley

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