Summer Wellness Series: Moving into Fall

This article is the final in a special Summer Wellness Series I've collaborated on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Read all the installments here or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

With the Fall Equinox this week in the Northern hemisphere, we are deep in the transition moment from Late Summer in Fall. The days are perceptibly shorter, there may be a nip in the air in the morning, and even in the Bay area where there are still hot days to be had, the sidewalks are beginning to have piles of leaves, and our energy is turning inward and slowing down.

It’s an oft-noted irony that the time when the Earth is encouraging us to slow down and go inward is the time in our external calendar when things are getting busiest - back to school, the ramp up to the holiday season, and for us in the United States this year, an extra layer of work and anxiety around the mid-term elections and all that is at stake.

Your body might express this experience of cross-purposes with trouble sleeping, digestive upset, and as the Fall moves on, skin complaints, allergies, colds and sinus trouble. Seasonal self-care through the Summer (see the #tcmsummerwellness series !) can help buffer some of these, and here are a few self-supporting practices to consider incorporating this month;

  • sleep more. The days are shorter, and our energy is waning. In pre-industrial times (ie most of human history), we went to sleep and woke with the sun. Even 15 minutes earlier can make a difference. Chronic sleep deprivation is one of the most serious health issues facing modern people.

  • eat cooked foods. Save your raw salads and melon for next summer - save your body some energy by transitioning to cooked foods - if a salad is a must-have for a lunch on the go, try making one with cooked veggies - blanched greens, roast zucchini and peppers topped with chickpeas under a dijon vinaigrette, topped with a few toasted seeds or almonds for crunch. Very chic and easy to transport in a mason jar!

  • Give your lungs extra TLC. The Fall is the season of the Lung - they are especially vulnerable to allergens and viruses at this time of year. Improve the quality of the air indoors with an air purifier, air purifying plants and give your pillows a wash to eliminate allergens. Ask your acupuncturist about allergy treatments (best started before you are sneezing!) and buy or make some natural cold remedies to keep on hand so you can take them at the first signs of illness. Try Fire cider, Ginger-Scallion tea and this go-to list from Erin on natural remedies and herbal formulas for cold. My fave essential oils to keep on hand at this time of year, especially for steam inhalation: Rosemary verbenone, balsam fir and sweet thyme (linalool).

  • Going deeper: I wrote this essay on resting in sync with the earth a few falls ago. What does it mean when we don’t get enough rest? What are the personal and global consequences of our exhaustion and burnout?

May your Fall be filled with love and health, and time for darkness, rest and contemplation! For help with specific health challenges, including scheduling treatments or finding a practitioner in your area, contact Erin and I!

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Summer Wellness Series: Tasty Kitchen Medicine

This article is sixth in a special Summer Wellness Series I'm collaborating on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Next week: herbs, tonics and supplements for Late Summer. Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

Late Summer is a season that might be unfamiliar to you. In traditional Chinese medicine we use the five element system of natural cosmology to understand the rthyms of our bodies and the earth. Even if we didn't grow up thinking of Late Summer as a specific season, we probably know what it means - harvest, end of summer, the transition between the unbounded expansion of Summer and the contraction and endings of Fall.

Read about Late Summer and its element, Earth, in Erin's article from last week.

Seasonal foods are one of the best ways to be in harmony with the natural world, and help us surf the energies of climate, day length, temperature and so on that might impact our health. 

Since my practice and patients are in the Bay Area, I'll talk about specifics with regards to our climate - Late Summer is a clearly delineated season for us here! However the Earth element affects all of us, wherever we live.

By eating to support our Earth element in late summer, we can ease ourselves into fall and protect ourselves from the coming cold and flu season. In Traditional Chinese Medicine we're taught 'phlegm is created in the Spleen (Earth) and stored in the Lung (Metal). Supporting our Spleen by eating easy to digest, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting foods is a great way to buffer our Lungs from fall allergies and cold and flu.

The Flavor of the Season: Sweet.

Sweetness is the flavor associated with Late Summer, and is a dominant flavor in much of the produce now in season. Sweetness softens and relaxes us, and naturally sweet foods are deeply nourishing to our systems and our spirits. Too much sugar with our sweetness can overload the system, and leave us craving more sweet without feeling satisfied. Sweetness helps us the transition from the long days of summer into fall.

The Color of the Season: Gold.

Yellow, gold and orange are the colors associated with the Earth element, and are found in many of the foods in farmers' markets right now: squash, plums, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes, corn. In biomedicine terms, orange produce is rich is carotenoids (like beta-carotene) and B vitamins that are especially beneficial for the immune system, skin and eye health.

The Cuisine of the Season: Light and Warm

The Spleen is said to like warmth and hate dampness. Dumping cold, wet foods like ice cream, cold drinks and raw veggies is a good way to dampen our digestive hearth and find ourselves with kickback like bloating, belching, distention and gas, upset stomach and diarrhea. Well-cooked, high nutrient foods are like dry, fragrant wood that burns easily and doesn't leave stinky ash.

In short, as the days shorten and table is covered with the sweet, golden fruits of the harvest, we shift our diet to eat what's in season, simmered soup of butternut squash, roasted peaches, corn and bean salad. Here's a few of my fave recipes for this season in-between.

Pumpkin Pancakes

This recipe from Practical Paleo is ready in a flash and the cakes are both super satisfying (pumpkin and egg) without being too heavy for warm late summer days. I like to eat them with freshly sliced peaches or a quick simmered compote. If you've been eating something cold for breakfast like cereal, yogurt or smoothies, give these pancakes a try.

Roast butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za'atar

This sheet pan roast vegetable dish from Yotam Ottolenghi stands up as a centerpiece, side or salad. Beta-carotene is fat soluble and significantly more available to the body when eaten with fat, like the tahini and pinenuts in this recipe. Try it with a roast chicken for a Sunday dinner knockout.

Peach Crumble with Almond Flour Topping

Fresh peaches become incredibly sweet when baked or grilled. This simple recipe uses a spoonful of maple syrup and buttery almond topping to fancy up roast peaches into something truly fantastic.

Golden Milk

Golden milk is a traditional healing beverage from South Asia and Ayurvedic medicine. Its golden color and sweet flavor put it squarely in the Earth element, but its sweetness and richness are tempered by the addition of spicy black pepper and cardamom.

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Summer Wellness Series: Summertime Herbs

This article is third in a special Summer Wellness Series I'm collaborating on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Next week: self-care practices and essential oils. Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

Summer is the most sunny, energetic, and yang time of the year.  And as we mentioned in previous posts, the season of summer is associated with the fire element, which is linked to the bitter flavor.  That cooling and detoxifying bitter taste clears the heat in the summertime. Kirsten talked about foods and beverages that you can consume in the summer to balance that rising fire, like an escarole salad or cacao nibs sprinkled on diced peaches.  Below are some bitter herbs that you can also use both medicinally and in your kitchen. And since heat can cause irritation, agitation and insomnia, we can also take calming herbs like valerian root or passion flower and minerals like calcium and magnesium that will help settle and anchor the spirit.  

The bitter taste is pharmacologically active and stimulates digestion and our taste receptors.  We even have bitter taste receptors in our sinuses and nasal passages that can protect us from bacteria and viruses!

Bitter subdues the rebellious Qi that is moving in the wrong direction, like nausea or belching.  The bitter taste can also be strong and cold, which can injure the spleen system that helps our digestion absorb nutrients properly.  Once again, it is finding the balance of regulating the energy without overdoing it. Always remember to chew well! This helps the spleen system begin the breakdown and absorption of all the nourishment we need for each of our cells.  Also, don’t take in too much liquid during your meal, especially cool liquid or ice water, which can slow down digestion and dilute digestive enzymes. If you are going to have an iced beverage, melt it in your mouth, almost like chewing your drink, before swallowing it.

Bitter counteracts heat.  Heat can invade from the exterior, causing both chills and fever as your body tries to defend you.  Exterior heat can also come with headaches. Wind tends to bring heat in through the sinuses or back of the neck.  Heat can be internal, only causing fever, since the heat has already reached past the skin level. Once it is internal, you might see symptoms like dark urine, dry mouth, and either constipation or diarrhea.  Below are quite a few common bitter, heat-clearing herbs used in Chinese Medicine. If you have specific symptoms that aren’t resolving or you have any questions, please ask your acupuncturist for a custom formula.  Western herbs are often used alone, Chinese Herbs are mainly used in formulas that can be tailored to you. There are Chinese herbs that go to certain areas of the body, like the head or the skin. Heat can also combine with other factors, like dampness, wind, or toxins and there are specific herbs for each of those situations.  

Common Chinese Herbs that can be easily used in the summertime to cool down the system are mint, chrysanthemum flowers, various parts of the lotus plant, mung beans, and watermelon fruit.  Barley tea is easy to find at Asian markets and makes a tasty sun tea. Note: If you are gluten sensitive or intolerant, skip the barley tea

Read more about herbs for summer ailments at www.erinwoodacupuncture.com

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Summer Wellness Series: Eating for the Heat!

This article is second in a special Summer Wellness Series I'm collaborating on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Next week: herbs, tonics and supplements for summer. Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

A guiding principle of holistic health systems including Traditional Chinese Medicine is harmony or balance. So healthful eating in summer means feeding ourselves in a way that offsets the extremes of the seasons and keeps us in harmony with the earth's energies. What this is exactly will vary depending on the climate - traditional seasonal foods from where you live are the best place to start! For those of us with hot, dry summers like Northern California here's three things to consider

1. Hydration: we're in the dry season - the earth is parched, fires are burning and it's a long way to go before the rains of winter. 

2. Seasonal produce: what's fresh, local and available right now? These foods are naturally in sync with what our bodies need, and make meal times tasty and fun.

3. Energetics: part of 'food medicine' - certain flavors help us balance the external energies coming at us and keep us on an even keel

Hydration - healthful and tasty summer bevvies:

There's something so 'summery' about a big glass of a refreshing, beautifully colored beverage, even better if sipped on a patio with friends and your feet up! There's a lot of options out there that might not help you feel great, like sugary sodas and alcoholic beverages. It's great to have options that will restore you, rather than leaving you having to recover the next day!

Sun tea: brew herbal tea in a half gallon mason jar or jug in a sunny spot. Great choices for cooling summer hydration include hibiscus, mint, lemon balm and chrysanthemum. Put 1/4 cup of herbs in half a gallon of water and leave in the sun for a few hours until it's strong enough. Strain to drink.

Shrubs and switchels: delightfully refreshing old fashioned drinks. Vinegar, sweetener and ginger are added to water, along with fruits or other flavorings. You can buy readymade shrub bases in many health food stores and liquor stores, or experiment with making your own. Try this strawberry shrub recipe from Erin.

Earth Wisdom: seasonal foods have what we need!

Foods in season at this time of year are light, refreshing, usually easy to digest even when raw, and packed with water. Melons, stonefruit, grapes and berries, and veggies like summer squash, artichokes, cucumbers, snap peas, broccoli, tomatoes and lettuce. In general, most people don't do well with a ton of raw foods in their diet - we evolved to eat cooked foods and it is easier on our digestion. At the height of summer we can often tolerate more raw foods - but if you still find you have gas, bloating and indigestion with raw veggies, try a cooked veg salad.

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Energetics: Healing with the Flavor of the Heart.

Last week Erin talked about the energy of Summer - it's the season of the Fire element and the Heart. We're 'fired up' and open to connection, eating together with friends, family and lovers, and especially tuned to beauty and love in our mealtimes. The flavor of the Fire element is bitter. Bitter has a cooling, descending quality, and a small amount can help us cool off and feel more grounded. It's a flavor that's often neglected in Western diets. Try adding some bitter greens like escarole or dandelion to your salad, sprinkling a few raw cacao nibs on a bowl of diced peaches, or have some herbal bitters in water -especially if you're feeling overwhelmed with the fiery energy of summer, too hot, too much, overdrawn on social energy or having trouble sleeping or 'coming down' after fun and exciting times.

Seasonal eating is the heritage of all people! Here's a few of my favorite sources to learn more (and get lots of recipes!) Please let me know some of yours in the comments!

Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection, Jessica Prentice

Staying Healthy with the Seasons, Elson Haas MD

The Tao of Nutrition, Maoshing Ni PhD and Cathy McNease

Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon Morrell

Recipes for Self-Healing, Daverick Leggett

The Ayurvedic Cookbook, Urmila Desai

The Yin-Yang Diet, Tara Akuna R.Ac. & Sara Ward R.Ac.

 

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Summer Wellness Series: The Energy of Summer

This article is the first in a special Summer Wellness Series I'm collaborating on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Next week: my fave recipes for keeping cool in high summer. Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

What is the Summer Energy All About?

Welcome to Summer!  The summer season can be divided into two time periods and elements in Chinese Medicine.  First comes full summer, the true heat of the season and is associated with the fire element.  Full summer transitions into late summer, which is connected with the earth element, which then leads into fall and the metal element.

Challenges we face in the summer are heatwaves, dehydration, sunburn, trouble sleeping, and agitation.  We might also experience digestive distress from eating at BBQs and too much ice cream or chilled beverages.  Cold and damp foods like ice cream can extinguish the helpful part of the digestive fire. Like anything, we are looking for balance here.  We don’t want too much fire and we don’t want too little. We need to cook the food without scorching it. We want some sunshine and Vitamin D, but we don’t want to get sunburned.  

Full summer’s fire element is connected with the organs of heart and the small intestine, the color red, the bitter taste, and the emotion of joy.  And as in all aspects of life, there can be too much of a good thing, and that too much joy can look like mania. It can also manifest in a milder way as agitation, anxiety, or insomnia.  We can also get a natural boost of energy and enthusiasm for new projects and adventures starting in the spring that can carry into the summer.

Read more at www.erinwoodacupuncture.com 

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Summer Wellness Series!

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Summer is here! There are five seasons discussed in traditional Chinese medicine, and here in Northern California we experience all of them - Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Fall and Winter. My colleague Erin Wood L.Ac and I love learning and teaching about the art of 'harmony health' - how we can enhance our wellness and sense of well-being by moving in harmony with earth cycles. What types of illness are we prone to at certain times of year? How can we prepare in this season for the next? Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing a mini-course in holistic practices for Summer and Late Summer. Subscribe to our blogs to get all the updates, and follow #tcmsummerwellness on Instagram

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Spring: Scents and Sensibilities

To celebrate the beginning of Spring, Denise of Cicuto Acupuncture and I are having a special Spring Sale on all our 5 Element Healing Anointing Oils! 15% off all the blends, and 20% off the WOOD element ones, the element of the spring season.

Curious about how to use blends like these for balance and well-being? Last year Denise and I recorded a video with some advice on using all the blends and specifically the WOOD element ones for common issues like stress, insomnia, irritability, headaches, moodiness and other fun symptoms of modern life. Watch the video below and follow me on Instagram where Denise and I are sharing more about the Wood element and spring balance for the next few weeks.

 

 

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Candy corn, pumpkin spice, and seasonal eating

Scroll to the end for seasonal recipe ideas if you don’t want to read my rant!

We crave the foods the earth offers

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What’s the deal with pumpkin spice flavored everything? Why do we go so nuts for manufactured foods like candy corn, Shamrock Shakes, Cadbury Creme Eggs and so on? I’ve seen this insight attributed to Michael Pollan - that ultimately we crave seasonal eating at a deep ancestral level so we flock to these commercial substitutes (let me know if you have a source on this - it’s not original to me).

Once strawberries, oysters, pheasant, asparagus, peaches and fresh churned butter were transient seasonal delicacies, enjoyed for their fresh, once a year flavor, as well as the health benefits that our ancestors reaped from eating seasonal foods. Modern agribusiness has cut us off from the rhythms of the earth and sold our ancestral heritages back to us as pumpkin spice m&ms.

My family in Canada sometimes mocks my commitment to seasonal local eating, given that I live in California, with a 12 month growing season, surrounded by farms producing some of the world’s tasty produce all year long. I ate seasonally and locally when I lived in Toronto as well, and there were a lot of apples and beets during the winter, I’m not going to lie. On balance eating seasonally is generally tastier (and more frugal) as we eat the foods when they are at their best, and can enjoy heirloom varieties that won’t withstand the rigors of transport and supermarkets. We also gift ourselves with the intense pleasure of eating a food for the first time in the year (in Judaism, we have a special blessing to acknowledge the wonder of that moment - the taste of the first strawberry of spring, the first peach of summer, the first pomegranate of fall)

Your perfect diet

A central tenet of Traditional Chinese Medicine and many traditional and holistic approaches is that there is no one size fits all approach. In modern Western culture, we quest constantly for the ‘perfect human diet’ (in fact there’s a best selling book by that name) but let me break it to you. There is no such thing.

Western science is only starting to understand the barest glimmer of how food and nutrition actually interacts with our body processes, and is continually exasperated by contradictory findings when it tries to study whether a particular food or macronutrient or diet is ‘healthy’ or not. The dualism of dominant western thought endlessly strives to judge whether a food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ but this profoundly misunderstands the nature of reality. Your genes, your age, your lifestyle, the climate where you live, your history, what you ask of your body - all of these deeply affect what is ‘’healthy’ for you. Fortunately, we don’t need to wait a couple of thousand years for Western dietitians to figure this out - we have the wisdom of all our ancestors and traditional knowledge available to us.

One thing I have come to understand in recent years is that the toll of modern ‘foods’ including food processing, additives, intensive hybridization, genetic modification, as well as environmental degradation and toxic exposures has resulted in an even more challenging situation for many people, where what appear to be natural whole foods cannot be tolerated. There are folks whose health restricts them from certain foods - like wheat - that are cornerstones of traditional diets. But is it really wheat as our ancestors or even other countries know it? Witness the common phenomenon of North Americans with wheat or grain intolerances who are able to eat bread and grains in Europe or Asia without symptoms. Undoubtedly being on vacation can reduce our stress load and improve our digestion, but in fact there are measurable differences between American and European wheat and bread.

Understanding the properties of food

In Traditional Chinese Medicine we learn that all foods have different properties. These are based on the Five Flavors, each of which has different effects in the body. This enables us to understand foods as active, interactive substances that we can combine and use for pleasure, nourishment and healing.

The Five flavours are: Pungent, Sour, Bitter, Salty and Sweet. Different seasons have affinities for different flavors, and we benefit from emphasizing that flavor in the right season. This approach to food can be a study in its own right, but I really believe it is accessible to any home cook who is interested in this approach. Soon it becomes second nature to choose and modify recipes in harmony with the season or with particular needs or conditions of those who will be eating. It’s really just part of cooking to think about complementary flavors and properties - you are already doing it when you choose what to make for dinner!

There are a variety of cultural approaches to this, and I recommend exploring Ayurvedic sources like Acharya Shunya’s Ayurvedic Lifestyle Wisdom or the works produced by the Weston A. Price Foundation which promotes traditional eating from a European perspective. The Tao of Nutrition by my teachers Dr. Maoshing Ni and Cathy McNease is a friendly introduction to the specifics of the TCM energetics of foods, and I love the recipes in Daverick Legget’s Recipes for Self-Healing. California based Jessica Prentice’s book Full Moon Feast is probably my number one recommendation for the North American resident looking to eat seasonally.

So, where to begin? Where you are of course! If you’re in the US, visit www.seasonalfoodguide.org for a fun interactive listing of what’s currently in season in your area (you can even get the app!)

Foods and flavors of Late Summer:

The Earth element rules late summer, and conveys a sense of both transitions and neutrality - neither here nor there. The direction associated with the Earth element is none -  the center. Foods that support the Earth element often carry its associated color of golden orange or yellow, as well as being relatively neutral or sweet in taste, grounding, comforting and calming. As we move from the expansive activity of summer to the challenges of Fall, and the often frantic pace of modern life including returning kids to school, projects on overdrive to finish out the calendar year, accelerating towards the frenzy of the holiday season, these weeks are ones where emphasizing simple, comforting and easy to digest foods is a blessing.

Gorgeous golden seasonal foods in California right now include persimmons, cantaloupe, winter squash, carrots and sweet potatoes

Meals to try could include squash soup (or squash curry with meat or legumes for a one pot meal), carrot salad with raisins, or lentil dal over baked sweet potatoes. All of these are easy to make ahead, pack for lunch, or heat up quickly at the end of busy day for a peaceful, centered meal that will nourish you body and soul.

Foods and Flavors of Autumn

The Metal element rules autumn, and conveys an energetic sense of contraction, withdrawal, the harvest and the in-breath. We are gathering-in and preparing for winter, darkness and the quiet and restful time of the year (in theory!). Metal and autumn are associated with the lungs, skin and respiratory system - and we certainly know this as the onset of cold and flu season. The pungent or spicy flavor, which warms the body and opens the lungs is the associated flavor - our friend pumpkin spice, with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger and allspice does both these things, and is a wonderful example of a medicinal, seasonal food (when not in m&m form!) Metal is associated with the color white and many white foods help alleviate dryness, considered the most common cause of illness and dis-ease during autumn. We can cook longer, slower dishes, infusing them with warmth and helping us to slow down.

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Seasonal autumnal foods which reflect the autumnal white color - the blanching of the vibrancy of late summer and the contraction of the natural world include pears, apples, bok choy and cabbage, celery root, cauliflower, fennel, leeks, endive, turnips and mushrooms. Most of these are also beneficial for the lung system. Pears are a traditional remedy for lung ailments and western researchers have identified a mucus thinning component in pears which helps people with asthma breathe easier

Meals to try are roasted cauliflower soup (roast florets in the oven at 400 for about 30 minutes, then puree with chicken stock), chopped celery root and fennel salad, leek and potato soup, and poached pears. Here’s my recipe. (Oh and pick up some good quality pumpkin spice blend or make your own - a wonderful addition to poached pears or baked apples!)

Poached Pears - serves 4

4 pears, any variety
Water or tea to cover, about 4 cups (try Earl Grey for a taste of elegance)
Spices to taste: try cinnamon stick, fresh ginger, and star anise

For Asian pears, use an apple corer to hollow them. Regular pears can be cut in half and the core scooped out. Bring water or tea to a simmer in a medium sauce pan - add the pears and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, until the pears are soft and easily pierced with a fork. Lift out with a slotted spoon. Delicious with a drizzle of honey, a natural antimicrobial and lung moistener.

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TCMTalk for October - Holistic Halloween Survival

This month Denise and I doing a special Hallowe'en Perispook, focused on surviving the sugary onslaught that's starting to rev up! Our fave acupressure, herbal support, essential oils and dietary strategies for keeping your balance as we head into sugar season.

Tune in live on Thursday, October 13 at 4 pm PST on Periscope  or watch the replay on our Youtube channel. You can find links to everything we discuss on TCMTalk on our Pinterest Board.

If you have questions, join us live or email us at TraditionalChineseMedicineTalk@gmail.com

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A season of rest - for you and the world

Traditional Chinese Medicine and holistic medicine are about harmony and balance - but what does that mean? It means we move in sync with the external rhythms of nature, not fighting against them. What those rhythms are and what being "in sync" means in practice is traditional knowledge: based on observation over thousands of years. Western science itself is starting to grapple with the idea that what we learn is passed down in our DNA to our children and we can 'know' these things without ever being taught them - we might call it our 'intuition,' our 'wisdom' or as my Granny would say, 'the common sense God gave a chicken'.

The transformation of yin and yang in the four seasons is the basis of the growth and the destruction of life. The sages were able to cultivate the yang energy in spring and summer and conserve the yin energy in autumn and winter. By following the universal order, growth can occur naturally. If this natural order is disregarded, the root of one’s life will be damaged and one’s true energy will wane.
— The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, trans. Maoshing Ni, PhD

Here's an outline of the year as it corresponds to the primal polarities of Yin and Yang. We sail through the year, transiting from Yin (darkness, stillness, rest) into Yang (brightness, action, movement) and back again (I recognize this cycle applies most to those living farther from the equator. The traditional medicine of equatorial peoples no doubt contains its own applications of harmonious living). The apex of each energetic moment is also the beginning of the transition into the next. Right now as we approach the Autumnal Equinox (and celebrate the mid-autumn festival), we are travelling into the most Yin time of the year:

When we accept the reality of change. and the forces that are affecting all us earthlings, we don’t use our resources fighting it - we modify our experience harmoniously, softly, gracefully. This is what I think a lot of "New Age" philosophies are trying to get at when they talk about being "supported by the universe" or the "law of attraction" - when we align ourselves in harmony with the earth cycles, with the massive, manifest patterns that are exerting themselves on our being, we FEEL supported, because we are - the wind is at our back, we are planting in planting season, harvesting in harvest season, and we are much more likely to get the outcome we want and expect.

So back to Fall and rest - as you can see from the yin yang, the Summer solstice, the most YANG time of the year, is the moment when the earth begins its energetic transit into yin - into darkness, cold, wetness, quiet, inaction. As the months progress through the autumn equinox, keeping the frantic pace of modern life becomes even harder. Our energy lowers, our sleep is longer, deeper, we feel quieter, more introspective. We suffer more as we face the growing contradiction between the earth’s energies and the requirements of capitalism - start school, take the kids to soccer, 60 hours of work each week, joyless exercise, big salad for lunch, drinks after work, hurtling ourselves through space, as our cells are insisting more loudly that we slow down, put on weight, sleep more, do less.

As a healing practitioner and as a human being, I often have an internal reaction to this type of discussion (people need to rest more! Folks need to do less and slow down, sleep more!) because so many people literally cannot. Cannot access, cannot afford, cannot find the time. And here too there is a yin and yang - the yin of the personal and the yang of the political. The yang of global capitalism requires an infusion of yin from anti-capitalism and holistic political organization. Political issues like universal health care, paid family leave, universal basic income, housing reform, environmental protection etc., are yin in nature - they nourish, they share, they prioritize rest, healing, redistribution, slowing down so everyone can catch up. Right now the earth and human society is suffering on a massive scale from a lack of rest, from a denial and denigration of the yin energies of existence - the quiet, the dark, the still, the cool, the wet, the chaotic, the unknown, the feminine. Is it any wonder our poor mother earth is becoming hotter, drier, suffering from yin deficiency, hot flashes and night sweats?

I hope you are able to join me this fall in bringing more yin into existence - I don’t want to close on a note of despair, so let me share some of my suggestions for bringing more yin energy into your life right now.

  1. What can you stop doing or simplify? Do you have a bevy of activities? What can you quit for a few months and return to in the spring? (this goes for your kids too!)
  2. Do you have a meditation or mindfulness practice? This is the perfect time of year to start a stillness practice - even a few moments in the day can be powerful
  3.  Can you go to bed earlier? every hour we’re awake after sunset we’re fighting with our biorhythms. Maybe the next episode of Stranger Things can wait.
  4. A regular practice of rest: Shabbat or the Jewish sabbath is a profound weekly rest where observant Jews refrain from all kinds of work, including the use of electronics and spending of money. Consider incorporating a weekly habit of rest: screen free time, family dinner, no shop Saturdays. Ritualizing this time can be a supportive way to introduce a regular restful practice:

May you have a restful and restorative Fall!

There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.
— Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

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