Autumn arrived, in all its glory!
10-15 min Read
The leaves brought a magnificent display of fall colors, while days have shortened and nights become more brisk. Autumn is here!
Community Acupuncture- Monday November 5th at Radiant Yoga Shala, and every Thursday morning at Bridges Family Wellness!
Autumn is a time to draw inward, sink downward, contract. Summer's bounty and warmth passed; winter approaches. Contraction implies storage, and preparing for winter: while abundance and harvest is here, the colder nights and falling leaves create decay and compost, storing nutrients in the soil and roots of perennial plants. In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with an element, which correlates to a direction, time of day, body organ, emotion, and body tissue.
Fall animates and embodies the Metal element. Metal associates with inward and downward movement, the Lungs and Large Intestines, the west, the evening time, grief and the skin.
Associated with mountains and the precious minerals stored deep within the earth, with armor and cutting away, Metal inspires us to embody clarity, justice and truth. As deciduous trees shed their leaves, this stripping away process reminds us to move inward, preparing for Winter’s long nights and cold temperatures.
The Lungs and Large Intestine associate with this process, representing both the inhale and exhale, inspiration and excretion. When balanced, this system helps us organize, have a strong moral compass and maintain a deep sense of rhythm and order. When out of balance, we become over-controlling and rigid, or chaotic and sloppy. To bring more awareness to this energetic system, Lauren Eisenberg Wallace and I will be co-facilitating a Yin Yoga & Acupuncture workshop December 2nd at Radiant Yoga Shala! Sign up here!
As the leaves fall, we are invited to let go of what no longer serves us, what is not in alignment with our higher self. This is a great time to shed habits, attitudes, relationships, food choices and behaviors that we no longer need! Turning to nature, we observe the simplicity and grace with which a tree allows its leaves to gently release into the breeze. It really is that easy! Like a snake shedding its skin, this release allows for renewal, for the new fresh skin to emerge, and the fresh leaves to emerge in spring. Can you imagine what would happen if the tree tried to hold on to all those leaves? The leaves will naturally wilt and rot with the cold winter temperatures, eventually causing disease in the tree. And so it is with us!
This becomes an invitation to heal our physical organ of letting go: the large intestine! A great cozy fall routine to support large intestine health is the Castor Oil pack. Anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and lubricating, Castor Oil is a great tool for detoxifying the gut, and applying the castor oil pack can be a very nurturing ritual for facilitating the letting go process through improving intestinal motility. For more information on how to use a Castor Oil pack, go here.
Letting go, even if we are simply letting go of the long sunny summer days, inevitably some grief will arise. Maybe we are letting go of a relationship, of our youth, of an old career and the grief feels big and overwhelming. So many struggle with this natural emotion. We are taught to repress and suppress grief, to “buck up”, “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps”, “put on a happy face", and "move on". While stewing in an overwhelming state of grief makes it difficult to attend to our daily lives, avoiding this incredibly powerful emotion will lead to stuffing it somewhere else, only to resurface later. Unresolved emotions can lead to physical, emotional and spiritual disease.
Welcoming grief this season we facilitate healing from past traumas and injuries. Creating a ritual to help with this process may serve you! Consider uncensored free writing about a painful experience, or traumatic memory, or writing a letter to someone who has violated you, then burning the paper, continuing to do this over and over, until it feels like you’ve started “getting it out”. Meditation teacher Dandapani describes this technique here. Alternatively, you might choose to “compost” an experience, if you have a yard, access to a community garden or school garden. Cutting away annual flowers and veggies, and placing them into a compost pile can be therapeutic; Imagine placing thoughts, beliefs, old memories, traumas, resentments into the compost pile with the vegetable matter. Allow them to return to the earth, to compost and transform. For additional inspiration, Elephant Journal recently featured a “Home-made Buddhist Ritual for Letting Go”.
Cultures across the Northern Hemisphere display their reverence for their ancestors and the cycles of life and death through elaborate celebrations and rituals during this time of year. These customs help communities collectively celebrate the end of summer’s bounty, process grief, let go, turn inwards, and prepare for winter. Halloween, is a vestiage of All Hallow's Eve, a holiday with celtic or druid roots, where people wore costumes, disguising themselves from spirits of the deceased who wandered the earth. Gaelic cultures traditionally observed Samhain, a time when the veil between the worlds thins, faeries and sprites run freely; people light special bonfires and animals are slaughtered for the winter food supply. All Hallow Tide, comprised of All Hallow's Eve, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day, coincides with Latin America's observation of Dia de Los Muertos or Dia de los Difuntos, creating a container for celebrating the lives and processing grief over those who have passed. Similarly, Japanese Bon Festival, Chinese Ghost Festival, and Indian Pitru Paksha all feature offering food and gifts to ancestors during the Autumn. The Thai observe Loi Krathong, when people float small vessels containing candles on the water, honoring water spirits while releasing hatred, anger, negative thoughts and past transgressions.
Maintaining a relationship with your ancestors, through an alter space can be a rich experience. This practice is as simple as setting aside a place in your home where you can place a picture of deceased loved ones, light a candle and perhaps offer something. Food, water, alcohol, incense, gratitude, money, tobacco, flowers are commonly offered- just don’t consume anything once it has been on the altar. Many people will use this opportunity to ask for support in an aspect of their life, “thank you for supporting my work”, “thank you for protecting and guiding me”, “thank you for helping me release my attachment to _______” etc. Compost offerings in a special place in your garden. If you decide to make an ancestor alter, make the practice your own, follow your intuition and have fun. In ancient China, many diseases were thought to be caused by not appropriately venerating and respecting one’s ancestors. Ancestors can be both blood relatives or anyone who has inspired your growth and development, especially if they carry a lineage of teachings. This practice is similar to keeping a gratitude journal, and can offer us an opportunity to reflect on the many blessings in our lives, and possibly heal intergenerational trauma or wounds from difficult relationships with people who have transitioned from this life.
Releasing the past we open to inspiration! Our lungs bring fresh vital qi into our bodies, literally enlivening us. With the change in season, many with compromised Lung Qi experience asthma, allergies, and colds. Wei Qi comes from the Lungs and a strong digestion, and serves as a first-line defense against pathogens- think immune response! To help boost your Lung Qi, increase your intake of pungent white veggies- garlic, onions, turnips all support strong Lung Qi. Consider adding elderberry syrup, vitamin C, vitamin A and zinc, especially if you you have been exposed to someone else’s cold! The Chinese Jade Windscreen Formula, Yu Ping Feng San, with astragalus and atractylodis is a great antidote to the common cold, boosting the immune system and Wei Qi. It is important to take this medicine as a preventative, building up your immunity before you need it. If you feel your immune system could use a boost, or you want support in determining proper dosages of supplements, consider scheduling an appointment! Green Onions, or Cong Bai, is a great garnish for any meal, boosting your immunity. Another great tool for boosting Lung Qi is Qi Gong, which translates as "life-force" - "work or cultivation".
Join me for Qi Gong 8-8:45am on Thursday mornings at Radiant Yoga Shala (4000 SE International Way, Suite F202, Milwaukie, OR 97222)- sign up online at radiantyogashala.com,or just drop in! As the weather cools and the joints become achy, Qi Gong is an excellent method for keeping the body limber and spirits high!
The Metal Organ system, with its ability to maintain boundaries, is also associated with the skin. Fall is a great time to engage in some extra exfoliation. In the Korean tradition, a full body scrub exfoliates from head-to-toe, after sitting in a sauna and soaking tub. The exfoliation process encourages blood flow to the skin and activates the Wei Qi, or protective Qi of the immune system. Body Percussion Qi Gong is another great method for waking up this layer of our body, boosting immunity. The infrared sauna at Bridges Family Wellness is a great resource for clearing the cold damp out of your muscles, tendons and bones- schedule here.
To further attune yourself to Autumn, eat foods that are astringent and concentrated. Sour flavors move our energy inward and downward, aligning with the energetics of Fall. Sauerkraut, pickled foods and vinegars are recommended. Ume plum vinegar is one of my personal favorites! Leeks, citrus, sour apples and green grapes all carry this amazing flavor. In fall, we start cooking with less water, at lower heat, for longer periods of time- Sauté, Bake or make a meal in a Slow-Cooker! As we progress into winter, salty and bitter flavors are recommended. In the Chinese 5-Element system, Earth generates Metal. Eating yellow veggies, such as pumpkin, acorn and kabocha squash help strengthen the digestion and the “earth of your body”, which tonifies metal.
While the sour flavor embodies the movement of metal, pungent flavors move into this part of the body, revitalizing it. Eating pungent foods that are white, the color associated with metal, further bring this flavor into the Lungs and Large Intestine. Onions, Garlics, Leeks, Shallots, Turnpis, Radishes, Daikon, Cabbage, Ginger and White Peppercorn are indicated. These foods can support mild lung weakness, which may come with symptoms such as a dull complexion, old grief, unhealthy attachment patterns and slight mucous problems.
Check out these seasonal recipes to support the transition to fall (adapted from Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen by Wang, Sheir & Ono)
Curry Pumpkin Soup
2 cups cubed pumpkin or winter squash like Japanese Kabocha or Red Kuri Squash
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (Avocado, Coconut or other high-heat oil)
1 small onion
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1-2 tablespoons curry powder
pinch of salt & pepper
Chop pumpkin into 1-inch cubes, seeded and peeled. Peeling is optional with varieties like Kabocha and Red Kuri
Place pumpkin cubes and stock in pot, bring to boil then lower to a simmer for about 20 minutes
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and curry powder
WHen both the onions and pumpkin are done, combine in a blender or food processor or mash with a fork until well blended.
Add Salt & Pepper to taste.
Decongesting Daikon Soup
1 small daikon radish, diced into 1/8 inch pieces, 2 cups diced
1 piece of fresh ginger (1-inch)- peeled and grated or minced
1 tablespoon or 1 large piece Chen Pi - dried tangerine peel
4 cups water
garnishes: chopped green onions, cilantro, lime or lemon wedges, white pepper and/ or a few drops sesame oil
Combine daikon, ginger, chen pi and water in a pot, bring to boil then lower to simmer for about 30 minutes, until daikon is soft.
Add salt to taste before serving
Garnish with condiments as desired
Immune Boosting Herbal Chicken Soup
2-3 pounds chicken pieces or whole roaster chicken (free range organic is best)
8 cups water
pinch of salt
1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, slivered into 1/16th inch slices
3 cloves garlic peeled and minced
20 grams Shan Yao - Chinese Yam
10 grams Gou Qi Zi- Goji berries
20 grams Hong Zao- Chinese Dates
20 grams Huang Qi- Astragalus
12 grams Dang Shen- Codonopsis or Poor Man’s Ginseng
2 tablespoons rice wine
2 green onions chopped into 1/2 inch pieces- roots and tough green tips composted
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Bulk herbs are available for purchase at just 5 cents per gram! Call (503-482-7556) or email for more information, or ask about them in our next appointment.
If you want support with immunity, respiration, digestion, grief processes or aches and pains, please reach out! If cost is an obstacle, community acupuncture is an option! Community Acupuncture is on a sliding scale: $25-50 per visits and happens every Thursday morning at Bridges Family Wellness. Schedule here!
The first Monday afternoon of each month, starting Monday November 5th, I will be offering community acupuncture on a sliding scale at Radiant Yoga Shala- no one is turned away for lack of funds. Register here!
Additionally, to make them more affordable, I am offering package treatments for one-on-one manual therapy and acupuncture treatments at Bridges Family Wellness: 4 visits for $300, or 7 visits for $500. If you are interested, please inquire at your next appointment!
Thank you for enlisting me as part of your health and wellness team!
Kirsten Isakson, MAcOM, LAc