This year as I walked the same beautiful trail in the forest of Mono Cliffs through each of the seasons and observed the landscape change as the seasons shifted. Each change in temperature, amount of daylight ,rain, snow, dryness, dampness, heat or cold all played into different plants and trees blooming at different stages and times. The beautiful eco system of the forest was and is constantly shifting into different forms in response to the atmosphere and elements.
I contemplated this constant transformation in relation to how our bodies also respond and flux in each of the seasons and how my observations of nature mirrored much of what I have been learning in macrobiotics and the five element theory I apply to my zen shiatsu treatments.
By learning to be present, in each season, through observation and participation and adapting our diets to what nature is offering at that time to, help our physical, mental and spiritual bodies adapt, we can learn to operate at our fullest human potential throughout the year.
From nutrient intake and exposure to the elements in appropriate ways, like adjusting our diets and methods of cooking or going out in the fresh, cold air, but dressing warm or avoiding drafty spaces so as not to embed the element of wind or cold in our bodies, we can become highly adaptable to our environments. The more we learn to monitor our own personal living systems by being present and aware of the overall eco system we live in, the more we can be active participants in maintaining our health and wellbeing.
It is a time of dryness and a period of harvesting and collecting.
In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) and macrobiotics the observation of five-element theory is followed. In five-element theory there are five seasons, which are connected to couple meridians and organs, food groups and elements. For example autumn is metal energy, nature is baring everything, releasing the abundance of the past year into a grand finale, which is definitely reflected in Ontario with the changing colours of the leaves from green to super bright oranges, yellows and reds before they fall. It is a time of letting go, so that we can make room for a new cycle, letting go of what we no longer need, and a shifting from outward energy to inward energy. The time is starting to shift from the yang time of summer to a more yin time; the nights are beginning to be longer then the days.
The lungs and the large intestine meridians are of the metal element. The emotion of the element of metal is grief, which reflects the letting go and helps us cleanse of what we no longer need. The large intestine eliminates what is unnecessary or toxic from our bodies, which is also reflected in our mental and spiritual states, a clear colon helps us clear, from our mind and spirit, the onslaught of daily information and allows us to process the essential.
The lungs on the other hand help take in the pure. As we inhale the pure crisp air of fall it brings us new inspiration. As we breathe in our vital chi (energy) it helps us have a strong immune system by keeping our defence system strong.
Autumn: September 21 to December 21
Element – Metal
Meridians – Lungs and Large Intestines
Colour – white
Sense – smell
Sensory Organ – Nose
Emotion – Grief
Taste – Pungent
Eating For The Autumn Season
With autumn bringing the first of the respiratory problems of the season, the following foods help strengthen the lungs and cleanse the digestive tract.
Foods To Avoid
We want to avoid foods that can harm the lung and large intestine in the autumn due to being cooling and having expansive energy such as hot spices, sugar and alcohol. Mucus causing foods such as dairy can create congestion in the lung and large intestine. Foods like ice cream do not have the gathering energy needed in the autumn and baked flour products are too contracting making the large intestine hard and inflexible.
Foods That Strengthen Reflect The Quality Of The Season
As you can see by the foods that are available and supportive of the lung and large intestine in the autumn, they are dryer and more condensed, they have a downward and gathering energy like root vegetables. While fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut and pickles help build the healthy intestinal bacteria for assisting digestion.
The style of cooking also changes for the autumn it becomes longer and slower, to create deep warming energy in our bodies to fortify us for the cooling months. Using pressure cookers, long boiling and sautéing, broiling and baking as well as using more oils becomes appropriate for the season and to help strengthen the core of our bodies.
Grain: brown rice
Vegetables: small root vegetables like burdock, carrots and turnips and pungent ones like daikon and watercress
Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, celery, daikon radish, onions, parsnips, watercress, mustard and turnip greens, turnips, garlic, leeks
Beans: white beans
Fruits: hard tree fruits like pears, apples
Herbs and Seasonings: sage, fennel, thyme, ginger root, horseradish, cinnamon, and rosemary