Every season brings gifts. and lessons. Autumn is the season to let go, like the trees shedding Mother Nature’s coat of auburns, purples, yellows, and oranges. When we are unable to let go, deep grief lingers and our terrible cough can worsen. There is a cycle, a time for everything and when we hang on, we are in resistance and life stagnates. Autumn is a powerful time to deepdive into where we are holding on so we can finally let it out.
Plato: “Poverty is not the absence of goods, but rather the overabundance of desire.” Too much wanting comes from a fear that we do not have and will not have enough, that we are not enough. Some people hoard, for that rainy day and live in the past and the future, rather than the present. We hoard things, we hoard time, we hoard information, we hoard people…
The pure and the impure, the new and the old, and what works and what does not are mixed in a turbid confusing mess that becomes increasingly difficult to extricate from. Breathing starts to get difficult and shortened, though we rarely notice. This discernment of what to take in, what to let go and creates the space for the new, the inspired, and growth.
Not to be attached to something is to be aware of its absolute value.
This is the lesson and the beauty of Autumn. This time of the year invites us, with a stunning visual reminder and the activation of the related organ-meridian system, to let go, to accept what has been completed and the impermanence of all that is.
Below we share some connections from various modalities, systems, and philosophies. The information is by no means exhaustive and is selected to show a glimpse of the breadth of the interconnectedness.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine Connection
Here we find the beautiful philosophy of yin and yang. Each pair of organs is made up of a yin and a yang. Ted Kaptchuk describes the Yin organs’ function as produce, transform, regulate, and store “fundamental textures” and that of yang organs’ as receive, break down, and absorb to transform into “fundamental textures”, and transport and excrete the unused and impure portions.
The Organs are bundles or intersecting matrixes of resonating human activity.
Ted Kaptchuk, The Web That Has No Weaver
The Autumn is related to the Lungs (yin) and Large Intestine (yang). At the most basic understanding, the Lungs bring in the new and the large intestine release the old and toxic. The related emotion is grief and excessive sadness can imbalance the lungs and large intestine and weaken the Qi. A low protective Qi can lead to colds, for example.
The nose is in charge of breathing and smelling; functions that depend entirely on a healthy lung. Also, the nose is one possible gateway through which external pernicious qi can invade the lung. If the lung is invaded by pernicious qi, there may be nasal symptoms such as stuffy nose, nasal discharge, or loss of smell. If there is an acute obstruction of qi due to lung heat, there will be asthmatic breathing, in which case the nose may quiver.
The throat is in charge of the voice, which can be compared to the sound emanating from a metal bell. When the metal organ (lung) is afflicted by disease, the voice may appear changed, muffled, or even lost as in the case of sore or hoarse throat.
Tip :: Wear a scarf. Exhale deeply. Let go. Speak your truth – find your real voice. Depending on the deficiency of qi and Lung ying/yang and other factors, consider astragalus, cordyceps, and ginseng and book a session with a TCM practitioner.
The Jin Shin Jyutsu Connection
Each organ relates to specific years in life. A big event, such as an accident or trauma, that occurs in the past can show up as a disharmony of the related organ. For the lungs, it’s ages 9 and 10 and large intestine, 11 to 13 years. What this means is that if the lungs are “upset” when a person was 9 or 10, they may face health challenges relating to lungs later on. Or if the large intestine was disrupted between 11 and 13 years of age, a person may experience difficulty letting go.
Lungs, in the TCM framework, are traditionally called the “tender organ” as they are sensitive to even fleeting incidents such as a cold or quick emotions. Perhaps a weakened lung organ-meridian and a propensity for lung imbalances especially during the fall and the early morning hours may thus be explained.
Tip :: Jin Shin Jyutsu Self-Help: Hold the ring finger; place the left hand on the last rib on the left side of the body and right hand on the left collarbone (and/or right hand on right last rib and left hand on right collarbone). Mantra: I am my own testimony.
The Nutripuncture Connection
The two master meridians during Autumn are Lungs and Colon, which activate our immune system. This is partly why – because we are more sensitive – we encounter more colds at this time of the year. These meridians also interact with the secondary meridians which govern the sense of smell. Here we find the Olfactory Personality Type which is a perfectionist and idealist temperament which can become rigid and judgmental when this meridian family is weakened or imbalanced.
The sense of smell cannot be underestimated. In Nutripuncture, the sense of smell is “experiencing complete essence.” The power of smell is evidenced by our ability to distinguish ourselves from others, to know our uniqueness and be that.
Remember how much you loved the smell of your lover when you first met? Do you like your own smell? Who else loves the smell of their dog’s paws?
Advertising lulls us out of our own identity by placing our desire to smell like this or that, him or her, rather ourselves. Mass identity, conformity.
Identity includes our sexual identity so this season is also a potent time to strengthen our expression of who we are as an adult sexual being.
Tip :: To sharpen your sense of smell activate meridian line 25 (Sinus). You can try Nutri Yin, Nutri Yang, 20 (Lungs), 05 (Colon), 15 (Lymphatic), 25 (Sinus). Other secondary meridians to consider – 06 (Penis), 07 (Vagina), 12 (Hypothalamus), 14 (Adam’s Apple), 16 (Muscles), and 24 (Breasts). You can read more about Nutripuncture in the book Nutripuncture: Stimulating the Energy Pathways of the Body without Needles or consult with a practitioner.
Learning consists in daily accumulating; The practice of Tao consists in daily diminishing.
Tao Teh Ching, translated by John CH Wu
We are blessed with an abundance of modalities, methods, techniques, practitioners, from Theta Healing, Charka Medicine, spiritual counselling, therapeutic massage, Arvigo (grief can be locked up in the womb), Grinberg Method…here are a few.
Mudras are a wonderful and powerful path to wellbeing. There are many good resources, including the much loved book “Mudras: Yoga in Your Hands” by Gertrud Hirschi who also has a card set. The book “Mudras of India” offers wonderful photography.
For coughs and colds common this time of year, you can experiment with the bhramara mudra. Sit with a straight back and with your hands in front of your chest, place the index finger of both hands at the base of the thumb. Touch the tips of the thumb and the middle finger, extending the ring finger. Breathe slowly and deeply holding this mudra for several minutes. Do this mudra several times a day.
Elemental Yoga is a gentle practice that balances the elements in your body. Using mudras, asanas, and meditation, each element along with its associated meridians and emotion can be activated and harmonized.
Flower essences are a beautiful as well, for all creatures. Yes, animals also grieve. You can find many blends from Australian Bush Flowers, Bach Flowers, Green Hope, just to name a few. Bach Flowers’ Rescue Remedy or FES’ Five Flowers Remedy (non-alcohol formulation) are a great go-to.
Other Bach flower remedies for grief include Star of Bethlehem (feeling shocked, numbed, and pained), Walnut (hanging onto the past and feeling stressed by the transition), Wild Oat (difficulty dealing with the loss of a loved one) or Cherry Plum (feeling the need to hold it all together, believing and fearing it will fall apart). Alder (Pacific Essences) for “Nourishing to the body by knowing what to use and what to discard; emergencies especially bleeding emergencies; cultivates gentleness and gentle knowing of what to do and how to respond.”
Working with Grief…
Emotions such as grief are often seen as negative, a weakness, and so they are hidden, avoided, repressed…In the illuminating book “Language of Emotions” by Karla McLaren, we see the gifts of emotions. Sadness asks us “what must be released and what must be rejuvenated?” Grief asks us “what must be mourned and what must be released completely?” She sees the difference between sadness and grief thusly:
Sadness is your psyche’s water bearer; it restores life-giving fluidity and movement when you’ve become arid and inflexible. Sadness helps you slow down, feel your losses, and release that which needs to be released – to soften into the flow of life instead of holding yourself rigidly and pushing ever onward. Sadness asks you to trust in the flow of time, in the surprising flow of vision and inspiration, and in the ebb and flow of human relationships so that you may release yourself and others from contracts that aren’t healing, and settle into the flow of deeper and more fulfilling relationships.
Grief does not simply bring water to you as sadness does; grief drops you directly into the river of all souls. Grief transports you to the deepest places when you have no choice but to let go, when the loss of vital relationships or vital attachments feels like (or is) death itself.
When we drop into this river, we are asked to stop all “forward movement so that we may dive into the depths, but the intellect doesn’t know how to go deep.” It is not an intellectual exercise; it is not about finding the reasons, it is not about understanding it logically.
We cannot control with information, “read, learn, work it up, go to the literature” as Joan Didion writes in “The Year of Magical Thinking“.
It is not tidy, it is not neat. It is necessary and a vital part of life.
In writing this book, Joan Didion did deep research and shared that in a series of lectures in 1973 at John Hopkins (later published as “Western Attitudes Towards Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present“), from about 1930 there was a major shift in Western countries in accepted attitudes towards death. “Death so omnipresent in the past that it was familiar, would be effaced, would disappear. It would become shameful and forbidden.” Whether it was a rejection in favour of an “ethical duty to enjoy oneself” as social anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer calls it, the present state in the West is a general rejection, though the tide is turning with more Death Doula workshops and Death Cafés and awareness of this quiet work that has continued.
If you are interested in working with your emotions, Language of Emotions is truly a gift of a resource to dip in over and over again to understand how to work with our emotions, rather than pathologize or create a pathology with avoidance of many methods.
This time of the year reaps the golden light of harvest and continues to turn the wheel toward the more quiet and contemplative space of Winter with its unique questions, calling, and gifts. If you struggle with seasonal illness, this is the time to strengthen your constitution, clear out old beliefs, take off your coat of despair.
1 Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. New York, Weatherhill, 1975, p 66
Photo by Sam Burriss.