Within the cosmology of Chinese medicine, human beings are regarded as microcosms of the natural universe. Harriet Beinfield, a practitioner for over forty years, and coauthor of Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine, walks us through this transitional season and what it means for our health.
We are subject to the same cycles that occur in nature. Autumn follows on the tail of the harvest, signaling that it is time to prepare for winter. The sap of trees settles into the interior, sinking down toward the roots. With Fall comes a sense of gathering in, stocking up, mingled with a sense of loss as the light begins to fade and the air chills. It is a time to eliminate what is unnecessary and become aware of what is essential.
The Organ That Powers Autumn
The organ system that shares the power of this season is the Lung. Corresponding to the temperament of autumn, the Lung pulls in and refines the Qi, (energy) sending it downward to nourish our roots.
Ruling the skin, the outer limit of the human body, the Lung protects against external invasion and safeguards internal resources. Since Autumn is a dry season, we need to protect ourselves from cold air evaporation of moisture from our skin. Moistening, softening, and nurturing foods for this time include white rice, white beans, pears, radishes, sea vegetables, potatoes, cabbage, turnips and parsnips.
The Lung is also responsible for our capacity to discern and discriminate, defining and refining our sense of what is right, morally and ethically. It is the Lung that nourishes our capacity to be analytic, critical, methodical, efficient and disciplined. Autumn reminds us that we reap what we have sown, that all of our actions have consequences. The clarity that comes with autumn enables us to distinguish between the things that contribute not only to our own well being, but also the benefit of others, reminding us that we live in an interdependent world. This capacity will serve us in this election season as we choose leaders who represent our higher aspirations for a peaceful world that equitably shares resources, and a natural environment that can sustain us all.