As the summer heat fades into memory, we move from the Late Summer season to Autumn. Nights become longer and days shorter as we slide into a cooler season. Times of transition are challenging for our health and the transition from steady warm summer heat to autumn cool down is an important one.
For Chinese people, this is a season of transition in caring for the self, body and mind. It is a time to get preventative over reactive. We believe this is the time to strengthen the system physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Seasons and energies are reflected in our bodies and emotions, as microcosm reflect the macrocosm, and for Chinese, seasons are associated with the elements, our emotions, specific internal organs, and certain tastes. Autumn also begins the feminine Yin cycle, as the actual daylight shortens.
Summer is the height of Yang energy, which is moving, bright, light and hot in comparison to Yin, which is still, dark, dense, and cool.
Yin and Yang are in a constantly dynamic relationship with each other, and as one reaches a peak, the seed of the other is born, and begins blooming as the other wanes. Yin nourishes Yang, as Yang motivates Yin.
This is the natural order of things reflected in the dynamic cycle of Yin Yang. The key to understanding this relationship is to see it as animated, in motion, and constantly changing from one to the other. Chinese Medicine recommends cultivating Yang energy in spring and summer, while protecting Yin energy in autumn and winter.
Earth to Metal
Late summer is when gardens need help to transition from summer to fall. It’s time to remove spent flowers and foliage to stimulate new life and set the stage for late blooming plants.
Summer nights can be hazy, but this time of the year, clearer, dryer nights can provide a canvas to watch the skies. Autumn constellations can be seen well before the weather chills, and as we move into official Autumn on Sept. 22, you can see striking stars and rich Milky Way fields above.
The stars of Autumn are called the “Celestial Sea,” because many constellations are associated with water. There is Capricornus, the Sea-Goat; Aquarius, the Water Bearer; Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish; Pisces, the Fishes; Cetus, the Whale; and Eridanus, the River. All these constellations have a rich body of mythology, and even been linked to the Deluge in Genesis!
Earth for Mind & Body
For Chinese, Autumn is associated with Metal, governing the mind, organization, order, communication, limits, and boundaries. It is a good time to finish projects and harvest the fruits of our efforts. Nature’s cycle of letting go has turned inward, returning to origin and source; the earth.
In Chinese Medicine, Earth is associated with routine, and the idea of “home”. Late Summer is a time of transition and time to relax, taste abundant fresh food, and enjoy the support of family and friends.
A walk, yoga practice, or diving into a good book can be good daily routine to get grounded. Every day is a journey, so go feel the earth under your feet for a bit longer before the weather cools into dark, dense Yin nights.
Dampness is associated with Earth and is very active in Late Summer. Excessive dampness comes with sudden exposure to fog or mist, exposure to rain, and damp environments, so protect your Chi and keep yourself from getting damp and/or chilled.
Another important things to consider is fluids in your body, as Summer is generally hot and humid. As the seasons change, our environment changes and brings cool air, even if days are still warm. Daylight begins to shorten and the angle of sunlight lengthens.
Our vegetable garden is a natural metaphor, as we watch summer squash take nourishment from the hot, bright sun and cool, moist, rich earth. It builds and stores fluid, toughens in skin and dries out near the vine to prepare for harvest.
All Chi moves toward the middle. Toward earth and home and center.
Nature is doing the same, as it lessens in humidity, with cool mornings and evenings even as days remain hot and bright.
In Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the element Metal, and the organ of Lungs. The Lungs govern respiration, and the outer layer of protection, the skin, so we begin to feel drying, as allergies surface in this dry environment. Cold and flu season begins during this transition into Autumn.
Moving Toward Divine Yin
Summer harvest brings in abundance, and the tradition of canning, preserving, and storing is what our Chi wants and need to do. The outward, outgoing vibrant energy of summer begins to move inward and downward.
Consolidate and rest your Chi, so energy can go into “seed production”, to be stored and prepared for the next planting. Seeds are the spark of growth in a new season, so Autumn harvest is not just the fruit of now, but of seeds for the future.
The relationship of seasons transform into each other, cyclically bound in a dance of endless movement. Yang is at its height in summer, while Yin is the embodiment of winter. Autumn is the shift of Yang turning into Yin, as Spring is Yin blooming into Yang.
Autumn prepares us for winter by allowing Yang to shift and slow into rest. And like a stubborn teen, Yang doesn’t always want to rest. But it must, so we can begin prepare and plan for the future and allow time and space for thoughts to mature.
Winter is a time of stillness and reflection, and an ideal time for contemplation, meditation, storing energy and rest.
Internal contemplation and cultivation is rooted in the dark, dense and still, as winter allows time to plant the seeds of insight. This seed develops and grows toward the light of spring, and summer exposes it to the fullest expression of light and energy. Late Summer and Autumn prepares and allows us to harvest, as Winter gives us time to rest and replenish. As the endless cycle of Yang turning to Yin, and Yin back to Yang, as the seed of each cycle turns over and over.
Read more about Late Summer here, and stay tuned for Autumn Season Living in a few weeks…