After the expansion of energy I experienced while performing with my theater company, Living Arts Playback Theater, this past week, I was fascinated to take stock on how my self–esteem has shifted over the years. During the time of post-show “contraction,” I found to my satisfaction that I no longer evaluate what I do with the same level of harshness. My beloved, Sherry Mouser, once proposed giving her “inner critic” the new job description of “quality control expert.” Maybe her idea rubbed off on me.
In generally, feelings of contraction that are self punishing often accompany this Autumn season, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine is associated with the element of Metal and the emotion of grief. This is a time of letting go and releasing, like a tree losing its leaves. The question is how might you experience times of contraction as an opportunity for discernment and, rather than experiencing only loss, allow yourself to let go in the spirit of coming home to yourself?
Vicki Dello Joio, founder of The Way of Joy: A Spiritual Fitness program, is a teacher, speaker and performing artist. Integrating over 40 years of Chi Kung practice with other martial arts as well as her work in Yoga, Feldenkreis, physical fitness and theater, Vicki has developed a dynamic set of tools to increase awareness, transform obstacles into opportunities and enhance creative potential. Book: The Way of Joy: An Evolutionary Process to Awaken Inspiration, Focus Intention and Manifest Fulfillment, CD: Short Meditations for a Busy Life.
I think of this season as “a sharpened pencil” time of year that carries a “getting ready” feeling in the air— whether in searching for the perfect back-to-school supplies, or in a growing awareness that, whether or not you like it, that the days are slowly but surely getting shorter.
Moving away from the heat of summer into the nip of Autumn reminds me that this is a time of letting go and releasing, composting what you no longer need. Like a tree losing its leaves, we too come back, on an energetic level, to our basic structure. In this way, Fall teaches us to consolidate our energy in preparation for the cold months ahead. This consolidation requires discernment, being able to make choices that are sustainable.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM) Autumn is associated with Metal. Perhaps because I grew up in New York City, where buildings were always being torn down or constructed, I often picture the bare metal framework of high-rises before they are embellished with rooms. Just as metal constitutes the bare bones of the building, Autumn represents a time when you access the bare bones of who you are, the core essence of your body/spirit.
As you might imagine, the TCM (link) emotion associated with all of this release is grief. The primary organ associated with Autumn is the lungs. Just as the wind blows through tree branches, you might find yourself letting go when you take a moment to breathe deeply and allow the feelings that arise to just move through you
The associated organ for Autumn (or the Yang partner of the Yin lungs) is the large intestine, another organ of letting go. Your large intestine rids your body of all the leftover waste material from which you extracted your nourishment. Harriet Beinfeld and Efrem Korngold write in Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese medicine, “By dispelling stale air and excreting turbid matter, the Lung and Large Intestine separate out that which we no longer desire or need.”
Here are a few tips for natural healing to support you to release of pent-up anxiety or stress.
• When you notice that you are feeling “out of sorts” either physically or emotionally, take a deep breath, then breathe out a big loud sigh of release. Let the sensation and sound of that sigh vibrate you down to your very bones.
• As you sit reading your computer screen, give yourself a little shake. Or how about standing up for just 30 seconds and shaking out your arms and legs, or bouncing a little either in your chair or standing. Be sure to keep your knees and ankles soft and pliable.
• Good cooking herbs to support you in the cooling time of the upcoming months of Autumn include: dill, fennel, thyme, ginger root, horseradish, cinnamon, cayenne, basil, and rosemary.
• Dr Linda Berry suggests that you “get out in daylight every day. Even when its not sunny you still catch enough light to stimulate the secretion of the “happy hormone” serotonin.”
• You can increase the benefits of that sun/sky stimulation by opening up your arms as you look up to embrace the sky. Welcome the day with a loud expressive sigh of “WOW”. Or, as the heart-infused Taiji Master, Chungliang Al Huang suggests, give out a nice, big “Ah-Ha!”