Stop eating salad, a quick video, and other tips for syncing up with fall

Last week I did something rash. I totally abandoned my list of all the things I had to do for my business because it just felt like torture. I didn’t blow off the day and binge on Netflix; I got in touch with my deeper goals: why do I bother doing any of this stuff? It’s because Chinese Medicine has all this amazing deep (and sometimes really obvious) wisdom that can help you enjoy better energy and health on all levels — but unless you’re in acupuncture school, you’re probably not learning. So I made this two-and-a-half minute video for you instead. Check it out, and watch it with someone you love. Then read on for more practical ways to align with the qi of fall.

In Chinese Medicine, the energy of each season resonates with a particular organ system of the body, an emotion, and a faculty of the mind.

Autumn is a transitional season between the extreme yang of summer and the deep yin of winter (yang is the hot, active, outward, bright; yin is the cold, still, inward, dark). As the weather turns colder, and the exciting buzz of summer dies down, you may notice you’re more inclined to draw inward. It’s natural to crave a bit more time alone, as well as more rest, or even feel a little sad. This is the yang of summer moving towards the yin of winter. See?

Stop eating salad. Yes, you read that correctly. Vegetables are wonderfully cooling and detoxifying, but they can be too cold as the temperature drops. So you’re better off cooking your veggies and greens instead. Make soup to increase the water content of your meal to counter the dryness of the season. Eat a bit more of the sour taste — can you feel how just imagining eating a bit of lemon or an olive will make your mouth water, as well as make your lips pucker? Like the season itself, the taste of sour pulls inward. If you’re still doing green smoothies, make sure they’ve got plenty of fresh ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric to warm them up.

Start eating roots: Plants are pulling their resources downward and inward: think of the root vegetables that are in season: carrots, beets, yams, sweet potatoes, and things that grow on the ground, like squashes and pumpkin.

. . . And fruits: To combat the dryness of fall, enjoy seasonal fruits like apples and pears, which moisten and cool. You’ll notice both of these have white flesh, which corresponds with the Lungs and Large Intestine, the organs of the season.

. . . And white vegetables like cauliflower, bok choy, zucchini, and mushrooms.

. . . And foods that nourish yin: like pretty much any bean or legume, eggs, butter, nuts and seeds, and cheese (only if you happen to digest it well—most people don’t).

Be like the trees that let go of their leaves and pull their sap downward and inward to prepare for winter. This process emblemizes discernment: knowing what has served its purpose and can therefore be shed, versus what is essential to hang onto. Fall is a great time to examine your values, and whether or not your actions line up with who you want to be. What do you value most? Are your daily habits in line with that? What is one thing you could do differently to make your actions and values more congruent?

Consider what thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, habits, projects, relationships, and things lying around your house no longer serve you, or need to be upgraded. What could you let go of in favor of new input that’s more in alignment with the person you are becoming? Are you surrounded by stuff you don’t use, or that you don’t need anymore? Time to give it away. Is your morning coffee and bagel really serving you, or would you be better off going to bed earlier so you’re not craving caffeine and empty carbs for energy? Are there ways of relating to your loved ones that really aren’t working for you anymore? If so, it’s a great time to re-negotiate how you connect with those people. Or perhaps that person is yourself: is it time to let go of believing you have to look a certain way, reply to every email and do every last dish before you allow yourself rest, or that any future circumstance is required for you to be happy?

Practice catching yourself in thoughts that no longer serve you. Replace them with a thought that is more true. With repeated practice, you re-wire your brain so those old thoughts aren’t so automatic. It takes work at first, like carving a new trail through the woods, but the more you do it, the more the new neuro-pathway becomes the clear and obvious one.

Here’s what I’ve been letting go of:

Believing that I’m always behind. Which is a huge, ever-present source of stress for me. My husband, Jeremy, an engineer with project management experience, encouraged me to write down all the projects I have underway and how the timelines for each overlapped (these are called Gant charts, apparently). When I saw it all written out, I just laughed. I was able to see how absurd my expectations were. So I revised the plan. I’ve been making lists of what I actually have accomplished, and giving myself credit for the small steps, instead of just berating myself for what’s still not done.

Leading with force / self-will. Like the day I made the video, I still got something done, but it felt far kinder and way more fun.

Staying up too late. Getting to bed early always helps me to let go of sugar, both helping my immune system and making everything in my day go easier.

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