The stress of slowing down

September is simply whooshing by, and while it's gray and damp again as I write this, we had a gorgeous respite yesterday - blue skies and a warm sun.

Bill and I finally got a chance to head down to one of our happy places, Longwood Gardens, where we took in the lush end-of-summer colors, including the meadow:

Bill at Longwood.jpg

Anyway...

I wrote a little last week about the Chinese Medicine characteristics of this time of year, namely, late summer, or the transition time between the seasons.

This period, roughly nine days before and after the actual seasonal change, is ideally a time of preparation for what's to come in terms of diet, activities, mindset, etc.

September 22 marks the autumn equinox for us this year.

More than just an arbitrary date, this is when the sun is directly overhead at noon on the earth's equator, and the northern and southern hemispheres are receiving the same amount of darkness and light. As we head into winter, the sun's rays are angled more directly to the southern hemisphere, hence our days here in the north become colder and shorter.

In nature, we can already see the changes, as the leaves on the trees start to darken and then lose their green altogether; more yellows and gold appear on the foliage. Flowers that are hardier in cooler weather begin to emerge: asters, goldenrod, chrysanthemums, and round fruits and vegetables, like apples and squash come into ripening.

Times of transition can be stressful.

But stress - if we think of it as a workload, or a test - is likely to reveal to us where our weaknesses are, which we can then learn to strengthen.

In our culture, we don't typically recognize the rhythmic and cyclical nature of our bodies as we can see so clearly in nature.

But as the light changes (and that's without the whole time change nonsense), the quality of the air becomes cooler and drier. We're inside more, our eating habits and activity levels change - all these things can leave us more vulnerable to colds, flu, and just feeling down and tired.

We are also not a culture that slows down when nature does, and, as our bodies are probably moving less, and breathing less deeply, our lungs and digestive systems are not as active. 

Indeed, the autumn in Chinese Medicine is associated with the emotions 'melancholy' and 'grief', and the Lungs and Large Intestine Organs become predominant.

We'll be talking about that more as fall kicks in, but in the meantime, you can start preparing for that shift in downward and inward energy - mostly by assessing and perhaps capping off your big-project list, and attending to your home space for the next week or so.

Stay tuned - next week we'll start giving you tips for sailing through a healthy autumn!