Category Archives: Mindfulness Medicine

Fall Equinox

Today marks the beginning of fall here in the northern hemisphere. Equinoxes mark the time when the light of day and night are equal, a day of balance. After today, the days will begin to shorten as we make our approach toward winter. Here at my home in the Pacific Northwest, it feels like fall. It is quite chilly and damp. We have had a fire in our fireplace the past few nights. For some of you, the heat of summer is continuing, so it is possibly more difficult to make this transition.


Whenever the season changes, I always take time to read the corresponding chapter in one of my favorite books, Staying Healthy with the Seasonsby Elson Haas. I will give you a little bit of what he has to say about the Autumnal Equinox, as well as a few thoughts of my own.


As the days grow shorter, fall is the perfect time to finish up the projects from spring and summer and begin to turn your energy inward toward yourself, your family, and your home projects. It is an excellent time for writing, journalling, and reflecting on all you have accomplished in the previous months. It is also a good time to let go physically, energetically, and emotionally. What are you holding on to that you no longer need? Is there a habit or addiction you would like to shift? Are you holding on to negative emotions that are leaving you feeling congested? Use the energy of the changing of the season to let that stuff go!


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, fall correlates with the lungs and large intestine, all organs of transformation and detoxification. The lungs exchange and cleanse the air we breathe and are vital to life. The large intestine absorbs water and nutrients, such as sodium, and houses healthy bacteria to breakdown food and synthesize vitamins. Both can become congested due to heavy foods and unresolved emotions. Have you ever noticed that you will get a “cold” right after an emotional event? Foods such as fatty meats, over-use of dairy products, and refined foods all contribute to congestion in the lungs and large intestine.


At the equinox, it is a good idea to do a bit of a cleanse. Now, anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows well that I am not an advocate of radical “cleanses” for busy people. If you are going to take time off work and meditate every day all day while you detox, then by all means, go for it. But, if you need to continue with your regular life, simply work with the detox mechanisms already present in your body to get more energy and stamina. Some simple suggestions include the following: adding more water every day throughout the day, stopping sugar and all refined grains, increasing your intake of fresh or lightly steamed fruits and vegetables, add fresh juicing every day, increasing high fiber foods, forgiveness work, adding meditation or quiet time to your daily regimen, and/or increasing cardiovascular exercise. All of these will have a profound impact if you stick with them.


Fall equinox is a good time to begin new daily habits. Do you need a better exercise regimen? Are you taking time to sit still and be quiet every day? Or, maybe your exercise regimen is feeling too rigid and exhausting? With all the bootcamps and intense work-outs out there right now, I have seen some depleted folks. This time of year is perfect for walking/hiking, yoga, dance, and strengthening exercises; activities that nourish both the physical body and the soul. What does your body need right now? This is a good time to make that shift.


Autumn is when we celebrate the harvest and our foods begin to represent this. We turn more toward root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and onions. We begin to prepare more soups and stews. Try adding a little burdock root (sold in most health food store produce departments) to your soups. Burdock has been used historically for gut healing, blood cleansing, and as a diuretic to help with gentle detoxing.


Whatever you decide to do for yourself at the seasonal transition is great. Simply taking the time to reflect on and be grateful for all you have in your life will increase your happiness. I love what Elson Haas says at the end of the Autumn chapter:

“Eating and living habits are crucial to your well-being and important for your growth. It is time to assume total responsibility for how you feel on a day-to-day basis. Health begins with becoming aware of your energy and its balance-what you take in and what you put out. What’s important is learning to listen to yourself from the inside so you do not have to become ill to change your life. Keeping your body and mind open and clear makes the way for positive thoughts and visions, and the love from your heart will fill every part.”


Wishing you are very healthy and happy fall season!


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