- Classical Acupuncture & Blazing Valley String Band

The Seasons and You

According to Chinese philosophy, there are not four seasons but five - one for each of the five elements. Seasons are times of year when one of the five elemental energies is strongest, dominating the energetic landscape. Because we have these same energies within us, the seasonal changes influence us in many ways and at all four levels of our beings - body, mind, spirit and emotions. So, when winter comes and the energy of the water element is strongest, for example, we feel not only the ways in which this influences everything outside of us, but we feel the increase in our own water element as well. As with anything in life, these effects can feel to us both positive and negative. Knowing about the seasonal effects - which, as you can see, are much, much more than weather patterns or length of day - is something which can help make your life healthier and happier.

Spring begins on the Spring Equinox (March 20). Check out what I have to say about it below.

Summer begins on the Summer Solstice (June 21). Check out what I have to say about it below.

Late Summer begins the second week of August. Check out what I have to say about it below.

Autumn begins on the Fall Equinox (September 22). Check out what I have to say about it below.

Winter began on the Winter Solstice (December 21). Check out what I have to say about it below.

 Summer, the time of maximum light, the time of celebration and enjoyment

There truly is a season for everything and summer's the season to have FUN. In fact, it's really important to your health to have as much fun as possible this time of year. Late summer's the time of ripening and sweetness, the transitional time from summer into autumn. Fall's the time for letting-go and harvesting the riches of your life. Winter's the time when you need to rest up and let your reservoirs refill. Spring's the time to get busy, wipe the sleep out of your eyes, and create a new world. And summer's the time to enjoy the fruits of all that springtime labor and that springtime busy-ness.

Summer's here and the time is definitely right for dancing - in the streets or anywhere - and for celebration. It's the season when the fire element reigns supreme, and the fire element's all about light and warmth and red and intimacy and relationships and completion and joy. And arrival. No matter what you've done or accomplished in the first part of the year, energetically this season is saying to all of us, "You've made it. It's time to celebrate that fact and to enjoy yourself." This is the time of year when what we've planted and grown in the springtime - literally or figuratively - has come to fruition and reached maturity, the place in the seasonal cycle where our springtime visions bear fruit. Summer's the great, shimmering plateau upon which we can stand and stretch to the fullest, to our points of maximum realization. The emotional expression of this energy of opening and expansion is joy and this is the season when we can most easily connect with this emotion.

There are two aspects to the fire element: warmth (of relationships) and light (of illumination). This year, it's the light aspect that dominates. Light illuminates and it's expansive. What this means is that it will be easier to see things that have been hiding in the dark, that it will be easier to connect with the emotion of joy and that we'll feel pushed to let go of old patterns and change. Some of these things will feel good and some of them - well, not so much. But the fire element, with its qualities of warmth and expansiveness, promotes something else that we can find oh-so-very helpful this summer: compassion. So try to be compassionate with yourself as we go forward into these magical days of light, warmth and joy.

Here's an enjoyable way to connect with the energy of the season: a trip through the energy of Summer with my Sun Visualization, my Heart Protector (intimate relationships) Visualization and my Three Heater (social and group relationships) Visualization.

Home Treatment: How riding the wave of summer can help you

As an acupuncturist, I bring balance and healing to my clients' energy systems. What  follows are ways that you can do the same thing for yourself. If you are receiving acupuncture at present.  Home Treatment can work syneristically with the treatment, and enhance it.

All of the ideas and suggestions that I am putting forward should be discussed with your doctor first, before putting any of them into practice.

Have fun. There's a time for work. And then there's a time to play and this is it - summer. Allow yourself the luxurious freedom, the lighthearted romping that comes with arriving somewhere. Give yourself time to enjoy yourself. If you're someone who can relax, then go ahead and do it. If you're not that great at relaxation, just make yourself happy doing whatever it is that makes you feel that way. Constantly working toward a goal or working toward one goal after another with no acknowledgement of an endpoint of your efforts and no time to enjoy the fruits of those efforts leads to a terrible sense of resignation and especially bitterness. It's hard to want to go forward in life when all we can see before us is work, work and more work. We all have certain goals and ideals of what we want to accomplish. Then there's the reality of what we are able to accomplish, given who we are and what are the circumstances of our lives. Recognizing the latter is what is called compassion. Summertime provides an opportunity to have compassion for yourself by accepting that whatever you've gotten done so far this year is what you were able to get done, and now it's time to allow yourself the pleasure of it.

Just remember: The reason that these things that I'm suggesting in this Home Treatment section will help you feel better is that they are things that will allow you to work with your very own energy system and bring your very own fire energy into balance, very similar to what I do with the needles.

Complete something. The ability to complete things is often regarded as a mark of maturity, and summer is the time when things mature - the time, for instance, when many of the fruits on the vine reach their maximum size. So maturity and completion are actually related, and right now, the energy of summer is just begging us to finish what we started. Often it's hard to complete things because the ideals we have stand in the way. Now, ideals are things that we create in the airy purity of our minds; but completing something happens on the physical realm which is another dimension entirely different from the mental one where dreams are made. Disappointment often stems from a lack of acceptance of the limitations and realities of who we are as physical beings, and it can definitely present a roadblock to completing something. Add to the list of reasons for non-completion our own level of experience or our lack of it, our fears of failure, our inability to judge how much time it takes to get things done (another problem with the mind/body interface) and our lack of confidence in ourselves, and we have a fuller understanding of why it's often difficult for many - and impossible for some - to finish what we start.

If you see yourself in the above, take a deep breath. Think of something that you know you can complete, no matter how insignificant. Perhaps it's breaking up that huge carton in the garage and putting it in the recycling. Perhaps it's responding to an email. Perhaps it's cleaning out the drawer in the kitchen. Just pick something and then do it. Your fire element will breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Relationships. In the world of energy, there is no such thing as separateness. In the world of energy, everything's connected to everything (and everyone) else and relationships, especially close or intimate ones, are one of the few ways that we human beings allow ourselves to acknowledge this reality, that we're all interconnected, like it or not. One very common issue we humans have with relationships is that it's often difficult to see who the other person is. We tend to see who we think s/he is - usually a projection of our own issues upon them, very much like a film being projected on a screen.

Here's a simple exercise: The next time you're around someone with whom you have a relationship, take a deep breath. (It helps.) Then say to yourself, "Allow me to see who this person is." If you want, you can focus in the chest area around the heart. Right now, when the energy of illumination is so strong, we have lots of help with seeing. If you're asking to see someone that you love, you allow yourself the opportunity to have the pleasure of that person, something which is often absent from long-standing relationships. Summer's the season of joy, and here's a source of it, standing right in front of you.

 Spring: The morning-time of the year

It's fast, it's green and it won't take 'no' for an answer.
Spring has arrived. Suddenly, the birds are singing their furious songs, the buds are starting to open, tender shoots are appearing all over, pushing their way up through the ground. Everything is turning green. All of a sudden, the days are longer, and you find yourself zinging awake in the morning, full of curiosity and plans. In fact, you seem to need less sleep. There's a spring (ahem!) in your step and find yourself whistling a little tune that goes up at the end. It's a new, green world, full of promise and hope and, at times, it seems you're seeing it through the eyes of a child. Springtime. It's a world without limits, it seems, and you're greeting it with a feeling of welcome.
In my 20-plus years of practicing acupuncture, I've found that spring and fall are the two most beloved of the seasons. What's not to like? I ask. Beauty, newness, order, birth, enthusiasm, hope - and green. In the spring, there's green all over - green, the color of newness, the color of healing.

Spring energy is energy that goes up. In the cycle of the seasons, winter is the nighttime of the year and spring is its morning. During winter, the planetary energy in our part of the globe has gone deep within it and so it's a time of hibernation, of waiting. But during the very last part of winter - around the beginning of March - things start to change. Below surface of the Earth, there are stirrings as the planetary energy starts to quicken, the formlessness of winter energy becomes the more focussed energy of spring and, right around the spring equinox, starts to energetically shoot out of the ground, and up into the light and the air. Thus, in the spring, we tend to feel more 'up' - our spirits lift, we feel more cheerful, our energy level goes up, our attention is drawn to the future as we make plans and decisions about what we want to create for ourselves in the coming year.

Home Treatment: How riding the wave of Spring can benefit you.

As an acupuncturist, I bring balance and healing to my clients' energy systems. What follows are ways that you can do the same thing for yourself.  If you are receiving acupuncture at present, Home Treatment can work synergistically with the treatment, and enhance it.

All of the ideas and suggestions that I am putting forth to you should be discussed with your doctor first, before putting any of them into practice.

. If you already have trouble sleeping, spring can make things worse because, again, spring is all about being awake. It's also about planning, decision-making and getting things done. It's difficult, in other words, to fall asleep and/or stay asleep when the energy is telling you to 'WAKE UP AND DO THINGS!' In Chinese medicine, the liver and gall bladder are expressions of the wood element energy - the elemental energy that predominates in the spring - and they are, respectively, our planner and our decision-maker. During the hours of 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. (midnight to 4 a.m. Daylight Savings Time), the liver and gallbladder have the most energy of any time during a 24-hour day (which is why when we say, "I can't decide. I'm going to sleep on it." we're speaking more accurately than we might know). Spring energy is an extremely vibrant and, even more importantly, creative energy and many artists and musicians love to be up during these hours because this is the time when the energy of springtime is at its daily peak and when the creative energies are the strongest and thus we have the most help in the creative process. But, when it comes to sleep, all this uproar, all this planning, decision-making and creating is not conducive to a good night's rest.

But, of course, we need sleep. It's the time of day when we do our own repair work, our own healing on ourselves. The liver and gallbladder officials are responsible for much of our healing and repair. The liver has the blueprint - the master plan - for the body, the mind, the spirit and the emotions and gallbladder is the part of us that implements these plans through its ability to make wise, informed decisions such as "We need 5 million platelets at this spot NOW." Mentally and emotionally, too, we need a break from our waking consciousness.

(1) So, if you're having trouble falling asleep, try getting into bed well before wood time starts - i.e., 15 to 30 minutes before 11 p.m. standard time or midnight daylight saving time. If you wait until after wood time starts, it'll be like trying to put the brakes on your car while stepping on the accelerator.

(2) Spring is a time when our heads tend to be filled with lists and plans and mental sticky notes saying, "Don't forget to ....". These mental gymnastics can create a lot of noise inside of us which is not the most conducive background sound for sleep. Try to make it quieter inside your brain by doing a little breathing after you get into bed and are falling asleep. If you click on this link, it will take you to an article which details and explains other forms of breathing such as alternate nostril breathing, which can usually be counted on to help shepherd the breather toward the sandy shores of sleep. It's a wonderful, expanding type of breathing that I can't say enough good things about.

(3) Before you get into bed, make things quieter inside your brain by writing down everything you want to do. Focussing in this way will reassure the liver and gallbladder officials (Think of them as two different peppy, gung-ho aspects of yourself who live to create and get things done.) that their concerns won't be forgotten.

Allergies. On a metaphysical level, allergies are the product of self-judgment and attacking of the self. Allergies, like most illnesses, get worse with dehydration, so make sure you're drinking a decent amount of water. I, personally, try for between one-half and two-thirds an ounce per pound of body weight. Allergies not only make us tired, they also worsen when we are tired, so, in the midst of the creative frenzy of springtime, make time for enough sleep. When your allergies worsen, try to determine whether your energy level is low and, if it is, take a rest, if only for a few minutes if you can.

On a non-physical level, when your allergies are making you miserable, take a moment and close your eyes. Take one deep breath. Let it out. Look within yourself (focusing in the middle of your chest helps) and try to determine whether you're in there, taking yourself to task or flogging yourself for some failure, whether it's real or imagined. If you are, take the whip or ruler out of your hand and stop beating yourself with it. Really. Compassion for the self is the best thing you can do for your health and you'd be surprised how much allowing yourself to have this 10-second interlude of self-directed kindness will help.

Anger. Each season has an emotion associated with it and spring's is anger. Now anger is an emotion that most of us have no idea what to do with. Most of us would pay good money to find The Secret: You know, how to get rid of it once and for all. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this is impossible. All possibilities exist within energy and, since we're beings of energy, the same goes for us. Also, according to Chinese medicine, the five emotions are fear, anger, joy, sympathy and grief and health means that we're able to experience each of these when they're triggered, and then, when we feel complete in this experience, moving on. Spring is the time of arousal and so, during the spring, we might find ourselves being more easily aroused to anger or we might find that it's easier to see the anger inside of us.

But, as you probably noticed, Chinese medicine considers allowing yourself to experience your own anger to be one of the pillars of health. So, during this time when our energy rises to meet the challenges of creating a new world, make a commitment to yourself to notice when your anger is being evoked. When it is, take a breath. Let it out. You may be feeling resistant to allowing yourself to wade into this very vibrant, often destructive emotion. Say to yourself, "Right now, I am angry." This - acknowledgement without judgement - is the basis of health and healing. Notice how you feel after you acknowledge your anger. You might notice yourself feeling calmer or more centered or even more frisky.

Forgiveness. Something else which is readily available to us now and which we can use to offset the arrow-like energy of anger is the energy of forgiveness. The act of forgiving is (1) the act of seeing through another person’s eyes, and (2) something which allows us to stop demanding payment for past transgressions. Spring is the time of year when we get the chance to wipe the slate clean and start over again; and the act of forgiving - ourselves or others - allows us to escape the self-perpetuating loop of anger and recrimination and to begin anew. Anger and judgment are like lines: focused, directional entities which are useful for getting things done and for moving us along from one point to another. Forgiveness allows us to take the judgments and the anger and to create something which branches away from the straight and narrow and into other dimensions. Forgiveness is thus something which expands us, for it’s something which allows us to see ourselves - and the world in which we are seeing those selves - from more than one perspective. Expanding the way we see ourselves leads us down the path toward healing, and so - as many many will tell you - forgiveness is healing. The clear and tender light of springtime gives us the ability to see ourselves, and others, as more than just one thing. It gives us the opportunity to grow beyond the boundaries of the self and to become more than what we were, to shake off the confines of the past and to ride spring's spiral of manic green energy into the future. And, when we allow ourselves to do this, when we allow ourselves to see through the eyes of another, we give ourselves a chance to explore the surging wilderness of life which lives always just outside the boundaries of what we know. When we allow ourselves to do this, even if it’s just for a moment, we give ourselves a chance to answer the wild green music playing just outside the schoolroom window, to open our eyes and the door and, like Dorothy, to go where we’ve never gone before, to see what we’ve never seen before, to be what we’ve never been before, and to heal.

So, if this sounds good to you, take 90 seconds right now. Inhale deeply, hold for the count of three, and then exhale. You can close your eyes if this helps. Bring the word 'forgiveness' to mind. Whom would you like to forgive? Yourself? Someone else? Think of what, exactly, needs to be forgiven. What did he/she/you do? Now, allow your mind or awareness to go back in time to this incident. Ask to see it through the eyes of the other person - which may mean seeing it through the eyes of who you were then. Forgiveness does not mean that what happened was OK. It's not about invalidating your response to the situation. It's just about healing the past by expanding how you see it now. Allow yourself to look through the eyes of this other person - or this other you - for five breaths. Open your eyes. If you want, you can now take 60 seconds to reflect on your experience of forgiveness.

Structure. The energy of springtime is, among other things, an energy of structure. As I mentioned earlier, spring is a time of planning and what is a plan but a structure that allows you to create something? Some of us regard the idea of organization and structure with horror, feeling that to structure our lives is to snuff out everything that is wild and creative and expressive within us. Others gasp in horror at the idea of living a life without it. The idea here is to strike a balance. Organization and structure can be supportive, like our skeletal systems, and can bring a sense of harmony and flow to our lives that might be missing if, on a daily basis, it takes us 15 minutes to locate a pair of clean underwear. On the other hand, a rigid approach to structuring our lives can create a life that's more like a prison.

So, during this spring, this time when the energy of the planet rises up in a way that makes structure more possible, take time to look at your ideas about this subject. Because of its hierarchical, prioritizing nature, structure tends to incur some of the same rebelliousness that the concept of authority does, and so, if this sounds like you, try to look honestly at your reactions and attempt to determine whether you're denying yourself the comfort, support and esthetics that a reasonably-ordered life can offer in order to prove something. If, on the other hand, a more well-ordered life sounds attractive to you but you're just hopelessly bad at it, make a commitment to yourself to get some help with it. And if you're so overly structured that it's curtailing your freedom of movement, try to find a way to loosen just one little area of your hyper-organized life. Put off, for example, doing the dishes until after you've sat and enjoyed an after-dinner activity instead of leaping onto the dishes as soon as the last forkful of food is consumed. Two of the physical expressions of the energy of springtime are the tendons and ligaments, tissues that govern our flexibility. So take time, during this season of renewal and promise, to stretch your literal and figurative tendons and ligaments and open up to flexibility on all levels. Make space for the vision and creativity that is there, within you.

Celebrate the spring equinox. Right around March 21st - give or take a day - we have the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. Equinoxes are days when the number of hours of light equals the number of hours of dark. These are two of the nodes of the yearly cycle of the seasons (the solstices being the other two) and commemorating them deepens your feeling of connection to the physical reality and to beautiful, glorious, scary, wonderful, entrancing, seductive Mother Nature. It's also something that supports health. And balance. One year, my husband and I formed a little group with a few other people and, on the solstices and equinoxes, we'd sally forth into the night and come up with a way to celebrate them. For the winter solstice, we stood in a pear orchard under a partial moon and held hands. For the spring equinox, we floated a tiny raft we'd made out of twigs down the American River while singing "People Have the Power" by Patti Smith. (It made sense at the time.) I can't remember the others, but what I do remember is how much good it did me - and still does. There's no right or wrong way to celebrate this day. Just make it your own. Don't worry about looking idiotic - just let yourself go crazy and have some fun.

A spring exercise: healing and politics. Spring is a rambunctious time. The planetary energy, awakened from the soupy dreaminess of winter, has pulled itself together and is now shooting up from the ground and out into the light and the air. And it’s doing it with gusto. It’s a time of structure, of focus and vision and goals and the kinds of plans and decisions which allow those goals to be realized, the kind of plans and decisions which allow us to create. It’s the time of year when the energy of opposites and, more importantly, opposition (!!) is at its peak - a time of black and white, yes and no, good and bad, up and down. Add to all of this the fact that the emotional expression of these things is anger, and what you have is not a season that supports placidity, contentment and quietude but a time that’s vital, loud, dynamic and, in some ways, precariously close to blowing up.

    Which brings me to the subject of politics.   more ...

 Winter, a time of rest and replenishment

In the cycle of the seasons, spring is the morning-time of the year, the time of newness and growth. Summer's the party when we get to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of our labors. Late summer is the transitional time between summer an fall, the time of ripening when we get to receive the nourishment of those fruits. Autumn/fall is the time of the harvest, the time when we get to reap the riches and richness of that harvest and the time to let go that which no longer serves us. And winter is the nighttime of the year, the time of quiet and simplicity, the time of philosophizing and thoughtfulness, the time when we get to rest and sleep and dream.

So, when you think of it in this way, in the context of the yearly cycle, winter sounds pretty good, yes? So why do most people dislike it so much?

Nights are cold(er) and dark, and, in the seasonal ecology, so is winter. We humans really don't like cold and dark that much. It scares us. Most of us feel more comfortable with warmth and sun. There's an uneasiness that we experience in winter, a kind of primitive fear: Will the days of warmth and light really return? And, in fact, just as anger is an expression of springtime, and grief is an expression of fall; just as joy is an expression of summer energy and sympathy is an expression of late summer's, fear is an expression of the cold, dark, contracted energy of winter - an energy known as the water element. So, just as we tend to connect most easily with joy in the summer, we find ourselves sliding all-too-readily into fear in the winter.

Winter's the time of hibernation. And during the winter, the planet, too, is hibernating. Its energy, to which we're all connected, has gone deep within it and is much less available to us. The result of this is that most of us feel much more tired in the winter - yet another feature which does not endear this season to us. And winter is the time of waiting. It's the time between the poignant letting-go of fall and the vibrant green "GO!!!" of spring. It's the time when the world seems to stop and catch its breath. Because of its cold, contracted, inward, tranquil, reflective nature, the energy of winter favors waiting and resting rather than doing and accomplishing. In other words, in the depths of winter, there's not a lot of support for starting something new. No, this is a season that supports resting and waiting and having thoughts. Waiting is yet another thing that we rarely look upon with eager anticipation, but it's something that allows us to do that which is very important in the cycle of the seasons - gather our potential, accumulate our resources and store up for the coming year so that, when the time comes to act, to move, to come bursting forth in the spring, we will have enough energy to do so. And that potential which we have carefully allowed to accumulate in the winter, that potency has the ability to carry us forward like an enormous wave. Another word for this energy of accumulated potential is motivation. Motivation is the wave of unstoppable energy that carries us out of the waiting phase and into action. It's energy that allows the little seed buried deep within the Earth to realize, "The time is NOW." and then to burst open and begin its brave journey upward through the crusty earth and into the light and the air, ready for anything, ready to start anew.

Home Treatment: How surfing the waters of winter can benefit you.

As an acupuncturist, I bring balance and healing to my clients' energy systems. What follows is ways that you can do the same thing for yourself. If you are receiving acupuncture treatment at present, these things can work synergistically with the treatment and enhance it.

All of the suggestions put forth here should be discussed with your doctor  before putting them into practice.

Make resting a priority. Most of us feel noticeably more tired in the winter. Why is this? Well, just like us, the Earth has its own energy system with its own characteristic ebbs and flows. We're all hooked into the Earth's energy system and are continually being fed by it; but, in the winter, the Earth energy in our part of the globe hibernates, going deep within it and the stream of energy that is feeding us slows down to a trickle. We're being fed less energy and so we have less energy. It's that simple. And, again, winter is the night-time of the year. So allowing yourself to rest up and replenish your stores of energy is essential to health. If we don't get a good night's sleep, we're not going to feel that good or be that effective the next day. If we extrapolate this daily cycle to a yearly one, we can see that, if we don't replenish our stores during the winter, our health will suffer during the coming year.

So, ask yourself: "What would my life look like if I made resting a priority?" Try to be aware of your judgements about needing sleep. A significant portion of the American populace are sleep-deprived, probably because we're a nation founded upon the concept of forging new frontiers and making one's mark; but sleep is something that our bodies need to stay healthy (There's a 'calcium cascade', very important to hear health, that takes several hours of sleep to complete.), to look beautiful (It's not called 'beauty sleep' for nothing: When we sleep, the tissues of our faces are bathed in fluid, which keeps them looking young and radiant.) and, even more importantly to my mind, to feel happy.

Here are a few suggestions: (1) Try to avoid the temptation to think in terms of the ideal - i.e., what you 'should' be doing - and think compassionately (i.e., objectively) about what is possible, what you will actually do given your schedule and temperament. (2) Try to get 15 or 30  minutes more of sleep a night, for instance. Or (3) let yourself sleep in as long as you can on your day off. (4) Take the opportunity now to take on as few new projects and commitments as possible. Rest up. Get ready for spring. Give yourself a chance to really be bright-eyed when the middle of March rolls around. (5) Put your feet up, figuratively or literally, when you feel you need a break and give yourself 5 or 10 minutes. Have a drink of water or a snack. The time of day when the energy of the water element is strongest is from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Standard Time, so this is a good time to take a break.

Balance resting with doing: The image of the reservoir and the stream. Winter’’s a time of stillness, yet it’’s also a dynamic time because it’’s a time of flow. It’’s a time of waiting, yet also a time when the ability to wait allows us to replenish our reservoirs, collect our resources and regain our strength and potency. The energy of this time of year is urging us to sit down and rest, to get more sleep and let our reservoirs fill up. But water that sits still for too long becomes stagnant, and this brings us back to the concept of flow. It’’s important to let water move in order to keep it pure and clean and clear. In other words, balance your rest with activity and your activity with rest. A really excellent way to keep your energy flowing is to exercise. And exercise actually acts to increase your energy. If you’’re not already in the habit of exercising, start with something mild such as walking or yoga. If you’’re already an exerciser, try to listen to your body. Tune into what it’’s saying, whether you think it should be saying it or not. It may be telling you that you need to exercise less strenuously or for shorter periods of time or fewer days of the week than you do during the rest of the year. Remember, it's all about balance - in this case, balancing resting with doing.

By urging you to balance your activity with rest, I’’m not suggesting that you turn into a slug. Just remember that winter is not the time for sustained, strenuous activity. So reorganize those closets but listen to yourself while doing it. You may find that you need a nap in the midst of doing it or that it will take you two weeks to complete the task instead of one. It’’s very important not to use up all your available energy. Think of it in banking terms: This is the time of year to accrue interest, not to spend it. And it’’s certainly not the time to even think of spending your principal. So do less, stay home more, and ask less of yourself. Winter is the night-time of the year, so resting and replenishing should be the main priority right now. Remember that balance is not an endpoint. Balance is not something that you can set and then forget. It’’s a process because life is –– dynamic, every-changing, unpredictable. Thus, what you did to come to that seesaw point of balance in the past probably won’’t work in the future. Trying to have balance in your life –– in this case, balancing doing with resting –– means learning to be a healer to yourself.

Take time to reflect.
This is the time of the water element. Water is a neutral substance. Its neutrality urges us to look at ourselves and our lives in the same way that we’’d watch the reflection of clouds moving over the surface of a pond –– without judgment, as the movement of energy, as something that exists and does not demand justification or explanation. Winter's, therefore, the time when we can get a break from our technicolor world and all the drama that goes with it (of which I, personally, am a huge fan). This is a soupy time, a time when our mental processes are less clear-edged and more liquid. It’’s a time when the sharp clarity of structured thoughts breaks up and dissolves, so it’’s a time when we can find ourselves having trouble staying focused or making big decisions.

Winter's also the time for reflection. Because it’’s the time of the water element, it's also the time of the energy of the still, calm pond whose surface reflects like a perfect mirror. The water element is also the energy of the philosopher; it’’s a very mentally-focused energy. And so this is a time when the energy of the season encourages us to let our thoughts play over the mirror surface of our consciousness and to see them as the reflections of clouds floating over the pond. Indeed, water energy is truth-seeking energy. Truth, according to the dictionary, is ““the conformity to the requirements of one’’s being or nature””. So, in the stillness of wintertime, we have the opportunity to reflect upon the requirements of our being, our nature, upon the truth of who we are, upon our essential being. Spring is the time of action, summer the time for fun and enjoyment, late summer the time for satisfaction, and fall is the time for harvesting our riches. And winter is the time to reflect.

So give yourself a few minutes here or there to be reflective. You can bring that image of the still, calm pond to mind and think of the surface of the pond as your consciousness and the reflections of the clouds or the sky or the birds flying over it as your thoughts. Or you can just put your feet up, lean back and let the events of the day or the month or the year play through your consciousness.

Doing, not-doing and faith in the self.
In our culture, we tend to value doing and creating, and these are wonderful, wonderful energies. I highly applaud them. AND they need to be balanced by not-doing and couch-potatoing. The mind, like the body, needs time to replenish; it needs a break from the structured and discerning kind of mental activity that characterizes the energy of most of the rest of the year. So right now when the energy of the still, calm pond is strongest, give yourself some time to do nothing, even if it's just a few minutes here and there. Most of us adults think of this as being lazy. And I say to that, "Yes! BE lazy!" And then I would again reference the fact that this is the night-time of the year, after all. How great do you feel, after all, when you don't get a full night's sleep? How much do you ask yourself to get done while sleeping?  Think of it this way: The more you give yourself over to the cool, blue, restful energy of winter, the hotter your summer will be because, when that wheel turns 180 degrees and we find ourselves on the salsa deck of summer, our energy systems will embrace summer’’s interaction eagerly instead of saying, ““Party-time again? I’’m too tired."

Fall: A time of inspiration and letting-go 

Seasons are times of year when the energy of one of the five elements - water, wood, fire, earth or metal - predominates over the other four. Since we, as beings of energy, have these same energies within us, this means that we feel this very much within our bodies, our minds, our spirits and our emotions. We feel different in different seasons, yet because we and the world are both very complex, we're not always attuned to these differences.One of the most wonderful things about knowledge of the seasonal effects is that their energies are like currents that we can ride for our benefit. Conversely, because all of life is an interplay between things we see as negative as well as things we see as positive, knowing how the seasons affect you can help you mitigate - or at least identify - the negative and accentuate the positive. And clarity always reduces suffering.

So, what is autumn/fall all about?

First of all, fall is the time of year - from the autumnal equinox around September 21st until the winter solstice, around December 21st - when the metal element predominates over the other four. (In Chinese medicine, there are five seasons, late summer being the fifth.) The metal element is expressed here on planet Earth as the rocks and ores, the gemstones, both precious and semiprecious, and the metals, precious and otherwise. So the resonance of the metal element is that of worth and value. But the element that encompasses that which is heaviest and densest also encompasses its opposite: that which is the most ephemeral and weightless - the sky, clouds and air. (Remember, the concept of yin and yang is Chinese: that opposites are merely two faces of the same coin.) The metal element is father energy. We look down to our mother, the Earth, for support, and we look up to the heavens, our father, for guidance and a sense of our own quality and worth as beings.

Fall is the time for inspiration. Within us, the lungs and the colon (large intestine) are some of the many expressions of our own metal energy. (Other expressions are the skin - also known as the third lung - the emotion of grief and the sense of smell, to name a few.) So the lungs are a physical-level expression of this energy, while inspiration is a non-physical expression of it. Inspiration is the physical act of breathing in and receiving air into the lungs, but being inspired, of course, is something experienced on the mental, emotional and/or spirit levels. Fall is the time of year when the energy of inspiration is strongest. It's the time of year when we make an assessment of what we value and want to hold on to and what no longer works for us and needs to be let go of and recycled. It's the time of year when we contemplate emptiness (fall cleaning!) and its value, for it's often difficult, or impossible, to feel inspired when you're surrounded by all those things you've wanted to let go of but haven't because it seems too overwhelming or too frightening. We're often afraid of emptiness, but emptiness is the crucible of inspiration while clutter is its enemy. And emptiness does not have to mean feeling cut off. There's a type of emptiness that allows us to feel connected and inspired, and that's one of the great gifts of this time of year. All of the seasons (and their corresponding) elements resonate with a certain color: The wood element (spring) is green, while the fire element (summer) is red. The earth element (late summer) is yellow or gold, while the water element (winter) is blue or black. And the color of the metal element and its season of autumn is white, a beautiful, pearlescent shimmering white, the white of reflected light. So, as you go into this season of riches and richness, of emptiness and the feeling of connectedness and inspiration that goes with it, think of a vaulted room that is infinitely big, like the apse of a cathedral or the inside of a lung. It's a space that's filled with this wonderful, marvelous, pearly-white color. Think of standing within this space, in this emptiness that's filled with light, and allowing yourself to take large, deep breaths of the pure air that's filling up this space and to experience the reality of your existence: That no matter where you are, you're connected - in this instance, through the lungs and the air that is continuous from inside of you to outside of you - to the Oneness of everything. This is the essence of inspiration. This is the essence of the metal element and its season of fall.

Home Treatment: How riding the wave of Autumn can benefit you.

As an acupuncturist, I bring balance and healing to my clients' energy systems. What follows are ways that you can do the same thing for yourself.  If you are receiving acupuncture at present, Home Treatment can work synergistically with the treatment, and enhance it.

CAUTIONARY NOTE: All of the ideas and suggestions that I am putting forth to you should be discussed with your doctor first, before putting any of them into practice.

Stay hydrated.
The lungs really, really, really do not like dryness. So drink enough water (Check with your M.D. I usually tell my clients to drink a minimum of two quarts a day if they’re adults with no medical problems such as circulatory system or kidney disease.) and think about humidifying the air in your bedroom or work space part of the time you’re in there.

Exercise in a way that gets your heart rate going - walk, run, bike, swim, walk on a treadmill, use a rowing machine, do ballet barre exercises, take a dance class, etc. This hastens the rate of gaseous exchange in the lungs, cranks up the level of energy there, and makes life look a lot more enticing by upping your level of inspiration. Fall is the time of year when our level of energy begins to wane in earnest (The first part of this season is technically autumn; fall is when the leaves start to, well, fall.), and so you may find yourself wanting to slow down a little - for instance, you may find that you want to walk at a slower pace. This is fine. Listening to yourself and trying to give yourself what you need is part of becoming your own healer. So, for instance, you may find that you want to walk slowly for an hour or 45 minutes instead of at the brisk pace you maintained during spring and summer. Being physical through regular moderate exercise that makes you feel good helps balance the extremely mental aspect of the energy of the metal element and prevents your body from becoming a stalk on which to carry your head around.

Allow yourself to experience and express grief when it comes up. Grief is an emotion that acknowledges the beauty and preciousness of something while at the same time letting go of it. It’s not depression and it’s not really sadness which I define as lack of joy. Sadness, lack of joy, is a collapse. But grief is not a collapse or a lack of anything. It’s an active, full-bodied outpouring of appreciation and valuing of something coupled with the sorrow of having to let go of it. Right now, when the energies of the metal element and the lungs and colon are strongest, you might find yourself suddenly and inexplicable moved to tears. Let yourself express it, if possible. Allow yourself to enter the great hall of grief. Emotions are like winds, and winds need to blow. So let them.

Allow yourself to have a harvest. I can’t stress this enough. Creating and achieving are wonderful, wonderful energies and activities; but, like everything else, constant creating and doing and achieving and getting, when they’re not balanced by passive things like mentally assessing and receiving, can not only wear you out but create a kind of spirit-level resignation. Why go forward when there’s only work, work and more work to look forward to? Plus, all that constant creating can cause quite an energy bottleneck when there’s no time set aside for winnowing out the chaff, and discarding it while holding on to the wheat.

What do I mean by ‘harvest’? Take a moment and ask yourself, What have I created in my life that I now, at this moment, find precious? To us beings that are human, the physical reality is extremely precious. It’s something that we value and it’s often the standard by which we judge ourselves and our progress. So, if your answer to the above question has to do with what you’ve created on the physical level, good for you. But we’re also creatures of mind, emotions and spirit as well; so now ask yourself again, What have I created in my life that I now, at this precise moment in my life, find precious? Try to go beyond the very important physical level to the equally important mental and spirit levels. These are the levels of being that sustain us through the times when things on the physical level aren’t working out. Yes, it’s very possible that you’ve had a bad year or a bad few years. It’s very possible that you haven’t accomplished what you set out to or that you’ve endured - or are still enduring - a financial disaster or an extreme challenge to your health. And it’s important, and necessary to health, not to devalue or invalidate these realities. But try to resist the urge to find yourself lacking. The light of the metal element is the light by which we evaluate, the light by which we assess the worth of things. Try not to allow your internal assessor to finds yourself valueless and punish you by denying yourself the fulfillment of the harvest. Even if it’s something very small, even if it’s not something for which you’re directly or solely responsible - allow yourself to be the recipient. Allow yourself to breathe it in. And then, throughout the season, give yourself a moment here or there to receive, to let the energy of the metal element flow into you, whether it’s through looking up at the sky (After all, it is sky-watching season.), taking in the colors of a liquidamber or a maple, or acknowledging the ways in which others add worth and meaning to your life. The taste of the metal element and of this time of year is the spicy taste. I think of spices as the gemstones of the culinary world. So eat some spicy food; give your taste buds some richness (some gold, silver, jade and pearls) but give your mind, your emotions, and your spirit some as well.

Recycle. We can throw things away but we really can't get rid of them. But we can recycle. This is what I mean when I say: Throw something out. As human beings, we love the physical. It’s our favorite. So it’s important to empty our nests, our desks, our cars, our purses and backpacks of all those extraneous, out of date, used and now useless things with which they’re cluttered. Even if you are incredibly busy, give yourself five minutes to clean out a drawer, a very small drawer, a purse or that little basket into which you’re thrown everything over the past four years. It will make you feel much better and release some of the logjam in your physical and energetic realities. Plus, doing this will activate your mental, emotional and spirit-level processes of letting go and create more flow on those levels as well.

An exercise in letting-go.
Take 60 seconds right now and close your eyes. Imagine yourself as a mountain. See its triangular shape superimposed over you, its peak superimposed upon your head and its base upon your feet. There may be snow at its top. Now, with your eyes closed, imagine that everything that no longer works for you, everything that no longer serves, everything that is worn out and needs to be replaced - whether it’s physical, mental, emotional or spiritual - is falling down the sides of the mountain while everything that you want to keep, all that still has value to you, is stationary and glowing. See all that you’re letting go of as heavy, draining down from you, from all parts of you, from your cells while all that you’re holding on to is light, weightless. Watch it flow for a breath and notice how it does so with such ease that it’s like a liquid answering the call of gravity. As it flows down your mountainous sides, see it returning back to the Earth. Try to notice your judgments about all the effluent, about all that you’re letting go of. Does it seem disgusting to you? Icky? Or does it seem neutral, neither good nor bad? If you’re having a negative reaction to it, try to allow yourself to see it in a neutral way. Try to remember that everything decays and returns to the great bosom of our mother the Earth, and it’s there that garbage, trash, filth and excrement eventually becomes nourishment for the luminosity and promise of new life. Take another breath and again see whatever is draining away and down you is heavy and dull like the earth; see it moving down you with the ease of water off a mountain’s back. At the same time, see that all that you want to keep - all that still works for you - as light and sparkling. Take a final breath and acknowledge the service and value of the effluent and garbage and the preciousness of what you’re holding on to. Now open your eyes.

Set aside 1 to 5 minutes a day to do some breathing.
Of course, we're breathing all the time. But since this is the time of year of the lungs and inspiration, giving yourself a minute or five to focus on your breath is a treatment for your metal element.

The simplest is to sit with your spine straight and listen to the sound of your breath. This is inherently an act of self-acknowledgment without judgment, which is the basis of healing. Your breath sounds are unique to you, like a fingerprint, and listening to yourself as you rhythmically integrate into your surroundings is something that most of us usually do without finding fault with ourselves

You can light a candle or sit in a darkened room or you can just sit wherever you find yourself and do this.

If you click on this link, it will take you to an article which details and explains other forms of breathing such as alternate nostril breathing, which, as far as I'm concerned, is indispensable when working with your own energy system. It's the healing equivalent of one-stop shopping.

 Late Summer, a transitional time of sweetness, satisfaction and breaking down

In Chinese medicine, there are actually five distinct seasons, not four. The fifth one - about which I've written a book - is late summer (also known sometimes as Indian summer), the time of year when the energy of the earth element prevails. It's the time of year when things ripen and, because ripening is the process by which starch molecules break down into their component sugars, late summer's a time when our lives break down in readiness for the cleansing farewell of autumn. So it's a time of sweetness but it's also a time when our lives can feel as though they're coming apart at the seams because, in actuality, they are. It's also a time of transition. For late summer's the bridge between the warm, red excitement of summer and the cool return-to-within that is fall. Late summer, with its sweetness and its abundance - for in the seasonal cycle, it's the time of year when Mother Earth showers us with her gifts - makes this transition possible. And easier, cushioning the blow for us like a loving mother who gives to us and cares for us. In fact, the energy of the earth element is an energy of needs and neediness, of taking care of and being taken care of, and this is the time of year which asks us to contemplate our bodies and their needs.

∞  Check back later this year for more.  ∞
Late Summer begins at the beginning of the second week of August.