Li Qiu A Time of Turning Within
We are entering into one of my favorite seasons here in the Pacific Northwest. Longterm residents know that the best time to visit here is August and September, because it is when our best weather arrives and ‘stays a spell.’ We are blessed with sunshiny cloudless skies, cooler nights and bright warm days until October. Sometimes if we are lucky, it lasts through October. For most Northwesterners we embrace this season because we know there will come a time of change. A time when the warmth and brightness of the sun will fade and give way to darker days and coldest night. Not a pleasant thought BUT that is what makes the next 10 weeks so precious to those of us who call this beautiful area, home.
I bring this up, because to the ancient Chinese and Japanese (those who are the roots of our medicine), nature was there to guide us in our lives. To mirror, simulate and embody what the world was doing was something to be in harmony with. To be in sync with those dynamics was considered the best way to ward off ill health and, in turn, stay healthy.
Li Qiu (Autumn’s Beginnings)
In Ancient China and Japan (and true here in the PNW today) the harvest season began around this time. It was a time of preparation and storage. The plants and animals in nature were getting ready to hibernate or migrate, both of which require enormous amounts of energy to be stored. Nature is preparing for a state of long rest through a flurry of last minute preparations and action (harvesting & storing).
This is a critical time in our health as we must prepare for that tough transition between Summer and Winter. Our bodies are at their most susceptible during the Autumn and Spring when nature is in transition between wakefulness and retreat. For those of us in practice, we see a dramatic increase in colds, flus, and injuries during this season because of this energetic tug-of-war happening in nature and our bodies.
The doctors of their time observed and wrote down guides to help identify practices that correlated to seasons so that there was aid in determining the best habits for each segment of the year. This is Jie Qi. The calendar year divided into 24, fifteen day segments, each with a corresponding name and dominating energetic. Each Jie Qi has a guiding recommended practice in diet, self care and activity to keep oneself in unison with nature and hence remain healthy. It is of this that I write to you about today.
At this part of summer, we still see heat during the day and increasingly cooler nights in contrast. Eating lighter foods and meals is important to help the body be agile in this moment when changes are constant. This ensures that digestion will remain strong and that circulation continues to nourish every part of our body. Good digestion and circulation are cornerstones to maintaining health in most healing traditions.
Important principles to keep in mind no matter which Jie Qi we find ourselves in include the following;
SLEEP: Follow the sun in waking and sleeping. Right now the sun (and hence the day) is retreating. The best possible practice is to go to bed at sunset and wake at sunrise. But here in the PNW, once winter is full on, we’d be awake only 8 hours and that is not what is being asked of us. But it is the idea that during Autumn and Winter we sleep a little longer and in Spring and Summer we are awake a little longer that is the key idea here to put into our daily practice.
DIET: Eat what is seasonal. Since our food is sourced around the world we can have just about anything we want, anytime of the year. But it was considered to be in harmony with nature to eat only what was locally grown, ripe and fresh. Each season has a dominant flavor profile that is considered helpful during its time.
LIFESTYLE: Activity level and types should also reflect the level of energy seen in nature. In Winter and Fall, high intensity, energetic activities give way to more inward focused and intentional movement. We see examples of that today in Yoga, Qi Gong, core training, & Tai ji. In Summer and Spring, those would give way to modern examples of more intense energetic workouts.
Specific diet and lifestyle adjustments for the next 15 days while in Liu Qiu should be as follows:
Diet: Eat light foods that are easier to digest but have high nutrient density. Avoid cold and uncooked vegetables. If you must eat raw vegetables let them come to room temperature as it is easier on your digestion.
Keep to local, organic and in-season fruits and vegetables. Foods that are hydrating, nourishing, bland, slightly salty or sour in flavor are great additions to your diet. Examples of these are apples, pears, cucumber, pineapples, nuts, legumes, seaweed, kiwi, mango, celery, cauliflower, potatoes, corn, etc. All of these foods help support good digestion function, temperature regulation, circulation and lung function; which by the way celery stalk and celery heart soup stock is an excellent lung immune fortifier and for supporting water metabolism.
I also recommend drinking white tea with orange blossom water, in moderation. It helps maintain lung health and liver function. It is also supports digestion as an excellent digestif. Foods to avoid at this time are anything heavy, greasy and spicy.
Lifestyle: Start to go to bed a little earlier each night, even just 15 minutes helps signal to the body that you are winding down your activity mirroring the natural world. Waking a little later is also good. This helps set your system to a circadian rhythm in sync with your body’s natural melatonin cycle, critical for healthy sleep. Be sure to be prepared for the slightly cooler nights by covering your neck and shoulders and wherever else you easily feel the cold. This is critical for immune regulation. Lastly, begin to transition your workout routines to include more and more time doing inward focused exercises like yoga, qi gong and tai ji or even core training. Easing off high-intensity workouts is also a good strategy. Exercise that encourages heavy sweating can deplete vital resources and minerals your body needs during this “harvesting and storing” jie qi time.
As with anything, it is not dramatic and drastic changes that need to happen, but more balanced and harmonizing approaches to life, that is most important. Your body is unconsciously reacting to the changing light and climate occurring incrementally. By making small changes and lifestyle adjustments you can help the body through this transition time and be in a better, healthier position when the season of Autumn and eventually Winter is full-on upon us.
Aermid Acupuncture is here should you need any support during this seasonal Jie qi. It is common to see colds, flus, respiratory conditions, insomnia, and physical injuries from high intensity workouts during this time. Part of this is because the body is not able to be as resilient with all of the changing demands. Aermid acupuncture can help you with whatever is your ailment or condition, using acupuncture, herbal medicine and other time tested techniques to help you recover and feel better faster. To book an appointment follow this link: https://aermidacupuncture.janeapp.com