Aligning with Autumn

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It’s clearly Autumn now in the Pacific Northwest. The past few days have been warm and sunny and the nights chilly. It seems like the change in temperature has been abrupt after having such a long stretch of gorgeous summer sun.

I felt really cold the first few days until it clicked that I needed to adjust my food choices to reflect the fact that summer was fading and autumn was sliding into its place. Now I am feeling all warm and nourished.

Let’s talk five-transformations theory for a minute. Energetically, autumn is considered in the metal element. It is a time of year where energy gathers toward the center. We have been through the expansiveness of summer and the gentle downward energy of late-summer. Now we are in the harvesting and gathering phase. We don’t need the light, cooling foods of summer. We need foods that will bring our energy inward and help strengthen us and keep us warm.

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In terms of specific foods, this includes root vegetables, brown rice, white beans. Cooking styles include long-cooked stews, longer cooked vegetables dishes and pressure cooking brown rice. You can start using a little more salt and stronger miso in your soup, just don’t overdo it!

Foods that aren’t as appropriate are those related to summer and more expansive energy like red lentils, corn, summer squash, raw foods, tomatoes and especially tropical foods.

Here are some ways I help my own body adjust:

Reduce fruit and raw food consumption. These foods tend to be cooling and detoxifying to the body. They have a more expansive energy that is lovely for summer, but not appropriate when you are needing to warm up. If I eat some of my local fruit, I try to cook it by poaching or making sauces and compotes.

Consume vegetables and fruit that are growing in my climate. In the PNW this means winter squash, hearty greens, crucifers, root vegetables, pears, apples and plums.

Make more long cooked dishes. Cook hearty stews, longer cooked kinpira and nishime.IMG_20130227_143120

Increase thick and hearty soups.

Limit cold foods and beverages.  I already try to limit ingesting cold things, but sometimes I can’t avoid it. I bought a juice today and saw the person making it take my fresh juice and pour it over ice before straining it and handing it to me. Achh!

Centering Activities. Meditation and deep breathing are great year round, but especially at this time of year. Also, make sure you are sleeping a little more and slowing down if your body is asking for rest. Yesterday I did this short hara/3rd chakra meditation and realized it was great for bringing awareness to my core. It’s a really nice way to focus on building our internal flame to help guide us through the darkness ahead.

As soon as I changed my diet, I started feeling warmer almost immediately. I feel a distinct difference in my body and its ability to handle the colder weather. I feel more grounded and my thoughts are more gathered. I am now actually looking forward to the cooler weather and our slow decent into winter, instead of dreading it.

Some recipes appropriate for autumn:

Pressure Cooked Brown Rice with Dried Chestnuts
Aduki Beans with Squash and Kombu
White Bean and Carrot Patties with Dill
Carrot, Daikon and Burdock Kinpira
Turnip Roots and Tops
Hijiki with Carrot and Lotus Root