As the second full moon of August waxes towards the first new moon of September here in the mountain there has been a definite shift towards autumn that can be felt in the cool mornings and earlier evenings, and can be seen in the first yellow leaves beginning to fall from the trees. The fullness of summer has passed, and though there will hopefully still be many sunny days to come, the energetic quality of the season has changed into a deeper, slower rhythm. I can feel it as a call to sit longer in my meditation, and a craving for soups simmered in my crockpot. I feel less desire to rush, or to fill every minute of my day, but instead am relishing the space in between activity when I can just pause and relax with a good book or simply sit on the porch and listen to the wind in the trees. The intensity of summer is passing and with it the increased subtlety of autumn is being revealed.
According to Ayurveda the season of fall to early winter is ruled by the elements of Air and Ether, which means the qualities of dryness, subtlety, movement & spaciousness are most dominant. Each season has its inherent wisdom and offers us teachings if we are sensitive enough to receive them. As we become more attuned to the rhythms of nature we will find that we naturally begin to shift our diet and our activities to reflect the changes in season, and these changes will allow us to synchronize with the new season so that we can avoid imbalances. Common autumn imbalances are colds and flus, achy joints, dry skin, constipation, nervousness, and anxiety.
However when we are in balance autumn becomes a time when we are most naturally drawn inwards and the mind becomes clear, capable of making decisions from a place of enhanced intuition and insight. It is the time of year when our minds most want to be nourished with knowledge and inspiration as well so it seems no coincidence to me that this is the season that we go “back to school”, as the mind is naturally more curious at this time of year. Which means this can also be a great time of year to undertake a new course of study or attend to creative projects. The higher levels of physical activity that are so natural during the long days of summer seem too frenetic now and we will naturally feel less desire to rush around. In fact rushing and overfilling our calendar during this season can lead to a mind that feels ungrounded and a body that is tense and tight. As much as is possible try to avoid doing more than you need to each day and instead used the increased quality of focus that this season brings to become more efficient and organized in your actions so that there is some space for stillness in your day and your movements are not frenzied. Autumn is the key time during the cycle of the year to create and establish healthy routines and rituals, and it is the time where we will become the most imbalanced if our rhythm is erratic and so placing your attention on creating these healthy rhythms can be one of the best ways to utilize your energy at this time of year.
As far as our diet goes the best foods to eat this time of year are foods that are naturally sweet, salty or sour. These are the tastes that will build tissue, allowing us to feel insulated against winters chill, moisten tissue to combat the dryness of this season, and stimulate digestion, which can be weak as we shift from summer to fall. Examples of naturally sweet foods that are harvested this time of year are root vegetables, stewed apples, and grains. The sour taste can be found in naturally fermented foods, which will help, build healthy intestinal flora and lemons, which are cleansing and warming as well. The salty flavor is naturally found in seaweeds, which can be added to autumn stews to increase mineral uptake and ground the mind. In general eating more cooked foods and foods that have a high water content like soups and stews is a good idea this time of year and you will probably find you have less interest in salads and ice cold drinks.
Autumn is also a very good time to do a simple cleanse to remove any excess heat from the tissues of the body, and the mind. Examples of this would be sticking to vegetable broths, fresh vegetable juices, stewed fruits, and herbal teas for a few days while cutting out excess activity and mental stimulation. Or doing a classical Kitchari cleanse if you feel a need for deeper nourishment and grounding. The simplicity of cleansing is key for body and mind and I have found that making a habit of cleansing in spring and fall is one of the easiest ways for me to nourish my health and keep my immunity high.