Harmonising with the Seasons – Autumn

Harmonising with the Seasons – Autumn

In ancient days people lived in harmony with the elements of nature. They lived according to the seasons, in balance with the ebbs and flows.

The ancients new that we are not separate from our environment but are intrinsically linked with it.

The patterns that were seen in the natural world were reflected within their own bodies and minds, and therefore seasonal changes had a profound effect on them.

In our modern day ways of thinking we tend not to think about or even consider our environment and our connection to it, man has almost put himself above it, disconnected, unaware and as a result has forgotten its powerful truths and links into our own health & wellbeing.

“We can marvel at the separate cells that make up the body of a bird, but only in their union do we see the beauty of a life.”

David M Bell

As Chinese medicine is an ancient and old world medical practice, it still encompasses these treasures of ancient knowledge and understanding. The theory of the seasonal changes, climates, recognising and working with the nature of the five elements, yin and yang, and the reflection of these in the natural world mirror our lives and bodies. These are not only key diagnostic tools but are foundational practices in balancing and harmonising our wellbeing and lives.

So how can we realistically apply this understanding into our modern day lives?

How can this knowledge and awareness benefit us and make us healthy and balanced.

One way is to firstly notice what season you’re in and gain some awareness of its nature, energy and patterns.

Autumn Season

The ancients would adjust their lifestyle according to what season it was. They would exercise and eat accordingly, even adjusting their moods and temperament to suit the season they were in.

For example trying not to get too angry in the spring or over excited in the summer, they felt this would have a profound effect on their health in the following seasons to come.

For us in the 21st century this may seem very profound and strange, adjusting our temperaments, but we can follow simple patterns as they did to help us lead healthier and more balanced lives.

So I have decided to put together some simple bits of advice rooted in ancient Chinese medicine to be able to help us through the seasons starting with the one we are in – Autumn.

Autumn is a time of change, the trees and plants slowly start to dry out, their nurturing sap returns to the roots and is drawn away from the leaves which turn into a beautiful array of colourful oranges and reds, and will eventually be released and let go of, back into the earth.

The temperature dips and we can feel that nip in the air, a small sign that winter is coming.

Fruits and vegetables are in abundance and we can see that squashes and pumpkins have become plentiful.

Animals start to collect nuts and prepare to harvest for the winter to come. It is a time when the energy of the seasons start to move inwards and downwards changing from yang into yin. The daylight lessens and the nights draw in.

Autumn Animals

It is a time for inward cleansing, reflection and of letting go.

We can move along with this season working in harmony with its energy so as to balance our bodies and minds and prepare us to receive the next season, Winter, a time of maximum yin, rest and hibernation.

In this season it is a good time to finish projects that have been started in the spring and summer. To flow with the season we too can turn our energy inwards to home orientated projects and our close families. Activities like contemplation, writing, reading and nurturing your family prepare us for the winter to come, these activities will make the transition into winter easier.

autumn leaves

The organs that are associated with this time of year are the lungs and large intestine. The lungs are the yin organ, and its partnered organ the Large intestine is yang.

The lungs are responsible for us breathing in pure revitalising energy and getting rid of toxic waste.

They are a great qi /energy provider of the whole body and a direct connection to the outside world.  The element associated with this season is metal.

At this time of year we can focus on ways to help strengthen the lungs by deepening our breathing through working on the breath. We can practice health exercises like qi gong and yoga, which link breath and movements together.

Practicing meditation also works in harmony with this season it helps to calm and clarify the mind as attention is brought to the breath. Breathing is an important aspect of meditation. Focusing on this will help you to center yourself and gain greater self-awareness and realization. Allowing you to experience the moment and be present in it.

One aspect of the practice is that the process allows for a deep state of rest and relaxation along with opening our heart and mind to possibilities, gaining the wisdom and awareness of our true nature.

We have to remind ourselves that meditation is not a goal but a process, not something you have to try to do, but instead a process you can allow to happen. You must merely give yourself time for the experience. This awareness is an important step in finding peace and joy in the world, which will eventually spread to all aspects of your life.


Did you know that how and what you think affects and creates the world around you?

Mentally in this season we can adopt an attitude of stillness, slowing down and mindfully letting go of unwanted negative thoughts. Like the trees, we too can let go of the old so we can start afresh, we too can let go of negativity, old habits, thought patterns, mental, physical and emotional clearing to make way for the new.

At this time of physical cleansing we can also make sure to bathe daily, brushing away dead unwanted skin with a loofa, this makes way for new cells and rids the body of toxins.

Exercise with a good sweat is also a great way to help rid the body of these toxins.

With regard to exercise in this season, the focus can move into developing strength and stamina.

Flexibility and other aspects of training still need to be maintained but are usually focused on in the long hot summer months. As the weather gets cooler we have to be more conscious to warm up for longer periods before we stretch and exercise, so as not to damage muscles and tendons. At this time it is thought beneficial to practice the more internal forms of exercise like the soft qi gongs; examples of these are the Ba duan jing and yi jin jing. (See links to these exercises below.)

CLICK HERE to watch Master Yanmin Chen 34th Shaolin Warrior demonstrating the Ba duan Jin.

In ancient wisdom it is thought that as the temperature starts to drop it is important that we keep vulnerable parts of our bodies warm, like the lower back, wrists and ankles and the nape of the neck, as these are easy points in which cold, wind and damp can penetrate into the body causing problems.

After training it is best if we dry off the sweat and close the pores with a dry paper towel, it is best not to go outdoors in the cold straight after sweating.

In ancient traditions, food was considered a medicine and was used to help balance, strengthen and harmonise the body.In western culture everyday food is not really thought of in this manor; it is more about what pleasures us, what we like to eat, not what is beneficial or suitable for us, or what balances us.

Every person has different qualities within their body; different balances and imbalances. Therefore each of us requires different types of foods to keep the body in harmony; for example if the body is very hot in nature, putting in heating foods like coffee, chocolate, garlic, ginger and chilli would not be appropriate. This would create more heat and disturb the body’s equilibrium further. We may like to consider cooler foods, which would be more beneficial.

Our bodies are also effected by the change in the seasons therefore we need to adjust our diet accordingly. Foods for the autumn season should be warming, hearty and rich. Therefore the perfect foods to support us during these months would be root vegetables. The roots travel deep into the earth and have an internal and deepening nature. Some examples would be:

Potatoes, yams, turnips, carrots, radish, ginger, garlic, and onions.

autumn vegtables

Foods that have a pungent quality can also be great for the health during this season. The pungent quality has a dispersing and stimulating effect, moving energy upward and outwards and also penetrating into the organs of this season the lungs and the large intestine.

During these months it is better to eat foods that are warm and cooked, foods that are raw or chilled are usually less freely used, these are more of a summer food.More meat, nuts, fish and oils are appropriate, using hotter cooking methods like roasting and baking.Hot soups and baked pumpkins and squashes are also wonderful foods for this time of year.

During this time of year the metal organs of this element the lungs and the large intestine can be easily affected hence causing lots of colds, chest infections and breathing problems. Depending on the nature of the cold the pungent foods can help to disperse the cold that may have entered the body. For example if feeling cold shivering and sneezing (wind –cold in Chinese medicine) you can make hot, ginger and lemon drink with a teaspoon of Manuka honey to help disperse and move the cold or pathogen up and out of the body, hence stimulating the sweating response. (See thyme tea recipe below.)

Sometimes the body can be too weak to absorb the nutrients from the food. In these cases herbs can be used as they have a stronger more powerful effect on the body.

Uses of Thyme Tea for Cough/Tonifying the lungs 

You can drink thyme tea for relief from coughs, bronchitis, and common colds. (Combining thyme with lemon and honey improves the flavor.) Thyme has a profound effect on the respiratory system; in addition to fighting infections, it dries mucous membranes and relaxes spasms of the bronchial passages.

The ability of thyme to relax bronchial spasms makes it effective for coughs, bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Its drying effect makes it useful to reduce the abundant watering of the eyes and nose associated with hay fever and other allergies. And gargling with thyme tea can reduce swelling and pus formation in tonsillitis.

It is also effective for hooping cough in babies. The thyme can be put in the bath and the babies bathed in it.

Recipe for Thyme Tea

Take a hand full of fresh thyme, dried is better, cut finely and boil in a saucepan with water (approx. 3 mugs) for 15mins. After drain into a teacup it should be a brown colour, add half a fresh squeezed lemon and honey to taste. Manuka honey with a high factor is great if you have sore throat or throat infection.

Our bodies have a huge self-healing capacity and through self-awareness and understanding we can bring about a more balanced and harmonious attitude to ourselves and the environment in which we live.

What’s really important is to listen to yourself so that we don’t have to get ill in order to make changes in our lives. Keep the body and mind open and clear; this makes way for positive thoughts and actions. It clears the way for self-realization and an awareness of our true self and nature. This way we can become conscious of who we are, what we are doing here and to actually do it. There is nothing else, nowhere else, only here and now. So Enjoy and breathe in this moment.

Enjoy the transition into autumn.

Thyme Tea
Chan Meditation Explained

Chan Meditation Explained

Recently during the lockdown period we have been offering out advice about how to staying calm in difficult times  and ways in which to improve your mental heath and wellbeing . One method we suggested is through Meditation and mindfulness practice. I  thought it would be intresting to write about some of the deeper aspects of the practice. Exploring the philosophy that underpins the practice known as “Zen” or in Chinese “Chan”. And also give some practical advice to follow. 

What is Chan?

To start with, some Chinese history! Bodhidharma was a fifth century Indian Buddhist monk who, in legend, came to China to spread the teachings of Buddhism, he is said to have been responsible for the birth of Chan. Chan is a direct translation of the word “Dhyana” which means meditation. Historically Shaolin Temple is where Bodhidharma chose to settle and teach this method or “Way”.

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What can we gain through practice?

Chan is the main philosophy that underpins Shaolin Kung Fu. It is a method or way of practice that gives us greater insight or awareness into our true nature, true mind, Buddha mind.

The mind plays a huge part in this practice. Great sages have said that the mind has no form and its awareness no limit and once we see our true nature or mind we are no longer bound by attachments, there is no duality, we are free from negativity and we can can see the world more clearly with greater wisdom and insight.

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Through the practice it encourages us to live and experience the present moment, to liberate the body and mind, and in time can lead us into a deeper understanding about our own being, existence, life, death and beyond.

The sages expressed that all living things share the same nature, which is difficult to see as it is covered by our human sensations and mental delusions. One way to help us to uncover or discover our true nature can be done through meditation. Meditation can come in many forms and is not always sitting and still but this ancient and traditional method of crossed legged seated meditation seems to be the most effective way to help us to gain this insight.

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How we practice.

Zen Practitioner, Katsuki Sekida, expressed that we are never separated from our personal practice, which we carry out with body and mind.

When we practice it is important that we are mindfully conscious, by that I mean not sleeping or dreaming. We are mindfully present in the moment as we practice.

How do we become aware of the mind?

Through meditative activities consciousness is stopped and we cease to be aware of time and space and causation.

The brain can’t do this by itself; it is unable to control thoughts alone. The power of the control of the mind comes from the body; it depends on the posture and breathing.

So firstly immobility is essential. Sitting crossed legged is a traditional and effective method for practice as it keeps the body still but the mind awake. By keeping the body still it results in producing as little stimulus as possible to the brain, this posture and non-movement reduces the activity of the brain’s cortex. Putting us into a state where we are not aware of the sensation our bodies, this brings our attention solely to our thoughts and minds.

Therefore to summarise – when we meditate we try not to move at all, and by our bodies being in a correct posture it can create as little bodily sensation as possible without us falling asleep, hence the traditional method of sitting crossed legged.

Correct posture also includes straight back, tongue placed to the roof of the mouth behind the teeth. Relaxed muscles. Hands relaxed in lap.

This beginning stage can take a lot of practice and some getting used to. Some may find it uncomfortable as their bodies adjust to this posture (its interesting to note that traditional Indian Yoga training, is a physical training method in order to prepare the body for meditation and its sitting posture) For others it can be very painful and for some it can even be difficult to stop the body from moving. You will be pleased to know that this all passes with practice.  

Once this stage has passed and we are able to sit unmoved, a sensation of timelessness and “unbodily” awareness occurs. This is the first step into our practice. Breathing is then adjusted.

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Our breathing can affect the state of our mind; therefore quiet relaxed breathing has a specific calming affect on the mind. In practise lower abdominal breathing can be performed. This is a way to breathe where the chest is bypassed and breathing is done by the muscles of the diaphragm and lower abdomen alone. We breathe into where the Dantien is located and is said to store our energy and power.

Through the practice the student can go on to realise pure existence, then comes the next and many other stages in training. Hope this is helpful to you and encourages you to keep practicing. I will leave you with this interesting thought – Bodhidharma explained to us that Buddha nature is something you have always had. Your own mind is the Buddha. Don’t search outside yourself for Buddha. Where you are there is a Buddha.

The Buddha is your own mind so to find Buddha you have to see your own nature or your own mind.

Many blessings and Happy Life.

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Compassionate Eating | Nutrition Advice

Compassionate Eating | Nutrition Advice

Every year I like to take a trip to China to expand my learning in Chinese Medicine and Martial Arts. One year I stayed in   China’s oldest Chan Buddhist temple in Fangshan district – Tiankai Temple. Whilst living there I was introduced by the monks and nuns to some beautiful concepts, philosophies and ideas on life. One profound understanding came through our daily eating practices and rituals. Below I summarise what I learnt and hope you can gain some greater insight from it into a more mindful and compassionate appoach to nutrition and eating food.

Eat Naturally

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Try to eat organic food which has been allowed to grow naturally, with little chemical intervention. Locally resourced and grown food is considered better for you and the environment – have you ever looked to see where your food has come from?

Eat Seasonally

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Try to eat seasonally and live in harmony with your environment; food comes at that time of the year for a reason. Remember you are a part of the natural world, you are not separate from the world in which you live but are linked intrinsically with it, and can flow with its natural rhythms.

Maybe consider this famous quote by one of the great thinkers of our time, Albert Einstein:

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Ours must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”


Eat Variety

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Eat a varied diet (different foods every day) and avoid extremes (too much of one type of food). Variety is the spice of life! Try to eat a wide range of foods rather than sticking to the same old foods again and again. Eating different coloured vegetables (red, orange, green, purple, yellow) with every meal will provide you with a variety of different nutrients.

If you are consuming meat try as best as you can to eat free range and organic, this will hopefully ensure that the animal that you are eating has been given a good quality of life, therefore sharing that quality with you.

Eat Mindfully

Thinking positively about the food that you are eating is equally as important; this is very difficult to do if we are eating in front of the TV or whilst working. If we can mindfully develop a better attitude to our food our bodies will more readily absorb important vitamins and vital nutrients.

Sometimes we can be eating all the right food but not always in the right conditions or environment, Chinese Medicine Diet Therapy encourages us to eat our food in a relaxed, calm environment, stress free and not when over emotional or worried. It encourages us to chew our food slowly. Remember – your stomach doesn’t have teeth!


Eat Peacefully

The Chinese believe that it is better to not mix work and food. The digestion works best when we are focused on the enjoyment of our meal and are not distracted by troubles or other influences, therefore it is best to try and not eat on the go but rather in a relaxed peaceful environment.

Eat Early

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It is also not beneficial for the body to eat late at night. At this time the digestive system can not cope with large meals when the metabolism is already slowing down. The food will sit undigested in the system making you feel sluggish, groggy and slightly nauseous in the mornings. In the long term, this may weaken your digestive system and cause stomach and digestive issues later on. It was interesting to note that when we lived in the monastery we ate two times a day, once at 6am and then again at 11am, we didn’t eat again until the next morning.

Eat moderately

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There is a famous saying which can help us to gain a better understanding how best to balance the amount of food we consume. The saying goes:

“Eat like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch and a pauper at dinner.”

In the morning our stomach and digestive system are at its strongest, making digestion of food easier, at night-time it is at its weakest, so eating smaller portions or lighter foods like soup would be more beneficial.

In western culture especially in the UK we eat completely the opposite way around with very little for breakfast and very large and heavy dinners in the evenings. It is proven that over consumption of food is a prime cause of many modern ills, so try not eating to excess, eat just enough. The Chinese give this wonderful piece of advice:

“Eat till you are two thirds full”

I discovered at meal times in the monastery that eating can be a great time to reflect on the self, your personality and your inner qualities. Some questions you might like to ask yourself at this important time of the day are:

Where has your food come from (not just from the supermarket)?

What is its purpose and why are you eating it?

Eat Respectfully

Finally it is good practice to give some thanks to the life that is sharing itself with you in order for you to be strong and healthy.


This is a small affirmation you may like to say before meal times.

“This food is a gift from the whole universe and so I am thankful.

Each morsel is sharing its life so I can be strong and healthy.

I am worthy to receive its life giving nourishment.

May its energy give me strength, make me healthy and help me to grow and develop as a caring, sharing and compassionate being.

May it help me on my journey through life and in turn help others to do the same.”