Updated: Oct 5, 2021
The week ahead under the influence of a full harvest moon and the Fall Equinox.
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"For the Fall of the year is more than three months bounded by an equinox and a solstice. It is a summing up without the finality of year's end."
In ancient days, the shamans in China described the Sun as a traveler through four celestial gates that marked the seasons of the year. The journey has travelled through Spring Equinox, (the first Golden Gate), then through the Palace of Universal Yang at Summer Solstice. By now, the Fall season, our traveler Sun is now preparing to move through the Gate of Moon. So far, the golden yang quality from the gate at Spring equinox has been refined and is ready to be harvested to carry us through the darker part of the year and where the cycle ends and begins again- Winter Solstice.
The ancient Chinese observers compared this time of year with the “Sunset” of each cycle of days. They associated it with the West, where the Sun sets, and with the Metal element, maybe for it’s brilliant gold color at Autumn seems often bright and clear; or because metals are often silvery/white this reminded them of metal qualities. The Autumn Equinox is one of the four seasonal peak transitions; like many cultures around the ancient world, these insights on the sun’s movements through the Celestial landscape gave, among other things, valuable information for farmers about the proper timing necessary for the planting and harvesting of crops for the year and were early forms of watching weather conditions.
"There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!"
Percy Bysshe Shelley
The peak of the Fall season, the Fall Equinox represents a Universal Harmony partly because the days and nights are more or less of equal length, “the Qi of the Sun” having crossed the boundary marked by the Heavenly Equator (33, Johnson). Yin energies are growing, making the cooler air brisker, even sharper, and the enormous heat of the Yang time of year begins to wane naturally. This is an expression of Integrity in the cycles of the heavenly bodies- the wholeness and unity connected through Yin and Yang Qi- that is, the reliable cycles that govern all of Life on our planet and that we know intimately through breathing. The higher virtue vibrating in the lungs is named integrity in 5 Element Theory. This can be a feeling of "righteousness", or the quality of being whole and complete; comfortable in one's skin. Themes for the Autumn are taking stock of what to hold onto that will nourish life, or changes that might need to happen, which may feature some difficulty in the art of letting go.
Daoist internal alchemists use this time of year to “regulate the Qi of the disciple’s Three Bodies (i.e., his Physical Body, Energy Body, and Spirit Body}” (37, Johnson). In other words, the Jing, Qi, and Shen Wei Qi fields emanating from the physical body protecting and boosting immunity. These originate from the Lungs, which are also associated the Metal element, the direction West. Breathing is the beginning of a transition point from Universal Qi coming into the body through the respiratory system, and through various transitions inside the body, and converting to Jing after being passed through the Kidney Qi system.
We're also in a full moon phase today, September 20. Full moons have an energetic influence for three days before, and three days after the event (so about a week). This timing is occurring two days before the Equinox, so the influence of these might be more acute for energetically sensitive people as the seasons rebalance and the moon phase casts brighter light. Generally speaking, the time frame is a good one to regulate Yin and Yang Qi, since both are of equal amounts in the environment, similar to the Qi of Autumn. This could take the form of posture refinements- observing how well you are moving on your columns (shoulders and hips; center core staying aligned to balance your movements), or doing breathing exercises that emphasize equal counts for the inhale and exhale. Mentally and emotionally thoughts of sadness, remorse, despair, and grieving can be triggered more easily (of course the full moon energy can trigger a lot of other emotional highs and lows, too).
This year, with our ongoing uncertainty and the idea that so much of normal life has changed, the continued half-isolation, it can be so easy to feel disconnected from life, to feel, understandably, that something is missing or not at all whole. You may have a range of sadness, as mild as a little wistful nostalgia for having to let summer go, you may be grieving a loss or some kind, or something like despair over the intense conditions of our times. Cultivating Lung Qi can help with this process and it supports physical lung function and the overall condition of lungs, respiratory system, and immunity. I made a small practice for lung health inspired by the winds, falling leaves at this time of year, and the idea of cultivating your own precious metal energy. Should you have the opportunity to work with your lung energies more diligently this season, try it out. I hope it will add some inspiration to your Qigong practice.
Fall Intention for the Lungs, Wholeness/ Connection, and Release of Melancholy:
"I breathe in my connectedness with all of life, feeling myself to be an integral part of the whole. As I breathe out this unity anchors deeper as I release with clarity that which no longer serves me well.”
The Healing Sound of the Leaves in the Trees: Shhhh to purge melancholy:
For this purging exercise, connect with your own lung energy by placing the palms to face them, shoulders relaxed, back long, top of the head connected to sky, feet resting steady on the earth, like a tree growing up from its roots. Just connect and feel your own lung energy.
With your inner hearing, imagine the sound of the cool fall wind rustling the leaves in the trees. Like the trees in your image, intend to shed the leaves that are no longer needed. Healing sounds carry strong vibrations to dissolve Qi that is prevented from moving along by the emotional holds that come with regret, remorse, sadness, or grief. There may be habits you'd like to break- say silently that you are ready to change the habit.
Inhale, allowing the sunlight through hearing the sound of the wind in the lungs themselves
Exhale, sounding out, “Shhhhh”, letting the tone descend, and see the leaves gently floating down with sadness, or grief or remorse you are ready to let go of. You can guide them with your mind, or by gently pushing them downward with your hand; see them blanket the earth now with cover that will provide warmth for new growth through the Winter. Although the video only demonstrates a few breaths, you may want to spend more time with the sound. You can tell when you are ready to move on to tonify the lungs with the next exercise when you feel a noticeable shift in the way you feel- perhaps a calmer, clearer mind, feelings of being okay, or less gripped by melancholy. Whenever you use sounds to purge turbid Qi, always fill with a tonifying exercise like the next one.
Combining of the Precious Metals Gold and Silver to Heal and tonify- Sun and Moon:
Now that we have removed the obstruction of the leaves, we can see the bright, crisp autumn sun more clearly. Imagine it’s warm gold Metal quality the left side of the body, while on the right, visualize the moon, and its Metal quality of silvery cool receptiveness. Allow the two to blend as one energy. Both Sun and Moon together are like the days of the fall equinox, working together to make a healing Qi. Think of what integrity means to you or how it feels to be right with the world; savor that and add it to your healing mixture. Intend to create calmness and centeredness in your body and healthy function in your lungs and a strong immune system.
On your next inhale, gather and guide this Qi to fill an infuse the lungs, then throughout the movements, breathe gently and deeply. The breath doesn't necessarily have to be coordinated with the movement for this exercise. Drawing circles with your palms from the center of the chest, up, and around the chest, begin to circulate this energy, intending it to move through the tissues and cells of your lungs, clearing the passageways, helping them function smoothly, making your breathing easier. Circle in this direction at least 9 times, opening the chest as the arms part, then sinking the chest and opening the back between the shoulder blades as the hands come back to the center. Then reversing the circle, stay with the lungs, or include the colon, the nose, and the throat, all the way through the skin and into your three layered aura- the Wei Qi extending beyond the body to protect body, mind, and spirit. After 9-18 rotations in each direction, end the movement by rooting the energy at your lower dantian.
Finish the practice with three Pulling Down Heavens to seal the Qi. Allow time for the energies to settle, seal it- women left hand on navel, men right hand; place the other hand on top, for a few breaths, and come out of Standing Posture.
Some emotional effects of lung work:
You may experience much clearer, ordered, and hopeful thoughts and feel more connected to your community, more at peace with yourself (good breathing can do that!) and where you are headed after working with this system.
When working with Lung Qi specifically, it's not unusual for emotional patterns around the theme of sadness, grieving, remorse, or regret to present as you dissolve and release the Qi from your energetic fields. You may have an urge to cry, or old guilt or shame feelings resurface. It may be a little, or a lot. This is a normal part of harmonizing Qi flow. Greet these feelings without hooking your thoughts around them; feel them as fully as possible and then let them dissipate and move on. If you want to cry, then do it. Don't hold it in. Do it long and hard and harsh and ugly. Do it softly, like a muffled howl or the sharp cry of the eagle that soothes a lonely heart. Do it a piece at a time with selfish refusal to let it all out- it is your right to hold on as long as you would like to. Let off the screaming steam until it fills your wounded soul as much as you can handle. And as much as you can or are willing, with a sigh of relief, then release, and like the migrating bird finding its way home, come back to yourself.
As the great songwriter, Leonard Cohen said,
“Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack, in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.”
Let in as much light as you can,
Johnson, Jerry Alan Professor. “The Secret Teachings of Chinese Energetic Medicine, Volume 2: Energetic Alchemy, Dao Yin Therapy, Healing Qi Deviations, and Spirit Pathology.” Revised edition 2014, The International Institute of Medical Qigong Publishing House, Monterrey, CA 93940 U.S.A. 2014. Pages 33,