Last night was the first “get an extra blanket” night in nearly four months. A hot, humid Summer had settled in quickly, necessitating little or no coverage during sleep. And then the wonder of early Fall appeared yesterday evening: humidity dissipated, and cooler temperatures arrived. Although Fall does not officially begin for more than a month, now is the time to start readying our bodies and minds for its inception. (Remember: Always begin to prepare for a new season about six weeks prior to its official start.)
As I began to think of a Fall-based routine for this Silent Sunday’s practice, I realized that mentally and emotionally, I have been working with the typical energies of the season for a while. Fall represents a time of elimination and letting go: Its organs, vis-a-vis Traditional Chinese Medicine, are the Lungs and Large Intestine, the organs of respiration and excretion. Typically, one would focus on arm movements and pranayama to awaken and stimulate the meridians needed to transition into Fall.
Today’s focus follows closely on the tail of a conversation I had last week with my mother, who is in the steadily progressing throes of dementia. We had been talking about all sorts of things, including each of our various struggles and joys over the course of a lifetime. Our discussion deepened into the spiritual realm, as she and I always have tended to do: For a short time, I was again in the presence of the attentive, deep-seeing mind of my mother.
As we spoke, our talk moved toward our views on the end of life, and how we both believe that it should be up to any individual to choose their path out of Life, just as each of us should be allowed to choose our pathways through Life. As my mother’s health proxy, it would be up to me to help my mother if the day came when she clearly, definitively wanted “out”: Unfortunately, we live in a society that legislates against choice in this matter. I explained to my mother that although I would be mentally and emotionally prepared to help her, my hands are tied with regard to the practical application of our belief.
I realized, and articulated to my mother, that I had reached a point where the thought of her not being around was no longer an acute sense of grief or missing. Rather, I could discern within my cells and my soul a clear divide—one compartment for sadness and one for detached awareness, softly, yet powerfully functioning in tandem. Kinesthetically, I felt this duo as a thin, vertical line through the center of my body: the plumb line of balanced acceptance.
And it is this partnership of energies that one addresses when preparing for the upcoming Fall. As we eliminate through breath and digestion, we leave space for whatever fresh foci will serve us best as the weather and mood changes. Just as I have come to a place where I have released the need to hold on to my mother, I simultaneously have taken in a new sense of spiritually mature detachment. Such is the nature of the back-and-forth “pranic pump” of Fall: let go, smooth the ground, prepare for what comes next—repeat, repeat, repeat.
In order to awaken your body and mind to the processes of elimination, try the following short routine. If you practice the set for 40 days, it will carry you into the autumnal season healthy and ready for any changes that may arrive with Fall. Begin with a brisk round of arm shaking, rubbing, and gentle pummeling: include the armpits, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, and fingers. Spend about 2 minutes tending to this thorough stimulation of the Lung and Large Intestine meridians that run through the arms.
Next, with whatever fingertips feel natural, start to tap up and down along the sides of the nose. After about 30 seconds of this, begin pinching and releasing the soft fleshy webbing between the thumb and index finger on both hands: Do each side for about 30 seconds. Finish this tweaking of the organ system by tucking the index fingertips inside their respective thumb tips: Flick the index finger outward, as if sending a crumb away. Continue this flicking for about 30 seconds.
Now, bring a focused qigong move into the mix. In a grounded standing position, bring the right hand a few inches in front of the area between the sternum and collar bone, palm facing in; hold the left hand, palm facing in, at the level of the navel. Begin to circle the elbows forward, keeping the hands where they are. As you circle the elbows forward, allow the whole spine to round, and let the head drop forward slightly; as the elbows reach the bottom of their forward circling, and begin to circle back up, inhale and allow the spine to arch and undulate from its base to the neck. Exhale to circle the elbows forward and down, rounding the spine; inhale to arch the spine in the opposite direction as the elbows circle back to the start. This movement connects the energy of the Lungs and Large Intestine, and ensures that eliminative energies flow smoothly and steadily.
The following sequence is one that I have developed over time. Not only does it clear the magnetic field surrounding you (which makes way for a fresh influx of energy), it stimulates all of the meridians in the arm: Heart, Pericardium, Triple Warmer, and of course, Lungs and Large Intestine. Additionally, the angles at which the arms move encourages the detoxifying action of the lymph nodes in the armpits.
In your favorite seated posture, alternate strong, rapid punches out to the left and right at shoulder level: punch left, right, left, right as you inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Then, with open palms, shoot the arms up 60 degrees to the side: palms face inward as you again alternate 4 times, inhaling left, exhaling right. Next, punch vigorously forward, left and right, for a total of 4 punches with the same left, right inhalation and exhalation. Finally, with open palms facing down, punch up and forward at a 60-degree angle: 4 punches with the same breath pattern. Repeat the sequence—side at shoulder level, side at 60 degrees, forward at shoulder level, forward and up at 60 degrees—for 3-5 minutes. When you have finished, massage your arms from shoulder to fingertips.
To close your practice and release any remnants of stagnant qi or pranic waste, sit in an easy crossed-leg pose. Bring the fingertips of the middle and ring fingers to touch their respective thumb tips. With palms down, resting on the knees, close your eyes and gaze at the Third Eye. This mudra stimulates the action of apana, or eliminative energy. Begin a pranayama designed to support this release: Inhale through the O-shaped pursing of the lips; exhale through a fully opened mouth with the tongue extended. After about a minute of this breath, close the mouth; inhale and exhale deeply and steadily through the nose. Continue breathing this way with the mudra for 3-5 minutes. Then, allow yourself to spend a few minutes resting on your back in svasana.