“This year is going to be full of ‘autumn tiger’ (秋老虎 qiūlǎohǔ) days!” says my mother, referring to the unseasonably hot spells common in the early fall. In the West they’re called Indian summers.
And when my mom starts complaining about these hot, tiring, fall days, I get worried. She can get temperamental. I fear she might erupt in unpredictable anger toward anyone who’s nearby, for any reason at all. When the weather is hot, many people act irritable; they become fierce, like tigers. Especially women.
Even my grandmother starts acting strange. She gets moody, depressed and has been known to cry over the smallest family issues.
But me? I never used to feel the affect of the changing seasons. I didn’t understand why women acted like tigers—until I became one myself.
The shift in seasons has a huge influence on people’s emotions. In the three months of autumn, the natural world reaches its full maturity. The cold, fall wind begins to stir. The world begins to change around us.
This is a pivotal point. The yang—the active, bright time of the year—turns towards its opposite, the yin—the quiet, dark time of the year. Our emotions follow this change.
The air is cold and dries out your lungs, nose and skin. This dryness makes you emotionally and physically fragile. This is exactly what Li Qingzhao, the well known female poet of Song Dynasty, describes in her poem: “How hard is it, to keep me fit, in this lingering cold!”
The Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine advises that during the fall it is “important to remain calm and peaceful, refraining from depression so that one can make the transition to winter smoothly. This is the time to gather one’s spirit and energy, be more focused and not allow desires to run wild.”
Keeping this in mind, I’d like to suggest an easy exercise that will boost energy levels and calm your spirit. In TCM, to remain calm, you have to be energetic. It might seem paradoxical to you, but that’s just how it works!
Have you ever tried Chinese calligraphy before? Well, now’s your chance. You’re going to draw Chinese characters… in the air… with your feet.
You can sit or lie down, just make sure you can move your ankles comfortably. Close your eyes and picture the Chinese character, 马 (mǎ, horse). If you look closely at this character, you’ll recognize that it is a pictograph. 马 looks like a horse, rearing on its hind legs.
Now imagine that both of your feet are paintbrushes and trace out this character.
Wasn’t that easy? But don’t stop there; draw it a few more times. Try five for the first few days, then 10, and slowly work your way up. In no time you’ll be doing 30 characters in one sitting. Stay focused; you might fall asleep while you’re doing this (it can be surprisingly exhausting).
What’s it good for? That’s an easy one. After one or two days, you’ll sleep like a baby. Good sleep is the key to maintaining high energy levels and a calm, peaceful mind.
And how does it work? The foot’s three Greater Yin and Bright Yang meridians all meet at Yuan-Primary acupoints along the ankle. Traditional Chinese medicine believes all diseases can be explained by the imbalance of qi flowing through different meridians. So when you move your ankles, you actually connect each meridian, according to TCM, which is crucial for energy conservation and disease prevention. Writing 马 allows the qi in your feet to flow through the Yuan-Primary acupoint and balance between the Yin and Yang meridians.
As in all things TCM, balance is always the goal.
Personally, I trace 马 with my feet to balance my qi every day. It’s like a kind of meditation as well; a simple bedtime exercise that can really make a difference. If you never try it out, you’ll never know if it works. Give it a shot! I guarantee that it will help you live harmoniously in these autumn days.