How to Make this Your Best Autumn Ever (According to Chinese Medicine)

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October was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in aftermaths.

Anne reveled in the world of color about her.

“Oh, Marilla,” she exclaimed one Saturday morning, coming dancing in with her arms full of gorgeous boughs, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill—several thrills? I’m going to decorate my room with them.”

                    L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

One of my goals in life is to live like Anne Shirley. She is fierce and vulnerable and so very alive. She embraced everything around her. She was messy and real. I think she was a Daoist master, but that’s a subject for another post.

I’m going to share some powerful Chinese Medicine secrets so you too, can revel in Autumn like Anne.

Chinese Medicine is an ancient science based on the observations and clinical experience of thousands of scholar-physicians over a period of at least 3500 years (and maybe more like 8,000.) That’s a lot of years. A lot of wisdom.

Doing the seasons correctly could massively boost your immune system, decrease your stress, and increase your quality of life.

If you’re ready to make this your best Autumn ever, give my tips a try for a month and see what happens! (And let me know how it goes!)

Are You 'Doing' Autumn Wrong?

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Here’s how you know:

If you have asthma, allergies, constipation, diarrhea, shoulder pain, sinus issues, or any skin condition.

If you suffer from bouts of weeping or feel cut off from your ability to cry.

If you’ve never processed the people, roles and things you’ve lost in your life.

If you get sick with the change in seasons...yeah, that’s not supposed to happen.

“Oh, but the kids are back in school and bring home germs.” Nope, nope nope. Your immune system is designed to withstand such attacks. If properly cared for.

And by caring for it, I mean doing more than taking Emergen-C when you feel a tickle in your throat. Or running to the doc for some antibiotics because you don't want your cold to get in the way. 

It’s not your fault. This stuff isn’t common sense to us. That’s why you’re reading this!

Here’s how most humans in the United States tend to Autumn:    

Rush into school prep, squeeze some time in for football games and parties, visit art festivals, decorate for Halloween, make costumes for Halloween, take or manage little ones taking mid-term exams, plan parties, buy candy and go Trick-or-Treating, plan Thanksgiving, deal with inevitable drama and then wake up early for Black Friday shopping, then do some traveling, squeeze some school programs and church programs in, rush to last-minute Christmas shopping, do some charity/volunteer work...

and then wonder why you came down with bronchitis!

This is a fun season for a lot of people - full of good food and a chance to (hopefully) enjoy meaningful connections with our families and friends.

But this is also a season where many of my patients run out of qi. They get sick and depressed and we end up spending a quarter of a year building them back up again.

You only have so much qi available at any given time to fight off bugs, party plan, and finish off your end of the year projects at work and home.  On top of that, you have to still breathe and poop - hopefully, every day :)

I believe there’s a way to pumpkin spice up your life without sacrificing your health and sanity.

You with me?

Great! Let's start with what Chinese Medicine has to say about the elements associated with each season.

Five Element Theory for Dummies

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In the Western hemisphere, we’re used to four seasons - but Chinese Medicine settled on five:

Winter, associated with the Water element,

Spring, associated with the Wood element,

Summer, associated with the Fire element,

Indian Summer, associated with the Earth element,

And, the element associated with Autumn- Metal.

The Chinese masters, like many ancient civilizations, divided the known universe into elemental processes. But, unlike them, added a 5th element.

No, silly, not Leelo Dallas (although she is my favorite element).

They added Metal and then associated 2 major organs that resemble the energy and feeling of Metal: the Lungs and Large Intestines.

The Lungs bring you the gift of purifying the air you breathe. Metaphorically, they provide you with inspiration. Clear thinking.  The ability to discern what should go where.

The emotion of grief is associated with the Lungs. When done skillfully, one can feel the pain of a loss and have the capacity to accept what is.

The Large Intestines give you the gift of letting go. Metaphorically, they help you release the things (people, career, stuff) that are not good for you.

Emotionally, dogma is associated with the Large Intestine. Dogma can show up as hoarding: beliefs, items at home, memories, and poop! Constipation can be a sign of dogmatic intestines.

Yes, I went there. I’m an acupuncturist. I can talk poop all day long.


How To Autumn Right!

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All right. Now that you have a basic understanding of the Metal element and its association with Autumn, I’m going to give you some awesome tips you can implement immediately.

Are you ready to Autumn your way to a healthier you?

Here are the 4 major themes of Autumn, and actions steps for each one.

1. Treat your energy as a precious resource.

When the ancients were developing the five element theory, metals were not as abundant as they are today. It was something that was small in quantity but of great value - like gold and silver.

  • Look at your Autumn schedule - is it over-packed? Are you busy every weekend? Maybe it’s time to let something in your schedule go, at least during this season. 

  • Consider sleeping more. Your body does the majority of its detoxing and repair at night. Most humans are sleep deprived. You’re probably one of them. If you have a hard time falling asleep consider getting blue light blocking glasses to wear after sunset.
  • Make good eating choices. There are going to be indulgences this season - but balance it out with nutrient-dense foods that support your intestinal health (which in turn support Lung health). The intestines love a variety of veggies - and lucky you, most Farmer’s Markets are full of Fall veggies you can indulge in! Think rainbow - your veggies should be different colors...and shoot for about 9 cups a day.

2. Let Go and Transform

Remember that in an iconic Fall, the leaves change and trees let go of the leaves and prepare for winter.

Are you also changing from Summer to Autumn? Or are you trying to live your life as if everything is exactly the same? Metal energy isn’t one of doing, it’s more of a settling down and giving oneself the resources to make it through winter - where there will be fewer resources available to thrive.

  • Let go of your day correctly. What’s your wind-down routine at night? If you’re jumping from work to dinner to clean up to TV and right into sleep, where’s the Autumn energy in that? You can impose an entertainment curfew - no TV or exciting reading about 30 minutes before bedtime.

  • Practice forgiveness. You can practice forgiving yourself or another person for something. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but try out the energy of letting something go.

  • Block 3 hours and go through a room or a closet and let go of things that you don’t need or want anymore. You can donate or throw it in the trash. We should have Fall cleaning, not Spring cleaning! If you want a more guided approach, I recommend The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

3. Maintain a Balance between the Material and Spiritual

We are heading into a major shopping season. All the big stores are planning on you investing your time and dollars into getting stuff. Some people love shopping for those they love - and gift giving can be a heart nurturing experience. But don’t get carried away by it.

Don’t let the word ‘spiritual’ trip you up if you’re not into it. You know what I mean by the divide. Don’t let your mind distract you by the doing, doing, doingness of your life and forget to connect to that thing that connects us all. Here are my favorite ways:

  • Pick a day a week and practice gratitude for a material thing that makes your life better.

  • If you have a spiritual practice, make time for it, even if it means waking up 10 minutes earlier. Perseverance and consistency are qualities of a healthy Metal element.

  • Practice saying no to things that pull you away from your spirit. You’ll know they pull you away because your spirits will go down when you think about doing that thing.

4. Cultivate Inspiration

  • Stay connected to the breath - you can practice square breathing, meditation, or simply set a reminder on your phone to enjoy your breathing for one minute every day.

  • Create an Inspiration playlist on your phone, or find one on your favorite music service. To me, listening to the first movement of Wolfie’s (Mozart) Jupiter Symphony never fails to take me outside myself.

  • Find a poem or a quote that makes tears come to your eyes. Paste it on your bathroom mirror or your desk. When you read it, you should feel that sweet ache that makes you want to turn away from the exquisiteness of it. Instead of turning away, feel it, and breathe.

But! But!

My patients often share a look with my assistant Sheila when I say what they’re thinking.

They think I’m psychic, but really, I’m more like a Mom who’s heard it all.

I know you’re busy. Tired. Already overwhelmed with all the crap you have to take care of.

I know there are things you have to do.

I’m asking you to take 15 minutes, look at the list I made and pick 3 things that feel doable to you. Don’t let your perfectionist tendencies get in the way of you being healthier and happier. Remember - you don’t have to get sick every Fall. You don’t have to break down crying in the pantry because you’re tired and you still have to cook for your family. You don’t have to dread every day and feel sunken and depressed and starved of connection to something that matters.

Is that worth fifteen minutes?

I think so.

This is only one of the five elements and five seasons. Let me know how it goes for you in the comments below - and if you want more - make sure to let me know that too.

May pumpkin spice flow abundantly through your life.

Love, 

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I’m Dr. Akemi Borjas de Korahais, and I’m dedicated to loving and caring for each and every patient that walks into my clinic. I use a combination of acupuncture, Functional Medicine, qigong, Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET), and nutritional counseling to help my patients get the healing that they deserve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further Reading- (Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means you're helping me pay for my 100+ books a year project/addiction... THANK YOU!)

Embracing Each Season- The Way of the Happy Woman: Living the Best Year of Your Life by Sara Avant Stover

Intro to TCM- Voices of Qi: An Introductory Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine by Alex Holland

Letting Go of Possessions- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

On Forgiveness- Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path to Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu

For Inspiration- The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Fall in Love with Anne- Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

If You're Scared, Try the Tango

I'm joyous. In spite of the struggles that come up every day, and how hard my mind fights me in my happiness in the moment - I can finally say I can consistently feel joy.

For all my people, you lovely, hurting souls who are in such pain and wonder if fighting is worth it. This poem is my answer to you.

How The Five Elements of Chinese Medicine Can Change Your Life

The ancient Chinese philosophers and physicians were masters of finding connection and correlation between the smallest part and the whole. Through study and observation, they could see that nature can be classified into five basic elements. They also noticed that these elements interact with each other in specific patterns.  Observation FTW!

The Truth About My Shame

 don't know enough. I have to sign up for another certification.

I don't have the right degree. Goddamnit. I need to get a doctorate. 

I'm still tired. That's so embarrassing. I should feel better.

I'm still overweight. I'm not trim like her, and we eat the same. What's wrong with me?

I have to cancel on my patients. Again. What are they going to think?

It's a cycle of shaming self-talk. It sneaks up on me.

Why My Brain Stops Working (and yours may too)

Sometimes my brain stops working.

Not like a "oh, shit, I forgot to eat something," low glycemic episode (because I made sure to eat to rule that out), and not like "Damn it, I didn't get enough sleep last night," (because I slept for 9 hours), and not like "Aaaaah I'm so worried and anxious I can't think straight," (because my pulse rate is normal, my breathing is nice and deep, and I've been sitting in my lanai for a couple of hours listening to birdsong and looking at our beautiful roses, which lowers cortisol levels).

Armor? Yeah, I have that too.

In which I give you a brief overview of my struggles in juggling chronic illness and an over-achieving brain.

 

This is me in a nutshell: Music Freak, Miniature Schnauzer Lover, Poetess, Devourer of Fiction, Guitar Hero Goddess, Proud Nerd, Mistress of Silly, and Doctor of Oriental Medicine

 

This is me, a couple of years ago, at my favorite concert EVER. 

This is me, a couple of years ago, at my favorite concert EVER. 

 

When I was 23 years old, I was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer (stage 2b ovarian dysgerminoma). That moment — when I saw the CT scan results with the words ‘ovarian cancer’ written in bold at the top — is seared into my brain. My heart was racing, and my body went into pure survival mode. My heart still aches from the devastation the news and consequent struggles brought to my family.

 

Shortly after the diagnosis, I had surgery to remove the tumor. It was the size of a 5-month old fetus. The external scar I carry is wide and slightly jagged, and wanders upward from the pubic bone to three inches above my navel. I declined chemotherapy from the kind oncologist, and chose to doggedly follow a non-traditional path (albeit a sometimes wandering one since I’m not always good at taking care of myself) to vibrant health. 

 

I didn’t want to settle for survival. I wanted to thrive. To be strong enough to live a full and loud life, and fulfill my heart’s deepest desire: to connect with others who struggle. To be a facilitator for their wellness. 

 

The good news: I made it through. I also was blessed with more ease than most women coping with cancer experience. I’m grateful for this, even though I have a profound sense of guilt calling myself a cancer survivor, because I didn’t suffer enough. Not like other women.

 

I know. You’re right. I realized a couple of years ago that comparing myself to other survivors and not measuring up was a huge red flag. It was a signal from my psyche: I was carrying a deep sense of lifelong shame that I’d buried behind my emotional armor. I don’t know if your armor is like mine - I hide behind Take-Control Akemi, I’ll-Kick-Your-Ass Akemi, Make-You-Laugh Akemi, Learn-More-Things Akemi, No-Really-I-Don’t-Mind-Being-Alone Akemi, Disappear-Into-Fiction-For-Days-At-A-Time Akemi, and Fix-Everyone-At-All-Costs Akemi. 

 

I’ve realized vulnerability is a critical step in deep healing.  To learn more about vulnerability and dealing with failure, pick up Brene's book below.

 

 

The circumstances through which the cancer was found were not typical. It started with an acupuncturist who fought for me when I was desperately trying to ignore all the signals my body was giving me that something was wrong. This is one of the reasons why I have profound respect for both traditional and what is often called alternative medicine. The combination of both saved my life. 

 

Throughout my adult healing journey, I’ve struggled with thyroid issues, immune deficiency, adrenal dysfunction, heavy metal toxicity, autoimmunity to neurological tissue, chronic infections like Epstein Barr and Cytomegalovirus, LGS, chronic fatigue, back pain, TMJ, debilitating menstrual pain, low libido, migraines, and panic attacks. 

 

This doesn’t take into account my childhood, which was full of chronic bronchitis, debilitating asthma, and emotional trauma that led me to become a master of emotional repression. I was born in Venezuela in the early ‘80s, and lived through severe instability in my immediate family life.

 

My parents’ marriage was… difficult. When I was 9 years old, I lived through, in short succession: my parents’ separation, my brother’s kidnapping by my father, and my father’s attempted murder of the man who would soon become my dear stepfather. During this time, Venezuela was going through an attempted coup. We often had no running water, and there were nighttime curfews. 

Armoring up early on. "No really, I'm fine!"

Armoring up early on. "No really, I'm fine!"

 

I remember anxiously waiting for my Mom to get home from her evening computer science classes, because I was scared of the army guards that loitered on every corner. That summer became a terrible blur, because it felt like I lost everything. Because of my father’s instability, we had to leave the country quickly. We moved to the United States in a panic, which was both exciting and traumatizing. I had grown up around both sides of my family, often living in apartments full of laughter and dozens of family members. I went through culture shock when we arrived in Florida.  

 

What amazes me when I slow down enough to listen to my husband (who is right 100% of the time, so he says), is how much I was able to accomplish while struggling to heal. Shortly after surgery, I finished my professional master’s degree, started an acupuncture practice, managed a wellness center, and helped my husband with the administrative and financial side of his business.   

 

The love of my life.

The love of my life.

 

I often forget to give myself credit for being a badass. I think about the countless women I’ve seen in my practice, all struggling with serious health issues, and they’re badasses too! They remind me to give myself and my body credit for doing so well.

 

I started my healing journey by getting acupuncture and weekly massages. I was incredibly lucky to marry one of the best qigong teachers in the country, and started practicing meditation and tai chi, which have been a critical part of my healing. I later added on chiropractic, and in particular began using Neuro Emotional Technique (NET, my favorite tool in practice). I took herbs and supplements. I started playing around with food, including low glycemic index-based diets, the Weston A. Price-recommended diet, Slow-Carb, Primal, Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), and Paleo.   

 

I was getting better a little bit at a time. Every once in awhile, I would suddenly backslide. I was so tired by 6 p.m., I would fall asleep on the drive home. Weeping episodes hit me without warning. I was scared. I reached out to functional medicine specialists who helped further diagnose and treat my conditions. I started counseling and decided to learn to love myself unconditionally (this is still the hardest one for me).

 

Looking back, I realize I was so focused on being successful and helping people that I was ignoring critical parts of the healing journey. I’m not all the way healed. Not by any means. But I have made immense strides in my health and my ability to embody my true self. 

 

I’m baring myself here because I want you to know that I’ve been there. I’ve had perplexing medical problems and have seen what feels like every type of practitioner out there. I’ve tried all the diets, taken all the supplements, and cried alone in the closet when nothing worked.

 

As I finish writing this, I’ve celebrated 11 years of being given a new chance at life. Ten years of more than survival. It’s been 10 years of dedicated and passionate work in my practice as well. My purpose is to facilitate your own personal realization. 

 

May your suffering be decreased, and your joy increase a thousand fold. Thank you for letting me be a part of your healing team -  from the deepest, sassiest, joyous depths of my heart.

 

                                  Love,