Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What will you "let go" this fall?

September is here, and the fall season is fast approaching. Soon, many of us will be out doing yard work— raking leaves and generally cleaning house in preparation for the winter. But just as you clean up your home environment, so, too, is it important to cleanse your internal environment. And this coming season provides the perfect opportunity to do just that.

An annual fall cleanse is aimed at lightening your body and lessening the burden you carry with you into the winter. The goal is to shed unnecessary pounds and toxins just as nature sheds the leaves from the trees—and this is a task that encompasses your physical body as well as your emotional and mental facets. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, autumn relates to the metal element and to the lungs and large intestines… both of which are also strongly linked to the concept of “letting go.”

This is because the natural movement of the lungs is exhalation—when we exhale, we let go of air that includes “information” from our past. This is manifested as toxins and waste materials that have been released from our cells. They travel though our capillaries to our veins, then the right ventricle of the heart, and finally into the lungs where the final product—carbon dioxide—is exchanged with oxygen.

A more basic discharge takes place in the colon—and if the colon isn't functioning optimally, it can lead to constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and a whole host of other unpleasant digestive concerns. Problems like constipation can be the result of a physical issue—but quite often emotional issues are at play as well, such as compulsive tendencies or other manifestations of emotional imbalance.

This brings us to one of the most important aspects of a successful fall cleanse: the emotional process of letting go. If you examine your mind and your emotions, you’ll likely notice how often you’re often enslaved by them. Thoughts relentlessly proliferate in your mind, producing various emotions that you may not be able to control. So, what can you do about it?

Well, the first route is to try to suppress your thoughts and feelings—to push them aside. This is called denial… and it doesn't work well on a long term basis and can actually damage your health and wellbeing.
Another strategy is to develop your own antidotes to your emotions and thoughts. For example, if you have a lot of anger, you can work to cultivate patience. If you are feeling overwhelmed by grief, you can work to cultivate joy. And if you have a lot of attachments to material things, you can work to cultivate generosity.
The final path, of course, is to release your emotions—this is done by letting go and not holding onto these feelings when they arise. In order to do this, however, you must first come to terms with the impermanence of things—and accept the inevitability of change. Our likes, dislikes, attachments and aversions—they’re all impermanent in their nature. They didn't always exist—and they won't continue to exist forever.

A far cry from denial, truly understanding and experiencing the impermanent quality of all phenomena—and not least importantly your thoughts and emotions—can (and should) become the centerpiece of your fall cleanse.

If done properly, the end result of this process will be true transformation—and by cultivating a genuine, open heart, we can transcend our destructive emotions. But in order to have the space to do this, we must first cleanse our negative feelings and thoughts through the process of letting go.

Remember, your heart has no limits. An open heart is as vast as space itself—it's your afflictive emotions and concepts that bind you and restrict your heart from opening. With a successful fall cleanse, however, you’ll find that not only is your body lighter, but that your heart is more open, too. This is the spiritual peeling process—and it’s an absolutely vital aspect of your health, happiness, and lasting wellbeing.

Over the next couple months or so, I’ll offer some basic tips on how to plan your own fall cleanse this year. In the meantime, be sure to take some time to reflect on what this process is going to mean for you on a deeper level… and just what it is that you need to let go of in order to begin the winter with a freer, more open heart.

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