A few years ago, I picked up this book (Staying Healthy with the Seasons, by Elson M. Haas, M.D., Celestial Arts Press, 1981) as a companion work to a few Taoist books on health and balance. When it comes to the seasons, I am quite sensitive to their intense peaks as well as their transitions. Unfortunately, for most of my life I have found myself drifting from the opportunities of balance during the most critical times. Instead of embracing the changes of the season and allowing my body to flow with those changes, I have worked against them, often putting my system into a counterproductive position where my actions (or inactions, in many cases), were antithetical to the natural changes around me.
Haas’ book does a good job of understanding how important it is that your body and mind are in sync with the seasonal peaks and transitions; by taking the initiative to care for yourself in various ways at different times of the year (including the food you eat, the activities you do, and the parts of your body that you cleanse), you and your environment become natural partners to handle both the extremes and the changes with complete adaptation.
Change is an inherent process in our lives and possibly the only “truth” in the universe. If you adapt yourself to the changes that come with the seasons, you will maintain health. You must gain control of your internal climates (emotions) and stay protected from the external climates. Maintaining a healthy state depends especially on a balance of outward activities and regular, inward-directed activities. (126)
Haas predictably breaks the book into seasonal sections with several appendices for personal evaluation and growth. In each section, he provides an overview of how our bodies are changing with the upcoming season and where our focus needs to be in preparing for that change.
In the section “Autumn,” Haas focuses on the natural and familiar aspects of the fall season, where we all prepare for the upcoming winter.
It’s time to clear away finished projects and open up to the inner wisdom that you can experience in activities like contemplation, writing, reading, and nurturing your family as part of your preparation for the depths of winter. You will then feel a lot better and this potentially difficult transition will be easier. . . .Through a daily discipline of inner attention and physical exercise, you can create a more open, resilient, and supple body; a mentally and physically relaxed state; and a stronger resistance to disease. (126)
Haas identifies “Metal” as the primary element to focus on in autumn, and he emphasizes the need for cleansing of both the lungs and the large intestine in the early days of this season. This allows you to prepare fully for the winter, where we find ourselves more susceptible to disease due to spending more time in smaller, enclosed environments where the spreading of germs is more likely.
Much of this book is common sense, really, if you follow the natural patterns of the seasons in your area. As I read through the book, I didn’t experience any life-changing epiphanies; instead, I found myself constantly nodding, agreeing with Haas, and recognizing the simplicity in taking care of ourselves if we align our own transitions with the changing of the seasons.