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Living with the Seasons


Our inner cycles mirror Mother Nature’s cycle of seasons. Inner and outer climates are very connected. You probably feel this already, in the changes in your energy or mood as the weather alters, the weakening of your immune system in the transition from one season to the next, or perhaps you notice it in the plants growing in your garden. I feel it as a powerful surge of energy and passion during the start of summer, the scratchiness at the back of my throat during the transition to autumn, the low mist that welcomes me early in the morning as the trees go bare, and the deep need for self-reflection and solitude that accompanies me in winter. I experience it in the sweet stickiness of that first ripe peach dripping down my chin, the evocative smell of rain before it actually drops, the arrows in the sky pointing south as geese migrate overhead and the happy yellow greeting of the first dandelion announcing the start of spring. Beginning to notice and attune yourself to the seasonal shifts, large and small, that occur throughout the year, every year, will allow you to strengthen your connection to nature. And in turn, this seasonal attunement will bring more natural health and harmony into your life.




Many of you may already be doing this, consciously or unconsciously, because it is in our very nature to revolve with the cycles of Mother Nature. Almost all, if not all, ancient traditions support the belief that the seasons have a profound cyclical effect on our wellbeing. Humans have always needed to plant, forage, harvest and prepare food according to the seasons. We have planned farming and festivity according to the seasons. This is only natural. The fact that you may be more energized during summer and want to hibernate during winter is perfectly natural. The desire to de-clutter your home and detoxify your body at the start of spring is healthy and natural. Feeling phlegmy and craving immune boosting foods during autumn is seasonal and natural. Connecting back to the seasons, and the transitioning energy between seasons, is needed for maintaining your natural balance and yes once again, it is oh so natural!

 

Seasonal attunement belongs in your self-care package. Now the best guidance, like most things in life, is to follow your own instinctual and intuitive awareness. Other guidance might come from Ayurvedic teachings, Herbal Medicine or perhaps just some good old grandmother’s wisdom. But the most important point of reference should really be your own. What do you notice as the seasons change? What fresh fruits and vegetables are abundantly available and in season? How do the plants and animals in the area you live in respond? How does your body, your cravings, your mood, your energy respond? What metaphors can you recognize in nature that can guide you through the season? This last one can be particularly powerful. For example, observing the trees changing color and shedding their leaves is a beautiful metaphor that demonstrates autumn’s potential for letting go and releasing what is no longer needed. Connecting to a bigger teaching that you can extract from each time of year is a beautiful way to celebrate the beginning or ending of a season. The more meaning and seasonal awareness you can bring to each time of year, the more naturally balanced you will feel. Here is a little summary of what each season means to me. It is based on The Five Element teachings of Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and my own personal seasonal awareness.

 

Spring, the season of rebirth and awakening. It is a time of vitality and new life, as the sunlight lengthens and color returns to the Earth’s cheeks in blossoming flowers and sprouting leaves. It is the season associated with the Element of Spirit or Ether, a mysterious element that expands into the unknown. So our energy shifts from the inward focus of winter, to an expansive vibration that welcomes new projects and plans. Sprouts, both symbolically and nutritionally, are ideal for springtime. Raw, light and cleansing foods such as green vegetables, artichokes, asparagus, celery, dandelion, berries, lemons and apple cider vinegar, will help support the body’s natural detoxification process. After the heavy and rich foods of winter, I joyfully welcome the freshness of salads and smoothies. I celebrate spring each year by doing a weeklong cleanse and rebooting of my systems. If you feel called to do the same but perhaps need some support in the process, check out my website for an Online Home Retreat and Spring Cleanse!




Summer is the season associated with the Element of Fire. A time to be active, go to festivals, dance, realize creative projects and live from the heart. Movement and playtime are important for this season, so have the courage to try new things, travel to exotic places and fall in love. Because our energy is so outward focused during this time of year, our digestive fire burns low. So nourishment should be light and cooling, which is often what we naturally crave during summertime anyway. Think colorful salads, smoothies and stir fry’s. Practicing yoga at sunrise with lots of sweaty Sun Salutations is a good way to amplify the season. And, for balancing purposes, seeking the cooling properties of oceans, rivers and lakes when that summer fire burns too high.


 

Late summer, or Indian summer, is the time of harvest that follows the hottest months of summer. It is a short and subtle season that comes before autumn yet is often overlooked in modern society, as we no longer celebrate harvest time. This season is associated with the Earth Element, a time for grounding and nurturing before entering the cooler months. In the afterglow of summer, we draw our energy inward towards our center. Taking a few weeks to really slow down and ground ourselves during this time helps bring a sense of stability in the transition towards winter. It is also good practice to extend extra gratitude towards Mother Earth. I tend to spend more time barefoot in nature, wholeheartedly appreciating the plants and trees I encounter. Root vegetables, grains and sweet fruits in season, like apples and pears, are good for connecting to the harvest season. Or these sweet figs that grow on our land! I also like baking crumbles and banana oat bread at this time of year, something that makes me feel active yet cozy.



Autumn is the season of letting go and embracing change. It is a good time to look at your life and release anything that no longer serves you, as well as taking long walks and inhaling deep breaths of fresh air. The Element of Airis associated with autumn, thus it is a good time to care for your lungs and practice breathing pranayama techniques. Winds start to blow and the body starts to crave immune boosting foods, such as soups, citrus fruits, berries, green tea, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage. Ginger and garlic are also wonderfully beneficial for this season. I like to gather friends and prepare a dinner celebrating autumn’s produce to welcome the season. Perhaps a garlicky mushroom soup with a hazelnut and thyme crumb, followed by a pumpkin stuffed with cranberry lentils and some sautéed kale, and for dessert something sticky and decadent that embodies the childhood joy of jumping in autumn’s puddles. Amplifying the experience with warm candlelight and a table decorated with auburn and orange leaves picked from the forest floor.



Winter calls for a time of drawing inward and finding stillness. It is the season of Water, the Element of emotion and soul-searching. Imagine looking at your own reflection on the surface of a lake, that stillness and depth is what water encourages. As the weather turns colder and wetter, we naturally look for shelter and warmth. We want to store our energy and nurture ourselves in preparation for spring. Reading, journaling and meditating are perfect activities for this time of year. A time when we can allow ourselves to reflect on our lives and really connect to our emotions. But it is important not to get too stuck in stillness. Gentle movement is helpful to lighten up and encourages energy to flow where it needs to go. I like to spend more time playing in the kitchen preparing warming soups and stews, brewing spicy chai with cinnamon sticks and baking nutty granola for breakfast. I also always take some extra natural supplements and juice more in winter to supercharge my micronutrient intake. Though the options are endless, my go-to winter juice is definitely carrot, beetroot, apple and ginger.



And that’s the gist of it. Although what I mention here can really be expanded into a whole book, I hope that this briefly captures the balancing essence of each season and provides you with some inspiration for cultivating your own seasonal attunement. The practice of Seasonal Attunement is in living it from season to season!   

 

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