What’s showing up in our harvest basket in this year of years? This has been an extraordinary cycle of seasons. No wonder so much of what we see ripening in this year’s Harvest Season is out of the ordinary. We need the healing gifts of this season more than ever this year.
This transitional time between Summer and Autumn is viewed as a whole separate season in Asian Healing Arts. Late Summer is harvest time. Whatever we dreamed of last Winter and planted in the Spring is ripening now. We pick the fruits of our labor, so to speak. Hopefully, we get to taste a bit of the sweetness of life. And experience the nourishment Mother Earth generously offers us.
All our digestive functions need to be in good working order for this to happen in a satisfying way. Digestion is, quite simply, the process of breaking down whatever we take in so we can either absorb or discard it. We start by taking a bite of something and chewing it. Our stomach continues this process until whatever we’ve taken in breaks down into it’s most basic components, ready for us to integrate.
This processing happens on many levels, with everything we take in on every level. We handle our experiences and ideas much like our foods: chewing them over and breaking them down into manageable bits.
This. Takes. Time. One reason we have such poor digestive health in our fast-paced culture!
Taking in nourishment is one of the first functions we develop in life and we must learn it quickly to survive. It is profoundly affected by our earliest experiences. We learn to soak up what we need from the world around us starting with our mother’s milk – or whatever we’re fed by whoever mother’s us. In those early years, we come to some understanding that our needs will be met – or not. We learn to deal with abundance and/or lack thereof. This profoundly shapes our relationship with food.
Fortunately, every year at this time, Mother Earth gives us a chance to re-create whatever patterns we learned early on. Edibles show up in abundance. Ripe peaches, melons, corn. Juicy and delicious. Real Deal Sweets, I call them. The closer they are to where they came from, the more they offer the Sweetness of Life they drew from their roots in the earth. Only plants can turn sunlight into sweetness.
We Unrooted Ones often lose our connection with the earth. When we do, our capacity to nourish and ‘ground’ ourselves is compromised. This time of year can renew this connection.
I think this one reason so many people vacation or travel to visit family this time of year. In Western Europe, some countries pretty much shut down in August. In much of Asia, people are sitting out the monsoons right now. In southern parts of our hemisphere, people are taking shelter from the heat.
When we suspend our regular routines, we’re more inclined to take the time to lean back and soak up whatever goodies we find around us. Even if our time away is action-packed and fun-filled, we tend to sink more deeply into whatever we call Home when we we return.
Some of us grew up in traditions where any time spent doing nothing was frowned as lazy or indulgent. Although even my ever-so-active grandmother enjoyed a ‘nice sit’ after a good meal.
I’m not talking about the sort of nap we might need after over-eating. Just a short time to absorb appropriate bits of food and conversation before stretching our mind or our limbs. When we do this, the digestive organs in our center get what they need to process what we took in. The more thoroughly this happens, the more satisfied we feel.
How we eat matters nearly as much as what we eat when it comes to being nourished.
This brings us to the question of indigestibles. What about all the input that’s not just un-nourishing but hard – or impossible – to digest or, even, to swallow? I expect I’m not alone in feeling like I’ve encountered more of this in the past cycle of seasons than ever before in my life.
Too much input of indigestible (aka incomprehensible) input strains our digestive systems. On a physical level, food that won’t spoil or is inedible to other creatures resists our best efforts to digest it, too. Over-eating and antibiotics also deter our stomach’s best efforts. Any of these sound familiar? Is it any wonder so many people are developing long lists of foods that defeat their digestion?
Anything we take in that’s we’re unable to digest and integrate becomes a burden. Like any overloaded system, our digestive functions falter and may develop painful coping strategies. Excess stomach acid, bloating or swelling, feeling tired (despite good sleep), sluggish, frequently confused, persistently worried, chronically achey, many elimination issues. All these ‘symptoms’ are distress signals from the digestive department. They may be a request to change how or what we are taking in. Or to get some help to support our digestive health.
Whatever we can do now to help our digestion pays off big time, all thru the next year. This is the time to take stock of our eating patterns. Maybe a bit of mindful eating, that is, eating without anything in our mind but tasting and savoring the the textures and flavors in our mouths. Sitting down and letting our mouths register that we are eating – and what we are eating – can remedy many of our worst eating habits.
Including over-eating. More food does not make for more nourishment. Excess only gets in the way of our getting what we need. This can fuel a vicious cycle of over-eating. This season is prime time to break that cycle and invite ourselves to experience the satisfaction of enough. Learning this now can recalibrate our habits for many months.
Basically, what we take in needs to match what we need. Reciprocity between us and our surroundings. Nothing else is sustainable. We need to tune up this balance in this Harvest season. If we don’t, we pay the price with illness in the Fall and Winter.
Gratitude, generosity, thoughtfulness and integrity show up when we find this balance. The Chinese character for integrity is a picture of a mouth speaking next to a figure of a person. When what we say matches who we are in every cell, we call this integrity.
I say we’re being called to develop this more than ever this year, in surroundings where integrity has been, as we say, “Showing up missing.”
We can only do this one bit – or bite – at a time. Our harvest this year is varied and complex. We can all benefit from tuning up how we draw from it our Sustenance for the Journey.
Cynthia Zanti Jabs, L.Ac., has practiced Acupuncture and Medical Qi Gong for two decades. She can be reached at her Ruscombe Mansion office by calling 443-226-6626