Image: Forest and Kim Starr / CC BY 2.0
This is The Season of Transition. Asian healing traditions often identify the time between Summer and Fall as a fifth season, with particular healing gifts for issues around food and nourishment.
Some call this Late Summer or Harvest Time. I call it the Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer. So different from earlier Summer months! More settling – and sometimes more unsettling.
There’s still lots of sun and heat, but also more moisture – especially in Baltimore! Extra dampness makes the air feel heavier. Sounds are more resonant. Scents more noticeable, especially fragrant ones. Flavors also show up more intensely. We find ourselves slowing down a bit – or straining to keep up our Summer pace.
If you’ve ever hung out around a lake or pool with kids through the Summer months, you’ve probably noticed this distinction. There’s a point when the laughing, shrieking and splashing quiets down and you start to see more people lounging than playing in the water. It reminds me of nap time after lunch when we were kids.
Many people try to ‘get away’ this time of year. More vacation days in August than any other month. My kids were grown and gone before I understood this isn’t just because school starts up soon. I think getting away helps us to really ‘get’ home. To come back to ourselves. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we may have to leave familiar settings and habits to reclaim our core selves.
Finding our Center in the midst of all that’s changing around us is what this Late Summer Season is all about.
This year, many of us need this more than ever. So many radical and rapid transitions – on every level, personal to global! This season can help us find the footing we so need to ground ourselves amidst change. So we can feel a bit of ‘home’ wherever we are.
In this pivotal season we all reconnect with one law that affects everyone on the planet: The Law of Gravity.
Gravity always lets us know ‘which end is up.’ Literally. When we stand, our feet are drawn to the earth. We can’t help it. Sometimes we fight it by being too much in motion or too much ‘in our head.’ But we all ‘go to ground eventually. Gravity ‘roots’ us to the core of our planet. We all feel the pull of the earth. The more relaxed and centered we are, the more balance we experience with this.
Late Summer is a make or break time for regaining our connection with the Earth. It can be our best shot all year at syncing our own particular ‘spin’ with larger forces spinning all around us.
On a physical level, this has a lot to do with food and digestion. It’s harvest time and even if we’re not the ones out on the farm picking the produce, we experience this on a primal level. We’re naturally drawn to savor the Sweetness of Life. Maybe in the form of a ripe peach or melon, a juicy tomato or an ear of corn. Every opportunity we get (and take!) to do this renews our ability to take in what nourishes us. It boosts our digestive system so can do a better job of this all thru our next cycle of seasons.
Digestion is about processing whatever we take in til its broken down into manageable bits that we can either absorb or discard.
Our digestive systems are increasingly challenged by technological, economic and cultural changes. We’ve invented foods that don’t rot – an important part of the digestive process. We’ve laced foods with addictive substances (like sugar) that ‘hook’ us on unsatisfying choices. We take medications that destroy helpful organisms.
Worst of all, we live surrounded by a cluttered excess of choices. Too much of anything gets in the way of our getting what we actually need. Nutrients get buried out of our reach under too much food – just like that item you go looking for in a chaotic, overcrowded closet. It’s no wonder we see so much feeding frenzy in the midst of unprecedented abundance! Excess prevents the experience of what I call ‘Enough-ness’ on all levels, body, mind and spirit.
The harmonic vibrations of music can actually help us recover our capacity to extract what we need from our surroundings. We’re better able to notice what resonates with us in the denser air that shows up this time of year. When we’re outdoors, we may notice we’re more aware of birdsongs, or the sounds of insects. Or we may find ourselves humming more with a car radio. We can find resonant chords even among sounds of the city. And you’ll see more people singing with their headphones in the next few weeks.
Singing helps us sync up with vibrations around us and reminds us that Harmony Can Happen. This is key to taking in nourishment effectively. The more we ‘resonate’ with whatever we take in, the better it lands.
We know our digestive functions are humming along nicely when we experience generosity. When we don’t feel like we’re getting what we need, it’s hard for us to think about giving anything away.
What does this have to do with work? I say our work is what comes from our core as our gift to the world. This may or may not be the same as our job. We may be fortunate enough to find our way to a job that connects somewhat with our core self. Or we may need to satisfy our need for this off the job.
This Late Summer season calls us to balance what’s coming in with what we’re putting out. Many of us find ourselves either overworked or under-employed. This is a perfect time to look for ways to tune up this balance. If our intake of renewable resources (food, breath, light, rest) doesn’t match our work needs, now is the time to tweak that balance. If we don’t, we’ll find ourselves running on empty when cooler weather starts. Sound familiar? We may also find that our inclinations food-wise need adjusting as we reconnect with the experience of being genuinely satisfied – and notice when we’re not.
Sustainability depends on matching resources to output. If we ever hope to work this out on a global level, we need to start by learning what we can about what this season has to teach us about ‘Enough-ness.’
Tips for cultivating the Earth Energy of Late Summer:
- Set aside a bit more time for meals. You may find less food and more time is more satisfying.
- Find ways to enjoy and connect with music. You can do this by listening, playing or singing.
- Pick one small place in your home and rearrange whatever’s there til it feels more comfortable for you.
- Try a ‘Walking Meditation.’ Walk slowly, landing first your heal, then your toe, leaving each foot on the ground long enough to feel the pull of the earth before you pick up your other foot.
- When you find yourself overwhelmed by something too large or complex to handle, give yourself a short break. When you come back, look for a way to take one small ‘bite’ of whatever you were wrestling with. Imagine other people doing the same so you can do just your own part. Be ready to welcome anyone who shows up to do this.
- Notice when you feel/hear harmonies (‘sympathetic’ vibrations) and lean back to enjoy them.
- Slow down to savor the Sweetness of Life, even if it shows up in tiny bits or bites amidst much that is dis-satisfying.
- Find someone to express gratitude to, not necessarily the person responsible for whatever prompts you to feel grateful.
- Look for thoughtful ways to add to someone else’s experience of the Sweetness of Life.
Cynthia Zanti Jabs, L.Ac. has practiced acupuncture and Qi Gong for two decades. In addition to practicing at Ruscombe, she also teaches at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, introducing medical students to acupuncture.