“Embrace the current season of your life.” — Gabrielle Blair
Living With Nature's Cycles
The universe loves a circle. Throughout our lives we circle through cycles that take us up and around, over, there and back again. In one simple year we observe multiple seasons and cycles. Weather cycles, planting cycles, animal cycles, seasonal cycles, life cycles, economic cycles the list could go on and on. Electric lights, temperature controls, plastic surgery, and produce that come in all seasons have made these cycles seemingly obsolete to us. We, however, have removed ourselves from the natural cycles of life. When we lost this connection to these cycles, however, we lost an integral part of ourselves. We took ourselves out of nature and out of harmony. Learning to tune back into these cycles is beneficial to our soul, mind and body.
Our ancestors knew the importance of living with the cycles of nature. Acute understanding of cycles, seasons, and weather patterns was the difference between life and death for them. They built entire cities and structures that celebrated the equinoxes and solstices, the changing of the seasons. Their lives and rituals were scheduled with the cycles of the heavens, weather, plants and animals. Currently our survival no longer depends on living with these cycles. We will survive without this knowledge. But will we thrive? Living with the cycles of the Earth will align us with her again, making honoring the Earth more intuitive and important. It will also make honoring ourselves more intuitive and important. Getting in tune with nature is key to understanding ourselves and vital to proper self care.
I am in no way advocating living without power, or giving up our modern conveniences. Turning off your AC in the summer is not desirable, nor practical. Today we just need to be more mindful of what is going on around us and how to align it with what’s going on inside us. There is a lot of information on how to align yourself with nature. Some practices are simple, and some are more involved. This article is a brief overview on how to do this. Over the next year more articles will dive deeper into each season as they come upon us.
Cycles within cycles.
Nature loves a circle. The entire universe is nothing but circles spinning around and within each other. The way we measure time, while modeled off of nature, is still man made. Our calendar is not 100% accurate, this is why every four years we have a leap year. We’ve prioritized this measurement of time for so long we’re no longer in touch with our wild, natural selves. March is not intrinsically important to us. It makes no difference to our minds, or bodies. Longer days, and temperate temperatures are what make the difference.
The funny thing is we live cyclically whether we realize it or not. All of us have the innate urge to clean in the spring. All of us are prone to sickness in the winter. Who doesn’t crave watermelon in the summer? Disharmony occurs when we don’t honor these cycles. We push through the cold and flu season because our schedules and obligations demand it. The changes in temperature, daylight and nighttime affect us deeply whether we realize it or not. Understanding where we are within the seasons, and working with that energy is next level self care, benefiting us body and mind.
Activity and Sleeping Patterns
Throughout the year our days and nights flex in length. While we tend to go to bed and wake up according to the time of day, our ancestors rose and set to bed with the sun. I know my boss wouldn’t approve of me altering my work hours to accommodate this shift. There are small changes, however, that can align our schedules closer to the seasons. For me, these changes also make my schedule feel more like my own and less like my jobs. Work becomes something I do during the day vs why I get up in the morning. When the days are longest it’s good to get up earlier and stay more active. During the winter intentionally slow things down, take on less commitments to get in tune with the hibernation that winter calls.
Diet- Eat Seasonally
Foods that are in season are more nutrient rich. Eating seasonal produce better maintains health and is more efficient at preventing disease. Also, foods that ripen naturally are healthier than foods that were “ripened” via chemicals, and gasses. We may be able to make these foods look like they just came off the vine, but we have yet to reproduce exactly what nature can.
Not only that, our digestion shifts throughout the year. When we eat off season we don’t digest and assimilate our foods as efficiently. Nature provides us with what we need when we need it.
As a bonus, seasonal eating cuts our carbon footprint, sending less carbon into the atmosphere. Shopping locally supports small businesses, contributing to your local economy. So get out to your local farmers market and support small businesses while supporting your own health and wellbeing.
Just as the land does better when it is cultivated appropriately during the seasons, our mind benefits from a little seasonal cultivation as well.
One of my favorite things to attune to the seasons is goal setting. When I have a long term goal I like to break it into segments that align with the seasons. Working with the natural rhythms of our mental state is a powerful way to get stuff done. Setting intentions and goals that align with the solstices and equinoxes have a two fold effect. Not only am I focused on what is going on seasonally, I have a built in accountability partner to help keep me on track. For smaller goals I like to look to the moon for setting goals and intentions.
How do we get in touch with nature? First and foremost, pay attention. Get outside in the weather and experience it. Start a garden. Pay attention to the plants growing and the animals outside. Observe where these plants and animals are in their life cycles. Observe which plants are growing and at what time they need to be harvested. Look at the types of plants that are growing in season. What do they do for you? How do they nurture us?
Each year brings us four seasons, marked not by months, but by the equinoxes and solstices. Our ancestors, from all parts of the globe venerated the solstices and equinoxes. Mark the beginning of your season with a ritual. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, or overly spooky. Planting seeds, or harvesting basil can be a ritual. Cleaning out your closet can be a ritual. That first cup of hot tea or cocoa around the winter solstice can be a ritual. Something done with the intention of marking the beginning and end of an energetic shift is enough.
Equinox and Solstice Specifics
So what are the specifics on how to get attuned to the seasons? Like I said there will be more in depth articles coming out throughout the year. Here is a brief overview to whet your appetite.
Spring is For Cleaning
Everyone’s favorite chore. Spring cleaning. It’s not really about the clutter and the dust. I mean it is, but at its core it's about renewal. Following the dark winter, where we’ve had time to brood on where we want to go in life, spring blows in like a cool breeze. Spring cleaning is about making room for what we want by getting rid of what we no longer need. This applies to our space, bodies, and our minds. The goal is to clear the past, to heal the present and plant seeds for the future.
Body- After winter’s hibernation, we need to get out and start really moving our bodies again. Go outside, absorb that ever increasing sunshine and plant a garden. Spring is a good time to start increasing your physical activity again. Increase the intensity of your workouts. Clean out those closets, and clen under the sofas.
Diet -Spring is all about cleansing. A diet rich in green foods, citrus and vegetables is what your body needs now. Foods high in chlorophyll are body cleansers. Get your green on. Seasonal foods include sprouts, dandelion greens, apricots, broccoli, mangos, strawberries, and mustard greens. Green and herbal teas are also good in the spring.
Mind- Spring is still all about cleansing. Get rid of anything that is cluttering your mind. Overdue library book? Return it and own up to the fine. Tired of being taken advantage of? Cut ties with toxic relationships. Unfollow toxic social media accounts. Once you get the clutter out you have room to plant some seeds, intention seeds that is.
Summer is For Activity and Adventure
Summer hosts the longest days. Do most people take their vacations in the summer because school is out, or is school out for the summer because adventure is calling to us all? Summer is the time to try new things. Once we’ve planted the seeds of spring, summer is the time to experiment with what best makes them grow.
Body- Summer is the time we move the most. Hiking, swimming, diving, camping, the summer is full of increased physical activity. Summer gives us the most sunshine in the year. It calls to us to come out and play. It energizes us and gives us that much needed vitamin D. Try a new sport or activity, preferably outside.
Diet- Cooling foods, liquids, fruits, and salads are what you need to bear the heat. Cucumbers, melons, grapes, peaches, and watermelons are all summer seasonals. A light diet that doesn’t feel heavy while you are being so active is ideal.
Mind- During summer your inner child can finally come out. This is the time for spontaneity and adventure. Social activities are also a must this season. This explains the universal wanderlust that strikes us during the summer months. This is also the time to tend to the seeds that you sowed in the Spring. Get those projects moving cause harvest season is right around the corner!
Autumn is for Harvesting
Autumn is all about bringing in the harvest. The goals and intentions we planted in the spring are starting to come to fruition. This is the season we begin to reap the benefits from the projects we started. Those plants should be thriving, and harvest the fruits of your labor. If you’re into it this is the time to make your herbal tinctures, infused oils, and dry your harvest for teas and such. Your goals should be progressing to the point of completion. Autumn is the time to wrap up projects and tie up any loose ends during the year.
Body- In autumn our energy starts to wane as does the daylight. This is the time to change any workouts over to milder movements. Honor the declining energy in your body. You’ll feel better for it. Let yourself sleep in a little bit. Go to bed a little earlier. Start to pace your obligations a little further apart. This is a time to start preparing your nest for the winter.
Eat- As the weather cools our diets naturally get a little heavier. Moving away from the cooling fruits and moving into more protein heavy foods like proteins, grains, nuts, and seeds. Seasonally foods that come in this season include squashes, brussel sprouts, potatoes, cauliflower, and mushrooms. This is also the time to add some warming spices into the mix. Think ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. The arrival of pumpkin spice season isn’t a coincidence.
Mind- Autumn is time for the harvest. It’s time to cultivate all we aimed for at the beginning of spring and add to it what we learned in the summer. Congratulate yourself and celebrate the goals you have reached. Resolve conflicts that have risen up during the year. Just as we clean in spring, autumn calls to us to clean out what is no longer serving you. Use this time to recheck in with yourself.
Winter is for Restoration
Winter is the time we hibernate. We rest and we restore as we experience the shortest days of the year. Autumn transitions us from the hyperactivity of summer to the hypoactivity of winter. Despite the increased holiday activity, winter is the time we need to stop and rest to rebuild.
Body- Slow down. Take your activity level lower. Restorative practices like yoga or stretching is what the body craves. Honor the pace your body wants to go in. Culturally we overload ourselves during the holiday season. Hosting friends or families, work obligations, and the like keep us running at all hours. Try, for one year, to limit the amount you take on during this time. The holidays will happen without you killing yourself. Allow yourself the break and give yourself permission to say no to some things.
Eat- Everyone dreads how much holiday weight you will put on. We blame holiday treats, and parties for the added weight. No these things don’t help, but we are meant to gain some during the cold season. Historically our ancestors fattened themselves up at the start of winter in anticipation of having less food during this season. Winter brings us the heaviest diet of the season. Beans, cooked means, and grains are what our bodies need during the cold, dark winter.
Mind- Winter is for mental restoration as well. Winter is when we sleep, and dive deep. Pamper yourself with the time for deep rest and reflection. Winter is when we sit back and assess how far we have come during the year. What goals did we reach? Which ones did we fall short on and why? Winter is when we reflect on where we came from and where we want to go. Winter is when we plan the seeds we are going to plant in the spring.
“Be aware of what season you are in and give yourself the grace to be there.” — Kristen Dalton
Most of us survive just fine day to day without flowing with the seasons. We’ve gotten by this far without it, why change now? Tuning in to the flow of nature adds a level of self care that is effective and meaningful. The pace at which we move is so fast in this day and age. Planning with the seasons helps you slow down and make the most of your time. You’re worth it.
Flowing with the seasons isn’t about watching the calendar and switching from one to another in a moment. It’s a cycle that flows into one another. Sure, dates remind you to pay attention to these areas in life. As you get more practiced and nuanced in this flow you will know when your seasons shift. If you’re paying attention to the outdoors the feeling will most likely come with the waxing and waning of daylight hours, or the changes in temperature. We have used technology to put ourselves out of nature. We have lost our natural rhythms. In doing so we’re adding stress to our minds and bodys. It doesn’t take much to fall back into them, to honor the cycles and seasons you are going through. A little awareness and intention go a long way. Set those intentions. Performs those small rituals. Take care of yourself.