Written by: Eric Clark - Musings of an acupuncturist, yoga teacher, and reformed surfer
August is half spent. Summer is screaming by at full tilt. Here on Cape Cod the pace is frenetic. Traffic is horrendous, the beaches are crowded, and your house feels like a bed and breakfast for relatives who oddly don’t have any interest in you from September through June. You can’t walk your dog or let him swim at his favorite beach. Your late for everything you do because of weekly road races, road work, and detours. Your favorite yoga class now has 60 people in it and all of them want “your” spot. It’s boiling hot and you can’t stand it (even though in February it’s all that you can think about). You love your children, but for the love of god when does school start back up again? Your calendar is bursting with fun things that hurdle by in a blur.
Does any of this sound familiar?
In Chinese Medicine, summer is governed by the element of Fire. It is characterized by energy flowing outward in all directions. Like a raging wildfire, summertime energy (and schedules), can get out of control. If we aren’t careful we can deplete our resources and also blink and realize that somehow, it’s October. Of course it isn’t all bad! For many of us summer is a favorite season. Characterized by long days, warm weather, time at the beach with friends and family, and lots of tasty food growing in the garden. The important thing to remember in this busy season and at all times throughout the year is to find balance. Yin and Yang, dark and light, fast and slow, contrast and opposition are what makes this life so sweet. Be sure that along with all of the sun and fun, you are taking time to breath deeply, to restore your resources, and to simply just be still.
As summer, with its explosion of energy comes to a crescendo and the shadows start to get longer, the earth and its inhabitants, both two legged and four, will begin to prepare for the next season. In 5-Element theory, there is a transitional time between each season (summer/late summer, late summer/autumn, autumn/winter etc..). This period of approximately 15 days surrounding the solstices and equinoxes is a magical time, a buffer from one season to the next characterized by sometimes dramatic shifts in the temperature and light. It is a time of change. In Chinese this time is called “doyo”, the transition. The summer-autumn transition is actually considered a season unto itself, this season is late summer, or Indian Summer. It can be a time of great metamorphosis in both nature and within ourselves.
Late summer is governed by the Earth element; where the energy is pulled back towards the center. The focus is on the harvest, the color is yellow, the organs are the spleen and the stomach, and the flavor is sweet. At this time of year we return to school and schedules, we begin to slow down, we begin to turn inward. I have always found it a bit unsettling and a little sad. Like many of us, I struggle with transition and have to consciously remind myself to go with the current and not resist. During all of these periods of teetering between one season and the next we are vulnerable. It is especially true at this time. We can find ourselves anxious, depressed, or even more susceptible to physical illness.
Now more than ever, it will be important to nourish your body, mind, and spirit. Eat earthy foods that are slightly sweet and mild. Begin to replace cold raw foods with items that are lightly cooked and more warming. Keep a simple diet, avoiding complicated dishes and combinations of foods. Drink plenty of fresh water and consider adding some herbal or mushroom teas to your diet. Go to bed earlier and start to reestablish some of your routine that may have gone to the wayside during the summer. Consider practicing yoga, qigong, or tai chi. Take a walk or a swim in the changing tides of nature. Treat yourself to a massage, some energy work, or an acupuncture session. Find time to journal, celebrate with ceremony, or sit in quiet contemplation. In these times the veil draws back exposing us to our guides, our ancestors, to new possibility. The Hopi Indians have a prophecy. I call it The River. Within The River, they say “jump in, keep your head above water, and don’t resist change, just let the current take you”. As we ride this beautiful Earth around the Sun, there aren’t many guarantees. I like to think we’ll all see many more seasons, experience many more transitions, but of this I am sure, nothing stays the same.
Rise 10-30 minutes earlier in the morning and sit in meditation. It need not be complicated. My teacher teaches 3 simple rules to follow:
1). Sit straight and tall connecting heaven and earth
2). Sit still resisting the urge to move, not chasing thoughts, nor wasting energy resisting them
3). Have no expectations (It can be mundane, it can sublime, it can be anywhere in between, it makes no difference)
Eric Clark has been teaching for over 20 years. He is an acupuncturist, massage therapist, yoga teacher, and personal trainer serving the mid-cape area. Eric enjoys reading books and people. He skis in the winter and attempts to surf the rest of the year. He has a passion for learning about anything, but especially herbalism, Chinese medicine, and human anatomy/ behavior. Teaching yoga keeps him out of trouble and engaged in an authentic conversation with himself, the people he loves, and the cosmic ocean from which we come from. He lives in Harwich with his beautiful wife Andrea, and their amazing four year old Sophia.