Nature's Lessons for Living in the Natural World

Ah the lead out of the winter slumber into hopeful spring which leads us to abundant summer.

Spring is all about new growth, but before you can tap into that potential, it helps to understand that each season has its own intrinsic energy. By observing what’s going on in nature throughout the year, you can better harness the energy of each season. The ancient Chinese medical text, the Nei Jing, states, “When the seasons change, we should mirror these changes.” What does this mean for our modern world? It means that we must observe and be mindful of all that surrounds us and mirror the lessons of living in the natural world and being a part of that nature. Spring is full of vibrancy—in Nature as well as in each and every one of us, so obverve how the flowers, trees and animals express their nature and follow suit. 

Cultures that live close to the earth generally understand the seasons because life is built around them. They understand that as human beings we are part of the same natural cycles evident on this planet. By observing flora and fauna as well as the seasons, we can tap into the same wisdom of which we are a part and learn great lessons about how to carry ourselves in this world. In Western culture, we have built structures to insulate ourselves from all the natural forces. These structures aren’t just the houses in which we live, they’re also the routines we establish. No matter whether we should be resting or the sun is begging us to take a play day – we get up, go to work and behave much the same way, day in, day out, season to season. However, it is time to rekindle our relationship with the rest of this planet and become mirrors to its natural cycles.

Fall is the start of nature’s yearly cycle. Once all of the resources from summer’s long growing season are harvested and distributed, the earth becomes empty and still. There is a sense of empty space waiting to be filled. It may also feel like a time of grief, or a time of “not enough,” or of being compelled to let go before we feel ready. Animals and plants carefully allocate their resources so that they will last through winter and spring and into summer. Plants lose their flowers to seeds and their leaves to the ground to be composted and become future nutrition for their roots. Nature begins its cycle anew.

Because our bodies are part of nature, we too should be judicious about our energy resources. Fall is the time to ask: How can I best sustain myself through the winter?  In fact, autumn may be accompanied by a strong desire to clear out your physical and emotional space. It is a good time to experience letting go of unnecessary burdens and energy drains just as the trees slowly let go of their leaves. All this work helps create the space for winter dreams. Plants will root down during the fall and send their energy into their roots, conserving it until it is time to spring back into life. Life happens mostly below the ground for plants at this time and as the world above the ground starts to go dormant, the world below the ground stirs with life. That is also why halloween and holidays that honor the dead are held in the fall as the veil thins and the underworld becomes a space to honor and why it is also a wonderful time to reap the medicinal benefits of roots.

Wintertime is all about dreaming and imagination. During the winter months, dim days and long nights encourage hours of introspection. This is the perfect time to imagine all kinds of new possibilities. The energy of dreaming is essential because it inspires us: It gives us a range of new, exciting options from which we can choose. Winter is also a time of creativity. Native cultures spent these dark months telling stories, weaving, sewing, and beading. If we were in tune with the season, we would set up our winter routines to allow for free time to daydream, make art, and create new visions. Plants seem to be idle in the dead of winter but they too are dreaming of all the future possibilities. 

That brings us to spring. Spring is a time for making choices and taking inspired action. It is about establishing commitments and leaping forth – feeling full with the drive to start new projects and draw clear boundaries. Having taken winter to imagine all the possibilities, we are now called upon to choose a path that excites us. Spring helps us build up speed and pressure; it’s our job to direct that energy toward what will ultimately bring us to joy and fulfillment. Failing to commit to a clear, energizing path at this point can cause us to start feeling angry, frustrated and resentful. When you are in the grip of this energy, outside obstacles and interference can also feel more frustrating than usual, and you may find yourself feeling more aggressive and determined about busting through them, particularly as you sense that your goal is within reach. Spring is similarly a time of abundance for plants as they too shoot their energy up and out into the world, budding with possibility.

Summer is the season of satisfaction, fulfillment and celebration – where all the space-clearing, option-exploring and choice-making of previous seasons comes to fruition. Traditionally, people worked hard all spring, planting and building. In the summer, they were able to relax a bit as some crops bore fruit and others grew. With warmth and food so available, summer is a natural time for sharing, community and playing. The exuberance and enthusiasm of the season can be intoxicating and similarly the spectacle of color and life exuded by plants take center stage.

We often categorize seasons based on a few criteria: weather, temperature and observed patterns. But the Five Element Consciousness Framework in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) also connects the seasons to taste, color, emotion, an element in Nature and an energetic organ system in the body. Spring is associated with sour foods, the color green, the emotion of anger, the Wood element and the energetic frequency of the Liver and Gallbladder.

Wood is flexible and fearless. It goes with the flow. Picture a field of bamboo. Although rooted in the earth, this woody grass has a hollow stem, and can therefore move freely in the breeze. The same concept applies to our larger pines and the branches of even our thickest, sturdiest trees. When the wind blows, these trees gracefully dance in the moving wind. When the air stills, the trees remain firmly rooted. So start at the beginning. Recognize that your Liver energy is at its height in the Spring season. In order to smoothly flow through Spring without allergies or health problems, you must help your body smoothly transition into the season.

Here are some tips to do just that:

1- Start with food. Sour tastes vibrate at the same energy frequency as the Liver. Try eating pickles, vinegar-based foods and lots of locally grown Spring greens! Look for the dandelions, chicory, nettle, mustards and all the spring bounty that will help your liver break down winter’s fats, clear out toxins and get you ready for the energy of this new season.

2- Clean up your emotions. Stress throws the frequency of the Liver off balance. Many people are over-worked and over-stressed. Make room for the abundance that is waiting to enter your life by ridding the body and mind of all the unnecessary baggage. Become aware of your body’s vibrations. Notice how your reactions differ when you’re stressed versus when you have time to be still and “do nothing.”

3- Be calm. As we transition to warmer weather and begin to feel and see Nature’s transitions, take steps to calm yourself body, mind, and spirit.

4- Rebuild your connection with Nature. As a child will mirror his or her parent, we too mirror our greatest teacher, Nature. So go out and plant your garden and learn how to mirror the same cycles as your plants as they grow and wither only to grow anew.

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