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Seasons Of Our Lives

By Ann Bailey

Notice the late summer season that is arriving now during August and September in the North American climate. By paying attention to the cycles of nature, we can tune in to our inner cycles as well. The ancient Chinese physicians discovered that we mirror these natural cycles and taught that by nurturing these inner cycles we can achieve optimal health.

Here are some ways that can occur during this late summer season and some stories of clients who worked with the lessons of this season.

In the cycles of nature, each season has its own purpose. By looking at how the sun changes its position throughout the year, it is possible to see the purpose each season serves for the growth and decline of plants:

  • when the sun rises out of the earth in the spring, the increase of energy, as seen in warmth and longer days, urges plants to rise and grow;
  • in the summer, the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, providing the maximum of light and encouraging all living things to reach their fullest potential;
  • in the late summer season, the sun holds steady, neither increasing or decreasing, allowing for the gradual decline and a harvesting of the plants;
  • by fall, the sun moves lower in the sky, decreasing the light and warmth in preparation for letting go and entering the darkness of winter;
  • and in winter, the sun sets low in the sky, encouraging rebuilding of nature’s resources deep under the ground.

The late summer season, coming at the end of summer, brings growing things to completion. The energy of summer has waned, overripe fruits and vegetables sag on the vine, and bees pull toward the sweetness of the soft, mushy produce rotting in the garden. Plants become thin and scraggly, having already given their best. Days feel warm and muggy. Nature slows to a snail's pace.

The late summer season helps us make the transition from the vibrant activity of summer to the quietness of fall. Clients who come for acupuncture during the late summer sense that something in nature is shifting. Joan, a young mother, says, “I’ve had my fill of summer now.”

Bill, a retired executive notices that “this heat isn’t the same as summer heat...its muggier.” Alicia, a 34-year-old waitress, says, “I keep thinking it’s time to move on, but I don’t know where I’m going yet.”

A transition is in the works. Part of the body, mind and spirit is on summer’s clock, wanting to relax, to keep on having fun and to ignore schedules. But another part is thinking ahead to register for a class, get kids ready to go back to school, or tackle a project put aside earlier.

We swing back and forth between feeling at ease with this transition time to experiencing discomfort and unease with the shift in nature. But this season brings special gifts to us.

Late summer is the time when Mother Earth offers up her bountiful gifts in abundance. I grew up in Indiana in the rich productive farmlands called the breadbasket, or heartland of the country.

By late summer, I could see hay mounds stacked neatly in the fields and silos filled with grain. Basements and freezers were filled with the fruits and vegetables that family and neighbors had picked and prepared. We felt accomplishment, contentment, and a readiness for the long winter ahead.

Just as the events of the whole year produce a useful harvest in nature, the events of our whole year can contribute to our harvest. It is possible to stop and sense the satisfaction of a job well done, to appreciate the culmination of a productive year.

Maria was a client who was looking for her harvest. A flight attendant unhappy with her job, Maria came for acupuncture treatment because she desperately wanted to become pregnant. She and her husband had passed all the infertility tests successfully but still could not produce a baby. She felt scattered and ungrounded in her life and said she had lost touch with her center. She told me, “Nothing I do ever comes to anything.” She worried that her inability to be happy and productive in her professional life was reflected in her infertility.

As we worked together over several months, she began to nurture herself more at home and to find satisfaction in taking care of her airline passengers at work. We talked about the effect of spending so many hours in the air, ungrounded, and she began to pay more attention to her connection with the earth through working with the dirt and plants in her garden. She hoped that through such efforts and attention, she would reap the fruits of her labor and become pregnant. In the meantime she says she feels more “ease and serenity” in her life.

The ancient Chinese text, the Nei Ching, stated that health occurs when there is restoration to order. When we restore internal order, we have a better chance at achieving optimal health. By noticing the cycles of the seasons and how we cycle through our own “seasons,” we can learn to nurture our own late summer and bring to harvest an enriched, healthy life.


At the end of summer, make compost of the exhausted plants and leftover fruits and vegetables. This improves productivity and returns the nutrients to the soil, completing nature’s cycle.

Help the earth be a good home for plants and animals. Do what the American Indians have always done: when you remove a tree or plant, thank the earth for her gift and plant a gift in return.

When you plant seeds, watch them as they draw nourishment from the earth and then observe how they bring forth their natural gifts.

Surround yourself with living plants wherever you live; you can plant an entire garden in an old washtub or on a windowsill.

Notice how you feel about home: Where do you feel at home? Are you good at making a home for yourself? Do you feel happy, peaceful and content in your home?

Be aware of what helps you regain your sense of center: is it meditating, singing, rocking, reading a good book, knitting, praying, playing the piano, riding your bicycle, doing yoga, watching the stars, dancing or taking a long walk? Whatever helps you relax and feel at peace within yourself are your own centering tools.

When you eat, sit in a calm atmosphere and be unhurried. This will enhance your digestion and your ability to feel well nourished.

Eat what grows in season and what is native to your part of the country. Nature’s bounty in late summer includes apples, tomatoes, grapes, squash and beans.

Eat sparingly of foods which bring more humidity into the body such as dairy products, fats, starches, pastas, candies, pastries and rich sauces made with butter or oil. These foods can clog your energy and build up mucus in your body.

Notice when you are hungry and what you are hungry for. Sometimes the hunger is not for food but for filling an emotional or spiritual emptiness.

Learn to nurture yourself. Nurturing is allowing yourself to know what would be healing for you and making it happen. Knowing how to take care of yourself is essential to your well being.

When you are sick, take time to nourish yourself back to health. Don’t rush back to work too soon. Enough time spent to replenish yourself will hasten your return to stable health.

Be physically active. Exercise relieves stagnation, regulates weight and gives good tone to muscles and flesh. It also helps release excessive thinking and worrying and eases nervous tension.

Notice and live in tune with the cycles of the earth: the weather, the movement of the moon, the rising and setting of the sun, the subtle changing of the seasons. When you are in tune with nature’s cycles you become more in tune with your own natural cycles.

When you take an airplane trip, eat lightly during the flight, avoid caffeine and drink more water. Get up and move about the cabin so you exercise your muscles. Your vitality and equilibrium will return more quickly when you land.

Be grateful, say thank you, and commit senseless acts of beauty and random acts of kindness. Find ways to share yourself and your gifts with others.




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