Loving nature is one thing. Studying it is another. Learning from it is to take it even further, and embracing a life lived according to the natural laws which govern the universe. Laws which include human beings, with health and harmony as a reward, if one lives according to the seasons.
In part 1 of the blog post series about living according to the seasons, you gained some understanding of the purpose of the series of articles. Now it´s time to introduce you to the ideas behind the philosophy.
THE CHINESE MEDICINE PHILOSOPHY
Both yoga, Ayurveda and Chinese medicine work with the forces of nature. Working with nature occurs on both internal and external levels when it comes to balance the forces of our own nature as body, mind, breath and spirit. Each of us is a manifestation of nature. Living accordingly will help us in so many ways, on all levels.
YIN AND YANG
The first principle that underlie all the patterns of nature is yin and yang. Mutually dependent as well as polar opposites. They are the basic concepts in Chinese medicine and yin represents everything that is cold, moist, passive, slow, heavy and moving downward and inward. Yang represents the opposite, which means heat, dryness, activity, lightness, upward and outward energy. Both forces are equally necessary in nature – as well as in the well-being of humans. Yin and yang can´t exist without each other. They have a dynamic interaction, related to nature – and the human life cycle. Keeping yin and yang in harmonious balance within us, is hugely important. One way of doing so – study and learn from nature – where spring and summer represents yang (summer is peak of yang), and fall and winter represents yin (where winter is peak of yin).
CHI (OR QI)
In addition to yin and yang, Chinese medicine philosophy says there is a force of energy called chi. Chi is the invisible force of energy in nature, keeping nature alive and dynamic. An example is wind. We can´t see wind, but we can feel it. We don´t question wind because we now wind is always present in nature. We see the trees move and we know it´s the wind creating the movement. Same goes for our inner world. We have an inner wind of energy, and that´s chi. Without chi we wouldn’t be alive.
TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a profound pathway to create the life you truly want to live, the life you were born to live. It’s a timeless bridge that can initiate and support change and growth in any and every life dimension: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
– TCM World
The interplay between yin and yang, and chi, gave rise to the five elements. Entities reflected in the structure and functioning of the human body.
The 5 element theory is one of the most complex systems of thought in traditional Chinese medicine. It often takes years, or even longer, to fully understand the theory and how it works practically. A comprehensive look at the 5 element theory is beyond the scope of this article blog series though, where our focus is to get some fundamental and basic understanding of the theory. More specifically, we´re going to look at how we can implement the theory practically in our yoga practice, stand up paddling, and life beyond the water, as we adapt and live through natures seasons.
5 PHASES IN NATURE
Nature has its seasons. We all know it. Some love it, some hate it. Some adore the fall and winter; others live for the summer. In Sweden, where I mostly live, when I´m not travelling or spend time in my second home, Spain, we have sort of drastic seasons. By that I mean we have seasons that goes from quite warm and sunny to really cold and dark. During winter time in Sweden, it´s dark most of the time and we barely see the sun. A tough one for us ocean lovers, but some of us still spend time in the water – called cold water surfers. Nevertheless, nature has got 5 seasons, and they are:
Spring – Summer – Late summer – Fall – Winter
Each of these seasons are connected to one of the 5 elements, which are:
Wood – Fire – Earth – Metal – Water
And the reasons the 5 element theory often is called 5 phases is because these 5 elements mentioned above are not static when it comes to its connection to nature. Each element is connected to one season, and the seasons always shift, as nature isn´t static. The connections are:
Spring – Wood
Summer – Fire
Late summer – Earth
Fall – Metal
Winter – Water
Whether we like seasons or not, the seasons turn into each other. Spring turns into to summer, who ends up in late summer, who turns into fall, and so on. The seasons shift whether we like it or not, because that´s what nature does. And nature doesn´t complain about it. It just behaves accordingly. Which we humans should too, to gain optimal health.
LIVING ACCORDING TO THE SEASONS
By studying nature, we can see that each seasons has its own characteristic. Spring means nature is turning green, and plants start to grow and expand. So should we. This is the time we should have been restored by winter, ready to make plans and expand our energy in spring. If we haven´t rested enough during winter, many of us don´t have that energy, though. And this is where it becomes a problem. Many people are tired during spring and their energy is nothing of expanding and growing, but the opposite. In Sweden, this is called spring depression. It´s so common it´s got its own name. Terrible.
Then summer comes, and our energy should expand even further. Summer means spending time outdoors, living fully. It´s warm and flowers have grown and nature is at its peak in yang energy. So should we be.
Then summer turns to an end, and this is called late summer. It´s a short season, and basically September only. Harvest season when it comes to nature. Perfect for us humans as well. This is the time for introspection, meditation and easing into the beginning of the yin season. We leave the warm summer days, to head into the restful yin season of fall.
Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.
– Jim Bishop
Fall, the season where nature is letting go. The trees are starting to let go of their leafs. Nature is preparing to go into rest, which happens fully during winter.
Winter. Rest. Rejuvenation. During fall we´ve had the opportunity to letting go of the things we no longer need, just as nature does. The trees doesn´t hold on to its leafs just because the trees want to. The trees know that new leafs will bloom next season, when spring arrives again. We humans could live accordingly. Dropping whatever doesn´t work for us. Heading into a more restful life, leaving the most active days during summer, to start our well-deserved rest. During winter, we should sleep more, rest more. Just looking at nature turning darker means we know its rest season. Then a new year comes, and when spring comes we have that energy to go at it again.
DO WE LIVE LIKE THIS? NOT MUCH
So what happens? Our inner landscape react. Our organs react. Our emotions. Our energy. Our lives.