From a Chinese medicine perspective, is essential that we learn to live in harmony with the seasons. There is, of course, no monolithic “Chinese medicine perspective” but regardless of your ideological preference, the reality of seasonal energy and the importance of flowing in step with it is practically irrefutable. There are many mentions of seasonal energy in the Neijing and one of the very first discussions in that seminal text regards the importance and method for living seasonally.
In the chapter I am referring to – Chapter 2 – Huang Di in rare monologue states the important lifestyle features one should adopt to avoid disease. I think it is important to note that it isn’t simply trendy, fun or perhaps spiritually astute to live in accordance with the seasons. It is one of the most powerful things you can do to resist disease.
The recent movement around local and seasonal foods is a nod to the importance of this timeless principle. People are recognizing that living in accordance with their immediate spatial and temporal environment is not just for hippies (although, for them too). Food tastes better, is more healthful, is less expensive and somehow just FEELS better when it is eaten at the right time for the place that one is in. The macrobiotic movement also took note of this and suggested that one eat food that is grown in one’s region.
But the Chinese philosophy on living in balance with seasonal energy goes farther than food choices. In fact, most of what I have found in Classical texts has nothing to do with food but instead focuses on various aspects of a person’s lifestyle.
1. Physical/mental/spiritual activity levels and types
The guidelines regarding activity go into every realm of life, just as the seasonal energy touches us everywhere – all the time. In the Neijing one of the first practical recommendations concerning seasonal living involves activity.
“During this season [spring] it is advisable to retire early. Arise early also and go walking in order to absorb the fresh, invigorating energy” (From Maoshing Ni’s translation)
2. Social activity levels
This is perhaps simply an outgrowth of #1 – but I think it is easy to overlook. We naturally gather together in the summer – although in the United States, some of our most “together” holidays are in the winter. Just as we should limit excessive physical activity in the winter, so should we ramp down our social activity. There is much more that can be said on this topic.
3. The color, smell and feeling of the surrounding environment
Paying close attention to the seasonal changes is important in resonating with their energy. All of our senses should be engaged in the study of our environment. It makes sense to similarly alter our internal environment to some degree. Letting your decorations follow the ebb and flow of nature will help you to become closely in tune with seasonal energy. Of course, you will want to keep balance as well – so surrounding yourself with emblems of Metal during the Fall is not necessarily the best way to go, but there are simple, effective and gentle ways to remind yourself of the seasonal energy even when you must be inside.
All of this and much more is included in the kind of lifestyle counseling that naturally grows out of Chinese medicine theory on the energy of the seasons. I would like to thoroughly investigate the energy of each season – looking into relevant etymology and Chinese medical information (like the organs, special points, etc) and follow that by my best suggestions – informed by the Classics – about living in harmony with the given season. Who knows how long it will take! Along the way, I hope you will contribute your suggestions as well…
About Eric Grey
Hi - I'm the founder of Deepest Health. When I'm not writing here, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Community Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.