When I started acupressure school, I was introduced to a book called Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Elson Haas, M.D. This book discusses the Five Element theory of Chinese medicine and explores the influences of the natural world on our whole health. The quote at the beginning of the book still has a strong affect on me when I read it:
“Whoever wishes to investigate medicine should proceed thus:
consider the seasons of the year and
what effect each of them produces.”
I was 25 years old, a budding gardener, an avid hiker, a newbie at meditation, a health conscious vegetarian, an enthusiastic martial artist and a young woman who was passionate and determined to live life differently. I had some professional accomplishments through my B.A. in Psychology and Oriental Studies and three years of work at Pima County mental health facilities (both in- and out-patient).
I had already discovered that I was in great need of personal healing and had begun pursuing that end. Recently introduced to A Course in Miracles, metaphysics and meditation, I understood that in order to change the world I needed to change myself. I had spent so many years learning to defend myself that the ideas of forgiveness and harmony were very enticing. I had learned through martial arts how to harm, now I was ready to learn how to heal.
Gardening (and motherhood) became a great teacher for me. At the very beginning, I couldn’t even get a house plant to survive. Over the years, through trial and error, I found that as my heart healed and opened, the plants began to thrive, too. In the most stress-filled times of young motherhood, founding a school and running a business, the garden was my sanctuary. When people asked me “How do you do it?” I would tell them the secret of putting my hands in the soil, listening to the birds and watching the vegetables grow, flower and give me food.
Sometimes, I just wander around with my camera and take pictures of the glorious life that reveals itself to me. It becomes a time of reflection and meditation, not of doing or list making. This type of observation allows me to see the seasons unfold. The budding plants that peek up over the soil in early spring, the leggy growth that leads into summer, the transition from flower to fruit in the summer, the slow wilting of the leaves as the fruit matures ready for harvest and the retreat underground for the contemplative and rejuvenating time of winter.
Over a period of 40 years, I have watched the garden grow, sometimes to fail, and then grow again. I, too, have grown, faltered and grown again during that time. The symbiotic relationship that we have with the garden is reflected in the way our human lives unfold. The usual comparison with the seasons of nature lists the passages of life that occur sequentially over many years – birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and elder years. This approach denies the variance that occurs in our personal lives. Our actual experiences influence how we change and the process of maturing.
In the Sugi Way: Seasons, there is a deeper exploration of how we move through the seasons internally, not in any particular order, rather in a way that is fluent with our personalities and our life experiences. Sometimes, we are stuck in a deep winter even when it is summer outside. Or during the darkest days of winter, our sunny selves are shining brightly. Ultimately, we learn to match our rhythms to that of nature, while still respecting our internal process and allowing fluid movement between our inner seasons.
Our modern world has created a deep divide between humanity and the earth we live on. In order to reconnect with those natural rhythms, it is necessary to begin to feel and trust again. In truth, trust for me was found in the garden and the eyes of the young children in my life. Reclaiming our own innocence, finding the beauty of that hidden Self, and having safety to bring that person into the open in daily life is done gradually. Just like the growth of a new plant, the beginning is vulnerable and fragile. As the seasons progress, that tenderness blossoms into prolific strength, resulting in fruits to share with the next generation.
As I’ve come to understand these rhythms in my own life, I’ve found that it becomes easier to share with others, to articulate, to offer tools for self discovery and to create community with others. My current offering for you comes in the form of The Sugi Way: Seasons training program that begins March 29, 2015. Join me and discover the joy of living with the seasons.