A basic primer on the Chinese medicine view on living seasonally

 

From a Chinese medicine perspective, it is essential that we learn to live in harmony with the seasons. There is, of course, no monolithic “Chinese medicine perspective” but all lineages and even more modern interpretations of Chinese medicine theory discuss the health benefits of seasonal awareness.

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.

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 the Classical texts of Chinese medicine has nothing to do with food.

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.

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. We’ll be discussing more specifics about each season on the blog in articles to come.

Do you have a favorite season? Which one and why?

Written by Eric Grey

Co-founder of Watershed Wellness, Chinese herbalist, Acupuncturist and Teacher. I enjoy Oregon, the natural world, music, Star Trek and philosophy when I'm not practicing and studying medicine.