Summer into Fall

Now that we are in mid-September, we may realise that warm balmy weather is but a temporary phenomenon. For some this may be a happy prospect that signals the return to more mild temperatures. Others may be waiting for the crispness of winter and all that that brings. Probably everyone has a favourite time of year. However, we should welcome all the seasons and rejoice in the contrast. In all aspects of our life we need balance. We need the four seasons to provide rest and rejuvenation for the soil and so that the right nutrients can be provided for new growth. We need the rain if we are not to live in a desert.

Nature has a remarkable ability to adapt to its surroundings. There are plants that can survive and flourish without much water. I saw this first hand on a visit this past month to Death Valley in California.  Another marvel of nature is the growth of the “poison” and the “antidote.” Where there is sun, aloe vera flourishes for topical application to counter its painful effects. Hot countries tend to have spicy foods. Eating these increases the body’s natural cooling mechanism through increased sweating.  Again, aloe vera is prevalent in much of the southern U.S., Central and South America and can be taken internally to counter upset to the stomach from consumption of spicy foods.

Growing up as a child in England, I remember the country walks through terrain that included stinging nettles. Always growing close by were the dock leaves bringing speedy relief.

We have always been inclined to think of any sort of pain as an unwelcome sensation rather than a learning experience. I remember being perplexed by Chinese doctor’s teaching that one should try to “welcome the pain.” Gradually I have come to understand the meaning of what he was saying.

I used to suffer from really bad headaches and, before starting on my path in the healing profession, would reach for the closest bottle of acetaminophen. As this drug took its effect on the nervous system and I sank into a peaceful oblivion, I really learnt nothing from the experience. All this drug did was to numb the senses and generate more toxicity for my liver. This, in itself, would lead to an ever increasing spiral of headaches.

What I do now for headaches is retire to a cool darkened room, focus really hard on the pain and breathe into it. It is as if I am becoming an observer to my pain rather than a participant in the process. Drawing a similar parallel, imagine walking out underdressed on a particularly cold day in winter. Our inclination is to tense up our muscles so that there is less surface area to be chilled. If we try to fight the forces of nature we just end up with sore muscles. I would suggest a better strategy is to do something more in line with “welcoming the pain.” Try opening up the arms to either side as if to say: “I welcome the seasons.”

Pain can also be emotional. We all go through hard times when relationships leave us disappointed. It is possible that we may lose a loved one to accident or disease. We may have a feeling of emptiness or of being lost. Some may turn to alcohol or drugs to contend with difficulties. Others may throw themselves into their work as if to lessen the intensity of their pain. These strategies I would parallel with taking acetaminophen for physical pain. It amounts to an unsatisfactory way of dealing with a problem and provides little learning. I would suggest that a better way of handling such heartache is to acknowledge that pain as if to say “yes, I hurt.” Breathe into it. The pain may still be there but, somehow, it seems more manageable. We could avoid the pain of relationships and loss by never getting into a relationship. Alternatively, we can grasp life with both hands and embrace all its seasons. Enjoy the rest of Summer.