ACH Blog

Harvest Time

Isobel Cosgrove - Tuesday, July 28, 2020

In Chinese Medicine we move through five seasons in the year. Winter occupies the darkest, coldest months. Plants and animals, farming communities in the old days, rest in Winter by going to bed early and rising later. Bears give birth during this resting time in their caves, and their cubs spend the first weeks of their lives inside, protected from the cold.


green and red trees during daytime


The beginning of Spring can be stormy, as the early days of the season may be blown in during equinoxial gales. From the second half of March, there is a burst in plant growth and animal activity during a period of re-awakening after Winter ends. The energy of Spring, known as the Wood Energy in the 5 Element Tradition in Chinese medicine, allows us to revise our lives, plan for the next year, and make decisions about where we go next. Spring is an important time for us to make plans for how we can grow, flourish and move forward in our lives.


The Summer Solstice in late June gives us a time with the longest days, which can usher in the warmest part of the year.  Summer may start before the solstice, as it did this year. We had very warm days in late May and early June, and because the warmth came early,  plants flowered early, and we have basked in the sun for 2 months already. In late July we find ourselves moving from the expansion and colour of full Summer into what the Chinese Medics call the next season: Late Summer.



green plant


This time from late July, through August and September, up to the late Summer/Autumnal solstice is the time of Harvest, which is such an important moment in the reproductive year. This year the rowan trees already have their bright orange berries appearing (at least they are in London, where I live). Peas were ready early, and apples and pears were filling out and ripening too.


Growing up in the hills of Northumberland, I knew that Late Summer was beginning when the moors turned purple as the heather started blooming. In the North this was later, on the “Glorious Twelfth”, which is when the grouse season starts on August 12th. This is the time in the year of “plenty”, when farmers gather in their crops to sell or store for the Winter. Every culture has celebrated, and given thanks for their harvests over many millennia.


person holding red and orange tomatoes


And how do we celebrate and express gratitude in the 21st century? We have festivals, religious and pagan, campfire meals, barbecues and meals in the garden or by the sea, and picnics in the countryside.


In the 5 Element system of medicine we learn that our digestive systems are at their annual peak during harvest, so enjoy your picnics and late Summer feasts. Bears eat food in late Summer to last them through hibernation.

Let’s all make the very most of this rich and plentiful time of year by taking in the nourishment of late summer warmth and light, as well as the mellow abundance of the food available right now.


Enjoy filling up with the special qualities of the natural world at this unique moment in the year.


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All health is connected to nature

Isobel Cosgrove - Thursday, June 11, 2020

While doing ‘the sphere’, (one of my Qi Gong exercises) this morning, I had a moment of insight. When holding ‘the sphere’, we connect to nature around us, the wind in the trees, sunlight on leaves, a birdsong. We bring this energy from nature into our energy centre, or sphere. We hold this connection for a few minutes, while taking in the gift of nature. 


Bird, Kingfisher, Twigs, Bean Bird


When I was young, I spent weekends and holidays with my grandparents and relatives who farmed in Northumberland. I helped make hay, with lambing and milking cows. I learnt to love and simply connect with the natural world. During lockdown, many children have had time to connect, through sowing seeds, planting vegetables, and listening to bird songs. Chinese and East Asian medicine, which I have studied and practiced over 40 years, has enabled me to stay connected with nature, even while living in cities. A connection with nature is forged through the plants used in herbal medicine, bringing ancient wisdom into modern life. 


Chinese Medicine, Western Medicine


The 5 element teachings were brought from Taiwan and China to the UK in the 1960’s by J.R. Worsley. Those of us who were able to study with him in the 1970’s and 80’s learnt that our energy, and that of our patients, is closely linked to the energy of the seasons and the natural world. Spring is a time of growth and opportunity for change. Summer warms the heart, gives us the outdoors to play and rest. Late summer is the harvest time, while Autumn mists and shorter days ask us to quieten and re-connect with our inner lives. Winter is the end of the reproductive year. The energy of the trees, flowers and shrubs returns into the Earth, and we need to learn to slow, quieten and settle down in the Winter. 


Sky, Clouds, Landscape, Sunset, Beach

Here are some wonderful writings which can inspire you, and your children to have stronger connections with the natural world. In ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’, Robin Wall Kimmerer writes of indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. 16 year old Dara McAnulty has written the ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’, in which he details a year in his home in Northern Ireland, spending the seasons writing. Finally, Patrick Barkham’s ‘Wild Child’ aims to inspire future generations by showing us how to help reconnect our children with nature.  


"Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer

  


"Diary of a Young Naturalist" by Dara McAnulty


"Wild Child" by Patrick Barkham 

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Health in Spring

Isobel Cosgrove - Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Lockdown this year has interrupted the usual context in which we experience moving into and through Springtime. Energetically, Spring is a powerful moment of awakening from the darkness, cold and inward quality of Winter.

 

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During lockdown this year, we have so many constraints imposed on our lives, which have prevented us from physically and emotionally joining in with the awakening that Spring offers.

 

What is in the way?

We can’t go to join friends for coffee. Tennis, football, cricket games are cancelled. How much we can exercise is limited. Our diets are changed. We are drinking more alcohol. And stress and anxiety levels are much higher than usual. Some of us are mourning the death of friends or family. 

 

What have we lost?

As families we have not been able to celebrate Mothering Sunday, the Easter holiday, which is about Death and Rebirth, and this week the big events marking V.E. Day have been cancelled. What impact has all of this change had on our health?

 

How are we managing?

Children are out in the streets, drawing with chalks on pavements, and painting rainbows to show their support for the NHS. Without time at school have their creative instincts had more time to flourish? Spring is definitely a time for creativity.

Many of my clients have been cooking, crafting and painting too. This feeds the body, the mind and the spirits of those both doing and those just enjoying/being fed.

 

Connecting to Spring with Chinese medicine

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Make the most of all of the greens which Spring offers...garlic leaves, dandelion leaves, kale, chard, spring greens themselves!

They help the body clear out the residual debris from a Winter of more Yin [slower, quieter] activity. The sun and warmth of this year’s season, has given us a chance to fill up with the more Yang energy of Spring.


Sit in the sun each day if you can, for at least 1/2 hour. And some gentle stretching can give you more flexibility, and may put a spring in your step. Follow the example of the trees, and extend your body more each day as you walk/run/cycle. And most of all, enjoy!


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