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Cracks in the Earth

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

Years ago while traveling in Tibet, I was amazed by the dryness of the climate.  Though the mountains were covered with snow, and the rivers were raging torrents, the ground was largely a dusty wasteland.  There were sporadic fields, where the people grew barley, but much of the land reminded me of stories I had heard about the great dustbowl from the 1930’s. Growing up in the Midwest, I was a stranger to dry air.  The humidity  was so dense that it seems to saturate the skin and soak the spaces inside your bones.  There was a general heaviness in the summer air that felt oppressive at times.  

When life dries out, things begin to harden.  Leaves and stems become brittle; the ground mimics concrete.  In my 17 years in southern Oregon, I have begun to grow accustomed to the cyclical drying out of the land in summer.  What winter and spring have given, summer takes away.  Things grow in the summer, but there is a sense that everything is living on borrowed time.  As the season progresses, the ground loses its give and hardens into a protective shell.  This has a way of locking in the moisture that the ground still holds, but it comes at a cost.  Not only does the hardness in the soil keep some of the water in, it also prevents water from soaking into the ground when a big rain comes.  If you look at the ground when the first big storm comes in the late summer or early fall, you are likely to see a lot of the water running off into the creeks and rivers, instead of down into the earth.  It usually takes a bit of consistent precipitation to loosen up the ground so it can receive the water. 

With the ongoing drought in the west, I have noticed that the ground doesn’t just harden in the summer anymore, it has increasingly begun to crack.  It more closely resembles a desert than the forest floor that I am used to in western Oregon.  There is a sadness that I notice when I think of how much things are drying out, but I am also reminded of one of life’s truths:  When things are pushed to a breaking point, new opportunities arise.  The cracks in the soil allow the healing waters to more easily enter the soil, so not as much runs to the streams.  I witnessed this during the rain we had last week.  The soil had become so dry that it had broken open….it was ready to receive.  

It reminds me of how the past couple of years have broken most of us open.  We keep bending, withstanding, until we tend to harden up to minimize any further pain.  Yet, life has continued to push us even farther.  Most of us feel that we have been pushed beyond our limits.  The hardness of our shells has begun to crack, just as the dry ground beneath our feet has opened.  This splitting apart has created more space to receive life’s grace.

“The wound is where the light enters you.”

Rumi

The poet Rumi knew this truth.  That often we must completely crack open to heal.  We must truly fall apart to know authentic wholeness.  As I continue to do my healing work in the community, I am struck by the immensity of the suffering that have all endured the past couple of years.  I am also in awe of how that suffering can lead to profound change and acceptance.  People are still struggling, but new shoots of growth and understanding are sprouting.  We are coming back to find what is really important, what truly matters.  All we have to do is be willing to let life continue to crack us open and to have the faith that it is leading us somewhere better than we can imagine.  Then the light will enter our lives and illuminate our souls; the rain will nourish and soften our weary bodies.

Be well.

When the Storm Settles

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

My grandmother used to collect snow globes.  As part of her seasonal decorations, they made their appearance for the month of December and then found their way to a box once the new year rolled around.  As a child they always seemed so magical:  A microcosm of the chaos of the winter holidays.  They were mostly encountered in their resting state, their various scenes unperturbed by a storm that was always only a few shakes away.  But inevitably the storm would come and the flying flakes would transform the environment.  I sometimes wonder about the desire to take a serene moment and shake it up a bit.  

If you were to ask nature about the purpose of winter, I’m certain that she would tell you of the importance of dormancy.  Hibernation is an extreme sort of dormancy in which certain animals slow down their heart rate and metabolism, and lower their body temperature.  Though we don’t sleep away our winters as a bear might, as a part of nature we are subject to its same suggestions.  Winter is the opposite of the intense activity of the summer, but somehow we have become enamored with the promise of light.  We crave the warmth, the comfort and the pace.  Before the discovery and wide scale implementation of electric lights, night time was a non-negotiable invitation to rest; Winter with its longer and colder nights was a insistence that we find our own sort of dormancy.  For most of us however, we can’t resist the temptation to shake the snow globe…to stir up a little more chaos when the environment is asking us to slow down.  There is a part of us that seems to thrive on disarray.  We believe that if there is a lack of agitation things will wither and atrophy.  Or perhaps they will fall apart completely.  I have the sense that we subconsciously view our lives as Velcro.  We feel the need to encourage our rough edges so that things will remain fastened together and stable:  A sort of hyper vigilance.  While summer may call for more texture and more stimulation, winter actually asks us for the opposite.  Winter is a time for smoothness and calm; more the smooth surface of a frozen lake than the choppy cacophony of a summer barbecue.  We may have a suspicion that without the frequent agitation of intervention that things may fall apart.  If left unattended chaos will unravel all of our hard work. But winter has its own song.  It is more like a smooth set of magnets that work best with unperturbed surfaces. The smoothness helps them function properly.  This is winter’s  invitation.  

Most of us are still a little afraid of the dark, just as we are afraid of the quiet.  There are some demons that only tend to show up when the light wanes and there is less noise.  I think that the winter holidays, as they are commonly celebrated in the west, are as much a frightened refusal to dance with the darkness, as a jolly celebration.  We shake winter up to create enough a diversion that we don’t have to listen to the darkness as it shares its secrets.  Winter offers its gifts freely, we have but to accept the wisdom it offers.  We are meant to make the most of this time.  Eventually the sun will regain the reigns and the snow globes will go back into the box until next year.

Summer turns to autumn

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

 

After spending the day at Talent Harvest Fest,  my heart was warmed by community and my body was exhausted. The festival happened on a perfect sunny day following our first stretch of cool rainy weather. Everyone was so happy to be savoring the last days of summer. I chatted with many people about how they just wanted to be outside; prolong going home to laundry, work related projects, and making dinner. It felt like as a community we were eager to harvest every drop of “fun” from summer, yet there was a tangible taste of fall in the air.  After the festival, I realized my heart  was in summer and my body was ready to rest in Autumn.  

My personal experience speaks to why the change of season tends to make our health unstable.  Switching from the “expansive” spirit of summer (think travel, going out more, and staying up late), to autumn a more “contractive” time of  going inward, being at home, and sleeping more can be a challenge.  Adjusting our lifestyles to the changing needs of the season is something most people do not consider, it simply is no part of our cultural consciousness. However, learning to honor the changing needs of your health in relationship to the season is a wise way to improve your health.

Traditional Chinese Medicine associates autumn with the metal element and the Lungs. This season governs organization, setting limits, and protecting  boundaries.  The energy of the lungs is “letting go”,  autumn is a perfect time to let go of anything that you may be holding on to. Special attention is given to Lung health as they are the most vulnerable during this season. Emotionally, the lungs coincide with feelings of grief and sadness. Unresolved grief, sadness, and difficulty with letting go will stagnate the lung meridian and make one more susceptible to illness, often causing symptoms of chest tightness, cough, or low immunity.

Awareness is the first step in making changes to your health. 

The practice of cultivating  awareness that your lifestyle needs to adapt to the change of seasons is a huge step for your wellness and quite intuitive when given attention.

5 ways to stay healthy this Autumn

1. Breathe deeply

-take the time to breath deeply and fully exhale…letting go all the way of the breath. Come back to deep breaths all day long.

2. Forgiveness 

-take advantage of Autumn’s energy of letting go to forgive others and yourself

3. Purge /Give away

-purge what you do not need in your closet, shed, heart…relocate things to friends. Make room for  your inward work.

4.Sleep 

-the ultimate letting go. Aim for 1 more hour of sleep per night.

5. Take immune tonics

-Recommit and stock up on your immune tonics; Vitamin C, D, Tonic herbs, medicinal mushrooms, etc.

Cheers to gracefully transitioning from an external to a internal focus, to letting go of what you don’t need anymore, and to embracing Autumn.