Like most ancient healing traditions, Tibetan Medicine (Sowa Rigpa) has long identified the complex internal effects of seasonal changes. As the predominating elements and general characteristics shift in our outer ecosystem, so do the physiological and psychological conditions in our inner ecosystem. The cycles of nature around us have a noticeable effect on our immune system, energy level, appetite, and even brain chemistry, with many other effects going unnoticed in the hustle of our day-to-day lives. But in the 21st century western world, our diet and behavior stay largely the same regardless of seasonal conditions, with arguably detrimental results. By ignoring the cycles that our ancestors have acknowledged for hundreds of thousands of years, are we doing our health a disservice? In Sowa Rigpa, the influence of the seasons (and time as a whole) is identified as one of the four reigning conditions for the arousal of dis-ease – joined by diet, behavior, and provocation by external pathogens and energetic forces. This serious attention paid to seasonal conduct is shared across the spectrum of ancient medical traditions, and the knowledge imparted from this more organic relationship with time may have some wisdom to offer in our age of consumption-based monotony.
In the Tibetan tradition, a standard year consists of 360 days divided into twelve 30-day months. Since the Tibetan calendar is derived from both solar and lunar measurements of time (with particular influence from the Kalachakra tantra), astrological adjustments like skipped or doubled days are a frequent occurrence in order to line up with the proper cycles of astral bodies. However, the date of the new year is not universal across Tibetan traditions, with some celebrating the solar new year (winter solstice) in lieu of the more familiar Tibetan “Losar” which falls roughly around the same time as the Chinese lunar new year. Losar (Wyl. Lo Sar, later Lo gSar) originally marked the beginning of the new growing season, when fresh (Sar Pa) growth and a new agricultural season would begin on the new moon at the beginning of the traditional spring months. Over time, however, even Losar’s etymological association with agriculture shifted and “Lo gSar” now simply marks the beginning of the new (gSar Po) year (Lo).
But long before the influence of Buddhist systems of time, the Tibetan people maintained a vast and sophisticated knowledge of the natural world’s cycles as well as the effects of the changing seasons on our own physiological and psychological systems. This kind of innate ecological wisdom was common among all early Homo sapiens, who have inhabited the Tibetan plateau for well over 20,000 years, but with the increased prevalence of indoor lifestyles and controlled personal climates (i.e. air conditioning and refrigeration) in the modern era, seasonal mindfulness has been largely abandoned.
While the Tibetan tradition has a number of methods of categorizing the seasons - most notably into four, five, or six seasons - Yuthok Yönten Gönpo's Explanatory Tantra (bShad Pa'i rGyud) of the Four Medical Tantras follows the seasonal model found in the Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita, with six seasons comprised of two months each. As I’m writing this, the remnants of monsoon season (Yar-ka) are falling with one of Colorado’s daily late-summer rains. The period of monsoon season falls after the summer solstice, usually lasting from around mid-July until mid-September in the northern hemisphere. Regular rains, increased humidity, and cooler temperatures (at least during the rainstorms) characterize this period, though these conditions naturally are not always present in every climate.
During monsoon season, issues relating to rLung (the psychophysiological wind energy, analogous to Ayurvedic vata) have a tendency to arise. This is largely due to external conditions like cooler temperatures, changing weather patterns, and increased atmospheric wind, though the dry and intense earlier months of summer (So-ga, falling from May-June) also provide the proper circumstances for rLung issues to manifest. Around this time, insomnia, anxiety, mental instability, and neurological issues can become more troublesome and pronounced. Fibromyalgia flare-ups and panic attacks are likely in those with a predisposition to them, and the immune system may find itself in an overall deficient state, resulting in colds and other acute infections (i.e. HSV).
During monsoon season, it is generally important to nurture one’s metabolic heat (Mé-drö) with warm, light, easily digestible foods. However, it is important not to use too many hot, pungent spices during the summer months or issues may arise when the cooling balance of the rains begin to subside in the autumn (Tön-ka), sometimes known to as “Indian Summer”. During this period, which starts in mid-September in the Northern Hemisphere, the Tripa humor (the psychophysiological fire energy in the body, analogous with Ayurvedic pitta) becomes aggravated as the heating rays of the sun replace the dampness of monsoon season. This can cause heat-related issues to manifest, including inflammatory conditions, headaches, intestinal distress, liver and gallbladder issues, and other Tripa-related problems. We may notice that we crave fresh, sweet, and bitter foods, like fruits or raw vegetables. While raw foods can generally be difficult for one’s digestion, they can be curative in moderation if one is experiencing heat-related symptoms in the early autumn.
If one has long-standing Tripa issues, the autumn is considered to be great time to administer proper laxative therapies in order to cut the root of the disorder and expel excess Tripa. Otherwise, it is advisable to simply rely on sweet, bitter, and astringent foods and medicines in order to manage the arousal of heat in the body. Medicines containing amalaki (Tib. sKyu Ru Ra) are beneficial for cleansing the blood when there is an excess of heat.
Like rLung, however, an increase of Tripa can have a noticeable effect on our psychological equilibrium (and therefore also our sociological dynamics). While excess or disturbed rLung tends to produce symptoms consistent with a western understanding of anxiety and stress, excess or disturbed Tripa is much more closely associated with outbursts of rage and anger. This can be exacerbated by liver toxicity, especially when there is an excessive intake of hot-natured substances like alcohol. When these kinds of conditions are present in the early summer months, autumn is often the time when their negative results will arise.
This can be rather problematic on a social level, as an increase of Tripa will potentially worsen already-stoked rage from hate groups like the white supremacists currently infecting our American streets. There may be an uptick in violence and aggressive rhetoric in the public arena, fueled by the ignorant hatred that fails to acknowledge our basic shared human condition. But on the other side, this increase of the fire element can also have an inspiring and motivating effect on our collective psyche, particularly for those who are feeling most depleted in the face of hatred and extremism. The Tripa humor, particularly the Drup-jé Tripa (Accomplishing Tripa), imparts a primal feeling of determination and perseverance that usually clinically appears with healthy hormonal balance. When excessive cold-natured conditions and damaging behaviors compromise our hormonal equilibrium, our natural sense of motivation can suffer, producing symptoms like depression and lethargy. As long as we guard against excess Tripa accumulation in the body and mind, we can certainly command the benefits from this autumnal boost of gusto and continue standing together against tyranny and hate.
In a slightly different categorization of the seasons shared with the Chinese Taoist system, the orientations of the seasons are based directly on the five outer elements (one per season), with the current period (late August/September) reflected in the earth element’s season of harvest. The earth element manifests in the spleen, stomach, and pancreas, making the harvest season a good time to support these organs. Processed sugars should be avoided, but eating seasonal fruits is a good method of balancing our system with the environment and supporting our digestion. This also naturally balances our excess of Tripa energy. Harvest is a time of abundance and celebration, traditionally associated with community gatherings and the sharing of one’s bounty. In today’s world, this energy can inspire those who seek to build community and re-enforce a spirit of brother/sisterhood among our fellow sentient beings.
Here are some simple tips for staying healthy and balanced (in body and mind) during the autumnal months ahead:
Enjoy naturally sweet seasonal fruits like apples, peaches, pears, sweet grapes, and figs, but avoid fruit juices and processed sugar. Without adequate fiber and the nutritional “ecosystem” of the whole fruit, this rush of even natural sugar is still stressful to your liver, pancreas, and metabolic health. Baked apples are a personal favorite for a more properly autumnal treat. It's highly advisable to always eat organic (glyphosate is bad news), and it's best to purchase your produce at a farmer's market instead of buying it from a grocery chain. If we do go with the former option, we'll be contributing to the added benefits of community building and perpetuation of a strong local economy. If we go with the latter option (which I regrettably do more often than I'd like), it's best to note that we'll also be footing the carbon footprint of an apple that was grown in New Zealand, processed (and waxed) by underpaid workers in South America, then shipped to our local supermarket in ______ through the magic of fossil fuels...
Seasonal vegetables should be enjoyed cooked, such as squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Raw vegetables, especially leafy greens, can be enjoyed after a cooked meal. Dandelion greens are particularly good for those with an existing surplus of Tripa energy in the body. These lovely vegetables are all quite easy to grow in a home garden, which one can then trade with neighbors for some of their garden's yields.
If you choose to eat meat, stick to a small amount of cooling meat such as that taken from cows or goats. Otherwise, meat from animals living in dry regions are beneficial against the oily qualities of the autumn season. Always be sure to use grass-fed, organic animal products since these include a healthy amount of DHA and EPA Omega-3 fatty acids, as opposed to the excessive inflammatory Omega-6s that are produced with grain-fed animal products.
Use essential oils like camphor, sandalwood, and lemongrass in your home and on your clothing. When excess heat provokes aggravation, these scents can provide a cooling balance. Incense containing cooling ingredients like sandalwood and agarwood can also be used. Ayurvedic texts recommend wearing pearl garlands (and why argue with Ayurvedic texts) as well.
Take advantage of lunar energy. Evening and nighttime activities are excellent for providing a cooling lunar balance to the predominating heat of the season. That being said, it's advisable to avoid taking naps during the daytime, especially in autumn. Due to the dominant solar energy, daytime naps can increase oily qualities in the body and instigate a number of issues.
Stay hydrated. For ease of assimilation, it’s best to boil your water and let it cool to room temperature before drinking. This lightens the nature of the water by speeding it up molecularly and takes away any stagnation or heaviness. You can also drink the water hot, which is actually more effective at cooling the system down than ice water. Ice water should be avoided no matter what season it is due to its damaging effect on the digestive system and tendency to exacerbate rLung (the wind energy) and Pekén (the phlegmatic earth/water energy). Green tea, peppermint tea, and other cooling infusions can be enjoyed, as well. As always, be sure to carry your own reusable water bottle while protesting neo-nazi infiltration of American society.
Keep the mind balanced with a daily meditation practice. Calm practices like shiné/shamatha meditation or Yin Yoga are favored in lieu of hot-natured practices like analytical meditation or hot yoga. Prostrations, for those who practice them, should be kept slow and steady in the hotter months.
Stay cool, safe, and healthy in the months ahead, and may your inner fire drive you to do great things. ཁམས་བཟང་།
Chinese translation of seven tips provided by Drukmo Gyal Dakini: 享受自然甜美的季节性水果，如苹果，桃子，梨，甜葡萄和无花果，但避免果汁和加工糖。没有足够的纤维和整个水果的营养“生态系统”，哪怕是天然糖的冲击仍然会给你的肝脏，胰腺和代谢健康带来压力。苹果派是更适合秋季美食的个人喜爱。永远吃有机物（草甘膦是坏消息）是非常必要的，最好是在农民市场上购买农产品，而不是从超市购买。 季节性的蔬菜，如南瓜，胡萝卜和红薯，都可以煮着吃。生菜，特别是绿叶蔬菜，可以在吃完熟食后享用。蒲公英对身体中存在的过剩赤巴能量的人来说特别好。这些可爱的蔬菜在自家花园里都很容易种植，然后可以和邻居交换一些花园的产量和品种。 如果您选择吃肉，请坚持少量具有凉性的肉类，如牛肉或山羊肉。否则，生活在干燥地区的动物的肉类有利于秋季的油性。始终确保使用草饲的有机动物产品，因为这些产品包括健康量的DHA和EPA Omega-3脂肪酸，而不是使用谷物饲料动物产品生产的过量炎症Omega-6。 在您的家中和您的衣服上使用樟脑，檀香和柠檬草等精油。当多余的热量引起加重时，这些气味可以提供冷却并平衡。也可以使用含有凉性成分如檀香木和琼脂的香料。印度医学建议佩戴珍珠花环。 利用月球的能量。晚上和夜间活动非常适合热量很高的季节并且提供冷却平衡。建议避免在白天小睡，特别是在秋季。由于主导的太阳能，日间小睡会增加身体的油性，并引发一些问题。 .保障饮水。为了方便适应，最好在喝水之前煮沸水，然后放冷至室温，然后再饮用。这样通过加速分子水来消除水的性质，消除任何停滞或沉重。你也可以喝热水，这实际上比冰水冷却系统更有效。无论什么季节，都不应该喝凉水，其对消化系统的破坏性影响，对rLung（风能）和Pekén（痰液/水能）的恶化趋势也很强。可以享用绿茶，薄荷茶等凉性茶叶。一定要携带自己的可重复使用的水瓶，同时抗议新南泽西曾经反法西斯美国社会的渗透。 保持心灵平衡与日常冥想练习。ཞི་གནས等冥想或瑜珈而保持身心灵平静比分析冥想或强度很大的瑜伽要效果好，对于那些练习强度很大瑜伽和思维强度很高的冥想的人，在炎热的月份应该保持缓慢的节奏而求稳。