Healing Cycles of Nature

~ Written by Katolen Yardley

Having just returned home from a restorative meandering journey down the Oregon Coast and time away at a retreat. I had the opportunity to see the majestic, ancient Redwood forests and stood in awe of these massive trees – some exceptional species towering HIGHER than the empire state building (over 360 feet tall), with a girth – stretching in diameter over 20 feet. Known as the tallest trees on earth, some trees in old growth forests live to be over 2200 years old. These remarkable trees can withstand insect decay, fungus infestation and are largely resistant to fire (due to their high tannin content).

Again I am reminded by how much nature has to teach us about health, growth and the wisdom shared by observing the cycles of healing found in nature. The annual new growth (1-2 inches) was evident on all trees in the forests, with pine trees showing off their bright new green tips and the leaves of trees a lush bright green color, signs of the spring, signs of new life.

Nature has much to teach us about optimal health and of healing; those very lessons are consistent even with the health of our human body. Our body is acted upon by the same ‘forces’ or vital energy which is present in all living things, the cycles of growth and decay are also similar. We are continually casting off old dead cells, old ways of being and taking in the new, provided that there is opportunity and the body is supported with adequate tools in which to conduct itself towards healing (optimal nutrition, rest, clean air, exercise -to name a few).

The cycles of the seasons remind of us of the cycles necessary for optimal health. Any improved state of health first is met with a period of hibernation. In the case of nature, winter is the time when trees rest, there is no creation of sap, nor leaf or fruit. Instead trees and many animals enter a state of dormancy, their ‘vital energy’ goes inward, time of hibernation when there is little change in physical appearance, not much visibly seems to happen on the surface. Misleading however, the greatest change is occurring just below the surface (and perhaps the most powerful changes and forces exist in forms not visible to the eye) Think of the radio waves, phone waves, electricity and heat waves; all are extremely powerful, yet we cannot visibly see these forces with our eyes, AND they are energies which we clearly reap the benefits of).

Similarly, vital energy flows within in all living things and is cumulated during times of rest – less output and more time to cultivate the strength and reserves for something new; it is the building up of a force of energy in which to overthrow the old and bring in the new. In the case of nature, spring is the time of “the new” – once again sap flows forth, with fresh, supple buds and fruit is supplied every summer. Animals shed their winter coat, bringing forth a new shiny, pelt. Winter is often the time for colds, an internal cleansing, and a time when we should rest. If we continue to practice overwork when rest is the natural inclination for healing, we further weaken our reserves.

In terms of herbal medicine the quote by Prentice Mulford sums it up very well

“the quality in the plant’s leaf, root or berry which taken as medicine, acts on the internal organs, is the force in that plant…The newer the bud…when used medicinally contains the most active force, principle and quality of that plant. The choicest and strongest tea is made of the topmost and tenderest buds of the plant.”

Many medicinal plants make the useful, potent medicines when leaves are gathered in the time of the spring.

In the case of our own healing, observing the wisdom of nature can remind us of the natural cycles of our own healing. An improved state of health often occurs in a step wise manner; first met with a time of rest, a noticeable plateau, a time where there is much going on below / under the surface, – (it can even a time when things seem to be worsening or nothing seems to be occurring). Give thanks, for these plateau periods are the time when our bodies vital energy is recuperating from overwork and re directed towards improving the state of things. Healing often occurs in a step wise manner, or in a cycle with periods of improvement (the spring) and then entering into a period of hibernation (the winter months)- or a plateau time, and the internal vital energy again builds its reserves for a future time of new growth.