It’s midsummer, the days are long, and the sunshine hours are plentiful. All around us, our little plant friends are baring fruit and sharing in their abundance. This makes it the perfect time to be out “harvesting sunshine”.
The concept of “harvesting sunshine” has been brewing up in my partner and I over the years as a way to describe much of the “medicine” we bring into our bodies in the summer months.
So I thought I’d take a few moments to put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, and explore it a little deeper with you.
At the 10,000 foot level it’s about bringing in the 5th element of qi, vital force, prana, or living essence from the world around us. It is about our connection to life and the living systems that keep this planet working. The vitality found in the life we choose to bring into our body goes beyond just what can be assessed nutritionally, into the realm of deeper connection to ourselves and the living world.
At the ground level, “harvesting sunshine” is about doing the work, and being an active participant in our food experience. It requires focus, dedication, and effort to really make the most of our time and the living abundance that is found in the sunshine months.
There are two basic ways in which we can work with this concept of “harvesting sunshine”: Either directly or indirectly.
We do this by spending time outdoors doing physical activities or sun bathing. This replenishes our solar battery, which if we gauge it by vitamin D content, has the ability to last us up to 90 days before we need to collect more sunshine on our skin. So there is only so much sun we can capture from direct sunshine harvesting. Of course the mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness of these activities can last much longer.
A traditional way of harvesting sunshine in Ayurvedic yogi practices was to close the eyes at sunrise or sunset, and face the sun for 5-10 min. This time of day the sun is much less strong and will not burn the closed eyes. The idea was that the sun would warm the third eye, activating and decalcifying the pineal gland.
It’s also important to note that when we are harvesting sunshine directly, it can be harder on our body to do this in the heat of the day (11-4), so mornings and late afternoon evening are ideal times to maximize our sunshine experience. These are also ideal times to be out connecting with plants and harvesting food.
This is about using the suns energy that is collected by plants to fuel us throughout the summer months, as well as storing it for later use in the rest of the year. It’s about growing our own food, harvesting from the wild lands, and buying from local farms. It’s those late nights or long days spent processing and preserving the seasonal abundance we have collected.
The idea is, the better we become at collecting and storing the suns energy, the longer it will last us into the winter months and the healthier we will be throughout the long years of our life. It’s really a mental shift towards one of learning the best ways to make use of all the life giving energy that is being offered to us during these summer abundance times.
Many of us feel great in the summer, we are more active, healthy and often in a better mood. Yet we have a hard time keeping those feelings going as soon as the weather shifts and the days start to get shorter.
Why is this? Is there a way to keep that summer fuel feeding us even after the season is gone?
Of course there is… we just need to know how to access it, and accessing it starts during the summer when the energy is most ripe. This is something that our ancestral memory is well acquainted with. We have been doing so since the beginning of time. In fact, for the majority of human history, we needed to harvest the sunshine in order to survive. We are hardwired to harvest, collect and store summer vitality.
The trouble is, we have lost touch with the importance and significance of this type of work. This is due in a large part to our move to an urbanized society that is once, twice, or thrice removed from its food sources. For the most part, we have no idea where what we eat comes from.
So the best way to start harvesting more sunshine is to look at your calendar and set aside time right now, to get out and start connecting with the abundance found in the world around you this season. It’s not too late!
Make the choice to go to a u-pick, buy farmers abundance, take walks in the wild lands with a basket for collecting, or plant some seeds and produce your own sunshine abundance.
Being a herbalist and avid wild forager, for me “harvesting sunshine” starts with scouting out spots where plants grow and choosing the most opportune time to collect them. Even in the winter I am actively looking for old apple trees and the skeletons of plants past, making mental notes of where to find them when the timing is right.
Harvesting Sunshine is also the busy work of properly processing the harvest, or as herbalists like to call it “Garbling” – which is all things involved in cleaning, sorting, and prepping the harvest for preserving.
Remember that with most harvests, the work done processing it when you get home is often twice as much as the initial harvest, so make sure you set aside time for this as well. A neglected harvest that goes bad due to lack of follow through is a crime against wisdom. I have had to learn that the hard way, more than once..
I went out a few days ago and picked some wild cherries from trees that I scouted out a few years back and now harvest every season. I spent around 90 minutes up in the trees, swaying in the breeze and harvesting those delicious little fruits. Then when I got home, my partner and I spent another 20-30 minutes cleaning and processing the cherries into sauce while our kids gorged on as many as they could. The next day we spent another hour de-seeding the sauce and canning it for the winter months. In total this was around 3 hours of work, which was nourishing in and of its self. Then when we crack open one of those delicious jars of cherry sauce, our family will be nourished once again with the elements of stored sunshine that we have lovingly prepared.
The same thing can be said about harvesting any type of food or herbal abundance. All of this type of work is a dedication to increasing our vitality and wellness in the months to come, and increases our health in two ways: One in the enjoyment and use of the abundance we store and gather, and Two in the time we get out and spend with the plants.
Why does our society no longer place much value on this type of work?
Often we busy ourselves with all sorts of non-essential tasks and farm out our food needs to machines, factories and the cheapest labour possible.
We place more value on the convenience of our food than the quality of connection we have to it.
There seems to be no time for most of us to growing or harvesting any of our own food in the modern world.
Is it less important now than it was in the past?
I would argue that this type of work is more important than ever. It is one of the biggest missing links in our health and happiness. We have become a society of people that are distracted and pre-occupied with things that don’t really matter.
There is a big gap between the reality we live in nowadays and the reality of what makes us truly happy and healthy. For the most part, our society is over fed, under nourished, and disconnected from community and planet.
So the real question to be asking ourselves is, What is it that really feeds our soul? and, Do our current choices deepen our connection, vitality and energy in life?
Without these values being taken care of, the food and activities we choose to do with our time will ultimately fall short of giving us what we really need. This is not to say we need to step backward in time and collect or grow all of our own food, but as we move forward, it is important to keep some of the wisdom of this alive so as to enhance our quality of life.
There is much to be said about the nutritional benefits of local/wild foods and the health benefits of getting outside- but in reality, it goes much deeper than that. How we spend our time and what we put in our body is how we reflect our connection to source, our commitment to self, and our intake of vital force.
So my bold request of you is this:
Commit to “Harvesting Sunshine” while the Sun is Shining and the Season is Ripe!
Please comment on this post and let me know your favourite way to get out and “Harvest Sunshine”.
The choice is yours… it always has been, and it always will be… in every moment.
Play it safe and stay inside the box, or challenge yourself with a leap of faith into the unknown path when opportunities are more likely to come your way.
Regardless of if it works out or not, you will never know something unless you try it.
In the modern world we are asked to become more nimble and responsive to the situations we find ourselves in. The world has never been so interconnected as it is today. With this all bets are off, all rule books are out. All we have is our intuition and collected wisdom to guide us through the chaos of an ever expanding paradigm that seems constantly on the verge of collapse and self destruction.
Remember.. If plan “A” doesn’t work out, don’t worry too much the alphabet has 25 more letters.. stay flexible there’s always another opportunity.
Welcome to my website.
A place where a passion for the natural world and a life lived vibrantly mingle and dance as they are caressed by my personal filters and explored by my mind…
But before I get too carried away, I’d like to take a moment in this opening blog to share a little about myself..
My journey as a Herbalist started when I was young, as a few years before I was birthed into this world my parents, created a Herbal School called Wild Rose College of Natural Healing .
As a youth I was submerged into the world of plant medicine. My early years we rich with everything herbal, from plant walks, to sweat lodge journeys, to trips deep into the wild lands. Spending many hours outside, learning the basics of life’s lessons all the while alongside my plant friends, our family even lived in a tipi for some time.
As my school years came, I was fortunate enough to spend my formative years in a waldorf education system. Designed by Rudolf Steiner the father of Bio-dynamic farming and many other natural world aligned philosophical practices. These years, formed a strong awareness and understanding in me around flow, rhythm, art, and community.
Unfortunately the Waldorf School I was in didn’t continue on through highschool, so I moved in to the public system… This was a truly mind altering experience.. I mean, for starters, they take marks off if you hand in assignments in pencil crayon!!
After a few rebellious of wising up to the world I was now submerged in as a young man/teenager, I became hyper award that there was something deeply wrong with the way we treat ourselves, our community and our planet.
Where’s the full circle connection to our actions?
Why do we hurt each other to make ourselves feel better?
Why are we competing with others rather than improving ourselves and each other?
Not knowing what to do with my confusion and growing disillusionment with society I committed to deepening my connection with plants and choose to enroll in the 4 year Clinical Herbalist diploma program offered by my fathers school.
This education was a powerful experience, bringing me much more in touch with the intricacies of the body and our relationship to plants as medicine and allies. During these years I also met my life partner Angela Watt (Willard), who was also studying to be a clinical herbalist.
Upon completion of our herbal programs Angie and I moved to the Comox Valley to learn more directly from the plants and start our clinical practices. After a few years of apprenticeship and wild land connects, it became clear to us that what people really needed most, was not another practitioner, it was a place to have better access to high quality botanicals for their own use.
This lead us to start The Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary, a company who’s mission is to be a medicine bridge, where people can find over 300 organic and wildcrafted herbs from farms, and wild lands all around the world.
Fast forwarding 8 years later to now, I find myself in a place where the mission of deepening our collective connection to the natural world and plant medicine is in full bloom. I spend much time in the wilds working with and learning directly from the plants and the environment. I teach workshops all over Canada and into the United States, as well as have published a variety of herbal blogs, article and over 120 free herbal education videos on our Harmonic Arts Youtube Channel.
If there is one thing that I hope for in all the work I do, it is that more people become inspired to bring a deeper connection to plants and the natural world into their lives.
So enjoy this website my hope is that it is a place that you can come to for new and innovative ways of connecting with nature and health…
© 2017 Yarrow Willard