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”.
© 2017 Yarrow Willard