June 20th is the summer solstice this year. The solstice is the longest day of the year and shortest night. The days leading up to the solstice are becoming longer and longer which gives us more sunlight, therefore enhancing mood and perception. Transitioning from spring to summer is always a momentous occasion -- bring on the warm summer evenings, beautiful sunsets, days at the beach, and various celebrations. We inherently know this to be true.
The summer solstice is a good time to look at our relationship with time. Often, when imbalanced, it feels like there isn’t enough time. We notice that stress causes difficulty in keeping up with tasks. The “there just aren’t enough hours in the day” mindset may appear. Yet, when balanced and in tune - we are mindful, aware, even present of the fact that time can work in our favor.
Time influences us daily; it is relative and our perception of it changes throughout the year depending on our outlook. More sunlight, leading to increased mood, enhances our relationship to time making it appear more manageable. If in tune with these seasonal changes you may have noticed that as daylight increases, you feel more energized, able to take on projects, more fulfilled, inspired and enthusiastic. This increase in light has given rise to celebrations throughout history and various cultures.
“The word solstice itself comes from the Latin, from sol (sun) and stare or sistere (to stand or stop), and its celebration dates back to ancient pre-Christian tradition. For the Greeks, it would, according to some calendars, mark the start of the new year—and the month-long countdown toward the Olympics. The day was marked not only by the typical feasts and games, but by an even more remarkable occurrence: for once, slaves could participate in the festivities along with the freemen, joined in equality for a single day… Many Native American tribes celebrated the longest day of the year with a Sun Dance, while the Mayas and Aztecs used the day as a marker by which to build many of their central structures, so that the buildings would align perfectly with the shadows of the two solstices, summer and winter.” - Scientific American
Ayurveda views seasonal times of transition as extremely potent for implementing change through setting intentions for the upcoming season, and adapting the diet to support mental health. In Ayurveda, our digestive fire can be metaphorically compared to the sun in the sky; the way plants gain nutrients through photosynthesis is similar to our ability to take in nutrition from food. During the summer months, it is important to support our digestive fires by eating foods that are nourishing to our individual constitutions. The amount of fire that you have within you, as well as your ability to digest based on history and patterns, influences how well you feel.
The digestive fire, or gut, is our second brain - constantly sending signals to our first brain about how we feel. The gut-brain connection is absolutely fascinating, and a belief Ayurveda has held for thousands of years that is now being proven by science. Not only are we digesting food, but we are also taking in loads of sensory information - sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and feelings - that influence us. We must strengthen and protect our digestive fire so that we digest well, perceive the world around us well, and interact with the world through a clear lens. This begins with strengthening digestion.
Here are some practical digestive tips for the summertime:
Avoid foods that are spicy, oily or fermented
Add cucumbers to water for extra hydration
Cook with coconut oil
Use herbs like cilantro and parsley to garnish your food
Resting or a short walk after eating is shown to improve digestive capabilities
If you would like to learn more about your individual constitution and how Ayurveda can support your digestive fire, click here.
I hope this solstice brings you much potential for change. How will you celebrate?