It’s that time of year again, and if you have anything in common with me, it is a time that you are not very excited about. Tomorrow, we as a nation will change our clocks one hour forward, unless you are one of the people having the good fortune of living in Arizona or Hawaii. For me that means waking at my normal time of around 6 and then realizing that it is actually 7, one less hour in my day until my normal 10 pm bedtime. On Monday I will wake at 6 which only two days ago would have been 5, and instead of watching the sky brighten during that first hour I will be in darkness almost until I arrive at the office. It’s likely that I will feel groggy Monday due to possible sleep problems, or due to the unfamiliar dark mornings. I’m not writing this to share my complaints with the world, I’m writing this as I always do, to make the connection between the way we live and the quality of health that we experience.
Why do we do it? There is no sense in me explaining the history behind daylight savings time since there are already many well-written articles available. For example, National Geographic recently published an article that explains the controversy behind this semi-annual ritual, and the Los Angeles Times has done the same. In summary, we do it because it is thought to reduce electricity consumption and give us more outdoor time in the evenings. I am an absolute advocate of saving energy and enjoying free time, but I don’t think it is a good idea to be adding more stress to an already overworked and under rested nation, and as the articles show there are many health professionals who would agree.
Daylight savings time is really quite symbolic of our need as a culture to control nature. How bold we are to think that we can manipulate the rise and fall of the sun. This reminds me of a book I am currently reading called The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. Fukuoka practiced what he called natural farming in Japan during the later half of the 1900s. He grew rice and oranges with no inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers, or diesel fuel. He strongly advocated an observational approach to agriculture with as little interference as possible, and practiced this to the extent that plowing the soil was strictly forbidden on his farm. The results of implementing his philosophy were that the yields of his harvests rivaled and even exceeded any farmer in perhaps all of Japan at the time. At one section of the book Fukuoka states that if a single bud is snipped off an orange tree that may bring about disorder that cannot be undone. He states that pruning fruit trees is often done to make it easier to harvest fruit, and to combat the onset of insect and plant disease. However, according to Fukuoka, based on years of observation and trial and error, the reason we have insect and plant disease is because we pruned in the first place. We are caught in a cycle where we prune to make the fruit more accessible, but that pruning causes pests and disease, so we prune and spray chemicals to reduce the pests and disease. In other words, it all begins with the need to try and control how the fruit tree naturally grows; yet the tree already knows how to grow without our assistance. The tree will send branches towards the light, not toward our fruit baskets. We would be better off getting taller ladders, or maybe leaving the upper fruit for the birds to eat.
In Ayurveda it is important to observe the constantly changing cycles and adjust our lifestyles accordingly. We would never wear shorts in Minnesota during winter, or wear a down jacket in New Mexico during summer, yet we don’t think twice about eating cold raw salads with ingredients imported from the southern hemisphere during winter, or eating processed food from cans, boxes and bags during the abundance of summer harvest. Though you may not have ever thought about it before, the time of day, the season of the year, and the stage of your life all influence your health in some way. For further details on this concept, and to understand why I chose the header image for this website, see my first post Meaning of the Sattvic Planet image. Masanobu Fukuoka observed that snipping a single bud from his orange tree could cause disorder that cannot be undone, and I see parallels of this to the changing of our clocks. It’s time to observe, and loosen our controlling grip on nature, or as the Beatles said, “Let it be”.