The sun reaches its zenith and we experience the longest day of the year between 20th and 22nd June. It’s a time of great energy, momentum and action in the natural world, and an important turning point in nature’s calendar.
How does it affect us, and how can we make the most of the opportunity it provides?
The Rhythm of Health
Our individual human cycles are intrinsically linked to the seasonal cycles of the planet.
META-Health explains how our individual cycles work in a Two Phase rhythm of health and energy. On a daily basis, we experience Phase 1 (sympathetic stress) during the daytime, and Phase 2 (parasympathetic regeneration) at night. Each of our organs is functioning in one of these two modes at any given moment, according to our activity and stress levels, along with the programmes we are running.
This Two Phase process can be mapped to the annual cycle. The Spring Equinox in mid-March marks the start of Phase 1, while the Autumn Equinox in mid-September begins Phase 2. The Equinoxes (moments of equal day and night) are important turning points affecting our energy, motivation and orientation for the months ahead.
At the mid-point between these changeovers, we have the two Solstices – points at which the sun appears to stand still before changing direction relative to the earth. In the northern hemisphere, the Summer Solstice marks the longest day in mid-June and the Winter Solstice marks the shortest in mid-December. The opposite occurs in the southern hemisphere.
Eustress and the ‘stress peak’
The Winter Solstice is a crucial moment that corresponds with the ‘healing crisis’ or ‘healing peak’ half way through Phase 2 in the Two Phase model; an opportunity for release and change. When it comes to organ reactions and health issues, there is no precisely timed peak midway through Phase 1, as the level of stress an individual experiences depends on their thoughts, feelings and the activation of triggers.
Yet within the predictable annual cycle, we can see that such a ‘stress peak’ does occur, and it is at the time of the Summer Solstice.
When we talk about stress, it’s not necessarily a negative state. We can see the natural First Phase as a state of eustress; ‘good’ or ‘positive’ stress. This is the measure of stress necessary for initiation, activity, creativity and growth. It’s when stress becomes too much that it leads to distress, and symptoms such as anxiety, overwhelm and withdrawal.
The First Phase in nature provides the conditions for plants to grow, animals to raise their young and an abundance of food for all. In terms of the traditional Chinese philosophy, this is the yang phase.
Interconnectedness and continual flow
The seasonal meaning of the Solstice is interpreted in two ways. Some see it as marking the beginning of summer, while others see it as summer’s mid-point.
Either way, it holds a seeming contradiction: although the full heat of the summer has yet to arrive, the sun begins to recede from this moment onwards. At the height of summer, we can perceive the beginning of autumn. The yang contains the seeds of yin; at the height of its power, the sun is ready to begin its decline.
This ancient and profound understanding can also be applied to the Two Phases of health and thus help us to accept the cycle of healing. The First Phase already contains the essence of the second, and the Second Phase carries an echo of the first. While in stress phase, we are moving towards regeneration, and while in regeneration, part of us is preparing to come back into stress.
A time for celebration
For thousands of years and across the world, people have chosen to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Both ancient and modern communities have honoured the power of the sun and its connection with growth, abundance, marriage and fertility, through feasts, processions, parties, dancing and other forms of celebration. The lighting of bonfires is a popular ritual, a symbolic way of adding to the strength to the sun.
Some choose to watch the sun rise; others focus on midday, when the sun is at its highest. Many celebrations continue until midsummer on 24th June. There’s no reason why new and healthful practices begun at the Solstice can’t continue for the rest of the year, and beyond!
Find out how you can celebrate the Summer Solstice with our 8 tips here