Fourfold Cooling Method: Begin By Understanding the Seasons

Tibetan medicine calls for specific seasonal behavior.  The seasons can be divided either by equinox and solstice, the four seasons as we do in the West or into six seasons: Early Winter (November & December), Late Winter (January & February), Spring (March & April), Early Summer (May & June), Late Summer (Monsoon in some places) (July & August), and Autumn (September & October).  The seasons are then described according to what is happening in the climate and the environment. Certain behaviors are recommended for each of the seasons.

As we mentioned in previous blog posts, Tibetan medicine is all about maintaining balance and correcting imbalances when they occur. Disease grows and develops when conditions of the seasons, five senses, or our behavior are considered deficient, excessive, or the opposite. Conditions that lead to the growth and development of disease are deficiency, excess, and contrary environmental, climatic, temporal, and behavioral influences. These influences create imbalances in our body, which lead to dysfunction in our senses, organs and the nyépa.

Seasonal Excesses

Fourfold Cooling Method

The seasons are part of continuous external conditions that affect our bodies, minds and health. These days, with the effects of climate change, we are finding ourselves in a situation where seasons can suddenly and drastically shift and provide conditions different from, and at times, extremely contrary to normal seasonal behaviors.  Our winters have become colder (excess) or hotter (opposite/contrary, deficient) than normal depending on where we live.

Or our summers are hotter than normal (excess) or rainier and more turbulent in weather (contrary, deficient) and our expectations of normal weather patterns for the seasons have become disrupted. Accordingly, we are currently in summer but much of the world is experiencing a much hotter summer than anywhere has experienced for generations. Since our seasons are so imbalanced and in flux at the moment and we find ourselves dealing with extremes in temperatures, weather patterns and environmental conditions, we need to be mindful of behaviors that support maintaining health and balance through the shifts in seasons and the increasingly abnormal changes in climate and our seasonal expectations.

Now that we are in summer, and in regions experiencing excessively hot summer temperatures, the need to cool ourselves down is especially important.

How Can We Take Care of Ourselves When the Temperatures Are Rising?

One of the ways to deal with extreme heat is to apply the Fourfold Cooling Method: cool-natured approaches to Tibetan medicine’s fourfold health and healing modalities of diet, behavior, medicine and external therapies.  The Fourfold Cooling method can be used as a single approach or separated into individual methods to help bring down the body temperature.

Fourfold Cooling Method

Fourfold Cooling Method

1) Take cool showers or getting in cool water (swimming in the ocean, a pond

or lake). Stay in the in cooler, fragrant parts of the house and wearing thin, light clothes. Spend time relaxing under shady trees and enjoying cool breezes and light drizzles.

2) Eat cool-natured foods with sweet tastes and light and oily qualities, such as salad with olive oil or steamed bitter greens. Enjoy well-cooked warm beans, fresh meat with a more cooling nature like free range beef or goat, well-cooked whole grains.  Bring down your heat by drinking cool water, chilled saffron water or light chang (barley beer) mixed with cold fresh water.

3) Use cool-temperature and -natured compresses, such as cool towels or ice packs placed on the body (head, hands, feet). You may wish to scent them with sandalwood or lavender oil and use on the wrists and neck.

4) Take cool-natured medicines, such as herbal formulas that contain saffron, camphor or other particularly cooling herbs.

Avoiding Imbalance

To maintain a comfortable body temperature that supports healthy, balanced body functions and pathways, it also makes sense to avoid food and behaviors that increase heat. Things to avoid include:

  • Dark beers and hard alcohols

  • Being outside in the sun without a hat

  • Doing physical exercise in the heat

  • Eating large portions of food

  • Eating salty,  spicy and sour foods

One of the ways that we can become imbalanced in the summer is by accumulating excess heat in our system which then can become aggravated by various conditions and appear as disease later on, often in the autumn when the weather can be hot and dry.  By using the wisdom of the Fourfold Cooling Methods to keep our bodies from overheating in the summer, you can avoid causing heat-related problems later on and arousing dormant conditions in the future.

The Dakini Doctors:  Anasuya Weil, Menpa, M.S., LMT; Mira Weil, DTM; Tawni Tidwell TMD, PhD