This week we passed the autumnal equinox which is a significant time of the year astronomically. At this time of the year, the hours of the day and night are equal. It also signifies that Tama-nui-te-rā is now heading closer to Hine Takurua, the winter maid. Temperatures begin to fall, our days begins to shorten, while our nights become longer. It is a time to begin to recalibrate our tinana and reflect on what is happening around us.
The environment plays a large role in determining who we are, and how we function. At a genetic level, the seasons can influence particular functions of the body from energy levels, to how we perceive stress, to motivation, nutritional preferences and even physical activity levels. Research tells us that physical activity levels across the population tend to fall in the winter compared to summer. In my opinion, this is the interaction that we experience on a human level with the mana of various atua. You may have experienced this yourself on a cold and dark winter night when your body begins to crave that hearty stew or soup. Yet, you never quite get that same craving in the heat of summer. That is our tinana responding to Tama-nui-te-rā and Hine Takurua.
I believe the mauri (life force, essence) of an atua can fluctuate between high and low periods, and this has an effect on the way we interact in their environments. In the scientific world, this would fall in to the realm of epigenetics, the way external factors influence the expression of our genes or whakapapa. What we can learn from epigenetics is that everything around us influences how our bodies perform. What was good for us in the heat of summer may not be as suitable for our tinana now as we head in to winter.
Our tūpuna had a few clues about maximising our performance and aligning our lifestyles to the mauri of atua, or the changing of the seasons. Drawing from some of our pūrākau (narratives) and pakiwaitara (stories) we can learn about these behaviours and practices that align to the changing seasons. These are practices and behaviours that acknowledge the strong impact the environment has on our health. Here is a look at how Te Pō and Tama-nui-te-rā can help us cope with the coming winter.
Tama-nui-te-rā – Improve your sleep to maximise your day
The legend of Māui and the sun can tell us about the essence of time, and the impact that Tama-nui-te-rā has on daily activity and rest during the night. We know that Tama-nui-te-rā will now begin to travel faster across the sky as our days become shorter. In my view, this means that Te Pō (the night) has more mana over Te Awatea (the daylight). This indicates that rest and recovery of the body will become more important than physical activity over the coming months.
Sleep has a restorative function on our tinana and hinengaro. Getting a good night’s sleep will help your muscles repair damaged tissue, and rejuvenate the hinengaro by removing waste products from the brain. A good night’s sleep will give you more energy, better focus, promote wakefulness, and increased concentration the following day.
If you let the sun shine on your face and skin in the morning, photoreceptors in the eyes trigger a cascade of hormonal events that occur throughout the day.
The first step to getting a good night’s sleep begins when you first wake up. If you let the sun shine on your face and skin in the morning, photoreceptors in the eyes trigger a cascade of hormonal events that occur throughout the day. This calibrates your circadian rhythm to recognise the dance between Tama-nui-te-rā and Te Pō which facilitates wakefulness during the day, and sleep at night.
The second step is to acknowledge the mana of the night sky and let a little darkness back in to your evenings. We have lights in our homes which give us the power to work through the darkness. However, in the process, we’ve taken away the positive health benefits of a dark room. And for what purpose? To watch TV? To scroll through social media sites? By doing these things we reduce the quality of our sleep. This can lead to poor concentration and focus at work, which then creates unnecessary stress. We end up in this constant battle to find wellness and peace, when all we might need to do is acknowledge that we need a better night’s sleep.
To help me sleep, I am making my bedroom technology free for the next 30 days. This means no phone, no computer and definitely no TV in the bedroom. This will remove the temptation of having a phone in my hand that emits blue-light similar to Tama-nui-te-rā. Blue-light can tamper with our circadian rhythm falsely indicating that Tama-nui-te-rā is still up and about. Feel free to jump on this kaupapa with me so we can all get a better night’s sleep, and get more out of our day.