Winter arrives, the air chills, and metal melts into water. In Chinese medicine winter is the season of the water element- an element associated with deep stillness, the blue-black colour of the ocean, and the gathering of potential energy to potency. In the modern world we have a troubled relationship to Winter. Where in ancient cultures this would be a time of hibernaton- of inwardness, long nights of sleep, of death and rebirth- in our cultures we proceed as usual, or even work harder than other times of the year. We don't sleep enough, we look outward at our smartphones. In Chinese parlance, we are out of step with the dao.
It is important to find time to be still, to be warm, to be quiet and to rest in the water season. The water element resonates with the kidney organ system in Chinese Medicine, the system which is the root of the will and energy of the body. If we do not allow our energy to sink into our kidneys and rest during Winter, in Spring we will pay the price in low immunity, exhaustion, and mood imbalances. Here are five things you can do to transition through the Water season well:
1) Get more sleep. Go to sleep a half an hour earlier, wake up a half an hour later- and if you feel like turning in when the sun goes down (and are able) than do it!
2) Eat with the season. In Winter it is natural and healthy to eat heavier foods like meat, dairy, and root vegetables. Traditional cultures will be eating foods that can store through the winter. This includes the examples already listed as well as fermented, dried or canned foods. These foods tend to be rich in nutrition, and it's normal and healthy for the body to put on a few pounds during winter (to be lost again when it's time for your spring cleanse).
3) Take time to meditate, journal, read a novel, or another activity that encourages inwardness and quiet.
4) Take a kidney tonic. Consult with a practitioner of Chinese medicine about a herbal formula that would work for you.
5) Do some yin yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong to rest your nerves, slow down, and build strength.
Remember- living in harmony with the water element during the winter season is an investment in your next spring and summer- and your long term health and longevity. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, I'd love to hear from you.
Wishing you well,
Matthew Gindin, R.Ac.