“When one stays in the darkness long enough, one begins to see.”
Winter is a time of stillness and quietude, when nature’s energy has turned in during this most inward-looking of all the seasons. We call it the most Yin of the seasons. Trees have dropped their leaves, the sap of the tree has retreated to its roots, outward signs of life have disappeared and the landscape can be covered in snow. There is still work going on, but is in-doors.
In this state of rest, energy is collected and held in reserve. It’s cold and dark, which are the qualities that preserve and store. It is this concentrated, internal force of winter that enable a seed to burst forth in Spring. A time for internal work, we use this season for rest and the filling of our reserves, gathering strength for the year ahead.
Abundant reserves within us will give us courage and strength of Will.
The Water Element and the Kidneys & Bladder
The organs associated with the energy of winter, the Water element, are the kidneys and urinary bladder.
The ancient Chinese believed that beings should live in harmony with the natural cycles of their environment. Slowing down in this time of year allows us to reflect on our health, replenish our energy and conserve our strength. In these ways, we honor the wisdom of the season.
According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the Kidneys are considered the source of all energy or “Qi” within the body. They store all the reserve Qi so that it can be used in times of stress and change, to heal and to prevent illness. During the winter months it is important to nurture and nourish our kidney Qi. Energy can most easily be depleted during this cold season.
Our bodies instinctually express the principles of winter: rest, reflection, conserving and storage. If the kidneys are out of balance, a person can feel scared, frightened and fearful and can be hypersensitive, mistrusting and even paranoid.
Kidney blockages and/or weakness can manifest physically as ear, hair and tooth problems, urinary infections, kidney stones, reproductive sexual problems, dull headaches, lower back, leg and knee problems, a lack of will power and determination and possible kidney disease.
Ways to nourish your Qi:
- Slow down. Add more time for self reflection. Make quiet time for reading, writing, meditating and other “soul” nourishing activities.
- Go to bed earlier and sleep later.
- Eat beneficial foods of the season like squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, carrots, cabbages, mushrooms, apples and pears. In winter our bodies need warming foods like soups made with hearty vegetables and rich stocks. Whole grains, steamed winter greens and roasted nuts are good on cold days and offer nourishment to feed the body and tonify/fortify the kidneys.
- Nourish yourself well with warm foods and lots of water. Winter sucks the moisture out of your body. It is important to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of fresh water daily.
- Keep warm. Chinese medicine says that the neck and shoulder areas contain the “Wind” points through which pathogens can enter. Keep these areas protected. Wear a scarf and keep your neck covered.
Winter can be hard for some. It can get you down, especially if life has also thrown in some tough times or big changes. In winter it is easier to descend into the deep layers of consciousness (the sub and unconscious). Often when we are feeling low or defeated we put pressure on ourselves to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and DO something about how we are feeling.
The lesson that Water’s wisdom wants you to learn is- DO NOTHING. Water teaches: Hold fast in the darkness, get comfortable with not knowing.