Looking out the widow as I write this note to you, the thick fog is a blanket over the hills. I can make out fuzzy tree shapes in the distance. The air is thick with moisture and the ground here is saturated with wetness. We have passed Solstice, so gratefully the days get longer, if only by the minutes. We are in the thick of WINTER. Perhaps I am one of the rare few, who finds winters darkness and cold comforting? The winter seasons pull inward suits me.
It can be challenging for many to maintain health and energy levels in the winter months. I would love to share with you some of the ways that I find balance in the stillness and darkness of winter, and rituals I incorporate in my winter wellness practices to support my body and my mental health.
The ancient Chinese Medicine view of health, winter is represented by the element water, the energy meridians of the kidney and bladder, the color black, the taste of salt, and the emotion fear or dread. Ancient practitioners used these as signals for therapy, diagnosis, and treatments of a persons ailments, or to offer support in the changing cycles of seasons.
Winter is a time to go inside, both physically and metaphorically. In winter time the body should be assisted to gather energy. It is a time for germination, gestation, rest and renewal. Yet how many of us use this time wisely to slow our life paces, feel our emotions, rest and recuperate our bodies? Most people call this time of year depressing, like an imposed time out. I encourage all of you to think about this dark time of year as a time to get in touch with deeper aspects of yourself. Time taken to be introspective can assist in helping you find your innate wisdom, and give you the stamina and the will to burst into spring with health and vitality.
It is okay to sleep more and rest more in the wintertime. The early morning hours are a lovely time for journal writing, dream recollection and recording, reading spiritual text, making lists of things that are important to you…. This daily practice for me, is essential for keeping my balance when life gets hectic in the spring and summer months.
A daily contemplative practice is a powerful way to start my day. How many of you start your day with a cup of coffee on an empty stomach? I would venture to guess the answer would be most of you. Drinking coffee this way is very hard on the kidneys and can do a lot of damage. The kidneys can be very vulnerable to the coldness of winter so guarding their vitality is important. Foods that feed the kidney energies are root vegetables, nuts and seeds, shellfish, salt water fish, sea weed, dark colored berries and fruits, especially cranberry. Warming spices like ginger, garlic, and cardamom can be helpful to warm the body and aid digestion. I like to break my morning fasts with bone broths fortified with warming spices and sea weed. To this you can add grains, vegetables, and dark greens. Eating cold foods in winter months should be avoided or kept to a minimum. A few herbs that support the kidney are corn silk, juniper, ginkgo, alfalfa, and astragalus. I like to take my herbs in tincture form, for ease of use.
The element of water rules the winter season, and water rituals can be very nourishing to the kidneys, especially in the winter. I find that when cold sets in, the best way for me to warm myself is in a hot bath. We have blended a combination of essential oils in WINTER BLEND that are particularly healing for the kidney/bladder meridin and its associated energetics. I add 2-3 cups of epsom salt, 1 cup sea salt, and 5 drops of WINTER BLEND to my bath water. Light a candle and let your mind drift to pleasant thoughts, or listen to sooting music. If you don’t have the luxury of a bath, take a hot water bottle to bed, and 1-2 drops of WINTER BLEND on a cotton boll in your pillow case or massaged into the feet, or the kidney area. Keeping the feet, low back, knees, and neck warm in the winter will help to protect the kidney/bladder meridians.
A beautiful analogy for the water element is the image of a seed. The seed, like the kidney, holds the vital energy of the plant. The seed is a receptacle for the potential of life. The Chinese believed that you inherited your kidney Jing (essence for life) from your mother. You can not make more kidney Jing, but you can protect it from being wasted. Our Jing represents our constitutional strength and resistance to disease. If you have symptoms in these areas in your body/mind/spirit, you need to be more mindful of this season of restoration.
- Bones and bone marrow
- Menstrual cycle
- Fear or dread
- Workaholic, driven
The Kidneys are also the receptacle for the part of our spirit, the Will. When the Will (Zhi) is in harmony, we are self motivated, purposeful, and determined. Our actions and choices come from a balanced wisdom. When our Will is weakened, we become apathetic and or our motivations run out into the world ungrounded. Fear and dread are driving forces that further weaken the Water element. These disharmonious aspects of a Water element unbalanced, can be signals to move back into a more mindful way of being. Please dear ones, let this season take you inside for rest, the season (spring) for decisive action is coming soon enough.