Reach for the light during the dark days of winter
We have moved through the darkest days of winter. The winter solstice has passed through our planetary system, and those of us who can feel the affects of light and darkness have been on a more inner journey during this time of year.
The deep, dormant energy of the winter has taken the leaves from the trees, and has sent deep roots into the darkness of Mother Earth.
What does winter represent in Chinese Medicine? How do our bodies reflect what is happening in nature? How does Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, educate us to live in harmony with the seasons?
In TCM, the winter season is viewed as the most “in” time of year. Nature gives us longer nights during this time of year, and the “kidney chi,” or the part of our physical and essential nature related to the kidneys, is most reflected and affected during this time of year.
Our kidney essence is our most “in” energy, and can be strengthened in the winter. This essence is reflected in our basic vitality, our juice’ our connection to our ancestors, our reproductive lives, our longevity and our immune function.
Our ability to have a deep reservoir of energy, into which we can reach to restore ourselves, comes from strong “kidney chi.”
Are you swept away by strong emotions or exhausted from physical pain? Excess of emotion, suppressed emotions, physical pain or disease, or improper lifestyle can all deplete your vital kidney energy. Putting out more than you are taking in can also weaken your essence during this time of year.
In the winter, when the activity of nature supports growth to the root system, we all need to pull in to ourselves. In order to nurture our own root system, we need to honor the dark, the quiet, the negative and the deep mysterious forces of the unconscious. Gathering into ourselves means aligning with nature. This happens instinctively.
For example, when it is cold and rainy, we like to stay indoors, get ourselves warm by a cozy fire, eat warm foods and go to bed earlier.
I know that strengthening the kidney chi in the winter is the most direct route to nurturing strength and increasing energy for the year ahead. The herbs used to do that in TCM strengthen the root.
The actions of these herbs is slow and the effect is deep, and can be experienced in the entire year ahead.
Without clinical training, these herbs can best be understood on a metaphoric level – the deeper the roots extend downward in the winter, the more luxurious and beautiful will be the foliage in the spring.
I notice in my practice that when I strengthen the root and treat the kidney during the winter, my patients experience a harmonious connection to themselves as they align with nature.
Should you feel tired of this pulling in and dragging down sensation or if you feel sucked in’ closed in or dragged out’ take heart!
As the days now begin to lengthen and the deep in-energy has begun to turn itself to the light, we have begun our slow ascent.
Up from the roots come tiny shoots. There are tiny buds on the dogwood trees. New grasses send up their new beginnings.
As we observe nature, we can see the deep darkness is bearing fruit. Now is the time to begin more activity. Let the slow progression of darkness into light begin to take form in your own life.
The unconscious forces begin to recede and we can effectively align ourselves with the light. Begin that exercise program now. Do some yoga stretches. Climb out of the underground! A frown shows the sides of the mouth pulling downward into darkness. A smile begins to reach up to the light!
Sit quietly for a few minutes. Get a mental picture of the earth floating in space, spinning in darkness… in the cool and quiet darkness. Feel your connection to this great sphere. Imagine a beautiful and radiant light shining on this great orb.
Imagine the plants, creatures, rivers and oceans illuminated. The light stirs, warms and quickens all life. Feel the light stirring you. Imagine yourself, along with all of nature, moving towards the Light.
Feel that reaching towards the light inside of you. Be grateful. Be happy. Be well.
Cynthia Yaguda is a licensed acupuncturist with a doctorate degree in Oriental medicine with a private practice in Grass Valley. Contact her
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