By Lynn DeBuhr Johnson
“This is where the cold and dark of winter shares its gifts with you. It asks you to drive yourself to seek this inner warmth of the fire of your being."
The area I live in recently had winter storms, complete with blizzards, ice, wind, and below zero temperatures. It’s enough to make one zip it up and go into hibernation. But our world is built on pushing through no matter what.
As I look out my window at the winter scene before me, I realize how separated we have become from nature and the seasons that were made for us. We have forgotten that there is a reason winter was created.
In traditional Chinese medicine, winter is considered the last of the seasons.
Most of the time people do anything they can to avoid what they perceive as winter – especially the cold. Most people look at winter as this of barren landscapes and frozen tundra. There is this idea that winter is a season that just gets in the way of all the fun things you want to do.
That’s why so many folks plan holidays and festivities with bright lights and parties. Anything to drive away the darkness.
Winter brings darkness. And for many, too much darkness can be a space of fear.
However, winter brings you a gift, too.
To fully understand what the winter season is here to teach you, and really make it part of your life, it’s important to emphasize the yin principle of the yin/yang opposites. The principle of yin has the quality of becoming more receptive and introspective.
When you look outside, it seems there is no life – only cold and frozen stillness.
However, those animals and plants that seem to have no life – they are actually doing the most important part of creation. They are all looking within, going through the process of finding out more about who they are – manifesting this next stage in their life.
This is where the cold and dark of winter shares its gifts with you. It asks you to drive yourself to seek this inner warmth of the fire of your being.
Embrace this opportunity to focus all your energies on these activities of discovering the depth of who you are. Winter also offers you a time to rest, to deepen your meditation and prayer practice. This is a time given to you to perceive your spiritual essence and be ready to emerge when the time is right with your new self.
The Inner Classic says, “The forces of winter create cold in Heaven and water on Earth. They create the kidney organ and the bones within the body … the emotion fear, and the ability to make a groaning sound.”
This emotion fear is also related to the element of Water. It is also the most yin of all the elements. It’s the element that causes you to be most reflective – like water – on your inner being.
The organs related to the Water Element are the kidneys – the organs most affected by wintertime. The kidneys and urinary bladder are the two organs which rule water metabolism and maintain homeostasis, a dynamic continual rebalancing.
In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are also said to open to the ears, which means that hearing is related to the health of the kidneys.
The ability to listen clearly can be heightened in the stillness of these cold times. It’s that chance to listen to your own voice, without being disturbed and distracted by the bright lights and quick movements of the other seasons – as well as the ways you may find yourself distracting yourself.
The other thing to consider is that sitting right on top of the kidneys are your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are the ones that are activated by fear, releasing cortisol to protect you.
When the Water element is out of balance, fear may become an obstacle to your forward movement. It might manifest as chronic anxiety or as an intense phobia – a feeling of being stuck or trapped. However it appears, it often signifies a deficiency in the Water energy and a corresponding lack of grounding.
This quiet still time is the gift for you to review this fear that may be deeply rooted within you – to listen to your inner voice that wants to guide you. This voice wants to make you aware of these fears and insecurities. This is not to react out of fear.
A little healthy fear protects you. Being aware of the source of the fear so you can make the appropriate forward motion is a good thing.
When excessive, however, it can foster a general insecurity about life. Chinese medicine indicates this may also injure the kidneys.
Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that the kidneys (called the Storehouse of the Vital Essence) operate like a pilot light that can spark light within the entire body, mind, and spirit.
The winter time is when you want to keep your kidneys warm and nourish them. Warm hearty soups, nuts and seeds, dried foods, small dark beans, seaweeds, and steamed winter greens fortify the kidneys in water. Cook foods longer, at lower temperatures and with less water.
Both the salty and bitter foods will help you in the winter. These foods may cool the outside of your body, but it’s because they bring body heat deeper within you. However, use salt with care, as an excess can tighten the Water organs of the kidneys and bladder, causing coldness and overconsumption of water, which will weaken these two organs, and could affect your heart as well. The addition of a few bitter foods can be helpful here, since their flavor is said to enter the heart.
Bitter foods can include, lettuce, watercress, endive, escarole, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, carrot tops, rye, oats, quinoa, and amaranth. Citrus peels and the outermost leaves of cabbage, which are seldom on the cabbage you buy in the store, also have that bitter flavor. Herbs that have those bitter qualities include chicory root, burdock root, horsetail, and chaparral.
Salty foods include miso, shoyu or tamari, seaweeds, salt, millet, and barley.
I already know you have amazing potential that you may not have even noticed in the dark.
For this reason, I have created a place where we can all meet and conjoin together to discuss these concepts. This is a space where you can learn to understand the energy of who you are. Nature will become your teacher here. The weeds, wild edibles, trees, minerals, crystals, planets - they all conspire for you to radiate your own unique peculiar energy. As you do this, all that you need will be made manifest and come to you in all areas of your life.
Join us in the Sage Wisdom: Nurturing Using the Elements from Nature Facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/330040200815933/
Lynn is a patient, but curious, explorer, who believes anything is possible if you can see and feel it for yourself. You can live a life connected with yourself, grounded in the truth of who you are. She has been on the journey herself, so knows the road signs to look for. But now, as the mother of seven and grandmother to five currently, she has created a full and fun life. With certifications in Nutritional Endocrinology, Digestive Mastery, Insulin Resistance, and Transpersonal Energy Healing, Lynn feels that she has been shown more pieces of the puzzle and shifts in the kaleidoscope of life. While this all sounds good, know that with all the tools she has to lift you up, it includes practical tips that you can apply to your daily life. While she may share some ideas that might take you out of your comfort zone, she will never push you to a place of discomfort. You can learn more about Lynn at her website: http://feedingyourhealth.com/