WINTER – The Way of the Water Element

Winter is the season of culmination of all that has transpired in the year. With winter solstice, December 21 we mark the longest night,  the deepest yin, and the turn toward the new light. Time now to rest, reflect, renew.  Within a few months, Spring will come along to begin anew. Seeds lie quietly dense with stored energy, anticipating the upcoming cycle of new growth.

Season of Light

Meanwhile, as we harmonize with winter, we emphasize the yin principle if we allow ourselves to become more receptive, introspective, storing. This can be a time of profound healing at every level of one’s being – our deepest essence touched, restored. We cool the surface of the body and warm the core. Cold and darkness (less day-light) move us to seek inner warmth. It is a time to rest, to meditate deeply, refine one’s spiritual essence, and store physical energy. Yet, we must stay active to keep the spine and joints flexible and adaptable (tao y’in, qigong, t’ai chi practices are ideal).

This is the time of the water element; midnight blue/dark purple/black; kidneys and bladder, bones, bone marrow, reproductive organs, body fluids, ears. It is said that the kidneys open to the ears – meaning that hearing is related to the health of the kidneys, the organs most affected by wintertime. The ability to listen clearly is heightened in the cold, silent months. Keep the kidneys and adrenals (atop the kidneys) warm and comfortable. This includes keeping the feet warm – the first kidney point in the meridian being at the sole of the foot. This is a time to recharge our life batteries with loving care and appreciation.

In Balance the water energy of the kidney/adrenal function (energetically speaking) – one experiences strong healthy bones, knees, lower back, teeth; good hearing and ear health; healthy hair; urinary, sexual, and reproductive health; vibrant vitality / youthful aging; strong sense of personal will and gentle power (rather than a sense of excessive fear, stress, insecurity).

Renew your Gentle Power; Release Fear and Stress

Renew your Gentle Power; Release Fear and Stress

Food: Warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts are the staples in this season. Dried foods, small dark beans, seaweed, sea vegetables, and steamed winter greens fortify the kidneys in winter. Cook foods longer, at low temperatures and with less water – the qi taking on a more sinking, dense, inward character. Salty (naturally salty or moderate use of sea salt) and bitter foods are appropriate for the season – lettuce, watercress, endive, escarole, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, carrot top, rye, oats, quinoa, and amaranth, chicory root (often found in grain ‘coffee’), miso, soy sauce, millet, and barley. Take in warm drinks, avoid cold. Drink less alcohol than usual, if any.

Self-Care in Action (what you can do):

  • Enjoy going within and experiencing your own infinitely deep source of gentle power (no need for force) and trusting in your natural state of being able to act will-fully, easily, joyfully in alignment with your purpose and passion.
  • Practices include: slow t’ai chi, qigong; ocean breathing qigong; spine rolling qigong; laughter qigong; 6 healing sounds qigong, inner smile qigong.
  • Play with preparing foods that support your well-being, rather than those that draw you into a need for re-cooperation.
  • Upon arising in the morning, sip 4 cups of warm water (yin/yang water, mix room temperature and heated water)
  • Meditate. This suggested focus will be particularly powerful on the winter solstice, December 21. Stand outside facing the north, the direction of the Water element. Visualize and feel the power of the north in the form of blue light qi. Gather this qi into your body through your inhalation, through your pores, through the door of life in your lower back, and through the crown of your head.
    As your body fills with blue light Qi, visualize that your body becomes transformed into translucent pure blue jade. Feel that you have absorbed the essence of the Water element and that you are recharged and renewed.
  • The holidays…since we live in the West, a time packed with holidays, practice moderation, so you can enjoy the holidays as well as listening to your inner nature, all of nature: Attend only the events/gatherings most important to you – choose foods/drinks that nurture and nourish you, stay only as long as feels good for you; Schedule quiet, alone time, rest.

AUTUMN: Metal Element

Fall is the season of harvest, a time to pull inward and gather together on all levels, a time to store up fuel, food, and warm clothing, a time to study and plan for the approaching stillness of winter. Everything in nature contracts and moves its essence inward and downward.Easing Into Autumn Leaves and fruit fall, seeds dry, the sap of trees goes into the roots. This is the time of the Metal element, the lungs, skin, nose, color white, pungent flavor, balanced emotions of joy, harmony, courage. Imbalances such as grief, sadness, and despair can be transformed with our conscious attention to our patterns and practices.

Foods: We become aware of the season’s abundant yet contracting nature. Choose more astringent foods (e.g. spinach and radish) with heartier flavors. Cooking methods involve focused preparation to supply greater energy required by cooler seasons. The essence of food is received through the sense of smell, with baked or sauteed dishes – concentrated foods to thicken the blood for winter. In general, cook with less water, lower heat, for longer periods of time. Include more sour (a little goes a long way) foods such as sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, salt plums, rose hip tea, vinegar, cheese, yogurt, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and the sour varieties of apples, plums, and grapes. To counter dryness, add a small amount of fresh soy products, spinach, barley, millet, pear, persimmon, loquat, seaweeds, almond, sesame seed, honey, eggs, and a little salt in cooking moistens dryness.

Connecting with the Earth. As we root our feet and open to receiving the earth’s nourishing energies, be mindful that the ground is becoming cooler now. Shoes should be warn when standing on cool ground. This includes indoors. Enjoy bare feet when the day is warm and the earth has been warmed by the sun.

What you can do:
Pressing back palms qigong; qi self massage – tapping the thymus gland, SSSSS healing sound, playing the Tiger movement.

Access your inner courage, integrity, happiness - Tiger frolic with healing sound

Access your inner courage, integrity, happiness – Tiger frolic with healing sound; qi self massage lung tops/cross forearms over heart.

Don’t know these practices yet?

Please join us at qigong and /or tai chi class.

Summer: The Fire Element

Summer: The Fire Element
Harmonize with the yang season of summer, by embracing the yang principle – upward expansion, growth, lightness, outward activity, brightness, and creativity. Act as if you enjoy the heat – even if you do not. During this phase of intense growth, awaken early in the morning and reach to the life giving power of the sun for nourishment. Everything grows in the heat. This is the time to allow the body to release, open- letting go of stress and tension. Grow into selfless service. Enjoy the bounty of the outside world as it enters and enlivens us. The Fire element, rules the heart and small intestine. The heart includes the organ as well as the concept of the heart as a mental/emotional center. The word for heart, xin is often translated as heart-mind. Correspondingly, the Fire phase is the time of the tongue/speech, blood vessels, joy, laughing, sweat. Imbalances of excess of impatience, intolerance, cruelty, judgement, hatred, shame, guilt can be transformed into peace, love, compassion, acceptance with our conscious attention to our patterns and practices. Cultivating a healthy heart-mind will allow that which is the best in us to fully develop and to flourish.
The heart in harmony expresses in people as being genuinely friendly, humble, with open hearts and aware minds, a sense of clarity, and the ability to effortlessly see through problems and arrive at brilliant solutions.

Food and its preparation
Along with our practice, eating what is in season is a very good way to comply with the chi of the time. Use plenty of brightly colored summer fruits and vegetables, enjoy creating beautiful meals. Cook lightly and add a little fiery flavor regularly. Favor sautéing, use high heat for a brief time, steam or simmer foods as quickly as possible. Use more water, less salt. Replace minerals and oils lost to sweat. Avoid iced drinks, excessive amounts of cold and raw food, and ice cream as they contract the stomach and stop digestion. Eat cooling foods: watermelon is particularly good as is green tea (not too strong). Other cooling foods are: bean sprouts, Chinese leaf, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, green leafy vegetables, tomato, cucumber, asparagus, seaweed, mint, fish and shell-fish.

What you can do
Practice Tai Chi, Qigong and Neigong particularly to open the heart, keeping shoulders and chest moving, and lengthening the connective tissue/joints.
Spend time outdoors enjoying the sun, allowing (not pushing) heart and mind to open to growth and personal expansion. Taking care to experience the heat and sun in moderation so as to preserve wei chi, your protective qi.
Not yet familiar with the practices? Please join us for classes and workshops. Or, book me for your own Tao Healing workshop or retreat.  www.heatherchalon.com/calendar.