Winter - The Season When Things Hide By Ric Chamberlin, LMT
Winter will soon be upon us. Officially winter starts, if you live north of the equator, on or about December 21, when the Winter Solstice occurs. This is the point in time of the shortest day and the longest night of the year, when the northern Hemisphere is farthest from the sun. For many of us winter seems to start long before this official point in time when we start to experience "winter" like weather.
Just thinking of winter our thoughts turn first to cold weather. Winter is the coldest season. Daylight hours reach their shortest duration. The air is at maximum dryness. The wind sometimes feels like it cuts through us. Fall was a time for gathering up, a time to complete unfinished projects. A transition from the openness, outwardness, and vitality of summer to the stillness, inwardness, and hidden vitality of winter. By the start of winter a tree’s leaves are gone and the sap moves deeper inside the tree to protect it from the cold. Winter is a time for rest and preserving what we have. A time for quietude and introspection. Our bodies naturally want to hibernate. Although we still have lives to live we do change our habits. Just like the tree much of our energy is pulled deep inside.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recognizes the dual nature of the universe (yin and yang), the importance of noticing what's happening in the natural world, and being in harmony with it. The concept of Yin and Yang comes from ancient Chinese Taoist thought which describes the continuous process of natural change in the universe. It is represented by the Yin/Yang symbol familiar to many (see above). The symbol represents complementary opposites, the Yin and the Yang. Yin originally meant "the shady side of the slope". Yang meant "the sunny side of the slope". Yin is associated with the qualities of darkness, cold, interior, inwardness, passivity, receptivity. Yang is associated with the qualities of light, heat, exterior, outwardness, activity, movement. All things, plants, animals, rocks, and of course people, are made up of both yin and yang properties. Spring and summer can be thought of as primarily yang seasons, and fall and winter as yin.
In winter things seem to go into hiding. Plants have withered, fallen, and scattered. A trees sap has moved deep inside to protect it from the cold. Insects hibernate inside the trees bark or under the ground or have laid eggs that will hatch next spring. Many other animals hibernate or become less active to preserve their energy. Life that seemed to be singing and buzzing all around us during summer now seems almost absent. For people too our yang energy travels deep inside us to be stored and protected in our internal organs. On an emotional level we also tend to match the season. We become more quiet, less active, more introspective, more reflective. Health becomes more important in winter than at any time during the year. Cold and flu season is in full swing. Our bodies seem more susceptible to illness of all kinds.
What can you do to make the most of winter?
Get plenty of sleep and rest. Place more of your focus on refilling your physical bucket. If you feel tired allow yourself to rest or take a nap.
Preserve your energy. When you are depleted you are more susceptible to illness. Don't become "inactive", just look for ways to do more with less. If you exercise continue to do this. Consider shifting to lower impact exercise. Yoga, Tai chi, Qigong, and walking can be excellent.
Examine the stress in your life and find ways to minimize it. Stress uses up your energy which is a precious commodity during winter. Focus on your relaxation. At the Healing Connection you can learn simple self-care techniques to reduce stress and increase relaxation. Ask about this at your next appointment.
Bundle up, especially when you go outside. Dress warmly and stay dry. Always keep your neck and throat covered when outside. Protect your hands and feet from cold.
Consider changing your diet for the season as well as herbal supplements to boost your immune system. Consult a licensed nutritionist and herbalist for this. Contact the Healing Connection if you need a referral.
The introspective nature of winter gives us an excellent opportunity to reflect and self-assess. Focus on where you are in life now. Take stock of the different areas of your life. If you are not where you want to be acknowledge that but let go of judgment. Embrace where you are even when you are not where you want to be. Embracing where you are is not the same as deciding you want to stay there. In fact embracing where you are, without judgment, makes it possible for you to evolve to somewhere else.
Journaling is an excellent practice for getting in touch with your deeper self. Don't worry about making the words sound just right. Just start writing. Sometimes just writing one sentence can be important. Writing our thoughts has a much different effect than thinking the same thoughts. Writing is a way to say things out loud. When we do this we put the thoughts out into the universe. Then we can close the book. Things can process inside without our ruminating over them. When we return to the thoughts later we often find that some shift in our understanding or awareness has occurred.
Don't give up on spending time outdoors. Sure it's cold but on days when the weather allows bundle up and go for a walk. Open your senses and your whole being and notice what is happening, or not happening around you. Notice what you notice and realize your place in this process.
Find ways to spend time in the sun. Lack of sunlight during the winter can effect your mood. See the article Our Friend Mr. Sun for more on this and simple tips for getting more sun.
As in other seasons continue to listen to your body and gain awareness which can facilitate self- healing. Massage, Ortho-Bionomy®, and the self-care techniques taught at the Healing Connection are excellent tools to bring awareness to the body, emotions, and spirit.
As in all things remember to...
Be gentle with yourself
Ortho-Bionomy® and the Sand Dollar design are registered trademarks of the Society of Ortho-Bionomy International, Inc. and are used with permission.
Ric Chamberlin Registered Practitioner - Society of Ortho-Bionomy International ® Licensed Massage Therapist - State of Nebraska The Healing Connection 900 S 74th Plaza, Suite 116, Omaha, NE 68114 402 850 0752