We are now entering the first days of winter - the time of the solar cycle when there is wisdom in slowing down to calibrate with nature's rhythms.
According to Taoist medical theory, a huge cause of disease is a failure to live in accordance with the cycle of the seasons. As the planet rotates around the sun, it moves through progressive phases which invite corresponding shifts in conduct. Every two weeks, we enter a different qi node, or cycle. Each cycle invites us to shift our conduct according to the season's changing landscape. More information about the lineage of this wisdom from Liu Ming can be found here.
Winter is a time of rest - an out-breath, a hibernation, and a slowing down. Winter solstice, the darkest time of the year, is considered mid-winter. We are now halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
When we live in harmony with the cycles, we align ourselves with the earthly realm and our ancestral prayer to live a deeply embodied, earthly existence which is calibrated with our surroundings. As Star Hawk so eloquently puts it, “We do not live in the unchanging twilight realm of Faery, but in the living, dying, fading, and growing realm of the earth.” The environmental qi needs to be taken into account when considering correct conduct.
We are now moving into the first days of winter when yin hides yang. It is a time of growing cold, wherein we develop Big Yin Qi. The days get shorter; and the nights longer. Yin characteristics include: cold, dark, quiet, inert, dense, watery, and night; whereas yang is the energy of movement, action, heat, dominance, and production. Big yin rests in big stillness, which means that - during this time of year - small, wiggly, fast-moving, yang energy creatures, like insects, go dormant and disappear. The annoying, aggravating yang energy we associate with buzzing flies is replaced with a slow, quiet, internally-focused repose.
Winter is the time when Big Yin is free to develop, unhampered by yang's effects of doing, being busy, and moving faster. When we carry the summer yang energy into the winter, we miss out on the tremendous opportunity for recovery that the winter seasonal cycle offers. Do not squander the wintertime with activity.
The autumn is a time to store while the winter is when we withdraw. Spring's impending resources are external. We must cultivate our internal resources during our winter retreat time to be ready for and aligned with the fresh sprouting that spring promises.
5 simple ways to harmonize with the energy of winter And support your kidneys during this profound period of rest, repose, and recovery.
1. Morning Water
Your kidneys need water. Drinking water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach has great benefits. I recommend drinking it warm-hot (to protect the spleen) with a small amount of Himalayan sea salt added to guide it to the kidneys and help increase absorption. Wait 45 minutes before consuming other food or liquids. More here.
2. Timing for Your Practice
For the next two weeks, the environmental qi is most potent at 9 pm as this is when the energy is most precisely aligned with the solar cycle. This is a time to wind down and to move towards sleep rather than activity. You can harness the potency of this time with a modest qi kung practice. Instructions are in my podcast below. Every day the optimal qi shifts to be a little bit later so that by winter solstice midnight will when the qi is most potent.
3. Dress Warmly
Dressing warmly during the winter allows us to conserve our qi, and access more energy which can be used for recovery and self-reflection. Seasonal changes generate different kinds of wind. Even if you live in a climate without extreme cold, we are still susceptible to the type of wind associated with winter qi, which can inspire coughs and low-grade illness, while also impeding the body's ability to digest food. To protect yourself from wind and winter qi, wear long sleeves, wrap a scarf around your neck, and treat yourself to warm baths. Neck and shoulder massages further prevent the cold from stagnating.
4. Dream with Intention
Keep a journal by your bed, and jot down your dreams upon waking. The next 3 months are a potent time to clarify your intention for your life. We can harness the wintertime to gather our inner kung-fu power. It is only 3 months, use it wisely.