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Archive for January, 2011

The Silence of Snow


For many of us living in the northeast US, snow is presently covering the terrain. If you take a few moments and walk in a natural setting – a backyard, a park, the woods – you can breathe in the silence of snow. Hush and hear the soft sounds of feet traipsing on the ground, a few – very few – animals slowly moving about. There is no sound of insects – no crickets, grasshoppers – nor birds for the most part. Once in while, a flock of black crows dot the landscape. Standing in nature, you can experience the stillness, the dormancy, the energy of trees, plants, animals submerged below.

This is the essence of Water, the element of Winter in Chinese medicine. Water is the underlying, foundational energy and the most yin of all the elements – a restorative, renewing, moment of the seasonal cycle. In nature, this is occurring – but in our 24/7, growth-promoting, achieving world, we may be out of sync with our Tao.

As an acupuncturist, I see signs that this energy is working in humans as well, no matter what our personal relationship with Nature may be. People’s pulses are more submerged – not as readily palpable, they have gone “underground” like the sap of trees (sap being tree “blood”, it’s not just a poetic metaphor!). Speaking voices are lower, in response to this natural lowering, hunkering down energy.

The organs associated with Water are the kidneys, bladder and adrenal glands. Within the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the kidneys are the source of all energy or “Qi” within the body. This Qi is our life force and carries us through health and sickness. In winter, it is particularly necessary to nurture and nourish our kidney Qi. Most of us see a decrease in our daily energy during this season, (our natural inclination is to hibernate, like the animals). If we ignore that too long, chances are our immune systems will give out and colds, flus, other ailments take over.

Winter has a fearful nature- will my family have enough food stored? Will our house be warm enough? Will the heating bills be paid? It takes a degree of will to get up on a dark and cold morning, go outside and shovel off the driveway. Fear and its counterpart – will – are the emotions connected with Water. This will is not the force of Mind, but rather a knowing determination that certain events (surviving winter, overcoming obstacles) will happen. Forces around us converge to support us on our journey – “I’ve got your back”, the universe proclaims, an energetic embrace (think kidney area, lower back) carrying us through the challenges of life.

Chinese medicine holds that humans are given, at birth, a supply of jing (loosely described as energy) that will last us throughout our lifetime. While this jing is given to us in a finite amount, it can be tended wisely over our lifetime and supported by adding in energy – through nutrition, exercise, contemplative exercises, rest, etc. – to contribute to longevity. This jing is stored in the kidneys, the organ system of winter, the element of Water.

Right now, experience the silence of snow (if you live in a hotter climate, you can still tune into the silence of this season).  Look in your life for those pockets of quiet and restorative moments. We all have busy lives and yet if we look – and listen, we can tune into this yin, downward, quiet, dark, nurturing energy of Water.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting ideas – seeds to plant – on connecting with this powerful element of Water, helping you live in the Tao of the Seasons in all areas of your life.

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