Winter is the darkest time of the year. Life grows cold and still. Trees stand bare before the season’s harshness. Nature rests, animals hibernate, and we too want to sleep more. We contract socially and energetically. Winter is the most internal and contemplative time of the year. Wisdom grows in the depth of its quiet stillness.
In Chinese medicine, winter is related to the Kidney organ system – this system includes kidneys, sex organs, hair, ears, bones, brain and spinal cord. The Kidneys are considered to hold the Yuan Qi or ‘Original Qi’, and are the foundation of all Yin and Yang energies within the body, just as water is the foundation of all life. Humans – and all living beings – cannot survive without it.
Winter and the Kidney organ system are both represented by the Water element. It is emblematic of the mystery in the depths of the ocean, the quiet of a still pond, the movement of a mountain stream, the inexorably slow and steady power of a glacier, and the fierce power of a tsunami.
Water manifests with immense power, like Niagra Falls, and with extraordinary stillness, like a frozen lake. Water is soft, yet it chisels valleys through mountains with its persistent and continuous nature. The oceans’ tides, waves, and even its salinity are mirrored in our deepest cellular rhythms.
The emotions related to Kidneys are willpower and fear. Fear has its most commanding presence in the wintertime. Winter brings forward ancient and archetypal questions that live as metaphors in our unconscious: Do I have enough crops stored away? Do I have enough fuel? Can I survive the cold? Do I have enough money for Christmas? How can I schedule all the events I have? Who will be my date for New Years?
The drive to survive is held in the very essence of our being. After all, we don’t choose to escape threats, we react instinctively with our innate will to survive. This compulsion and willpower behind it – called the zhi – are the spiritual expression of the Kidneys.
Tips for keeping healthy through the winter:
- Aromatherapy – Protect yourself against wintertime colds and threats to your immune system with eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, lemon, tea tree, thyme, and cedar essential oils. Mix 10-20 drops of each oil into water and pour into a diffuser or spray bottle to mist at home or the office. Try a combination of these oils in a nice hot bath as well!
- Acupressure – Gently massage Kidney 3, which is located in the depression between the inner ankle and the Achilles tendon at the same level as the anklebone. This point can be used to treat many symptoms, such as low back, ankle, and foot pain, headache, dizziness, cough, asthma, wheezing, memory, and irregular menstruation.
- Keep your middle warm! – Clothing that fully covers the entire back and abdomen is important for protecting your organs and most importantly, the area between your kidneys that hold your Original Qi. In doing so, you protect your kidneys and adrenal glands which support you in health!
- Eating right for the season – At this time of year we want to focus our cooking on warming foods. Because the weather is colder, your body needs to generate extra warmth in order to keep it functioning optimally. A nourishing winter diet can be made up of whole grains, squash, and root vegetables – like carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes, onions, and garlic. Enjoy hearty soups and stews that are nutritious, warming and easy to digest.
Enjoying what each season has to offer is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy and happy. The winter is a wonderful time of year to rest and reflect. If you are looking for answers to life’s great mysteries, winter is a perfect time of year to turn inward and discover what they are – all answers are already inside us! Stay warm, healthy, and relaxed this season.