Welcoming the Wisdom of Winter

The trees have lost their leaves and most outward signs of life have disappeared. The branches look skeletal and in many places the ground is covered in snow. Without the external ornamentation of leaves, flowers and fruits, the plants are just bare essence. What we don’t see is what is happening on the inside. Nature is building a concentrated internal force that enables a seed to burst forth later in the spring. In the same way, we can store our own energy in in winter in order to have enough for the whole year that lies ahead. Within nature already lies all the answers we seek on our path of health. All we have to do is observe and listen to what the season has in store for us.

Winter is a time to conserve our energy, go to bed early and sleep in late. We can use the guidance of the winter season to more deeply discover the essence of our self. Water, the element that corresponds to winter in Chinese Five Element Theory, points us to that dark, quiet pool within ourselves where our essential self-identity resides.

The wisdom of water is it is able to listen in the deep silence of our mind and heart and know directly where balance and imbalance exist and how to respond appropriately. Water effortlessly takes the shape of its environment. A river flows over every rock yielding to every protrusion and filling every crevice. We can empty ourselves this season by giving ourselves more quiet time and less running around. Once we have created this space inside, the energy of water can fill every hollow within us.

When water is distressed, fear arises from not having enough of what it takes to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Living in a society of continual striving and exertion, we expect instant results and immediate answers. But nature has another idea: everything to its season. Abundant reserves within give us courage and strength of will. However, without taking appropriate steps to gather and store these reserves, our health may take a toll. There are simple steps that we can take in winter to encourage the energy of the season to restore and balance the water element inside us.

1. Let yourself sleep when you are tired. Go to bed earlier and when possible sleep a little later.
2. Be less active. If you don’t need to go somewhere, don’t.
3. Incorporate excercise that brings your focus inward into your excercise routine. eg. yoga, tai chi, hiking, surfing…
4. Spend some time in nature.
5. Address fears that might arise.
6. Meditate/contemplate.
7. Drink plenty of water.

By incorporating these suggestions into our lives as much as we can, we strengthen our deepest selves and build courage, strength, and inner fullfillment. From this place, we can move forward to the next season. As the days become warmer and brighter with the approach of spring, nature opens her eyes from the slumber of winter and looks to the new growth cycle that lies ahead. After taking a winter rest, we emerge into spring ready with restored energy, clear vision, and a sense of purpose.

Courtney Shelburne
Certified PSM Healer
Licensed Massage Therapist

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