It is Midwinter here in Albany, fog and snow are covering the backyard. Yet today, we are experiencing a warm front of rain and the snow is sadly melting. To the north traveler’s tires are spinning on roads covered in slush. Windshield wipers are freezing stuck. Roads are being closed, and the woods are decorated in icicles.
Birds and squirrels are fat with the help of nature enthusiasts as they supplement their winter stores of nuts and seeds. All around, people are preparing for Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the New Year. They are frantic if they have put off some things, and others sink deeply with a smile as they have been finished for weeks.
Holiday spirit fills our hearts as we make preparations to share it with friends and family over the next month. Some take on nostalgic moments of Holidays past, others excite over sharing in the Holiday present, and still others hope for the next year in order to share it with a partner.
Are you feeling the Winter?
“Are you feeling more emotional these days? Winters are like that, a more inward and sensitive time. Nature is in her resting season, quiet, withdrawn, deep in the earth and the roots, preparing for Spring. You also may be deeper within yourself, seeking replenishment, resting, reflecting, and being more aware of your senses. As the winter climates of cold and wet (snow, rain, or fog) chill you to your bones, seek inner warmth and spend more time at home with family and friends.”
December 21st was the date of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, and longest night. Now, each day will grow longer, however small, and the nights will shorten however little. We are in the deep stretch now, especially if you grew up where I did in the upper Adirondacks of New York State. Now begins a time to stay active so the cold doesn’t freeze you in place, and so your energy stays warm and moving.
It is also an excellent time to hibernate. To relish in sleep, rest, and siesta! Now is the time to get plenty of relaxation and to make sure you are eating nutritious, wholesome food. Most of all, now is the time to really pay attention to your dreams.
Replenish your complete health this winter season by taping into your inner Water element (Winter is related to the element of water in the Chinese Five Element system).
Water is in the air, on and within the earth, and constitutes a majour part of all living matter. This fluid is very adaptable, taking the shape of its container and changing form with cold and heat. It supports your being, both as a drink and when carrying you on a boat, a raft, or when swimming. Water is the essential medium of your body, through which all things pass. This fluid of life is important for functions like the circulation of blood, which carries heat and nourishment throughout the body; the lymphatic flow, which helps to process and eliminate wastes and provides your ability to fight off infections and other foreign agents; and for the flow of urine, saliva, perspiration, tears, and sexual fluids. Water can be warm and loving, and cold and frightening. It is nourishing, refreshing, and invigorating.
By looking at the element of Water, you can see the analogy between the human body and the planet Earth.
We both consist of 70-80 percent water. In fact, seawater is almost identical to blood plasma. Water is the circulatory system of the Earth. Clouds, mountain snow, lakes, rivers, streams, and the oceans are all part of this water circulation.
Water can related to the emotions in general, but the specific emotional imbalance associated with Water energy is fear. This may be manifest as specific phobias; as a general anxiety about life; or as paranoia or negativity, in which one always expects the worst. Fear can be either a cause or a consequence of a Water imbalance. An illness affecting the bladder or kidneys may generate a fearful feeling; and fear can itself injure these organs, according to the Chinese system. During excitement or in change, one who has a Water imbalance may respond by trembling. This trembling represents a release of fearful energy and tensions. And although fear may block the expression of live, love and faith can transmute fear.
Water must stay in motion; it has rhythm, a cycle which is primarily ruled by the movement and gravitational pull of the moon. The daily expansions and contractions of the oceans in the tides is like the breathing cycle of the Earth. We too have our cycles. Many of us have cycles in which held-in emotions are released, like the winter rains. Then, with the new awareness and expression of those feelings comes a real lightening up of our energy. Water, sometimes held in the body along with the emotions, can cause lethargy and slowness, irritability, and an inability to express ourselves. From the Chinese viewpoint, people with deficient Water energy may find it difficult to slow down, relax or rest, with an inability to reflect clearly. A balanced Water element allows fluidity and flow, an ability to rest and nourish oneself and others, to guide perception and reflection , and have a ready expression of feelings such as love.
These qualities of compassion, understanding, and responsiveness to needs and feelings of others are often seen as the “maternal” and “feminine” aspect of ourselves, and are also characteristics of the Water element. However, we now know that placing one gender as a descriptive role for a set of characteristics is not only ignorant, but exclusive towards other genders that exist. Remember, gender is a human concept, and there are most certainly more than just two. Energy ebbs and flows, moves up and down, but giving these energies gender seems to only perpetuate gender-bias and imbalance. We must break free from these bonds that keep us chained to only a specific “set-way” of standards, and create our own based on our own unique and beautiful personalities. In Winter, we can take the time to really ask ourselves about our ups and downs, our highs and lows, our introvert-ness and our extrovert-ness. By feeling our own inner Winter and embracing this quiet time for ourselves, we will learn untold mysteries about who we are and why we are? By feeling our own inner Winter, we gain a sense of value, purpose, and warmth. By feeling our Winter we regain our complete health.
The Winter Diet
Here in up-state New York, the farmer’s markets are gone; the gardens are barren; but the supply for in-season foods is abundant. Fresh fruits and vegetables are not as easily available as they were for us, but you may be fortunate to live in the tropics where the growing season is all year around.
As you move into winter, you need to adjust your diet once again. The weather is colder, so a diet that produces more heat is necessary. Days are shorter and you tend to have less physical activity, thereby burning fewer calories than you might during the more active summer. Don’t increase your food intake too much or you may gain more weight than you wish. A diet which is mainly carbohydrates and protein will produce the heat you need and perhaps give you a few added pounds, but with even moderate activity, you should stay in pretty good shape until spring comes and you can once again cleanse and lighten up.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Vegetables can still be eaten daily, some as salad and some cooked by steam or baked. Fried and sauteed foods fit more with the winter diet, but don’t go overboard, too much heated oil is bad for the liver.
- Soups! Root vegetables like carrots, turnips, onions, horseradish, garlic, ginger and potatoes are excellent because they last long through the winter season.
- Adding cayenne pepper adds heat to your meals and warms the bones. Other hot peppers work wonders as well!
- Whole grains make an excellent staple. Complex carbs burn well in the body as fuel and are great for elimination. Millet and buckwheat are good heaters and are less starchy.
- Cook grains with beans will make a complete protein.
- Nuts and nut milks are nutritious as well as add healthy fats to your diet.
- Deep-sea fish like halibut and swordfish from non-polluted areas are low in fat with high protein, minerals and vitamins.
- Organic Chicken and occasional red meats without added hormones or chemicals will stimulate and brighten the blood, heart, and complexion.
- Sushi! Seaweeds like kelp, dulse, nori, and hijiki are high-protein vegetables, high in Vit. E and A, and are rich with calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, iodine, and other minerals. They stimulate and strengthen the skin, hair and nails as well as the endocrine, thyroid and adrenal glands. Not to mention they help with radiation poisoning.
- Soybeans, tofu, and miso are great for vegetarians because they are high-protein, assist with digestion and the metabolism. But remember, it is still best to obtain your protein from a variety of sources. Not just meat, and not only soy. Also, miso also helps to treat arthritis, colitis, diabetes, and hypoglycemia.
Staying Healthy With the Seasons by Dr. Elson M. Haas, M.D. 21st 2003 Century Edition
Photography courtesy of Nora from Photoity.com