Winter Seasonal Living
The energy of Winter is likened to water. During this season we are surrounded by water in the forms of rain, snow, frost or ice. In winter there is a mix of overcast, snowy, drizzly or clear and sunny days.
The feeling of this predominantly cold weather is withdrawn, floating, inactive, contemplative, waiting, harbouring or resting to regenerate before the movement towards the more expansive Yang of Spring.
The Winter is contracted, Yin type energy, and a time to go within and nourish this energy through these types of behaviours. It is a time of contemplation and planning rather than doing.
In nature, the cold Winter nights condense moisture from the air and as the water gathers, it dissolves the minerals from the dead plants and fallen leaves. As this water freezes in the cold night air, it concentrates these minerals. (This is how in nature the Yin of the earth is nourished.) In the human body, the concentration of minerals creates salts and this is controlled in the body by the kidneys through its salt/water ratio. Minerals not excreted from the body but concentrated in the blood can condense in the bone marrow to ultimately nourish the bones. And this primarily is the function of the season of Winter in the regeneration of the human being – a period of coldness with contraction of energy and rest, where an accumulation of minerals and energy is possible to nourish the Yin.
In the Winter months our body needs warm, strong food. If we prepare cold, icy or a lot of raw food during these months, we will grow out of balance with the process of the season. Because green vegetables and sprouts are not as plentiful during this time we eat predominantly root and ground vegetables as well as pickles – all food types that have sustaining energy. We can use a little more salt in our cooking as well as tamari and miso. Ginger can be used frequently to warm and disperse our energy. The warmth of ginger also circulates on the outside of our body protecting it from the cold element. We can use more oil in our cooking as we begin using cooking styles that will keep the body warm. Baking, deep frying, long boiling and stewing will give us the right quality of energy. By taking a long time to slowly cook our food, we support the sustaining energy needed to get through the long Winter. We can cook on a fire that has a narrow, contracted centre that burns warmly for a long time; (versus a summer flame that needs to have a wider base and a faster, hotter flame to match the quality of our activities).
Fried grain or noodle dishes are particularly warming in the Winter. A variety of grain, bean and vegetable stews can be served, as well as longtime sautéing. We chop our vegetables into large chunky cuts or even use them whole to keep the energy strong after the long slow cooking.
The Water element of Winter
Water is wet and fluid, it flows or takes the shape of whatever contains it. It can be cold or warm, murky or clear, and can be supportive when its energy is harnessed. It can be violent and overpowering or serene and submissive but above all it contains refreshing and invigorating qualities.
Life is impossible without water. We have within us reservoirs, ponds, rivers, seas, oceans of energy, sources of life in the form of endocrine fluidity, urination, perspiration, saliva, tears, sexual secretions, lactation … the human body is about 78% water.
We can think of our water element in terms of a clear mountain stream that circuitously flows down the mountain toward the river and eventually on to the sea. If rain comes, the stream may swell and become unclear for a period, possibly overflowing its banks. If a drought occurs the stream will contract and decrease and perhaps even stop flowing. Should a large tree fall into the water and block the passage of water, a damming effect that leaves only a slow trickle will result. Where this blockage occurs, the integrity of the stream has changed and it has ceased to be a sparkling and flowing stream. The key words for Water are fluidity and flow. When this is not the case for the human being, problems similar in nature to the above will arise.
A balanced human being moves through their life with fluidity and the wisdom to regulate the flow of their energy.