Jan 12, 2013

Embrace // Winter // Magic

We thought we would share with you the Winter Notes that accompanied our Winter CSH (Community Supported Herbalism) Share that went out on this past Winter Solstice. Now that we are deep into the cold winter months, we thought we'd offer a little insight to light your way. Here you go:

Oh Winter, you tricky, beautiful season. There are our natural inclinations, still tuned in to less complicated times, that are drawing us back into bed, urging us to slow down and conserve energy for Spring, propelling us to nest, to hibernate, and to feast on the stores we put aside in Autumn. Then there are the realities of the hustle & bustle of the holiday season. Flus & colds pursue us when we over extend ourselves, and we daydream about the sun -- the beautiful elusive sun. We are hoping with our Winter Share that we can help to allay some of these imbalances, and remind you that no sooner does Winter begin, then our days actually begin to become lighter again. By one minute a day we inch out of the darkness, so we might as well take advantage of it while it’s here to rest, restore & reflect. Here are some suggestions to more easily transition from Autumn to Winter: 

Adjust Your Diet: If you haven’t already, begin eating warming foods, including slow cooked foods like stew, beans and roasted vegetables. Adding warming spices such as ginger, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric and clove will help stave off some of the chill you might be feeling if you are a little yang deficient. These spices will help increase your circulation in the months where some of us have decreased our physical activities. Foods that are naturally salty like seaweed, miso, barley and millet are also appropriate at this time of year. The Kidneys and the Urinary Bladder are the organs associated with Winter, and Salt is the flavor of Winter. Bitter is also associated with Winter due to the close relationship between the Kidneys and the Heart.  Bitter foods include, greens, rye, oats, citrus peels, chicory root and burdock root.  Winter is a time for over indulgence in foods high in calories, fats and sugar, and bitter flavors will help to speed up your gastric response, you’ll find some Bitters in your Share.

Let The Light In: This could mean so many things. Where do you find light? Is it in laughing with friends? Listening to music? Learning a new skill? As the days are short, especially in some climates where the days are endlessly grey, we need a game plan. Hibernation and retreat are necessary and strengthening but you have to pay attention to where the balance is. Winter is also a time where we get to create our own light. It can be literal like popping in some full spectrum bulbs, turning on a happy lamp next to your favorite chair or stringing up some lights around the house. Or it can be integrated by inviting loved ones over for a meal, lighting some candles, and telling some stories to lift your spirits. Entering a home full of laughter over a shared meal with warm lights will help to not let the grey days bring you too far into the dark. The emotion of the Winter season in TCM is fear, and while darkness and fear are commonly associated, with balance you may find that both the light and dark times can be healthy. 

Evaluate How You Cope With Stress: In Traditional Chinese Medicine the organs associated with Winter are the Kidneys as discussed above, the Urinary Bladder and the Adrenals. It is a time of year where it is easy to deplete our stored energy. Nothing burns through our hard earned stored energy from trying to rest more and to eat nourishing and warming foods, then stress. We all know stress is ‘bad’. We all know how bad it feels to be ‘stressed’ out. But the world we’re participating in is stressful, so what can we do? Well, ask yourself. What can you do? Chances are you know the answer, but it’s so easy to forget. Maybe you want to write it down, or talk about it with a trusted friend, practitioner or loved one. Think about what actions make you feel calm. How can you do that more? Is it taking a walk? Baking? Drawing? Taking a bath? Whatever it is, make time for it. What can you do in a tense moment to make the best of it? How can you put stressors into perspective? Winter lends itself towards contemplation, so make that work for you and try to see how you can keep that stress at bay to help out your adrenal system. 

Keep It Simple: Our culture lends itself towards excess this time of year. Pare down! Whether it’s piling a plate too high, or stuffing too many bags with purchases, try and resist. It’s easy to lose control of ourselves with so much momentum in the air. If you can step back for a minute, you’ll be better for it.

Hibernate: Take advantage of longer nights to catch up on your rest. Sleep is one of our greatest allies in keeping our immune system strong and active.

Associations with Winter in Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Element: Water                                      Organs: Kidneys, Urinary Bladder, Adrenals
Direction: North                                      Color: Black, Indigo Blue
Flavor: Salty                                            Emotion: Fear
Number: Six                                            Sense: Hearing

Wishing you a warm, healthy and dream inspired winter, 
Kristen & Elie

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