Winter symbolism brings to mind a time of death and dying. The plants are dead; the animals are hibernating. The days are darker. In most climates, winter is a time of cold and contraction. Our blood vessels, being mostly water anyway, will contract and slightly “freeze up.” That is why most conditions of pain are worse in the cold weather.
Traditional Chinese medicine also reflects the seasonal changes. The winter is a time of major qi circulation in the Kidney and Urinary Bladder meridians. If you took care of your health in the spring, your Kidneys will ensure that you stay healthy during the winter. If you “squandered” your qi in the spring (late nights, partying, lots of stress and overwork), your health in the winter will suffer. Your Kidneys are your “essence.” Your “essential qi” is the qi that you inherited from your parents. As you age, your children inherit your “essence,” and age will bring about an overall loss of your Kidney essence. This is unpreventable, but the process can be slowed down with:
- Proper rest
- Avoiding too much cold food and drinks
- Daily movement (overall body movement)
- Keeping a peaceful mind
For me, symbolically, the winter is a time of letting go. What can you let “die” this season?
- Unhealthy relationships
- Old resentments
- Old eating habits
- Useless routines
In a time of year focused on darkness, death, and letting go, we are supposed to be filled with “Joy to the World!” and “Happy New Year!” It’s supposed to be “joy in the summertime, fear in the winter!” Yes, fear. In Traditional Chinese medicine, winter is related to the emotion of fear.
In ancient societies where the solstice is celebrated (December 21st, when day and night are equal distant), the celebration is that, although everything is dead and cold now, we know that the sun and the light will return. Later, with Christianity, the “sun” changed into the return of the “son.” The gift-giving at Christmas shows that we know there is hope; there is a light at the end of the tunnel; there will be a tomorrow. Even when everything around us is underground and frozen, we want to affirm that life and prosperity will return.
Know anyone with Seasonal Affective Disorder? It’s a type of depression that some people get in the winter. Or it may be year-round depression that gets worse in the winter. I think it happens because we try to “stuff” our sadness at this time of year. Feeling emotional because your memory of this time of year is someone who died or left? That is only natural. Let yourself feel sad, and then it will eventually pass. That’s the funny thing about emotions, the only thing that causes us to be “stuck” in a certain type of emotion is our own stubbornness. Allow yourself to feel sad, and it will pass on its own. You don’t have to force it. It’s like a strong branch in a storm. It’s going to hold on tight. If the wind blows it down, it lets itself go. If the wind is not strong, it remains attached to the tree as it bends and sways. It doesn’t have to force anything.
To stay joyful in the winter, there has to be an acceptance of death. I know that sounds hardcore, but I mean much more than just regular, old dying. I also mean death of the relationships, habits, and things that no longer serve your purpose. We all have a purpose on earth, and when we can let go of the stuff that gets in the way of that purpose, we will discover what truly lends us joy.
Here’s to letting go!
Happy New Year!