Based on my studies of Eastern traditions, I’ve found quite an astounding observation about the Western world — that many of us are living our lives contrary to the rhythms of nature. With so many advances emerging in technology, why is it that we’ve forgotten simple, innate intelligence on living a healthy, balanced life in tune with nature?
Healthy lifestyle choices in tune with nature include maintaining our biological clocks — such as waking with the sun & going to bed at the same time, and following the flow of the seasons — by eating what’s local and in season. That being said, one of the most evident acts in the Western world of going ‘against the grain’ of patterns found in nature is how we don’t slow down during wintertime. In fact, many of us do the polar opposite.
As the days get shorter and the nights longer, the darkness is meant to slow us down. Think about our ancestors who lived before us without electricity and heating. What do you think they did during the winter months? Huddled together under blankets by the fire drinking hot liquid to stay warm. All of their work to hunt and gather food is done during the warmer months of the year. Look at how animals & plants around us prepare themselves for the winter months. Take cues from nature to slow down during the winter and also notice how they flourish, thrive and reproduce during times of peak sunshine and warmth.
This concept is prevalent in so many traditions – from Chinese to Tibetan to Ayurvedic Medicine (Indian). Winter is a time to retreat, reset & quiet our souls, a time to go reflect and go inward. It is a time to eat hearty and slow cooked root vegetables and stews as these are more easily digestible when our digestive fire, our internal Agni, is low. In the Taoist tradition, wintertime is considered the most Yin time of year (versus summer which is Yang & ruled by the Sun, fire, action, etc). Yin characteristics include slow, quite and feminine which means during the winter months we should decelerate and reserve energy.
Yes, many people may be forced to slow down due to snow storms and cold weather, however between the holidays, celebrating the New Year and work ambitions to finish the year strong, we don’t create much time for reflection, going inward and reserving our vital energy. So why is this concept so important?
In my observations, the idea that we don’t slow down during wintertime is what leads to so much stress, illness and even depression around the holiday season. In order to feel our optimal best, harmony must exist between our physical being and our surrounding environment. When we have less life-force & energy, we must honor ourselves with self-care in order to keep our immune systems strong and our mental/emotional state sound.
Because most of us cannot afford to completely hunker down during the winter months, here are a few quick recommendations to keep yourself balanced during the coldest time of the year:
-Go to bed earlier & wake up a bit later if there is flexibility in your schedule
-Honor your energy levels – practice slower exercises like yoga & Tai Chi
-Drink herbal teas throughout the day to heat up our internal fires (ginger for a pick-me up & chamomile for relaxation)
-Eat slow cooked, hearty foods like root vegetables to nourish body/soul
-Avoid carbs, sugar and dairy in excess
-Take time to receive healing touch — massage, reiki or a cuddling session will do.
Written by Angela Sealy
December 8th, 2016