By AFEA member Beverly Bragg Ware
As a Classical Five Element Acupuncturist, I work with my clients to recognize the importance of being proactive when it comes to seasonal, emotional, and physical fluctuations. Currently, it is the season of winter, which is associated with the Water element. This is an appropriate time to discuss what makes the Water element so significant during the Winter season and what you can do to prepare for a bountiful spring, and more importantly, an abundant and healthy year.
Upon the turning of fall into winter, the trees and plants are completely stripped bare of their leaves; the days are the shortest and darkest of the year; and the animals have gone into hibernation. On the surface, everything looks dead and skeletal. But underneath, life is going on. Energy is being concentrated, stored, and gathered, so the future of a generous spring is guaranteed. This gives us the essence of what the Winter season is for: preserving, conserving, and recharging. We prepare for winter by taking advantage of the harvest that we have stored and draw on reserves to prepare for the growth of the upcoming spring. In sum, it is essential to build up reserves and winter is the time to do that.
The thought of running out of reserves could reasonably inspire a great deal of fear for our future and our survival. We see this in nature, especially in Texas, where droughts are common. Without the guarantee of water, nothing can grow in the spring, flourish in the summer, and ultimately be harvested in the late summer. We can understand why the emotion associated with the Water element is fear. With no assurance, we can become very fearful and scared. Our survival is uncertain. Therefore, we prepare. We stop running our sprinklers, don’t wash our cars, and we take shorter showers.
Fear often has a negative connotation associated with it. However, it is an essential and primal instinct that protects us. Fear keeps us safe and prevents us from being reckless and walking into dangerous situations. Additionally, fear of failure is a huge motivator and can make us take leaps and have tremendous courage and willpower. Fear only becomes problematic when it is expressed inappropriately. For example, if one is so fearful that he or she cannot bear the idea of a new relationship, friendship, or career. Everything is truly terrifying and takes way too much energy. The reserves simply do not exist. This can make someone feel frozen and paralyzed. On the other hand, another inappropriate expression is lack of fear. More specifically, this imbalance may show up as a daredevil who continually puts himself or herself in potentially harmful, thrilling, and overly exciting situations. Clearly, it is very important to have a healthy balance of fear that allows for adventure, excitement, and bravery, but also safety and caution.
Classical Five Element Acupuncture is a timeless medicine that understands, even in a modern world, we are still a part of nature and should live according to the seasons. Even as technologies continue to advance, the seasons stay the same, and at our core, so do we. Soon enough the days will become longer and brighter as spring is approaching. If we have followed the way nature intended and taken time to preserve, conserve, and recharge, we will be ready for the spring season with a clear vision, a sense of purpose, and plenty of energy.
Tips for the Winter Season
- Rest: Slow down, go to bed early, and sleep in late. If this is the permission you need to sleep in late, take it! Wake up as the sun rises. This is a time to be less physically active and conserve what we have. Choose physical activities that are more restorative or restful, such as Yin Yoga or shorter less challenging walks.
- Recharge: Choose practices that nourish and recharge your soul: acupuncture, journaling, meditation, mindfulness, qi gong, and tai qi. These practices allow you to go inward so you can hone in on what is most important for you in the coming year. You can also take time to explore your dreams and aspirations.
Warm foods and beverages: Nourish yourself with warming foods such as squash, bone broth, soups, whole grains, and steamed winter greens. Eat slowly so your body can absorb all the nutrients from the food you eat to build up your reserves.
- Connect: Winter is a wonderful time to deepen relationships with those closest to you; therefore, socialize with people that you cherish the most. Unlike holiday parties, keep get togethers simple and relaxed, where you can easily connect on a deeper level.