Here we are in the second winter of our new reality. COVID created a hard stop in a peculiar “musical chair” way. Everyone is stuck where they are. No more solid plans for next holidays, no more escapes or getaways to bring home all-so-desired peace and harmony from beautiful places filled with natural magic. It happened to be the time to face who you really are. For many it was hard and still is.
In many traditions Winter is a time for contemplation, silence, restoration, gestation, time of comfort and darkness of the womb.
Ancient Taoist Five Phases Theory comes from the time, when people were closely observing nature and the medicine was grounded in such a detailed observation and notorious accounts of it. Unlike elsewhere, the Chinese left rigorous literary background of foundation for Medicine that can be traced as far as 2000 BC. At that time medicine was truly shamanic, i.e. it was derived from direct experience of Nature by people with enhanced sensory capabilities. There is a lot we can learn from them. For example, understanding of natural flow of seasons, its reflection in our body and its direct connection to emotions.
Winter is linked with the element of Water, the primordial element, source of life. It represents the affirmation of “I am”: right for life, statement of who you are.
Water is represented in our body by Kidneys and Bladder. Kidneys are one of those ‘silent sufferers’, that remain undiagnosed for years. They work in pair with liver to remove toxins, if liver is overburdened, more stress is passed onto kidneys. One of the key symptoms one can look out for is fatigue. Bladder is responsible for water storage and, symbolically, for internal fluidity of mind and spirit.
Fear is the key emotion associated with Water element. With modern day science behind our belt it makes a lot of sense, because adrenals, the endocrine glands located on the top of kidneys, produce our ‘stress’ hormones, linked with our response to fear.
Our times are characterised with extreme sympathetic dominance, meaning that we drive ourselves high with adrenaline fuelled lifestyle and boost ‘merry-go-round’ even further with coffee and uncontrolled adaptogens, making sympathetic branch of our nervous system dominant, not allowing parasympathetic “rest and digest” branch counterbalance it. There is even a new syndrome emerged “post-adaptogen crash”: when someone already exhausted, would take strong adaptogens to keep going, instead of resting and restoring, using other gentle restorative herbs like chamomile, lime flowers, milky oats, marshmallow root. Gentle massage over the kidney area with lavender essential oil can promote relaxation and gentle support to the adrenals through local circulation.
Connecting with Water element in you, can be facilitated via water in nature. Find a natural source of water near you and spend some time with it. Come more than once, bring your joys and sorrows, share, tell them to the water. Seek connection, relax, breathe, observe. See how water finds its way: it is unstoppable. In fact, one of the lessons we can learn from Water is to check whether your personal will is aligned with your Tao or path, not by some socially biased affirmations, but by a harmonious state of being. Allow yourself to connect with the natural flow of water, look inwards to see if your internal flow is steady or is it stuck, stagnant? Ask yourself what kind of energy flows through you? Add your song to the song of the water: gentle humming will help you to unblock the energy that is not flowing. If an outdoor setting is not possible, do all this in the shower. On a practical note, starting your day with a cold shower will help build adrenal strength: it improves the so-called cortisol awakening response (CAR), linked with resilience.
Kidneys are considered to be the source of our ancestral, genetic energy, our reserve of Jing, received at conception, which should last all our life. Remembering your ancestors will allow you to unpack some of that energy. Do your research, create your family tree. Make simple rituals of lighting a candle and creating a tasty offering in their memory. Does any one of them in particular resonate with you? Do you discern any family patterns? Whether inspiring or challenging, there is a lot of energy in them. Rosemary is the herb to help you work with remembrance, it has a beautiful capacity to soothe the memories and evoke the joy of life through them. Sit by the plant, which in England conveniently flowers in winter, bring some twigs home, enjoy the smell, make a tea. Use essential oil in a diffusor or in candles.
There is strong link between Water element and root chakra through Jing energy. The root chakra manifests the energies of survival, ancestral wisdom, and the natural world’s animistic truth- the animals are who they are, they don’t need to become. It is a good time to support your root chakra with healing sounds, flower essences, essential oils.
Reishi mushroom is one of the strongest tonics for Water element and kidneys. It is endowed with a spiritual capacity to support embodiment of the Spirit descending from Heaven.
Winter is linked with the North compass point, our higher purpose, our inner truth. If that’s a direction you feel it is time to explore, start with looking back at your life. For example, make your ‘Life’s Spiral’ Ritual*: take as many stones as your full years – you can gather those stones in the wild or use crystals. Dedicate some space and time, light a candle, add your favourite scents: ‘White Sage’ would be appropriate here to bring in clarity and gentle wise guidance. Recreate your life year by year, placing your stones in a clockwise spiral, starting from the centre. Recall what each year was like and make a note of each year in a journal, connecting with the energy from those times. Look back: how many years do you remember, what made you happy, what mattered then, what matters now? Let this be your first step towards yourself.
If you feel none of the above would be sufficient to balance your Water element, seek professional help. We are not meant to be alone in our inner trepidations. There are states: spiritual, mental and physical, where a specially trained professional will be able to be by your side and help you walk where you need to be. For example, Plant Spirit Medicine healers, trained by Eliot Cowan, the author of bestseller “Plant Spirit Medicine” and the founder of the discipline, grounded in Five Phases Teachings, are able to evaluate spiritual integrity and restore balance at all levels. It is not easy to define spiritual integrity by yourself, but a potentially helpful key could be a feeling “of not being quite like myself” indicating some imbalance in that area. We, the healers, are also trained to identify your key Element and support it with the help of plant spirits, thus allowing the energy to flow through your body, mind and spirit freely, creating an emotionally rich and fulfilling life.
* The ‘Life’s Spiral’ ritual is from Elena Ratnichkina and Tatiana Chuikina, ITOP, Moscow
This post is inspired by works of J.R. Worsley, Eliot Cowan, Laura Stelmock, Melody A. Scout, Lorie eve Dechar.