Winter Physical and Emotional Replenishment

by Mary Ann Copson

Winter is a time of moving deep inward. It is a time of conservation, rest, storage and quiet replenishment. When winter comes upon us there is a darkening of skies and a blanketing of growth. The cold drives us to huddle in our den and seek our warmth from within. We move toward greater receptive and introspective energy and slow our outward expansion.
Winter is the time of rest. You may find that you need more sleep and require more down time and actual rest. In winter, you may need an earlier bedtime and a later wakening time. Because of this pull toward rest, you may also be drawn to mediate, pray, dream or contemplate more deeply to restore your spiritual energy.
Autumn energy drives us downward to our roots where we hibernate through the stormy, housebound times of winter. The darkness of winter pulls us inward calling us to be more receptive to our own needs and the counsel held deep within us.
Seemingly contradictory, the Winter Solstice - the beginning of winter - is actually the harbinger of light. Devoid of outward growth in the dead of winter, every day from the solstice forward gets longer.
As we draw deeper into ourselves and mimic this contradictory aspect of winter, we too are in the process of storing, building and generating our own light. The light must first collect internally before it is strong enough to sustain our outward growth and expansion.
To facilitate growth in the newness of spring, winter is the time in which you need to take special care of yourself through nutrition, warmth, and rest.
(BOLD)Winter Wellness Correspondences
Water is the element of winter. Water governs the metabolism and controls the bladder. Water is the essential fluid of life through which all things must pass. Water makes up the majority of the human body. Water is the receptive element, the element of the emotions and winter can be a time of deep emotional experiences.
The kidneys and the bladder are the two body organs that deal with the body's water and that are associated with winter.
The kidneys "open to the ears" and the ears are the sense organs associated with winter wellness, as is the sense of hearing and the ability to listen.
The kidneys are seen as being the storage place for our life force. They are the seat of the cycle of transformation and they generate our will and ambition. The kidneys are related to the adrenals, which generate energy, warmth, and sexual and reproductive expression in the body.
The kidney/adrenal connection is the foundation of the body's energy expression - both outward reaching and inward gathering. A healthy, vital kidney/adrenal connection allows for the proper balancing of opposites: calm yet energetic, strong yet nurturing, active yet restful. Disruption in the kidney energy in the body may show up in a number of ways including:
* Problems with the bones
* Problems with hearing and the ears including ear infections
* Problems with the head and the hair including hair loss
* Problems with sexuality and libido, reproductive problems and urinary problems
* Slow or poor growth of the mind or body
* Accelerated aging
* Excessive fear or insecurity
* A loss of the "sparkle" in the eyes
Fear is the emotion of winter. Like the winter, fear can be deeply rooted internally. When there is poor or weak kidney/adrenal energy, excessive fear, phobias and general anxiety are likely. Restoration and rejuvenation of the kidney/adrenal energy resolves this fear and opens up the pathway to joy and loving expression. Often deep fears and insecurities will not give way to insight and understanding until the kidney/adrenal pathway is restored and strengthened.
The climate is cold and the direction is north - the place of wisdom, introspection, intuition, and ancestral guidance. Groaning is the sound of winter and the color of winter is blue and black.
The kidneys govern the storage of the life force in the bones and the bone marrow. "I felt it in my bones" is an indication of a deep and intense intuitive knowledge. Winter is a good time for undergoing restorative bodywork.
The sexual organs and sexuality are also water/winter elements. Either too much sexual activity or too little sexual activity may be related to the health and functioning of the kidney/adrenal complex. Traditionally the predominate energy flow through the bladder occurs between 3-5 PM and through the kidneys between 5-7PM. During this time, relaxation and rest may be required to stay emotionally centered and receptive. If you have difficulty getting through this time of day you may need to regenerate your kidney/adrenal pathway by including in your diet nourishing winter foods.
(BOLD)Winter Nutrition
Because winter is cold, your diet will need to produce more warmth and heat. Warm hearty soups, casseroles, and stews (all water rich foods) will take center stage during the winter months to fortify and strengthen your kidney/adrenal pathway. Winter foods are cooked longer and at lower temperatures than foods during other seasons.
Fruits are less seasonal and therefore are a smaller part of the winter diet. In contrast, root vegetables such as yams, turnips, onions, garlic, and potatoes make up a bigger portion of a winter diet. Cooked whole grains such as millet, barley, brown rice, wheat, oats, and buckwheat are good body heaters. Cooked with legumes such as black beans, lentils and kidney beans, these make a warming and nutritious meal.
Salty and bitter foods promote a deepening and centering energy that promotes the capacity of your body for storage. These foods tend to bring heat deeper into the body. However, excessive salt intake can lead to constriction of the Water element and may be related to problems with blood pressure.
Bitter foods include: rye, oats, lettuce, carrot tops, quinoa, lettuce, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, amaranth, escarole, watercress, endive, chicory, and citrus peel.
Salty foods include: Miso, Millet, Seaweeds, Barley, soy sauce, and other salted foods.
Foods that regenerate and strengthen kidney energy include: beans and dark foods with salty flavors: millet, buckwheat, black sesame seeds, black soybeans, chestnuts, mulberries, raspberries, strawberries, and walnuts.
Because winter corresponds to the Water element, ocean foods such as fish and seaweed are also good winter foods. While eating more fish is encouraged there are some guidelines needed. Nearly all fish contains trace amounts of methyl mercury. In most cases, this is of little concern because the level is so low. The fish most likely to have the lowest level of methyl mercury are salmon (usually undetectable levels), cod, mackerel, cold water tuna, and herring.
But certain seafood - particularly swordfish, shark and some other large predatory fish - may contain high levels of methyl mercury. Fish absorb methyl mercury from water and aquatic plants. Larger predatory fish also absorb mercury from their prey. Methyl mercury binds tightly to the proteins in fish tissue, including muscle: cooking does not reduce the mercury content significantly. As a general rule, fresh water fish should be assumed to be mercury laden unless specifically proven otherwise. Limit your intake of fish to about 2 pounds a week - about 4 eight-ounce servings. Limit your intake of swordfish, shark and warm water tuna to very occasional consumption. Limit freshwater fish to no more than once a week (women of childbearing age who might be pregnant and children should avoid all freshwater fish completely). Reduce the consumption of farm raised fish. Eat most of your fish baked or steamed and avoid fried, grilled or barbecued fish.
This winter take the time to cuddle up in a warm and cozy place. Spend time meditating and listening to yourself. Dream, reflect and store up energy and vitality. Sip strengthening herbal tonics and nourish yourself with hearty stews, soups and casseroles.
Enjoy the quiet of the winter season.