We’ve just passed the shortest day of the year, and this is an important moment of transition in Chinese Medicine. Winter is the most yin time of year: more darkness, cooler temperatures; life is incubating below the surface, readying itself for the growing season to come. There are reasons that almost every culture everywhere in every age has celebrated major holidays at this darkest time: as yin reaches its maximum influence, yang begins to re-emerge.
Think of the Tai Chi symbol: it’s that swirly thing to the left there. In the middle of the section where there’s the most white, the center is black. This is a representation of how the world works. In the heart of winter, the light begins to get stronger, the days start getting longer, and the natural world begins its slow march toward mid-summer.
Pay attention during this time: typically cultures schedule holiday celebrations during this time of year in order to harness that new surge of energy we feel as we turn the corner from shortening days to lengthening days. In the Midwest we’re predominantly Christian, and there’s a reason we celebrate Jesus’s birth in midwinter: it’s the perfect natural metaphor, the light breaking into the darkness. As we feel this new light, we naturally want to celebrate.
We throw in New Year’s, too, because this really is, quite literally, the time of year when a new cycle begins. We make New Year’s resolutions because it’s the best time of year to start with a new, clean slate, to rebuild our energy and make changes as yang energy, the energy of change and growth, begins to increase.
One note about this, though: often we don’t keep our New Year’s resolutions, of course. If you find this happening year after year, try something a little different this time. Midwinter is when we begin to feel yang energy growing again, and this makes us want to make all sorts of changes.
But winter is also the Water season: a time of reflection, planning, gathering resources and incubating. The seeds in the ground don’t attempt to sprout as soon as the days start getting longer. They wait until they’ve fully germinated, until there’s enough light and warmth to continue their growth.
So this is my challenge to you: for now, plan the changes you’d like to make, gather the resources you’ll need to successfully create and sustain the change you’d like to see, and take the time to let those intentions germinate. It’s working agai
nst the Five Phases to attempt to make changes during the Water season.
Around the time of the Spring Equinox, in February, is the best time to start acting on the changes you’d like to see. There’s more yang energy around, and growth and change are easier to initiate and sustain as the light of spring strengthens.
In the meantime, we’ll get back to discussing how people of each phase may respond to the seasons, and how you can adjust in order to stay more balanced and healthy.
See you next week!