By Cathy Keenan
This month we leave the Metal element of Fall behind and continue our journey forward. We begin to dive deeper into the abyss of the cold and wintery months ahead as the winter solstice approaches. In this abounding darkness, the ultimate yin, we travel into the world of the water element. Like the trees that have shed their leaves and stand bare against the horizon, it is in this deep, dark mysterious place where we let go of the things that need to die, in order to hold and contain the potential for new life to surge forward in the spring.
Winter is associated with the Kidneys (and Urinary Bladder) and with the Water element, according to Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
The Kidneys are a very important organ because they are the root of both the yin and yang energies of the body. They store our essence (called Jing in TCM) which our parents gifted us at the moment of conception and contain the seat of our vitality. They imbue us with the desire to grow, flourish and age gracefully. Their virtue is wisdom and the emotion associated is fear.
The Water element is about our courage and will. Just as the buried seed which contains the potential for life in the winter, sprouts spontaneously from the darkness in springtime, forges and pushes ahead against all obstacles in its path upward toward the sky where it becomes what it is meant to be, it is this will for life that has brought us all here to this very moment. It our will, courage and instincts that help determine our life’s purpose.
Water is a shape shifter and is able to adapt to the hardness of what lies in its path by yielding. The power of water gives us the flexibility and fluidity for movement.
It is our bones and joints that are nourished and lubricated by the Water element. When we push ourselves beyond our own limits to the point of total exhaustion by overworking, over committing, over analyzing, consuming too many chemical stimulants— we begin to deplete our essence (vitality) and disturb the Kidneys and Water element. We may begin to experience stiffness, tightness and joint pain (esp. low back), lose our initiative and spark for life, become forgetful, more fearful, develop depression, sexual and sleep disturbances, gravitate toward addictive patterns, and/or we freeze and develop —cold feet— whereby we are unable to move forward and take on life.
Cultivating the spirit of Water we need to learn to let go of the struggle and practice yielding to the natural flow of life. For some, swimming in this uncharted water is a scary thing but we must develop a trust in life and surrender to its tow. To develop a deeper sense of who were are, we must be willing to plunge into the darkness of the unknown and patiently wait for the potential of a new way of being to come to life. It is in the yin wisdom of the waters where we begin to understand who we are with a deeper sense of clarity and purpose.
Let the long wintery nights ahead remind you that it is in the void of the darkness where potential unfolds, life begins, healing takes place and where dreams come to life. The shimmering lights of the holiday season are a mere reminder that even in the darkness (yin) there is always some light (yang) to guide you on your way.
This month as you settle into your (yin) yoga practice, close your eyes and allow the darkness to guide you to the places in your body you may have neglected or vacated. Cultivate and nourish your yin qualities about who you are with loving compassion, acceptance and forgiveness. If you are overwhelmed and over exhausted practice what it might be like to surrender to the struggle (physically, emotionally, spiritually). Sometimes the greatest gift we can give ourselves is to trust in what we don’t know and see where it takes us.
About the writer: