Winter Health Notes
Winter is the end of all seasons. To unify with winter, one emphasizes the yin principle to become more receptive, introspective, and storage-oriented; one cools the surface of the body and warms the body’s core. Cold and darkness drive one to seek inner warmth. It is a time to rest, to meditate deeply, refine the spiritual essence, and store physical energy for the cold season. Even though the slow yin processes predominate, it is important to stay active enough to keep the spine and joints flexible.
The winter’s primary element is water and is associated with the virtue of wisdom, the emotion of fear. The primary organ systems of the water element are the Kidneys and the Bladder. Like the kidneys, fear is deeply rooted, and we are often not consciously aware of even major areas of fear and insecurity within ourselves.
A little healthy fear protects us and keeps us from foolhardiness. When excessive, however, fear fosters general insecurity about life and also injures the kidneys. By restoring the kidneys to any significant degree, one typically feels a tremendous elation as the dark cloud of fear lifts.
It is said that the kidneys “open to the ears,” which means that hearing is related to the health of the kidneys, the organs most affected by wintertime. The ability to listen clearly is heightened in the cold, silent months. The sounds of cooking and voices from the kitchen stimulate the appetite.
Warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts are good foods for cold days. Dried foods, small dark beans, seaweeds, and steamed winter green fortify the kidneys in the winter. Cook foods longer, at a lower temperature and with less water.
Both salty and bitter foods are appropriate for the winter, since they promote a sinking, centering quality which heightens the capacity for storage. Such foods also cool the exterior of the body and bring body heat deeper and lower. However, use salt with care; excess tightens the Water organ (kidneys and bladder), causing coldness and over-consumption of water weakening these organs.
Small regular amounts of salty and bitter foods in the winter nurture deep inner experiences and preserve joy in the heart. Salty foods include miso, soy sauce, seaweeds, millet, barley. Bitter foods are not wholly bitter, but a combination of bitter and other flavors, these foods include endive, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, rye, and oats.
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