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Complementary Corner

Preparing for Winter

Renee Lehman

(12/2017) We are gradually transitioning from Fall into Winter. This article is meant to help you remember that while you were preparing for all your holiday festivities, what the season of Winter is all about. Because, by following nature’s laws you will be more likely to stay healthy. For as is written in the one of the original texts of ancient Chinese medicine, the Su Wen, Chapter 6:

"Warmth of the Spring gives rise to birth,
the Fire of Summer fuels rapid growth and development,
the coolness of Fall matures all and provides harvest, and
the coldness of Winter forces inactivity and storing.
This is the rhythmic change of nature.
If the four seasons become disrupted,
the weather becomes unpredictable
and the energies of the universe will lose their normalcy.
This principle also applies to the body."

Winter is nature’s "resting season." When you look outside, it is cold, days have less light (are shorter), and the countryside is "quiet." Some aspects of nature may look dead (at least you may think that); however, nature is intentionally storing its energetic potential deep in the earth and in the roots of vegetation. Life does not stop during the winter months. Remember that the bulbs that are in the ground are not dead, and the seeds that fell to the ground from the trees/plants are still alive. They are storing up their energy and preparing to burst forth during the growth period of Spring.

Also, think about how animals like bears and ground squirrels hibernate during the winter. We know how bears hibernate, but did you know about ground squirrels? The ground squirrel’s body temperature drops to within a few degrees of the cold outside its den, its heart rate decreases to 1 – 2 beats/minute, and its breathing slows from a few hundred times/minute to once every 5 minutes. Basically, these animals slow down and sleep until the first signs of Spring warmth. Nature and the animals know how to flow with nature’s changes. They follow the natural changes in the seasonal patterns. Imagine if we followed the changes in nature during the seasons. We would flow in harmony with Nature and have less suffering.

The gifts/opportunities that Winter gives us include the ability to strengthen our reserves; wisdom that comes from being still and deeply listening to our inner voice (the "quietness" of winter allows us to listen); a time for reflection, and reassurance (Spring will come again!).

Can you imagine slowing down during the month of December? Our "adrenaline addicted" culture tends not to value stillness, quietness, and taking time for rest and reflection. Can you see yourself needing any of the gifts of Winter? Can you see how the energy of Winter is needed in your life? Now is the time to take advantage of what this season offers us!

You can stay healthy (body/mind/spirit) this Winter by: 1) seeking replenishment; 2) getting quality rest and sleep; 3) taking time for meditation and/or qigong practice; and 4) eating for healing.

Seek Replenishment. What type of stress are you experiencing? Is it emotional or physical? Often the solutions to these stresses can be simple! Let go of your worries and allow your mind and body to deeply rest. By reducing your stress, you can conserve energy and slow down unnecessary drains on your energy. Also, Winter is a great time to decrease the number of activities that you are involved with. Imagine taking a few things "off your plate." Wouldn’t it be nice to feel energized in late Winter to early Spring because you conserved some energy?

Get Quality Rest & Sleep. The important word here is quality. When you go to sleep at night keep the room dark. If there is even the slightest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin (both are involved in the regulation of your sleep).

Turn the TV off before going to sleep (and don’t sleep with the TV on). The TV is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep (disrupts the pineal gland function). Turn off any electronic devices around 2 hours before going to sleep. Also, don’t read, eat, or work in your bedroom – keep it for sleeping only. Finally, try going to bed ½ hour earlier than usual and assess how you feel upon awakening. You might be surprised how much more "refreshed" you are.

Mediation/Qigong Practice. Take this "quieter" time of the year to go deep within yourself. Sit in quiet meditation or hold the Qigong posture, ‘The Dragon Stands Between Heaven and Earth.’ Doing so will help you connect with the unlimited Universal Lifeforce. You never know what "information" you will receive.

Also consider other gentle exercises, such as, yoga, tai chi, and Pilates instead of energy expanding exercises such as jogging, cycling, and swimming. These gentle, more subtle forms of exercises strengthen your inner self and build your "internal" energy and tend not to run your "batteries" down like the energy expanding forms of exercise. They also help to "clear" excesses such as too much food, work, tension, etc.

Eat Well. How many of you tend to get cold easily in the Winter? Since the weather is colder, consider eating foods that produce more internal heat/warmth. What sounds better to you right now: a cup of soup or a garden salad? Eat bone soup and fish to help build the energy of your Kidney, the organ related to winter (Nourishing recipes can be found at: Treat your body right! Start by feeding it warm, loving foods and warm, loving thoughts. Remember, on a lower level of consciousness, you are what you eat. But on a higher level of consciousness, you are what you think!

So, if you normally dislike Winter, consider looking at it from a different angle/perspective. Allow this season to give you the opportunity for rest and rejuvenation.

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"What good is the warmth of summer,
without the cold of winter to give it sweetness."
- John Steinbeck

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist and physical therapist with over 25 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA. She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other articles on well being by Renee Lehman