Monday, January 17, 2022

Winter Stillness - Asian Medicine's View

Winter Scene by Teresa Y Green

It is winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. Where I live in Virginia, one snow has come and gone, another one is melting, and there's a possibility of more in a few days. It's also January around the world, and for many people, that means NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS. So we gather up all our dreams and goals, tell ourselves we're "really gonna get serious this year" and dutifully start diets, new exercise programs, new coaching systems, meditation programs, and money management systems.

My entire career is rooted in the belief that growth is important for each individual. Helping people find their path to better health, more joy, improved life and just a more pleasant existence is literally my life's work. But, as I say in the video below, I believe the New Year is not the time to make specific resolutions. 


That's not how winter works in Asian medicine. 

In Asian medicine, each season has its own strengths as far as what activities, body systems, and areas of growth work best. They are organized as part of the Five Element System, which we will be going through as the year progresses. The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, which correspond to Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, respectively. The Water element, which corresponds to Winter, also relates to the health of the Kidneys/Bladder/Adrenals/Bones/Subconscious. 

It works with "the boys in the basement" as Stephen King described the creative forces of the subconscious. It works with the unknown, and the fear of it. It works with contemplation, potential, and ideas that are in the early stages of formation and still have a fuzziness to them.

Doesn't sound like what in coaching we call a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and with a Time Frame). Because it isn't a goal, it's a part of the process of developing a goal. It's also a really important part of life that we often miss in our do-more-faster-to-check-more-off-a-to-do-list world.

What I recommend instead is taking time to dream about what you want. Not how to get it, yet. What are your dreams--not a list of shoulds that make you look good.

The Water element will help you clarify your goals through time for stillness. The next element, Wood, is driven by the same energy that pushes daffodils up in springtime, which is its dominant season. It is associated with the Liver/Gallbladder/Drive/Reproduction/Schedule/Muscles/Tendons. It takes the intentions and desires from the Water element and works to make them real. So if you don't spend your Water time deciding what you want, your Wood element will work from whatever list you have. That's why a lot of New Year's Resolutions look like "Lose Weight," "Get in Shape," "and Make More Money," which we're fed as desires every day in commercials, sales pitches, and media, and less like "Care for Myself with Compassion," "Help My Body Work Its Best," and "Find Meaningful Work and Expect to Be Paid for It." 

If you deal with anxiety, fatigue, feeling burnt out, scattered, overwhelmed, as if your life spark is not burning brightly, your Water element needs recharging. Stillness, dreaming, play, rest, along with some herbs, acupuncture, and some other lifestyle choices to nourish the Water element can help. Giving you Water element the nourishment it needs, especially in this season where it is the star, will help you move towards the accomplishments and goals you actually want as the year unfolds.