I’m writing this traveling on a train through middle Wisconsin. Outside, blustery snowy, winter. I know this winter. It’s in my bones. Where I grew up, this was how it was in the winter. Cold. Relentlessly Cold. And gray. And snowy. And more cold. Until the first hint of the change, the promise of spring. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
In Chinese Medicine, Winter is a special time because it is the season when Nature renews itself through an inner journey into unseen, dark places. There deep messages can be received. Preparations are made for the coming months. Once again, we see in practice how the invisible supports and nourishes the visible–how the visible growth of spring and exuberance of summer is supported by the hidden, mysterious energies of winter.
Winter offers life-giving support for the growing season to come. And at the same time, Cold can be dangerous. Life is associated with warmth and movement. This is true even in the darkest coldest regions of the Earth where life is found.
Your body’s energies have to be strong enough to keep you warm when there is Cold around. Cold could be the weather outside, or it could be that kind of Cold you get when meet someone who is “cold”, or when you get an emotional shock that gets inside and makes your tremble or shiver.
Once inside the body, Cold is one of the main factors contributing to distressing health conditions including all kinds of pain, menstrual difficulties, digestive troubles and more.
Here’s a surprising consequence of how Cold can effect the body. It’s accepted practice to apply a cold compress on an area that you just bruised or sprained. But following the approach I’m presenting here, the cold may create unintended troubles. While that cold compress reduces the visible injury, the Cold is introduced into the body and can gain access to deeper processes and impair important functional relationships.
It makes sense when you think of it: Cold’s nature is to slow things down, reduce free flowing movement and create stagnation and blockages. Inside your body Cold can enter many different organs. For example, it can impair Liver function and your stomach doesn’t much like it either (it’s supposed to be warm in there!).
The Traditional Chinese Medicine (think Martial Arts injuries) approach would be to vigorously massage the injured area, promote better flow with acupuncture, Medical Qigong and herbs. You experience pain initially but the injury heals more completely the first time.
I’ve seen the result of this in some Dragon’s Way® students’ experiences. During the program a student will say that suddenly and inexplicably–that is without any obvious trigger–some pain will appear. Often, this will be a joint pain. When I ask whether there was ever an injury to that joint, the person will say that there was, but that it happened a long time ago and they never had any further problems. What’s the story?
The Cold that was used to help the person recover went deep inside and though there was surface healing and improvement, full healing did not occur. Now, doing the Dragon’s Way program, the body has the opportunity to complete the healing.
Part of the healing power of the Dragon’s Way program is that participants are taught to avoid exposing themselves to excessive Cold. So we advise them to drink room temperature or warm drinks (hot tea in the Winter is great!) and stay away from iced drinks; we advise them to refrain from eating foods that have a Cold essence like salads and dairy. And we educate participants about the importance of keeping their ears warm, and not letting Cold get to their hands, feet and particularly, their belly buttons.
You can practice ear warming as part of your self-care routine. It is so soothing during these cold months. Use your hands to vigorously massage your ears until they feel nice and warm. Do this a couple of times during the day.
Another wonderful practice is before bed to place your hands on top of each other and then gently massage your abdomen making clockwise and counterclockwise circles. That warmth can ease you into sleep and help calm your mind.
Happy Chinese New Year—It’s the year of the Wood Horse.