While Portland’s been sunnier than usual these last couple of days it’s still perfectly cold and just right for a discussion of Eastern thoughts on winter. What winter represents is so vital and yet so absent from most Americans’ lives.

In Chinese Five Element theory, winter is related to the Water element. Water represents resources, reserves, and potential – like a well or a spring. The presence of water is the potential for life to develop.

Winter, in the same way, is a time of potential energy – when the water in many places is frozen, the outward activity of plants and animals is minimal, life is hidden. Winter is the time of year when stored reserves are most important, because fewer resources are available outdoors. Historically, this has been a time to sleep more, and rely on our stores of food and fuel to get us through the season.

Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine considers winter the season of kapha – one of three primal components of the human mind and body. Kapha is also associated with water. As kapha pertains to our ability to accumulate, store, and bulk up, it naturally fits in with the Chinese concepts above. Our kapha is what gives the mind and body water’s qualities of suppleness and flow. The kapha time of year is best used to save up energy.

The best thing we can do for ourselves is to incorporate “winter” into every day, making space for stillness throughout our lives. Meditation, restorative yoga, qi gong, breathing, and tai chi are ideal practices.

Watching TV and movies, reading, socializing, and being on the computer don’t count. While sleep is important, it doesn’t count as cultivating stillness either. The stillness we need is on all levels, and mostly on the mental level.

The gift we need to give ourselves is that of cultivating stillness in waking life, so we can learn to bring a peaceful foundation into all the chaotic and dramatic situations we encounter.

– Briana

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