I’ve lived in Portland for 5 years and yet I’m still not sure when winter officially arrives in the Pacific Northwest. There are the solstices and equinoxes that mark the changing of the seasons, yes. But without that first snow I was so accustomed to growing up in Wisconsin, I can’t quite tell from the weather when we’re really “in it.” To help me stay connected to seasonal shifts and their meaning, irregardless of snow, I build rituals into my life.
The word ritual comes from the Sanskrit r'tu. It implies rhythm and proper course. When we enact rituals we are creating meaning and directing our consciousness towards a purpose.
This is the time of year when most things that grow are dormant. In Chinese medicine the idea of storage and preservation is an important one. Protecting one’s life essence, or Jing, is an essential component of health. That’s why you may have heard that acupuncture is a type of preventative medicine. It supports your ability to regulate your Qi (life energy) and therefore the use of your Jing. Based on this thinking, following the rhythms of nature is to our benefit.
In winter, it’s time to store our energies.
Over the past several weeks, I've prepared for my wintertime rituals by collecting jars. These aren’t particularly special jars. They’ve held jam, mustard, honey and kimchi. Essentially, these jars have contained all the flavors of summer. I have been saving them for times like these when flowers, fruits, seeds and nectar are hard to find.
I have happily (and with some willing help) cleaned out these jars of summer and given them new purposes. They have become containers for light, homemade candles made with soy wax and essential oils. I lit the first one on the winter solstice (my substitute for a youthful romp in the snow) and have given many of the others away as holiday gifts and to support New Year’s intentions.
One of my New Year’s intentions is to lay the “busy-ness” mentality down, challenging the connection we make in our culture between productivity and worth so that what we call "slow time" in my house is a more consistent and prioritized part of my week. It means valuing unscheduled time when all screens are off and project/to-do lists are put aside.
Resting more, eating warming foods that support good digestive health and letting the darkness and quiet in are all additional ways we can bring ourselves into the "energy storage" state these short, cold days are asking for. In terms of a yoga practice, this means more time spent in restorative poses, meditation and breath practices and hopefully (I’m working on this in my classes, I promise!) longer savasanas.
I hope that during these winter months, you are also able to carve out more of that slow time, finding ways to sync-up with the seasonal pause winter offers, tend to your intentions and nourish the root of your health in 2015.
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