In the depth of winter and its required retreat, the period of slowing and the inward journey, it’s all too easy to let the noise of the mind race wild and the heart and spirit plummet.
Some winters are winters of discontent, and for me, and no doubt many others, these last few months have been that. Discontented, fearful and painful: we are not well acquainted with the process of true retreat, spending time in quite with the shadow world. Ours is one of winter denial and we are only schooled to resonate with joy, happiness, light and hedonism. Swipe right for happy times. And I am no different, once the novelty of the chilled air, the rain and fireside warmth has worn off, I look beyond the horizon in search of the blazing heat of summer. I love the warmth. But there cannot be light without darkness, joy without sadness, pleasure without pain nor spring without winter. Winter, the season of retreat, to withdraw and restore, explore the space within, to lay seeds for the spring ahead.
Nothing lasts forever in a transient world and Spring has sprung with all its splendour and wild winds. Across the world and throughout history, this time of year has been honoured as a powerful shift in the earth’s energies, which according to Ayurveda and the naturalist theory of Taoism, equates to a powerful shift in our internal energy. As above, so below, as without, so within, a manifestation of nature, not apart from but part of the earth itself. It speaks to connection and interdependence of not only our deeper parts but also of being woven into the biome of universal rhythm.
It follows to reason that to generate newness there must be a letting go, a spring clean, to create space for the new shoots, new ideas, new ways of being, for transformation. The energy of anger can be channeled and reshaped through an internal understanding: shifting from disconnect to force of connection, into love. When we are spacious and fluid, we can experience wellbeing, clarity, and wisdom. Harnessing wood’s energy in optimal flow provides the insight and space that enables us to strategize and plan intelligently, creating with clarity. The Liver meridian “opens to the eyes” and is inextricably linked to the health of our eyes, nourishing our capacity to see. This refers to outward vision as well as inner sight and being able to view the world from multiple perspectives which enhances our connection to each other and our environment. Seeing decay and seeing the beauty. Inner sight.
Ayurveda is the companion health practice to Hatha Yoga and links the elements to doshas (energies) and doshas to seasons. I find it interesting that its teachings are called Rigucharya, which comes from the root Sanskrit terms “ritu” (season) and “charya” (to follow), a guideline for harmonious living. Ayurveda offers us with another map of how our internal environment is woven into the external environment (so above, so below, so without, so within) and posits that we have three basic types of energy or functional principles which are present in all beings and all things, vata (ether and air), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water). We are comprised of all 5 elements, a constant dance of the microcosm, but one is usually dominant and has greater influence over our body, mind, and overall experience of life. Harmony is the symmetry of these elements. Kapha is the dosha associated with Spring, particularly early spring when we are still in the transition stage, as the cool earth begins to warm. The winter drenched earth carries a coolness, a dampness which is reflected in our bodies and spirit, the heaviness of winter might be slow to leave, and these moist, weighty qualities can manifest as accumulated toxins and lowered immunity, hence the need to spring-clean, physically, and energetically unblocking vital flow. Kapha, lubricates joints and creates saliva, supports, and holds emotions and can be nurturing, creative and loving. It is the energy of earth and water, grounded and stable for organic growth and life. Take a moment and look both inward and outward to determine what needs clearing to enable fresh life, new potential. To combat the sluggishness of kapha we need to move more, building our internal fire but also taking advantage of the warmer weather and move into the world, rise with the sun and be outdoors, living in a way that is truly nourishing, truly connected.
While in the western world we are raised to believe in “mind over matter” and have filled the shelves of supermarkets with food that is perennially available, lights that switch on after dark and wifi that has no cycle, we have come to believe that we are apart from the organic world. Elevated above and beyond. We know, of course that this is a destructive concept, problematic at its very core, we feel it in our very core. I am not suggesting that we live in caves as our ancestors did but living in alignment with the earth’s ebbs and flows can profoundly impact our health and happiness, restoring balance and purpose, a deeper compassion, and a greater sense of aliveness. TCM and Ayurveda offer us maps of being, maps of wellness, two of innumerable maps which chart our habits and actions in accordance with our biorhythms and natural cycles, but all of which speak to connection and belonging.
They enrich our experience by re-connecting us to that which we inherently know but have lost en route in a world that is disembodied and obsessed with individuality and continuous productivity. Connection to our inner and outer world, to being held in belonging, to be part of a greater community and vastness beyond our skin and four walls. So, this Spring move inwards with curiosity and get out into the world with delight and wonder, observe yourself as part of the whole and watch how it awakens you and you receive it. Eat with wisdom of what is in season, take walks in the sunshine, even if the wind is wilding, and reconnect with nature: remember people are nature too.
Observe the ebb and flow of your own emotions, your thoughts, your rhythms and maybe, just maybe, it will create a newfound spring in your step.