December 21, 2011 | Chinese Medicine | 6 Comments
Come December 22, 2011, at 12:30am EST in the Northern Hemisphere, we will be experiencing the Winter Solstice. This brings about the longest night of the year, and signals the official start of winter.
You may be familiar with Yin and Yang. You know, that overused symbol by wellness centers and martial artists that are supposed to invoke a sudden, ancient understanding of the meaning of life, yet is never explained, and is misunderstood by most?
Basically, all process is cyclic, everything contains its opposite, it’s the forever who came first, the chicken or the egg? With Yin and Yang, there is no separation. As you can see in the symbol itself, when the dark part starts to become its fullest, the white part begins. And when the white part seems to end, the dark part begins. You will also notice that there is a spot of white in the dark part, and a spot of dark in the white part. The whole concept that you cannot have light without darkness, and vice versa. And, nothing is necessarily good or bad, just the cycle of life. All states, events, and circumstances can all have Yin and Yang qualities.
What’s Yin?: it’s at the core, sinking, condensed, and internal. Think substantive, cold, watery, heavy, soft, delicate. Yin is considered female. (Now, don’t get uppity with me here, ladies, everything balances out!)
What’s Yang?: is at the surface, rising, dispersed, and external. Think active, expanding, dry, large, loud, hot. Yang is considered male.
The chicken makes the egg, which is Yang generating Yin. But, the chicken grows out of the egg, which is Yin producing Yang. It is a mutual generation. This generative process is one of the ways Chinese Medicine practitioners can understand the different stages of disease. It’s a way of thinking, and a way of living.
The Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the dark part of the Yin/Yang. It is a time of death, emptiness, yearning, and germination. Although this sounds as much fun as being forced to watch episodes of a “Jersey Shore” marathon, there is much value in this flow. Death creates rebirth, true emptiness creates an openness to possibility and following one’s path, yearning can create impetus for change, and germination plants the seeds for what will bloom in your life come springtime.
This time of Yin is a time of inner cultivation. Of course, it is always a great idea to keep your spirit and soul honed throughout the year, as much as one can. But, winter is prime time for cultivating.
Sometimes, honoring your Yin can mean taking some time out of the spotlight of society. There is great value in being able to isolate oneself, to take a step back to get in touch with spiritual enlightenment. Taoists and warriors have a longtime history of honoring this withdrawal process, often doing so as a way to complete training. This was commonly called “ascending the mountain”. It was named so because the mountains created a haven from society.
With our busy cosmopolitan lives, it can sometimes be difficult on the typical schedule to flee off to the Himalayan mountains for self-reflection. But, it is valuable to take the opportunity of this wintertime to get back to self.
There is a poem by the South Goose Beach Taoist that reads:
“Court gown of red and purple are not attractive.
Instead, I love white clouds embracing emerald mountaintops.
So I sit in solitude, forgetting the year or month
While in the mundane world below, lifetimes and generations pass.”
And as you ponder that meaningful ditty, consider, too, the element of Winter, which is Water.
The ever-amazing Bruce Lee put it simply and effectively, “Be like water, my friend.” He gave the example of water being poured into a cup. The water then becomes the cup. He was focusing on water’s adaptability, survival, potential, and power.
Facts about Winter from the Chinese Medicine perspective:
- The element of Winter is Water.
- The organs of water are the Kidney (Yin) and Urinary Bladder (Yang) (in the Chinese Medicine sense, not necessarily the Western one.)
- The Kidney stores essential qi, governs the bones, engenders marrow, and is the basis of reproduction. It also regulates the fluid metabolism of the body. Which is why diseases of the Kidney usually occur in the form of insufficiency of essence-marrow, reproductive issues, and fluid metabolism disturbances.
- The Urinary Bladder’s function is to receive and excrete the urine. And, so, as one may guess, disharmonies of the Bladder often includes problems like incontinence, burning urination, or difficulty in urinating.
- If you are dealing with issues around fear, take comfort that this is the emotion of the Water element, and that you are meant to be able to handle whatever you are processing right now.
That said, go find your mountain and honor your Yin this Winter Solstice! Enjoy.
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