Having managed a private practice in Chinese Medicine for more than two decades, I have had ample opportunity to observe what happens to a portion of my beloved patients when the Winter holidays arrive. The number of requests to delay or reschedule care usually goes up in November and December. Those who do keep on schedule use words like “crazy” or “overwhelmed” to describe the vibe they perceive around them. As I question into these concerns, most will say, “I don’t have a choice”– while expressing frustration at the endurance contest they can’t quit – commonly, the product of striving to meet cultural or family expectations, or attempting to replicate the commercial ideals advanced in holiday TV specials, 24/7 advertisements, or the perhaps the scrapbook fantasies of one’s childhood. Some work hard to create something better than they had – but at a steep personal cost, deemed necessary.
Without judging “right” or “wrong” I guide my tired, frazzled consumers of Christmas (or its similars) to feel into what their choice reflects back to them, thus opening the door to a more authentic place from which to witness: “Does this action of mine amplify Joy? Health? Peace? It’s all too easy to proclaim these virtues on cards we mail to others, while personally coming up short on actions in alignment with the ideals we profess to cherish. Those who begin the New Year feeling exhausted, impoverished, or overstimulated always believe they can recover sufficiently by easing off for a few days.. But then come the New Year’s resolutions to achieve, those holiday bills to pay – and before one knows it, fresh demands arise to perpetuate this relentless activity. Is it any wonder that much of our culture swings between anxious frenzy and dysthymic depression? I see it as the natural result of too little “middle ground,” and declining cultural values for the results of doing less, instead of more.
Chinese Medicine models the ideals of balance and harmony through keen observation of Nature – for like it or not, we are part of it. We are subject to its cycles, its rhythms; and even in the tropics, Winter is recognizable as a time of relative calm – a period of blissful dormancy before the dynamic energy of Spring arrives and pushes all of life into a new expression, that in its time will flower and die. Winter is the darkest season, the coldest, the most interior – referred to in Chinese philosophy as an expression of “Yin” – a time when we can access our innermost muse, meditate upon our essential nature, quiet ourselves to receive a delicate sort of wisdom that whispers to our heart and soul. That is, if we’re listening…
If you would like to receive the true gifts of Winter, you need to slow down, go to bed earlier, actually give yourself the gift of regeneration. Winter corresponds to Nature’s element of Water. Thus: Be like water: fluid, rather than rigid, in your scheduling, and especially in your expectations of attaining perfection. Plumb the depths and mysteries of your spirit. Bathe. Enjoy the darkness – light candles and feel how soothing it is, to have a break from electric light or digital displays that overstimulate the eyes and brain. Commit to the practice of meditation, quiet rituals, prayer – whatever way you can shift into low gear and enjoy the experience of silence. It may feel unnatural – but it may be just the medicine you need to heal your weary nervous system. And when you do gather with others, accept those invitations that really speak to your desire to slow down, to enjoy each other’s company – rather than hope to out-do each other in extravagance and frivolous mayhem.
And as the Winter solstice arrives in the northern hemisphere, consider following the traditions of our ancestors: Sit in wonder at the night sky, light candles or ceremonial fires that honor the gradual return of more and more light – and then enjoy the remaining gifts of these solemn days of Winter. It can deepen your perspective, connect you with inner Peace, and thereby replenish your Qi (vital energy) and offer you the best preparation for a healthy Spring.
Blessings to all!
Christy Allen, L.Ac.