The temperature has dropped, most of the leaves have fallen from the trees and the air feels crisp and cold: winter is finally here. As the animals start to hibernate, an ad for a drink I saw on a billboard made me smile. Its message was essentially: we’re not animals and we don’t need to hibernate – let’s party! But actually I am feeling my energy slowing down too. And I’m not convinced it’s healthy to override it! I haven’t been able to write my Blog posts recently as I had a bit of a cough and haven’t felt as energetic as I do normally: but I’ve been accepting of that and not pushed myself. Many people around me have also been having coughs and colds. But this lead up to the longest night of the year, (at least in the northern hemisphere) is a busy time for most people and they push on, waiting for their Christmas break. Sadly, all too often, many people are so exhausted by the lead up to Christmas, that they have to spend time recovering and even being ill, rather than enjoying their break.
If we think about our ancestors, they would have had to slow down as the days got shorter and they would be using up precious fuel to heat and light their spaces. In agricultural societies, there would be much less work to do once the harvest had been gathered in. I remember hearing somewhere of an estimate that in the past people would sleep for longer: even as much as 16 hours in the winter. But I also read that they might wake up in the middle of the night and pop round to the neighbours for a chat or something to eat or drink. How unlike today when we are so bound by clocks and watches: and thinking is it the right time to do something! The internet has freed us from the restrictions of clocks and time zones to some extent; but it is not necessarily healthy to be sat at a computer screen through the night. The focus at computers is on the world outside us rather than focusing inwards on our body. Its stimulation may even push us to override what our body is telling us. Once during my shiatsu training, we had a few days where we had to put all clocks away and eat when we felt hungry, sleep when we were tired and exercise or be busy when we felt we wanted to. It was helpful to learn to tune into our bodies and find what our internal rhythms are.
I tend to find, like most of us, especially if we run our own business, it can be very easy to be more accepting of the times when we feel busy and creative and “getting lots done” and harder to accept when actually I just want to rest and sleep and take life a little easier! Like now…! Our culture values activity and outward focus: what we would call in the eastern traditions, Yang energy. This is the energy of summer. The Yin winter energy, slowing down and essentially hibernating, is often considered being lazy! But we, like animals and our ancestors, do need this time to draw in and slow down and gather in our energies. It is our annual resting time: like night time is our daily resting time. Of course we don’t have to sleep 16 hours like our ancestors, but the artificial extension of day time by electricity and the 24 hour community of the internet, is something we need to pay attention to. We do need to make time to switch off from the outside world and renew our energies.
In Chinese medicine, the organs of the body which relate to this period of the year, the most Yin and related to the element of Water, are the Kidneys and the Bladder. In my next Blog I will explain what these organs mean and ways we can support their energies. Meanwhile if you have any suggestions or reflections, please send them on to me so I can include them.