Nurturing mind, body and spirit during winter
Last night I selected a page at random from a book to inspire me to write. The page was titled ‘Darkness’. It said:
“The good news is that darkness never lasts. Life pulsates. Life is about rhythm. Just as we breathe in and out and as our heart closes and opens, so good follows bad and new life follows death. The darkest hour is always before the dawn……..
Remember to look after yourself. Eat well, get lots of sleep and avoid pressure where possible. Light a candle to remind you that dawn is coming…….
Remember that this is not a call to action. This is asking you to acknowledge the darkness, rather than denying or resisting it. This will then bring you towards the light.”
Winter; season of introspection
Winter will soon be with us; season of introspection, rest and contemplation. A time to build up our physical and spiritual protection.
Why is it that so many people seem to suffer during winter? When I asked my friends, they didn’t like the cold, the darkness, the wet, the lack of sunlight or the endless grey. For some it was the expectation of Christmas. So it’s often a time of turning up the central heating and indulging in fatty, stodgy food as a form of emotional buffering.
My belief is that we are separated from the natural rhythms of life to such an extent that we are disconnected from our true essence. [amazon-product align=”right” small=”1″]0892815507[/amazon-product]
Rhythms of nature
Central heating, air conditioning, produce from the other side of the world and artificial lighting all seek to hide these natural rhythms of life. These rhythms can never be extinguished however; they continue to flow beneath our artificial environment. Maybe it is our instinctive knowledge and wisdom of something more meaningful lying beneath the surface that causes us such distress. Unlike nature that rests during the winter and gathers energies for the spring, we are constantly on the move; expending energy, working to deadlines and commitments but with an intrinsic longing for something deeper.
Did our ancestors suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or the winter blues? I rather doubt it; and the biggest reason for this was their reverence of the seasons. SAD occurs through lack of light. Light activates the pineal gland to stop producing melatonin. Melatonin helps the body to sleep. Insufficient light means the gland continues to secrete melatonin that in turn makes us feel tired. 21st century life seeks to ‘fix’ this by getting sufferers to sit in front of a light box. The *real* answer, which we fail to see, is to go to bed early and rise late; to allow daylight to govern our waking time, rather than an alarm clock.
Apart from moving to an isolated island with no alarm clocks in tow, how can we keep our body, mind and soul content during the winter months? Could it be possible to *embrace* winter and to see it as a necessary and vital part of the grand cycle of life? Could it be possible to eradicate, or at least reduce the severity of SAD in our lives? We need to look for the things that warm us *internally*. The most obvious things are the warming foods – baked potatoes, ginger, garlic, hearty soups and stews but what about nourishing the soul?
[amazon-product small=”1″]0553378058[/amazon-product]Our life is undoubtedly affected by the weather and by our external environment, no one can deny that. We only have to feel a warm summer breeze through our hair, hear the birdsong, see our favourite flower in bloom or feel the sunlight on our skin to know that. During winter, we need to nurture ourselves by looking internally for this warmth. We need to dig into the reserves that we have gathered during the year. It is the perfect time to bask in the glow of flickering imaginations as we curl up with some inspirational reading, to drift off to our favourite music, to write or reflect and perhaps find our mind ablaze with new ideas – allow your thoughts to rise in clarity like stars in a frost-polished sky, to share your hopes and dreams; for what is life without hope?
The inner fire
It can come as a surprise to find the most sustaining warmth comes from that ‘inner fire’ which seems to burn more brightly this time of year. Look to the winter solstice for inspiration. While the sun is at its lowest point, the birth of new promise and hope is celebrated because from this day onward the nights will again become shorter and the days will be longer as spring approaches.
Like the animals, we need to slow down, relax more and aim to get more sleep. This may seem an impossible task if you are expected to be in the office from 8-6, but there are still ways in which you can be more aware of, and in tune with the winter. Think about the things that bring joy and balance into your life. Some ideas might be
- -) Spending time outdoors daily, enjoying a brisk walk, or doing gentle exercise such as yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong.
- -) Sleeping with the curtains open to get the first light of dawn
- -) Warming, comforting essential oils in a burner such as benzoin, bergamot and cinnamon (don’t use cinnamon essential oil in the bath).
- -) Pine, holly, mistletoe and evergreens bought into the home to remind us that life continues
- -) Flickering candlelight
- -) A bath with your favourite essential oils
- -) Your softest, warmest jumper
- -) Wearing red, associated with the element of fire
- -) Storytelling
- -) Quilting or some other creative work. Perfect for making handmade Christmas presents.
- -) Snuggling up with a hot water bottle
If things really get tough, then St.Johns Wort (contraindicated through pregnancy and nursing) and a high potency vitamin B complex can help with feelings of depression or ease the symptoms of SAD.
We are afforded the perfect opportunity during winter to spend time with family and loved ones at Christmas, yet society dictates that this has become a consumer-driven affair with most people spending time with people they don’t even like. We eat too much rich [amazon-product align=”right” small=”1″]0863151582[/amazon-product]food, argue, get stressed in the kitchen and drive ourselves into debt. At the darkest time of the year, a light is born that will lead us into spring; hence the burning of the Yule log. We appear to have lost that important message in amongst all the hype. Perhaps it is time for us to look deep within for our *own* meaning, to decide what is important to us and the elements of Christmas or Yule that personally fulfil us and we would like to celebrate. The evergreen tree (Christmas tree) decorated with fruits, berries and nuts symbolises the continuity of the seasons and life itself. Again, this message has been lost amongst the cheap plastic novelties and flashing lights.
Winter comfort food
Winter is the season of comfort food, but not the stodgy chemical and fat laden excuses the supermarkets give us. Foods that are stored for winter need longer cooking times such as roasting, baking or stewing. Enjoy hearty soups and casseroles made with root vegetables and legumes. Use garlic and ginger for the circulation. Make friends with your slow cooker and come down to breakfast with a warm aroma in the air!
Rosehip tea is wonderfully high in vitamin C and the rich red colour brings instant warmth – add a dash of cinnamon too. Enjoy roasted root vegetables with horseradish; include vibrant winter colours of red onion, bright orange carrots and creamy parsnips. Indulge in creamy swede and cinnamon soup with a spoon of miso added just before serving or treat yourself to red lentils, sage and onion with rich mushroom gravy.
Nature once again, provides us with just the right foods for satisfying our physical and emotional needs. How can you nurture your inner needs this winter?
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