Archive for January, 2011

The New Moon in January

Looking at the cultural names for the new moon in January, it is hard not to notice a common theme of dormancy or stillness in terms such as “Cold Moon,” “Quiet Moon” and “Winter Moon.”  In adherence with the neo pagan tradition that refers to the new moon in January as “Ice Moon,” it is interesting to think about this feeling of inactivity or suspension as it relates to the properties of water when it becomes ice.  In essence, when water freezes to its solid state, it takes on a different form and function.  Its molecules slow down as a result of the loss of heat-energy.  In this state, one of the most striking features we associate with water, its ability to flow, is limited.  Indeed, water, when it becomes ice, looks, feels and functions entirely different than it does in its pre-frozen condition. But, to the point, it is still water; once the weather warms again, it will return to its liquid, flowing state.

For good reasons, human beings can only tolerate so much of the cold. Of course, we need to stay warm to survive. However, most people I know complain bitterly about it. Still, I think we  can learn a lot from our observation of water and more graciously accept how the cold affects our flow without resisting so much. Again, I think this reflects a general tendency to seek the light and resist the dark; despite the fact that both are required in equal measure for our survival.   Perhaps there is wisdom in honoring the season by slowing down, moving less and conserving energy?

Interestingly, just as there was a lunar eclipse on last month’s full moon, on this new moon day a solar eclipse is expected to occur.  As we think about the qualities of ice, this cosmic event brings the fire element into our minds as well.  While people often try to view life through a black-or-white lens- we are either hot or cold, healthy or sick, happy or sad – this juxtaposition of such seemingly opposite elements as fire and ice reminds us that this either-or mentality does not fit with the laws of nature. Understanding and accepting this balance is essential to Skillful Living. And just like water when it becomes ice, humans don’t become less human when they respond to nature’s forces and slow down at times. Quite the opposite–when we follow this rhythm, we actually put ourselves in the best position to experience the full spectrum of life. Indeed, our health, i.e. our “wholeness,” is dependent on it.

So, as the New Year begins, let me toast to your health,

Michael

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The Wisdom of Ice

During this season, when it is very cold outside, nature gives us the opportunity to allow aspects of ourselves to become inert.  In certain ways, it is useful to let our flow become suspended like that of the frozen stream.  By modeling the behavior of water that has turned into solid, still ice, we too can slow down, and in so doing, conserve our energy.

As humans, we strive against this seasonal conservation of energy.  We use outside energy sources such as lighting and heat that give us the ability to stay at a high activity level year-round.  Even during the shortened winter days, we are able to continue working late into the night because of the electricity that lights our offices and homes.  As the temperatures outside drop, we’re still able to travel and stay active because of cars, planes and other technologies.  These modern conveniences improve our lives in many ways, but in a sense, they are not natural and help us to fall increasingly out of touch with nature’s rhythms.

While I’m not suggesting that anyone do away with modern technology and shelter in the middle of winter, we should let ourselves accept and be affected by the cold in other ways.  This is the time to stay inside where it’s warm, suspend activity and conserve our energy.  It is not practical or healthy to become completely dormant, but how can we bring a sense of hibernation into the winter months?  Doing so is not only restorative, it’s an appropriate way to connect with the rhythms of nature.  Think ahead to how active nature becomes in the spring and how much energy we will need during those months.  By doing less now and not expending energy unnecessarily, we are able to conserve our energy for the next season when we will really need it.

Indeed, think about the global consequences if more of us followed this rhythm: by staying inside, going to bed earlier, using our cars less and “plugging into” technology for fewer hours out of the day during the winter months, not only would we conserve our own energy, we would contribute significantly to the conservation of the similarly limited energy resources of our planet!

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Winter Advice from the Skillful Doctor

Question: Winter is a tough time for me. It seems like whenever anyone around me is sick, I get it. What can I do?

 

Answer: Obviously there are some common practical medical recommendations to follow, such as washing your hands and avoiding those who are sick if you can. However, I would offer another thought that might be especially important to you and partially explain why you are particularly susceptible. It starts with a question:  How are you spending your energy during this season? In other words, do you have enough left for your immune system?

 

When you’re exposed to colds and flus, your immune system requires a certain amount of energy to fight off the illness.  If you don’t let yourself slow down and properly rest during these winter months, you could be depleting your necessary reserve of that energy and therefore weakening your resistance to illness.  The fact is, that there is less energy to go around during the colder winter months and some people hover closer to their threshold than others. Thus, it might be necessary for you to consider how you spend your energy and conserve more of it, in addition to following the other practical measures you know about.

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