Celebrate Winter with Self Care




Originally posted 12/15/13

Winter invites us to the underworld. In this time, we have have two tendencies: to seek comfort finding an ally in the darkness, and to tend our inner flame - holding space for the light and warmth of the sun.

There are many ways to recognize the season’s unique opportunities through self care, including meditation and awareness of the solar and lunar cycles, cooking with nutrient dense food, herbs, and spices, or simply savoring a cup of tea!

The clocks have been turned back. As the sun sets earlier and earlier at this time of year, more darkness surrounds us and the colder weather contracts us inward. We go to the cave of our animal nature seeking warmth and comfort.

In this cave, darkness is not the darkness of negativity, despair, gloominess, or obscurity. It's a more ancient darkness: the darkness of rich soil, the darkness which allows space for creativity and regeneration. Only with the contrast of darkness can we experience the shine of the moon, the force of that feminine power, moving the tides of the earth and the tides of our bodies.

Time of the Bear
Autumn and early winter is the time of the bear. It is time to come into the cave, to find comfort
at home, to enter the dreamtime. This is the time of releasing that allows us to plant new seeds
that will sprout when the wheel of the seasons turns again. With the trees releasing their leaves
there is an opportunity to release back to the earth whatever is no longer needed: emotions,
relationships, intentions, patterns in the mind or in behavior.  With so much release and with the
comfort of warmth fading outside, it is the perfect time to create comfort at home. What better
way to find comfort at home than to make time for self-care, whether that be through cooking, a
bath, or a cup of tea, or whatever you choose?

I invite you to choose one activity to incorporate into your life for one moon cycle (new moon to the next new moon). This activity should be something you do daily or weekly that sparks joy and pleasure instead of something that is tinged with a sense of ought or should. If it does not happen as planned, know that you are holding space for it to happen, gently bringing yourself back to your intention. Release any judgement, and envision the intention fulfilled. This process will make it easier to manifest the fulfillment of the intention.

Tending the Inner Fame
As the sun changes its angle and the days grow shorter and colder, I envision taking the warmth
of the sun and feeding it to my internal flame. Imagine your own internal flame. Is it bright?
Were you already aware of it? What feeds it? Do you take time to feed it? Does it jump around?
Is it steady? Is it playful? Where do you feel it in your body?

This internal flame is another way of seeing the energy body. Do you see it starting at one chakra and ending at another? Does it circulate through your whole body? You are a keeper of this flame all the time, and especially
until the next spring when more of that energy can be manifested externally in new life and new
growth. (Keeping an awareness of this inner flame can be extremely helpful for those affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder.)

Ways to keep your flame bright in the winter are doing a candle gazing meditation, gazing at the sun (with eyes closed), getting outside and letting the sunlight hit your bare skin to absorb vitamin D, and to supplement with vitamin D (I prefer liquid drops).

I also work with hawthorn, white pine, and linden for supporting the inner flame, particularly on an energetic level.

Warm Up in the Kitchen
There are many many herbs and spices that can be used in food or in tea that can support us in
the winter. Most of what becomes problematic in the winter comes from too much stagnant
energy, and often this is connected with kapha energy in Ayurveda: cold, wet, slow moving, or
vata energy: dry, windy, scattered.

To find balance one should incorporate plenty of moistening and warming elements. Drink warm liquids. Eat soups and cooked food. Incorporate lots of warming spices like ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, turmeric. Add spices to your breakfast: cinnamon and ginger and any of the sweeter spices are delicious on oatmeal or yogurt. Cinnamon is warming, supports blood sugar balance, is anti-fungal, anti-
bacterial, and eases muscle spasms.  Consistently using more spices in your diet can strengthen your whole system, and spices taste and feel good. Plus they are inexpensive, especially when bought in bulk, and are easily accessible.

It is also helpful to look at supporting movement in different bodily systems. We clear through the breath, through the skin, through the liver, through the digestive tract, and the circulatory system, helping move everything along the way.

There are many herbs and spices we could look at in detail that can help keep the body moving through one or more of these organs or systems. To pick one plant, let’s look at ginger. Ginger, Zingiber officinale, is warming, a circulatory tonic, immune stimulating, an expectorant (removing mucous from the respiratory system). It reduces
both vata and kapha, is a diaphoretic (opens the pores and promotes sweating to clear through the skin), and supports the digestive system.


Ginger Juice

Ginger juice is wonderful to have on hand to add to tea, to soups, or to mix with soda water for an unsweetened ginger ale. I call it juice but it’s really ginger root blended with water. It’s best used within one week but it will keep for about 2 weeks if not longer.

Ginger Juice Recipe:
3 inches fresh ginger root (if it is organic and washed well you do not need to peel it)
2-3 C water (start with 2C and add more water if necessary to blend. This can vary depending on blender horsepower.)
Wash organic ginger root. Cut ginger into 1/2 inch pieces. Put ginger and water in the blender. Blend until smooth. There will be a little bit of pulp left in the liquid. Store refrigerated. If the ginger separates and there’s white sediment on the bottom, stir or shake that back in to get the most benefit.

Spicy Warming Tea Recipe:

Try this tea with ginger for extra warming or without ginger for a more delicate spice.
1/4 C (or more to taste) grated ginger root
6 cinnamon sticks
25 cloves
3 T anise seed
1/2 tsp mace pieces (1/4 tsp powdered, and you can substitute nutmeg. Nutmeg is from the same
plant as mace and is a little sweeter than mace.)
8 C boiling water
honey, to taste, optional
Put spices in a half gallon jar or saucepan. Add boiling water almost to the very top. After 5
minutes, add honey to dissolve, top up with water. Let sit 4-12 hours for medicinal value or at
least 30 minutes for flavor. Strain out spices and enjoy!

May you stay bright and warm this season!