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From the Slumber of Winter To the Awakening of Spring

Feb 26, 2021 ● By Polly Liontis
A woman tending to her plants in a small greenhouse

Photo by Gary Barnes from Pexels

Mother Earth is awakening from the depths of her winter hibernation with nutrients stirring as she massages and softens the shells of seeds beginning their journey toward the surface. Life-giving compost covering the ground and sap stored in the trunks of trees are beginning to thaw and slowly transition the natural world from the slumber of winter to the first awakenings of spring. This eternal process can provide a roadmap to follow so that we may also awake, flourish and blossom like our surroundings. Chinese medicine philosophy provides some lessons.

Enjoy daily downtime: Winter belongs to the water phase in Chinese medicine and governs the kidney and bladder organ networks (our power source). In the Chinese medicine daily body clock, the best time to replenish this energy is between 3 and 7 p.m. This is why we feel an energy lull and want to grab an afternoon cup of coffee or chocolate. A better option is to choose a short rest period of 20 to 30 minutes in the late afternoon to recharge our batteries, along with the simple restorative yoga pose of Legs Against Wall.

Choose foods with high water content: Warm soups, bone broth, legumes and kelp are nourishing to the bones, governed by the water element. The addition of fish and other seafood nourish the water element, as well.

Take time to honor our ancestors: The water phase governs our lineage, and the isolation of winter is an excellent time to reach out and reconnect over the phone, Zoom or Facetime.

Contemplate, write down thoughts and daydream: The longer nights and ample darkness in winter invite us to enjoy more luxurious sleep, periods of rest during the day and the time to daydream. Now is the time to make an action plan, organize our schedule and consider actions to make our vision come to life.

As we transition to spring, the wood phase, here are some tips to ease the transition:

Recirculate, repurpose, donate and give freely to others: One of the virtues of the water phase is the wise use of our resources, and one of the virtues of the wood phase is to practice benevolence. We tackle our “spring cleaning”, to clear away the detritus from storage closets. This allows us to give to others what might fill their needs instead of taking up space in our closets.

Improve the lives of those around us: On the mental plane, extra meditation time allows us the opportunity to lift up a generous thought about someone else, a specific prayer for their well-being or write a handwritten note to let them know we’re thinking about them until the time we can meet in person. Begin planning for garage sales to raise money for a nearby food pantry, or to raise money to purchase gift certificates from struggling small restaurants for those in need.

As the population becomes more widely vaccinated and restaurants and small businesses reopen, begin to make plans for small get-togethers with friends and family.

Gardeners, start sowing seeds indoors: Plant indoors eight to 10 weeks before the last frost date or outdoors two to four weeks before the last frost date. Spring is a joyous time of new growth and birth, and growing our own garden is a lovely way to stay connected to the earth and provide clean, healthy food for ourselves and our family.

Choose foods that support the wood phase: Spring is an excellent time for a cleanse, and the best way to start is by adding more dark, green leafy vegetables, celery, citrus fruits and berries, as well as fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi.

Learn something new: Spring is a time for new growth, expansion and individuation, and learning a new skill helps push us to grow in new ways and gives us something new to share with others.

Polly Liontis is a senior shiatsu practitioner and instructor with Zen Shiatsu Chicago, located at 818 Lake St., in Evanston, as well as a Himalayan Institute-trained yoga and meditation instructor and avid amateur gardener.