Winter Solstice arrives when the sun sits furthest from the earth giving us the longest night and the shortest day of the year. This is maximum yin, minimum yang – a time for being rather than doing, nourishing rather than expending, listening rather than speaking. The word ‘solstice’ means ‘to stand still’ because astronomically, the sun appears to stand still at that point in time. Winter Solstice marks the moment from which the days will start to lengthen, and the nights will shorten. So, whilst here in Australia the temperature is really starting to drop, you can take heart in a couple of minutes of extra daylight per day.
In Traditional East Asian Medicine, deep winter is associated with the Kidneys and the Water element. On a physical level this means we need to prioritise staying warm (especially feet and lower back), sleep (it’s ok to sleep more in winter) and eating slow cooked, nourishing meals such as soups, rich stocks and stews.
Time spent near or even in Water can also nourish our Water element. In Japan there is a custom at Winter Solstice to soak yourself in a hot bath containing yuzu (a type of citrus) to prevent catching colds in the winter. Observing the nature of water, how it flows around obstacles, generates power, carries things along with it can help us soften into a more fluid way of being that supports our health and wellbeing at this time of year.
The other aspect of Kidney energy that we may choose to embrace during winter is its role in supporting us through developmental or significant life changes. It is Kidney energy that propels us through conception, birth, puberty, pregnancy, mid-life, illness and aging. The stronger our Kidney energy, the more able we are to embrace and complete these natural parts of life and gracefully transition into the next phase.
So, during this time of darkness and quietude can we give our self the gift of Winter Solstice and put something that has ended to bed? Can we stay cosy as the seed of something new is planted and without poking around, disrupting that little seed, let it germinate below the surface and emerge when it is ready, perhaps in Spring?